Instagram is cementing its place as a fast-growing social media platform that is generating great results for many brands. But a lot of business owners are yet to get their teeth into this marketing opportunity.
By setting aside 30 minutes each day for the next 10 days, and following these 10 steps, you’ll be well on your way to growing your Instagram following, and its impact on your business.
While some of the activities outlined below will become ongoing daily tasks, each day of this 10 day challenge will have a separate focus for you to learn the key principles of a successful approach to Instagram.
Video sample from ‘Work your way‘, Flying Solo’s step-by-step course including 80+ bite-size videos.
Day 1: Strategy
Before you even open the Instagram app, it’s worth taking the time to outline your strategy. This will keep your efforts consistent and produce greater results in supporting your business objectives. It will also help you avoid wasting time on irrelevant activities.
To develop your strategy, start with defining your WHY, and ask yourself:
- What do you want to achieve by using Instagram?
- What are your goals and how do they link to your business goals?
- How can Instagram integrate with/support your wider marketing strategy?
Make sure your WHY is stronger than simply “because everyone tells me I should be on Instagram” or you will struggle to find the motivation to post consistently.
Next, look at WHO. Clearly define your target audience and consider:
- What do they like or dislike?
- What is important to them?
- What challenges or problems do they face?
- How do you serve them or solve their problems?
Now look at the WHEN:
- How often will you post?
- What times would your target audience be using Instagram?
Then comes the WHAT:
- What message are you trying to convey?
- What story are you telling?
- What’s your brand / voice / personality?
- How can you convey these things via images?
- What sort of content will work for your audience?
And finally comes the HOW:
- Do you have the resources to allocate to creating and posting the images?
- Who will be responsible for your Instagram activity – yourself or a member of your team?
Answering these questions will form the basis of your Instagram strategy and will give you the structure upon which to build your activity.
Day 1 Task
- Answer the questions above to create your basic Instagram strategy.
Day 2: Brainstorm content ideas
Rather than creating on the fly (and having your creativity and ideas hijacked by the busy-ness of your day), take time today to brainstorm the types of images and content you will share on your Instagram account. Can you create ‘how-to’ images that educate your audience? Or inspirational images to evoke an emotional response? Is it possible to take your followers behind-the-scenes so they understand the time and skills it takes to create your product or service?
Sit down for 15 minutes and let your mind run wild with ideas of content you could share. Don’t edit or restrict yourself at this stage. See if you can make a list of 50 – or even 100 – post ideas. When it comes to the content creation phase you’ll select those that are most relevant and effective.
File your ideas, ready for Day 3’s content creation focus.
Day 2 Tasks:
- Brainstorm at least 50 post ideas.
- Create a system for storing post ideas. (I use Evernote so that I can always capture new ideas even if I’m to ready to action them immediately)
Day 3: Create content
Before you even set up or optimise your Instagram profile, it’s valuable to have a bank of images ready to go for two reasons
- It lets you populate your Instagram profile with at least 6 photos so people will know what your account is about from the very beginning
- It takes the pressure off so you don’t have to create on-the-fly.
So pull out your content ideas from yesterday and pick the first 10 images you will create.
If you’re really keen to get ahead of the game, create 20 images so that you have 6-9 to post when you create your profile, and 11 to get you through the next week and a half (if you’re posting once a day).
That way as you focus on the other areas of this 10 day challenge you won’t be distracted by the need to create images.
Day 3 Task:
- Create 10 – 20 images
Day 4: Set up your profile
Finally, it’s time to open Instagram and set up your profile. (If you already have an Instagram account, you can optimise your profile using the tips above). There are six key aspects of your profile to consider to make it stand out in the sea of Instagram users.
- Choose a username that is as close to your business name (or your name) as possible. Where possible keep it consistent with your other social media profiles.
- Let your account name tell followers what you do. Include a keyword or phrase relevant to your business, as this account name is searchable via Instagram’s search function. (Your Account Name is the name found under your profile picture).
- Choose a profile picture that is easily recognisable and stands out within the Instagram feed.
- Use the 150 characters in your bio to grab the attention and interest of your potential followers by telling them what you’re about and showing your personality.
- Use the link in your bio to send followers to a mobile-friendly, relevant page. (Ideally one that will encourage them to sign up to your database).
- Add 6 – 9 photos that really represent your brand and will encourage people to follow you as they discover your account.
Day 4 Task:
- Set up or optimise your Instagram profile using the guidelines above.
Day 5: Optimise your landing page
The only easy way you can drive traffic to your website on Instagram is via the link in your profile.
This link is an opportunity to drive your followers and potential followers to specific information or activity that will expand your relationship with them and ideally get them to sign up to your email list.
So the link doesn’t have to go to your home page. You can choose a relevant page that will appeal to your Instagram audience and offer more value.
The link in your bio can be changed as often as you like, so you can direct people to your latest blog post or promotional activity. I strongly recommend using the link to send people to a lead magnet (i.e. a page that offers a free download or something of value in exchange for the visitor’s email address).
Whether it’s a page on your website or a standalone lead page, you can tailor the special offer and the language to your Instagram audience, making it more likely they will sign up to your database.
Day 5 Tasks:
- Determine the link you will use in your bio and add it to your profile.
- If possible, create a specific landing page on your site to add value to your Instagram audience and increase the chance of building your email list.
- Post a new image to your profile.
Day 6: Follow people
In the early days of using Instagram, one way to build your followers and community is to follow other people. When you follow an Instagram account, they receive a notification and many will check out your profile and possibly follow you back.
So on Day 6 of this 10 day Instagram activity, research and follow 15-20 people who share your target audience and follow them. Look for influencers or popular accounts within your industry or related industries. Think about your colleagues, suppliers and potential clients. After a burst of following today, aim to follow at least 5 new people every day as you build your community.
Day 6 Tasks:
- Follow 15-20 new accounts on Instagram.
- Post a new image.
Day 7: Hashtags
Hashtags are created when you add the hash / pound symbol (#) in front of any keyword or phrase (with no punctuation or spaces eg #smallbusinesstips). The result is a clickable link that curates all images that use that hashtag into one search result.
By using hashtags in your posts, you are putting your images in front of people who are searching those phrases, expanding your reach and potential audience.
You can research hashtags by using the Search function within Instagram, clicking on the Tags option to see if hashtags for your chosen keywords already exist, and to determine how popular they are. (Instagram shows the number of posts using that hashtag). From this research choose a range of hashtags that are relevant to your industry, your audience and your images.
Rather than adding a sea of hashtags into your image caption, add your hashtags into the first comment to avoid distracting your followers from your caption. Use at least 3-5 hashtags to broaden your reach.
Day 7 Tasks:
- Identify and research 10-12 keywords that your target audience might use to look for a business like yours. See whether they are already being used as hashtags.
- Look at posts by your competitors and industry leaders to see which hashtags they are using – and research to see if they are popular.
- Post a new image, adding 3-5 hashtags in the first comment.
Day 8: Engage
Posting images to your account is just one part of a winning Instagram strategy. Equally important is engaging with your followers, and commenting on other Instagram users’ accounts.
When you reply to comments and questions on your own images, you build relationships with your followers and demonstrate that you’re a real person who is open to conversations. This helps build trust and engagement with you and your brand.
When you post thoughtful, relevant comments on other Instagram users’ images, you prove your value in the community, build a relationship with the user and potentially engage with their followers. As you build your own community this is a great opportunity to get your brand name in front of new audiences.
The keywords though are ‘thoughtful’ and ‘relevant’. Comments that look as though they are copied and pasted for the sake of commenting are inauthentic and will not win you fans.
Always remember that social media is social, so the engagement is important to your success.
Day 8 Tasks:
- Reply to any comments of questions on your own Instagram posts.
- Comment on at least 2-3 images of accounts from within your industry.
- Post a new image, adding 3-5 hashtags in the first comment.
Day 9: Manage your time on Instagram
Like all social media platforms, Instagram can take up a lot of your valuable time if you’re not strategic. The nature of Instagram makes it more challenging to schedule your posts, however I have a process to manage my time as efficiently as possible.
- I identify photo opportunities, selling periods or key messages that I want to share for the month, and brainstorm a list of image ideas.
- Each week I batch create my Instagram posts for the following week. I map out the messages I want to send, and create the images using my favourite tools.
- I then upload the images to Hootsuite and schedule the times I would like to post them.
(Hootsuite doesn’t post the images for you at the scheduled time, but it does send a notification to your phone, and with a few clicks your images is posted.)
Daily (10-15 minutes)
- I post images once I receive notifications from Hootsuite at the scheduled time.
- I respond to any comments on my posts.
- I skim through my news feed and look for any opportunities to comment, support or add value to other people’s posts.
- I follow a couple of new people from my industry each day.
Day 9 Tasks:
- Map out a process for your Instagram activity so you can manage your time as effectively as possible.
- Post a new image, using 3-5 hashtags
- Follow 2-3 new people
- Comment on other posts.
Day 10: Measure
Monitoring the success and impact of your Instagram strategy is important.
Your number of followers is only one measure – and it’s not the most relevant to Instagram’s impact on your business activity. You should also measure traffic (from the link in your bio), engagement (the number of likes and comments), brand awareness/mentions and other KPIs relevant to your business goals.
To measure traffic to my website from the link in my Instagram bio, I use shortened URLs from bit.ly as the link, letting me measure the number of clicks.
Iconosquare is also a valuable tool that lets you monitor your Instagram activity and provides statistics to help you optimise your activity. The statistics function of Iconosquare has recently become a paid service, starting from $2.40USD / month.
Day 10 Tasks:
- Identify the KPIs you will measure.
- Post a new image, using 3-5 hashtags.
- Follow 2-3 new people
- Comment on other posts.
So there you go. Your first 10 days on Instagram all sorted. These 10 steps will not guarantee you thousands of followers overnight, but if followed will provide a strong foundation for your ongoing Instagram activity.
Have you tried Instagram for your business yet? Have you had some great results?