If you’re just starting out on Instagram or have been playing for a while but want to get serious, you’re probably wondering what your next step should be. Today I will be sharing with you a simple, four-step plan for building your brand on Instagram, the world’s fastest growing social network.
STEP 1: Start with a strategy
Know why you are there
The first and most important step is to have a clear reason and objective for using Instagram. If you don’t know your ‘why’, your investment of time, energy and creativity is unlikely to yield strong results. Your ‘why’ determines what you’ll post, what voice you’ll use and how you’ll interact on the platform. Here are some examples of what your ‘why’ might be:
- Raise awareness and build your brand by giving your target audience an insight into your business and brand.
- Inspire purchases by showing your product or service in use.
- Demonstrate your skills and expertise and become an authority in your industry.
Each of these will inspire a different approach to Instagram, so it’s a great idea to be clear on your ‘why’ before you start.
Know who you are talking to
“By being everything to everyone you’re nothing to anyone”
~ Stephen Herfst
As with any marketing activity, knowing exactly WHO you’re talking to is vital to Instagram success. When you know your ideal customer, you can tailor your Instagram posts to solve their challenges, fill gaps in their knowledge, entertain and inspire them. If you try to appeal to everybody, you’re unlikely to provide value to anybody. Be specific and talk directly to them.
Know what story you want to tell or message you want to convey
Once you know who you’re talking to, form a clear strategy of the story you’re wanting to tell. It’s long been said that a picture speaks a thousand words, and your Instagram images can tell tales of your business, your values and all you offer your customers. If you plan your strategy rather than simply ‘winging it’, you can progressively paint a bigger picture over each of your posts.
Know how you want to say it
Instagram accounts that stand out show their personality. Whether it’s being a little bit cheeky, calming, energetic or ambitious, you can show your brand’s personality through the images you post and the descriptions you add. When you’re consistent in your tone and personality, people know what to expect and are more likely to engage. Your personality is what sets you apart from your competitors and lets your ideal customer identify with you.
STEP 2: Get the basics right
Use a great profile image
Choose a high quality, clear, easily recognisable profile image that represents your brand. If you are your brand, use a photo of yourself – people respond to people, rather than logos. Regardless of which image you use, make sure it stands out in the news feed, represents your brand and is consistent with your other social media profiles.
Make the most of your username and account name
Your username and account name are two separate things, but both are important to being found in Instagram’s search results.
Your username follows the @ symbol and is how you’re referred to and tagged on Instagram. Try and keep this as consistent as possible with your other social media profiles and as close to your name (or your business name) as possible so if people search for your business, it’s found easily.
Your Account Name is the name found in your profile under your profile image. This is also searchable, and can include a description of what you do. For example, while my username is @kogmarketing, my Account Name is Kym OGorman | Marketing Expert. Whether you’re a plumber, accountant, graphic designer or doctor, if people are searching your profession, they are more likely to come across your profile if you have your occupation or other relevant keywords included in your Account Name.
Create an eye-catching bio
You have 150 characters to capture the attention and interest of potential followers, so use it wisely. Use keywords and phrases that are of interest to your ideal audience, and use emojis if it suits your brand. Let your followers and potential followers know what to expect from your account.
Link to a relevant, mobile-friendly web page
There is only one active, clickable link within Instagram, and that’s the link in your bio. As the vast majority of Instagram users are on a mobile device, make sure that link’s destination page is mobile friendly. There is no quicker way to waste the value of traffic from Instagram than sending them to a page that is difficult to read and navigate on a mobile device. Also remember, the link doesn’t have to go to your home page. Choose the page that is most relevant to your Instagram audience. In fact, you might even consider creating an Instagram-specific landing page, or change out the link when you have new offers or blog posts to promote.
STEP 3: Post great stuff
Brainstorm post ideas
Just “winging it” and posting on the fly will put you under stress and pressure, and will stop you from being consistent. Once you have established your Instagram strategy, set aside 30 minutes (ideally with your team if you have one) and brainstorm a list of post ideas. Look around your business, your products and services and make note of all the different ways you can represent them. Then look at your customers, your suppliers and your environment. Your posts don’t have to be JUST about your business. Think about the information and images that your target audience is craving, and be creative in delivering it to them in a way that is relevant to your business.
Once you have your list of post ideas, schedule them in a content calendar so you know what’s coming up, what needs to be created and who is responsible.
People often ask how often they should post on Instagram. There is no magic posting frequency. It depends on your target audience and is worth testing for yourself. One thing that is important, however, is consistency. If you decide to post once a day, then post once EVERY day. If you decide you can only manage every second day, then make sure you post EVERY second day. If you’re not focused on consistency, time can disappear quickly and before you know if you haven’t posted in weeks. Above all else, be consistent.
Avoid annoying your followers by posting back-to-back. Instagram is a real-time news feed and if you post multiple images in a row, you dominate the news feed and can annoy your followers. Leave a few hours between posts to give them space to breathe.
Add value in the caption
Your image is the centrepiece of your Instagram post, but the caption allows you to expand on the story and add value. You have up to 2200 characters in the caption, so there’s no shortage of opportunity to educate, entertain or inspire. Again, show off your personality and creativity in the caption.
Use hashtags to spread your posts beyond your followers
Hashtags are used as a way to organise and collate content along a specific topic. If you add a hashtag (the # symbol) in front of any word or phrase (with no spaces or punctuation) it becomes a clickable link to an aggregation of all posts tagged with the same hashtag. Adding hashtags to your description (or to the comment under your post) allows your post to be pushed beyond your followers to all people interested in that hashtag.
To find the right hashtags for your post, brainstorm a list of keywords your customers might search if they were looking for your products or services. Then search each of them in the Tags section of Search in Instagram and see how popular they are.
Another way to find good hashtags is to look at those used by your industry’s thought leaders or your competitors.
While popular hashtags might put your post in front of a larger audience, also consider using niche or local hashtags, especially if you are a local business. It might be a smaller audience, but it is likely to be more relevant.
STEP 4: Engage, engage, engage
Engage with your followers
The power of social media is in the ‘social’, having conversations and building connections with your potential and existing customers. So while posting great content is vital to your Instagram success, engaging with your followers and other users is equally important to the growth of your brand and community. Start with replying to all comments and questions on your posts. Acknowledge those that are supporting your efforts.
You can also use programs like Iconosquare to determine your most engaged and supportive followers, and show them support in return.
Follow relevant Instagram users
Instagram is a great platform to build relationships with your industry colleagues plus thought-leaders in your space. You can identify the individuals, businesses and brands that have influence in your industry and follow them for inspiration and the opportunity to connect. Focus especially on those who share your target audience, so you can learn from their activity about what works and is most relevant to your audience. Done well, you can also nurture opportunities to partner with these influencers.
Engage with the people you follow
Following other businesses and influencers is just the first step. Engage with their content by liking, commenting and even reposting their posts. The benefits of this engagement are two-fold:
- You put yourself and/or your brand on their radar, which could lead to relationships and opportunities down the track; and
- Their audience can see your comments and, if you’re adding value, be attracted to find out more about your business.
So, as you can see, it’s all pretty straightforward stuff! Now is as good a time as any to set aside some time to nut out your Instagram strategy, set up your profile and brainstorm the posts that will serve your target customers. Then it’s a matter of spending a few minutes each day posting great content and engaging to build your community and your brand.
Got any questions about how to build your brand on Instagram? Feel free to ask them in the comments below!