Chapter 2: Creating a Instagram Marketing Content Strategy
In Chapter 1 of our Definitive Guide to Instagram, we evaluated Instagram as a social media tool that can be used to promote your brand online. We also looked at how various companies are using Instagram for Internet Marketing purposes and explained how to create and optimize an Instagram account.
In this chapter, we’ll look at building a content strategy that leverages Instagram as a powerful, brand-boosting tool. We’ll consider themes, guidelines, key performance indicators, and overall best-practices for building an online audience.
Picking Your Main Themes
As with any other business effort, it’s best to start with the proverbial “drawing board” and determine how it is that you want to use Instagram for marketing purposes. Recall from the last chapter that Instagram is best suited for sharing photographs or other image-related content as opposed to wordy blog posts. Keep that in mind as you determine how you’re going to use it.
There are several ways that companies promote their brand on Instagram. Some of them are industry-specific, others are based on a corporate culture. It’s best if you evaluate how other companies are using Instagram and determine which strategies are a fit for your company.
Keep in mind, though, that there’s no reason that you can’t use more than one theme in your Instagram marketing efforts. If there are multiple themes that you think will promote your brand, then feel free to use as many as you like.
Here are some of the most common themes that businesses use when promoting their brands on Instagram:
- Image marketing – Instagram is a great online venue for promoting your brand image. For example, if you’re a company that sells high-class neckties, you’ll find that a photograph of a clearly well-to-do businessman wearing one of your neckwear products will present an image of prestige.
- Demonstrating your corporate culture – It’s often great to use social media marketing to put a “human” face on your brand. You can do that by sharing images of company gatherings and social festivities on Instagram.
- Motivational posts – Some people might like to follow your Instagram account because it’s filled with memes and brief, inspirational quotations that are motivational in nature.
- Highlighting new products or services – Many Instagram users will follow your account because they’re dedicated members of your market. They’d love to see imagery highlighting new offerings from your company.
- Sales and promotions – If you’re in a niche that’s given to frequent repeat business, it might be a great idea to use Instagram to let your customers know about an upcoming sale or promotion.
- Buzz-generating engagement – If there’s one word that describes what every social media marketer is striving to achieve, it’s this one: engagement. You can use Instagram to post images or videos that are shareable and generate a response from your target audience. By doing so, you’ll build brand awareness.
- News reporting – What’s new about your business? Have you just been acquired by another company? Did you just hire a new CFO? Use Instagram to let people know what’s going on at your company.
- Sharing content people will enjoy – Sometimes, it’s best to do absolutely no self-promotion and just be a Good Samaritan. You can use Instagram to share content, posted by others, that doesn’t directly boost your brand but will be welcome to people who follow your account.
Creating Brand Guidelines
It’s often the case that budding entrepreneurs think that guidelines are only for stuffy corporate bureaucrats. However, the list of companies who’ve committed major screw-ups on social media is growing every day.
To avoid giving your company some negative PR and being forced to issue an apology, it’s a good idea to come up with some guidelines about how you’ll use Instagram.
For starters, create a written style guide and ensure that whoever has access to post on your behalf has access to it. This can (and should) be your Instagram “Bible” for the company. It will offer specific guidelines about how your business uses the social media site.
The style guide should start with a reference to corporate imagery. That’s why it’s best that the guide be online, by the way – it can offer direct links to important resources such as logos in various sizes and other marketing materials. It’s important that all Instagram posters draw from the same pool of images so that the brand aesthetic is consistent.
The guide should also include guidelines for captions. Although Instagram is predominantly an image-sharing platform, it also allows people to enter captions that are up to 2,200 characters in length. It’s important that you set and document specific rules about what type of content is allowed and, more importantly, what type of content is not allowed. For example, you might prohibit the use of negative comments, any mention of competitors, captions that are more than a certain number of characters, anything political in nature, or any caption that could be perceived as offensive to a particular demographic.
Your style guide should also include some rules concerning the use of hashtags. Instagram allows you to include up to 30 hashtags for each post. However, there should also be rules concerning the use of hashtags. For example, hashtags that are currently trending should be thoroughly understood before being used. It’s often the case that the back story behind some hashtags is misunderstood, and social media marketers have been known to end up with egg-on-the-face syndrome after misappropriating a hashtag.
Your guide should also contain information about the types of content that you’ll share on Instagram. In some cases, you’ll use Instagram to share a post by another person or non-competing company. You’ll want to be sure that the source has been vetted as non-controversial and that the content is in line with your overall corporate image.
Finally, the guide should define a review process. It’s often the case that a second or third pair of eyes will pick up a red flag in some content that was at first unnoticed. Formal review procedures might slow down your content strategy, but they’ll also prevent you from hurting your brand.
Using KPIs to Measure Success
You won’t know if your Instagram strategy is successful unless you have some way of measuring the results. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
KPIs are statistics derived from analysis tools that measure your effectiveness on any platform. In this case, you’ll obviously want to look at KPIs specific to Instagram.
Here are some KPIs you should be monitoring to determine if your Instagram marketing initiative is successful:
- Engagement rate – Simply put, your engagement rate is the number of likes plus the number of comments, divided by the number of followers at the time of the post. Mathematically, it’s represented like this: (Likes + Comments)/Followers at post time. Obviously, the higher the number, the better your market penetration.
- Followers – The whole point of any social media marketing effort is to increase your audience. The best way to do that is by increasing your number of followers. Pay attention to this metric to determine your outreach potential.
- Shares – People who really like your work are going to share it. When they do that, you’ve basically enlisted others to do your marketing for you free of charge.
- Overall reach – When others share your posts, they’re increasing your reach and your audience. This is a metric that shows you how far your message has spread within the Instagram universe.
- Conversion rate – If you’re using Instagram to post direct sales pitches, you’ll want to know if you’re getting any sales as a result of that effort. Use analytics to measure the number of people who visit your site because of specific Instagram posts and find out how many of them become paying customers.
- Growth – As with almost everything else related to your business, you want to see growth over time in your Instagram metrics. The measurements listed above should, ideally, increase over time as you become more and more familiar with Instagram marketing.
Best Practices for Your Content Strategy
In the next chapter, we’ll cover some tools that you can use to help build your following and optimize your content strategy. However, it’s best to start your Instagram journey with a bit of manual labor.
Here are some best practices for new Instagram accounts:
- Follow others in your niche – You probably don’t want to follow competitors. However, there might be other non-competing brands in your niche that can complement your offerings. Follow them to help promote your business an authority in its space.
- Follow people who are potential or existing customers – In many cases, they’ll follow you back.
- Comment on niche-relevant posts – If you want engagement, practice the Golden Rule. Throw some engagement towards others who are posting content relevant to your niche. If you use the comments to provide helpful information free of charge, you’ll not only generate good will, you’ll also likely pick up a few followers.
- Give the people what they want – Finally, start by posting content that’s exactly what people want to see on Instagram, even if it doesn’t directly promote your brand. That’s a great way to generate a positive image right out of the gate.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of a content strategy, it’s time to take a look at tools that can be used to make your Instagram marketing efforts less tedious and more efficient. We’ll do that in the next chapter.