Sometimes it seems like Instagram is the neglected stepchild of social media marketing. With no in-post links, it’s harder to track whether your posts are effectively converting followers into customers. Because of this hurdle, the challenge of creating stunning visual content, and fewer bells and whistles overall, it’s common to see businesses set up accounts, post a few photos…and then lose interest and motivation a few weeks later when their posts are met with silence.
But don’t give up just yet! Instagram can be an excellent platform for engaging customers and be building a feeling of community around your brand.
And you don’t have to stop there. With a little extra care, you can build an Instagram account that gets you not only followers but customers.
While this post is specific to Instagram, if you’re just getting started on social media or ready to kick your social efforts into high gear, be sure to download our guide to social media here:
Is Instagram right for your business?
Some social media platforms are good for almost any business–that’s why we’ve spent a lot of time at Leadpages talking about how to get more leads on Facebook. Instagram, however, is a more specific community because of the focus on images. If your business lends itself well to visuals, this is a huge opportunity. As Fast Company reported, Instagram users are 58 times more likely to like or comment on a brand’s post than Facebook users, and 120 times more likely than Twitter users.
If your company can appeal to a visually driven customer, you should take advantage and get an Instagram account. Clothing shops, beauty brands, and photographers will find huge Instagram communities to tap into.
If your product or service isn’t highly visual but you know your audience is on Instagram and you’re motivated to create an account, it can be a great place to share behind-the-scenes pictures, short videos, and other content that doesn’t depend on having naturally photogenic products. (Check out the Leadpages Instagram account to see how a software company does this.)
Instagram photo styling 101
Once you’ve decided to give it a shot, one of the best ways to get started on Instagram is to check out your competition and the community you’re hoping to tap into. What other brands in your field are posting will give you a sense of the culture of Instagram, especially around your market.
Make a note of widely-used hashtags in your field. For instance, at Leadpages we’d look for hashtags like #ContentMarketing #Marketing and #SAAS that have numerous mentions and could help cultivate a community that’s into what we do. Hashtags that target your ideal customer are crucial to getting your posts noticed by the right people. #Fashion or #Travel might get you more likes, but they won’t get you, customers, unless you sell things that people looking at those hashtags are going to buy.
Take note of not only the content of the community you’re researching but the style of their photos as well. You don’t need to be a photographer to have an Instagram account, but taking the time to craft a well-styled photo will go a long way to getting likes and follows—and ultimately, customers. Images of your product, business, or simply your life can turn your brand from an idea into an experience people want to be part of.
As you get started, use simple backgrounds and natural light as much as possible. The easiest investment to make in Instagram photos is a white poster board from any office supply store. You can use it to create a white background for photos of your products or flat-lay photos.
Play around with lighting, as the photos that do best on Instagram are often the ones that are brightly lit. Generally, the best lighting is natural light, so take note of the times when the sun is shining in your office or store.
You can use an app like Facetune or A Color Story, or simply the editing options within Instagram, to edit your photos, but good lighting to start with will make your life much easier. Play around with editing apps and see what you can do with your photos—it’s fun and it’s the only way to get better.
You can also add a layer of text on top of your photo or on a plain background with a tool like Snappa. Whether an inspirational quote, a discount code, or the title of a blog post you want users to click through to, putting text directly on the photo can sometimes draw eyes to things people would miss if they skipped over the caption. Just try to mix it up and not use text overlays on every single photo you post.
Course creator and Converted 2016 speaker Melyssa Griffin uses text overlays to turn testimonials and reviews of her e-courses into compelling images.
One added bonus? Creating all of this stunning visual content will serve you double if you embed your Instagram posts within your blog. It’s an easy way to draw eyes you’ve already attracted to your blog over to your social platform, and you’ll have beautiful photos in your blog posts. Win-win!
When in doubt, post photos of puppies.
Engaging your customer
Instagram is an excellent platform on which to foster a sense of brand identity for your customers and make them feel like a part of your brand. Cultivating a feeling of community around your brand is hard to measure quantitatively, but easy to see qualitatively.
Try not to focus exclusively on sales on Instagram. Your Instagram followers are there less to shop and more to look at beautiful, inspirational images. If your brand fits easily into their feed, it will eventually lead to an affinity with your product, which will lead to sales.
That said, there are certain steps you can take along the way to bring people from your Instagram community into your actual community of loyal, enthusiastic customers.
Unlike platforms like Twitter or Facebook, Instagram does not allow for clickable links within posts. While this is a hurdle to measuring ROI from individual images, it’s no reason to shy away from Instagram.
You can still include a link in your profile page, and you can customize this link and change it every so often to match the content of your most recent post. If you want customers to be able to click through to something specific, you can add “link in profile” to the end of your caption. From there, customers are able to click on your profile and find a link to your customized landing page inviting them to take the same action suggested by the initial post.
For example, Jasmine Star has set up a specific Instagram sequence for her 7-day Instagram challenge. It starts with this image, which has “link in profile” in the caption:
In the profile of her account, you can see that she’s set up a page just for this specific Instagram post.
And when you click on it, it brings you to this beautiful landing page (built with Leadpages), where you can sign up for the course. She’s designed this sequence to get you exactly where you need to go to take advantage of the free resource while getting around the hurdle of not having a link directly in the post. Chances are, by the time you get to this landing page, you’re ready to take the Instagram challenge.
Engage your followers with questions. You should always try to engage your followers instead of just getting likes, so try asking questions in your captions (even if it’s as simple as “What are you looking forward to this weekend?”) and reply to any and all comments you do get, giving your customer a humanizing sense of the identity behind your brand. Staples, for instance, engaged customers by asking them to describe their day using emojis.
Hold a photo contest. Get your customers to ‘gram an image of how they use your product or where they wear it, and then regram the best ones or utilize the curated images in your email newsletter (with permission). Most Instagram users at this point are pretty skilled ametuer photographers–not only can you help them out with a feature that might boost their follower count, but you’ve asked them to remember what they love about your brand and tell all of their followers what they love about you too.
Offer exclusives for your Instagram followers. You can build a strong community among the followers you already have by making customers feel like they have the inside scoop by following you on Instagram. This might mean offering exclusive discounts just for Instagram followers or creating a post that offers a sneak peak about a new project you’re working on.
Post behind-the-scenes photos. Give a sneak peek behind the scenes, which will give followers a sense of connection to your company and the employees behind your product or service. Take a photo in your warehouse, or at a big event before everyone arrives. Show off your beautiful open-air office or your employees’ collective coffee addiction.
While these may seem like mundane things to take photos of, these peeks behind the scenes will foster a greater emotional connection to your company among your followers. Nerd Fitness founder and Converted 2016 speaker Steve Kamb shared a behind-the-scenes photo of team NF celebrating their recent accomplishments—which directly inspired one follower to apply Steve’s insights in her own life, commenter kirsta.sandiego shares:
So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start snapping away, and create an Instagram account your customers will get excited about! While you’re building your own amazing Instagram account, follow us @Leadpages!
And if you’re ready to take your social media up a notch, both on Instagram and beyond, don’t forget to download our social media guide: