Instagram is one of those websites a lot of marketers tend to avoid, because they just don’t understand how it works, or they think it won’t benefit their business. They think it’s all about food and celebrities, and maybe they’ll just be wasting their time using the site.
But Instagram can work for nearly any business you can think of, especially those that are based online! Blogs, info products, physical products, real estate, physical stores, restaurants… all sorts of websites can benefit from advertising on Instagram.
And Instagram certainly has the traffic available. The most recent traffic stats I could find for the site (June 2016) said the site is, as of this writing, getting about 500 million active users per month! Who wouldn’t want a portion of that many users? Even if you reached only a small fraction of those users each month, you could improve your own traffic stats significantly.
Plus, the site is actually fun to use once you get used to it, so it’s one marketing method that might not seem like such a grind.
In this guide, you’re going to learn about some of the best tactics you can use to make the most out of Instagram in order to increase your traffic, leads, and sales.
So let’s begin.
The first thing most business owners ask when someone suggests they market their business on Instagram is, “Why Instagram?”
Sure, celebrities like Kim Kardashian have made big names for themselves on the site, but there are so many applications above and beyond posting endless selfies or pictures of what you had for lunch.
People are promoting everything from books to information products to clothing lines and everything in between.
Still not convinced? How about a few statistics?
- Instagram has over 500 million monthly active users
- Nearly 300 million of those users are active daily
- Instagram delivers 58 times more engagement than Facebook
- Instagram delivers over 120 times more engagement than Twitter
- A whopping 20% of internet users are on Instagram
- Instagram users are divided approximately 50/50 male/female
These statistics are enough to make any marketer salivate all over their keyboard. No matter what type of market you’re targeting, what type of product or service you’re selling, or what type of demographics you’re targeting, chances are, you can find your audience on Instagram.
The first thing you need to do is figure out exactly what your purpose is for using the site. Do you just want to improve your traffic, or do you have specific goals in mind? Because the way you use the site will be determined by your purpose.
If you simply want to get traffic to your site, posting all sorts of content related to your niche will make sense. But if you are specifically seeking leads or sales, you’ll want to focus more on posting pictures of your products, as well as photos that illustrate the various benefits of your products.
In either case, you will still probably want to post things you think your followers will find interesting, but be sure you’re sticking mostly to items that relate to your industry. I say “mostly” because you can feel free to post personal items on occasion that don’t relate to your industry in order to inject some personality into your profile. Just be sure to avoid posting anything divisive such as religious or political content. (Unless, of course, you are specifically targeting folks who have a particular belief.)
Too many people think they can just post a bunch of random photos of their lives and get traffic, but unless you’re a celebrity or you have an extremely interesting life, such tactics would probably be highly ineffective.
Because Instagram is a platform based off of photos and videos, it’s important to be sure you’re taking the best quality captures you possibly can.
There are three main elements to shooting a great photo or video:
- The subject
- The setup
- The lighting
The quality of your camera is also a factor, but as long as you have the three main elements in order, using a slightly lower quality camera won’t matter as much. Still, you should use the best quality camera you can manage.
Your subject should be something interesting, and ideally related to your genre. Food bloggers should mostly post pictures and videos of food. Fitness bloggers will probably post mostly healthy food and exercise related material. You get the idea.
The setup is also vital, because a photo can look drastically different if taken in a different environment or shot from a different angle. If you’re having trouble figuring out how to properly stage a shot, take a look at some pictures and videos posted by other Instagram members in your niche. Look for those that catch your eye and try to do something similar. Don’t copy, of course. Just try to emulate elements.
Finally, the lighting of your shot is critical. Poor lighting can ruin an otherwise perfect photo or video.
Try to take your photos and videos in natural light whenever possible. Natural sunlight is almost always the best light source for any shot, unless you’re going for some sort of mood lighting. For example, you might want to use a lower light setting for a romantic dinner date or a Christmas Eve shot.
Photos taken outdoors at noon or by a very sunny window will almost always turn out beautifully. Just be sure to keep the sun from casting harsh shadows by positioning your subject appropriately. Again, take a look at some of your industry’s best photos and videos for ideas if you need help with lighting.
Don’t forget to include video on your Instagram account. One study showed video to be about 71% more effective at generating traffic than photos, so use video whenever you can!
Also, be sure to use Instagram’s built-in filters. Instagram users actually respond better to photos taken with a phone camera and using built-in filters than they do professional photographs taken in a studio and Photoshopped to look like stock photography. So snap a picture, apply a nice looking filter, and post! It’s that simple.
An Instagram account will do very little for you without followers, so it’s important to do everything you can to gain as many followers as possible. But remember, it’s also important to be sure you’re gaining targeted followers, as those followers won’t do you any good if they’re not actually interested in what you’re offering.
The best way to get targeted followers is by simply posting great content and using appropriate hash tags. Sounds too simple to work, doesn’t it? But as long as you’re posting really high quality photos and videos and you’re using hash tags that accurately represent your content (and that actually get traffic) you will naturally begin gaining more followers.
I’ve seen profiles with as few as 10 posts get 300+ followers organically in just a few days, with more trickling in over the next few weeks. The more you post, the more followers you’ll gain.
You can also gain followers by following other users, especially those users who are most popular (i.e. have the most followers) in your target market. People who follow those profiles may see you as a follower and decide to follow you.
Another easy way to gain more followers is to like other people’s content. Simply search for the same hash tags you might use for your own content and start liking photos and videos you find interesting. One individual remarked that for every 100 photos they liked, they got another 6 followers, on average.
You can also comment on those same posts you’re liking to let the author know you enjoyed the post. Some of them might follow you based on the fact that you commented, and some people who see your comment might also decide to follow you.
There are also some specific tags you can use to increase followers. These are used by other people who are looking to get more people to follow them. Try the following hash tags:
Keep in mind that the general etiquette for this is that when someone follows you when you’re using these tags, you follow them back. That’s the purpose of the tags—to increase followers for everyone using them.
Posting bewteen 11 PM and 5 AM seems to really work for gaining more followers, according to an article on the Forbes website. Also, posting on Sundays can help your posts get seen, because fewer posts are made that day. Tuesday through Friday (especially Thursday and Friday) are the most competitive days, because corporations post a lot of content during that time, thus you might want to post your less important content on those days and post your most important content on weekends.
Now that you know a little bit about the site itself, and why you should definitely be using it, it’s time to take a look at some ways to use what you’ve learned to actually drive traffic to your website, blog, or offers.
The first thing to keep in mind is that, other than in your profile, there are no links allowed on Instagram. That means you can’t just send users to your site with a single click like you could on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or just about any other social site.
No big deal, though. You can easily get traffic from Instagram even without posting a single link other than the one in your profile. How?
Here are some tips for getting the most traffic from Instagram:
- Remember to use hash tags. In case you don’t know what they are, hash tags are those phrases you see with a # in front of them on various social sites, and they’re like keywords. You want to put at least 3-5 relevant hash tags in each post you make, preferably at the end of your post. #hashtags #likethis #nospaces
- Put your calls-to-action on the image itself. Since you can’t have links in your description, you can instead put URLs or calls-to-action on the images themselves. You don’t have to do this on every single photo and video you post, but be sure to do it now and then. For example, you could post an image that says something like: “Click here to enter our contest to win a brand new iPad Pro!”
- In your descriptions, remind people they can find the URL to your website in your profile.
- Use Instagram ads. They’re very effective if you target them properly, and they can drive big, big traffic at a reasonable cost.
- Hold contests. People love to enter for the chance to win something they’re dying to have, and they can drive big, big traffic to your site, along with getting you lots of new leads.
- Use hash tags and question marks in your posts, but NOT exclamation points. Studies have found exclamation points can decrease engagement drastically.
- Ask for engagement. Remind people to like and share your content. This can increase engagement significantly, thus expanding your reach. And, of course, ask people to visit your website!
Just because you can’t directly add links to your posts doesn’t mean you can’t get good results with Instagram. Be creative, and you just might see a massive increase in traffic!
There are some services you can use to help boost your chances of success on Instagram. We’re going to take a look at a few of them now.
TargetGrow is very affordable at $19 per month for their basic (Bronze) plan. It helps you get targeted likes and follows through the use of hash tags. They claim their Bronze plan will get you an additional 100-200 followers per month, or you can pay more to get more followers each month.
Easy Social Grow is another service like TargetGrow, but seems to promise better results. They have several reasonably priced options, and promise significant growth.
Plus, they also have services to help grow your Pinterest and Twitter followings, as well.
Pixlee has a way to make your Instagram shoppable. You can put your products directly on Instagram, integrating with your current eCommerce platform. Plus, there’s a built-in scheduling function.
These are just a few of the services out there that can help you take your Instagram to the next level, but they are some of the most popular and most useful.
Instagram can be a huge source of traffic and publicity for just about any type of business you can think of. Fortune 500 companies like Starbucks and Southwest Airlines are using the platform for publicity, branding and even direct sales. But it’s not just big corporations and celebrities seeing huge success with it. Even small town, local Mom & Pop companies have managed to dramatically increase their business using Instagram.
Not only is the platform effective, it’s also easy to use and can be a lot of fun, too! So there’s no reason to not jump on the Instagram bandwagon.
In this guide, you’ve learned some of the most effective ways to take advantage of the platform. You’ve learned how to get more followers, and how to make the most out of the ones you’ve got.
Now that you’re armed with the information you need to get started with Instagram, I hope you’ll act on it. It really does have the potential to explode your business if you use it correctly, so don’t waste time wondering if you should give it a try. The answer is, “YES!”