Grow your brand with a killer Instagram strategy

Grow your brand with a killer Instagram strategy

After Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram back in 2012, there was little doubt among social media marketers that the platform would become an essential part of our digital strategies. This guide has been created to help you get to grips with the recipe for an unstoppable Instagram strategy.

Whether you are an early adopter, trying to strengthen your identity on the platform, or arriving fashionably late to the party, this guide has been created to help you shape an Instagram marketing strategy that sparks natural and effective engagement with your audience. We’ve broken down this guide into a few key sections, so feel free to skip through to the parts that interest you most, or share your comments and questions using the hashtag #rivuu to continue the discussion.

Should your brand be on Instagram?

The simple answer to this question is yes! While emerging platforms are quite rightly scrutinized for their shelf life and reach, Instagram is now a mainstream network, on which users spend more time than any platform other than Facebook.  This is not to say that Instagram should be the main focus for all brands, but there certainly is a space for everyone to create a visual identity. With over 500 million users, which equates to a whopping 20% of total internet users, on the platform, Instagram offers a huge reach in a diversifying demographic, which is rapidly expanding from the top income quartile down into a larger base of affluent Western markets. Great content makes effective use of technology to create inspiration, aspiration and social proof for your brand, which are all integral parts of our 21st century consumer experience. If you can successfully create striking images and videos, tied together with a narrative that compliments your visual aesthetic, you can turn Instagram into the most lucrative part of your social media strategy. Like it or not, modern day marketing is about more than just product features and catchy copywriting. Having an effective Instagram strategy for your business is a great way to engage with potential customers or fans online, leveraging the power of images and video on a platform created for that purpose, to promote your products and tell your story.

Strategy Aims & Objectives

The idea of getting your brand on Instagram may be a no-brainer, but the next challenge is knowing what to post. Putting together the best Instagram strategy for your brand begins with laying out your objectives.
Make a list of what you want to achieve with your Instagram account strategy, and prioritise your goals. Think about other channels that you are already successful in, and how Instagram could be used differently from these. Here are a few common goals to help you on your way…

  1. Raise brand awareness
  2. Announce new products and announce back in stock
  3. Offer incentives for customers to interact with your brand
  4. Run competitions to engage and expand your audience
  5. Tell the backstory of your products
  6. Showcase your company culture and attract new staff
  7. Curate inspiring content to demonstrate thought leadership
  8. Collaborate with social influencers
  9. Make company news announcements
  10. Documents experiences at events
You might also find it helpful to segment your audience into different groups or profiles. Try and identify which groups fit best with each of your goals, considering how they might use the platform. This will help you go on to develop your content categories, and guide how you style and schedule your posts, which we will discuss in a later section.

Creating Beautiful Content: Post Inspiration

Once you have identified some goals, and associated a few customer profiles, we can set about creating some different post types for each combination. In this section we’ve highlighted a few examples of common post types to give you inspiration for your account. There are of course plenty of opportunities for offers, competitions and collaboration with influencers on Instagram, but we have dedicated entire sections to cover these topics in more detail. The following posts are to help you create a “bread-and-butter” content plan, so that you can create an Instagram strategy that helps you grow all aspects of your business.

Announcing new products

If you regularly get new products, or wish to notify customers of stock then simple product announcement posts on Instagram should be a part of your strategy. Phonica Records in London does this effectively. Their Instagram feed is a constant update of new vinyl releases, and they’ve gone for a simple but engaging video post format showcasing the record artwork and short clip of the track. Users can use their Instagram feed to get notified immediately of new products and copy a tracking URL to the online store to purchase. It’s a simple formula, but it offers genuine utility to the customers, and the templated styling of the shots make it easily replicable with photoshop.

Product Stories / Behind the Scenes

Build a more personal connection with your customers by sharing behind the scenes images and videos. By sharing the creative process, manufacturing methods, and philosophy behind your products, you make your products more meaningful. Californian streetwear brand Benny Gold have amassed more than 70,000 followers through their consistent and targeted approach to product photography and storytelling. They regularly share behind the scenes images of product design, photoshoots and manufacture. In reality they are doing what every clothing company must do to produce a product, but their methods of documenting the process on Instagram gives their brand more power.

Recruit New Staff on Instagram

Trying to hire some top talent? Instagram is a great way to show how awesome your company culture is. You don’t have to buzz around the office on roller skates, or offer beanbag filled ideas rooms to find good people, but showing off a nice working environment with a happy and welcoming staff will help to attract the right people. You can also make use of the popular #jobs related hashtags to appear in search for those savvy enough to be looking. Or simply reach out to your followers to recruit from people that already are engaged with your brand. The example is a nice ad from MotivationTatoos who are looking to hire someone, and show off their non-discriminatory attitude towards mental health issues. Good recruitment and PR move.

Inspiring Content to Show Thought Leadership

Instagram particularly for B2B products and services, is often less about direct selling, and more of a brand building channel.  Therefore rather than selling the merits of the product, some companies focus upon building the back story around their brand to show how cutting edge their technology is, how hot their production skills are, or even to give a human touch to their corporate identity. Inspirational posts are an effective way to leverage content created by others to shape your own identity. While content creation should also be a part of your strategy, there is more than one way to skin a cat, and plenty of savvy brands can turn careful curation into a powerful mechanism for growth and sales.

Sometimes creation and curation can merge, often through the form of partnership, when brands step outside of their normal remit to tell stories on the fringe of their usual activities. An example of this synergy is Microsoft, who hired a photographer to travel the world and document the use of their products in action. By showing the inspiring work of travelling creatives, wildlife photographers and life-changing scientists, Microsoft show the implicit potential unlocked by their products.

Document Experiences at Your Events

Let your followers relive your experiential marketing events online. For companies in innovative markets, particularly technology, consumer conferences can be big business. Attendees are already impassioned enough to travel across their home country, sometimes across the world, to interact with the brands that they love. To best leverage their passion, an Instagram strategy for events can be a great way to sustain some of the generated buzz, and turn the punters into a part of your community. Plus seeing how great your product is in action will inspire others to seek out that experience for themselves.

Playstation lead the charge with their global experiential campaigns. Images and videos from each event are documented on Instagram, using large volume hashtags, and encouraging users feedback. They understand that in their market, customers want to be on the forefront of their developments, and are always seeking out literally game changing technology. Not only does their Instagram coverage strengthen relationships built on the day, but also acts as a news feed for customers around the world to get sneak previews of forthcoming products making their debut.

Media on site checking out PlayStation VR in NYC 👍

A photo posted by PlayStation (@playstation) on

Resources for Content Creation

Having an ambitious strategy for Instagram is great, but one of the main hurdles to overcome in its successful execution is effective resource management. The mantra of content is king has been touted by online marketers of all shapes and sizes for years, yet few acknowledge that singing from the hymn sheet of best practices is a little different from actually putting them into practice. Content requires resources, be it a great copywriter, skilled developer, or in this case photographers, videographers, graphic designers or illustrators. We’re not saying that there only a skilled professional can represent your brand on Instagram. Thankfully modern smartphones are equipped with cameras to rival DSLRs of the 90s these days. However, a small investment in technology goes a long way, so whether that is buying the latest smart phone for the office, or investing in an in-house photography and video production suite, your content game will end up stronger.
Sustainability is key, and freelance professionals don’t always come cheap. So while calling in a pro to cover special product releases or events is often a great idea, you will need a more cost effective approach to cover the day to day. Trust your team with your brand. We get it, your brand is precious, but sometimes we all have to relinquish control.  Sharing your Instagram account amongst your team can take the load off your posting schedule. There may be a bit of a learning curve, but stick with it, as knocking out good quality daily posts, with the combined creativity of a social media savvy team will give you a real edge online. This does not mean that you have to give total power of attorney to your employees, but rather create a system in which they can contribute freely, and you can provide feedback. Using Rivuu as a content approval system is a simple way to manage this workflow. You can add as many users as you want with different permissions, and have multiple content creators submitting Instagram posts to an approver (or team of approvers) for sign off before posting. There is even a built in feedback system to pass on comments for amendment. Plus it is a handy scheduling tool. More on that later…
Fall back on stock photography. Sometimes Instagram is about telling a story through images, rather than just promoting your products. There are some amazing online stock photo and video libraries, which can be used to create a stylistically coherent narrative that fits your brand. Certainly more cost effective than hiring a photographer for those generic shots. Usually some combination of stock libraries and original content is advised, as you can risk your account coming across as impersonal without a bit more real world input. However how you strike this balance is up to you. Large organisations often have a greater resource pool to draw upon when creating content, so if you’re just starting out and haven’t yet found the social media whizz for your team, adapting stock content can be a great way to get your account out of the blocks and into the race.

Copywriting: Text, Tags & CTAs

Great images and videos are the cornerstone of a successful Instagram marketing strategy, yet a few choice words are essential to make sure your content hits the home run. The Instagram caption space is more restrictive than Facebook and Twitter, not allowing external linking, yet this limitation also means that users are more constrained on the platform and make better use of internal search features. While hashtags on other platforms offer similar search results, the format of content returned is more diverse, and therefore arduous to search through. As Instagram is all about that same square format of video, images and gifs, users can act quickly and impulsively on a large number of posts to pick out content with the most visual impact. Ensuring that your posts are tagged with multiple relevant hashtags will help users to discover your content. So how do you know which hashtags to use? Tools such as Iconosquare offer insightful feedback on the top trending tags in your niche. Using their easy search feature you can identify the most used keywords that users are tagging content with, as well as geo- and demographic stats to break this down into regions and segments. In addition to effective tagging, it’s important to keep the caption engaging so that followers are inspired to take action. Short and snappy can work just as well as long and waxing posts. It all depends on the subject matter, so while some analysts will tell you that 50 character post captions convert better than paragraphs, it’s usually a baseless claim made upon flawed data drawn from an often pseudo-scientific field of social media analytics. This is not to say that insightful data shouldn’t influence your decisions, but only your own testing will give you reliable feedback on what voice resonates most with your target audience, so don’t be afraid to try different approaches. While Instagram does not allow embedded links in post captions, this does not mean that you shouldn’t include them. Using a URL shortening tool with tracking can help you to trace your Instagram referrals in your web/app analytics platform. We use a combination of Google URL shortener with Universal Analytics UTM parameters added to our destination URL to make sure that we know which posts our traffic is coming from. Other tools such as bit.ly offer some inbuilt tracking into the shortened URLs, but we chose to tag campaigns in our analytics tool also for easier analysis.
Another approach is to include an updated single embedded link in your account bio, so that users can click navigate off platform to the relevant content of the day. This makes the discovery of past content problematic, but if your brand makes regular posts with content on the site, it can offer your followers something new with each visit to your page, helping them to visit your account habitually. Online magazines and news sites often use this form of linking as the goal of their Instagram account is to pique the user’s’ interest, and drive traffic to their long form editorial content.
User tagging is possible using the @ symbol, like on Facebook and Twitter. Finding the relevant user can sometimes be difficult if you have not connected with their account, so if you have trouble finding the person or brand you wish to include, visit their page and follow first.  Tag users that are relevant to your posts. This can help to increase your reach through awareness, but does not drive broader search terms in the same way that hashtags do. Aside from these specific points, the standard rules of good copywriting should apply to your Instagram strategy. Make sure that your post captions highlight unique selling points of your product or service, demonstrate value to the reader (“What’s in it for me?”) and most importantly include a call to action to direct them for follow up engagement. Look out for our post on social media copywriting for more.

Instagram Scheduling

While other platforms offer in-built post scheduling, Instagram is more focused on mobile only users, and has fewer commercially oriented native tools for businesses to make use of. Following the platform’s acquisition by Facebook, and integration into the Ad Manager, we might see a few more things provided for account management, but so far the posting tools have only been available for paid advertising. However, Rivuu is not only the world’s most flexible social media approvals tool, it also offers Instagram scheduling from just $10 per month. The app allows you to create and preview image, gif and video posts on Instagram, write your caption including tags, hashtags and emojis, send it for approval or feedback, and then schedule content to directly Instagram without having to login to the platform. In fact, Rivuu is one of the only tools that offers Instagram schedule without being in breach of the Instagram terms of service.
This is especially useful for brands that are preparing content using photo and video editing software, saving the laborious step of uploading to a mobile device before posting. Not to mention preserving those precious hours of sleep for those posting to accounts in different time zones. Rivuu also pulls past post performance data from your social media accounts to tell you when your engagement levels were highest when you are scheduling the post. This gives you the insight you need, when picking the time for your post to ensure maximum reach. The time picker connects with the Facebook API, which ensures that the data it pulls is always up to date. We recommend identifying the peak time, and then scheduling your content for slightly before, in order to catch the upward flow of traffic for the best reach.
Once your content is scheduled it is summarised in, and can be edited from, a user friendly social media calendar. Here you can see all of your posts on each platform, make changes, un-schedule, or change the date and time of posting from a single screen. Rivuu gives you a fully interactive snapshot of your entire content schedule, that can be easily shared with your entire team. Rivuu is the only team app for social media content creation, approvals and scheduling, which offers customisable workflows and unlimited users with full control over permissions. It’s also just $10 per profile per month, and free to try. Sign up for your free 14 day trial here.

Instagram Influencer Marketing

Some users, both private and commercial, have generated huge niche followings on Instagram. These powerful accounts in your niche are social media influencers, who are often tastemakers in your industry. Reaching out to these users, engaging them with new content and collaborating to leverage their audience is a great way to expand your reach to a relevant audience. Plus having the backing of an influencer gives your brand social proof. To find the top influencers in your field, you can use BuzzSumo. This tool allows you to search for keywords related to your industry, and identify the key influencers with top performing content in your field. It is important to assess each prospect carefully, as a one-size-fits-all approach to outreach in this case is not usually so effective. However, searching for top performing accounts in your niche will give you a basis to work from.
Most influencers are well aware of the value of their account, so be sure not to patronise them in your pitch. Many seemingly private user accounts, particularly in fashion, are run for profit, and may even account for the entire income of some users. These users will sometimes expect some kind of value proposition in exchange for a promotion. It is possible to gain the support of influencers without concrete incentives, but this is dependent on how passionate they are about your product. The process of contacting an influencer should be a warm sales approach, taking the time and effort to engage and interact before your pitch. Follow their account, like and comment on posts that fit your audience, and generally put your brand on the radar. Some brands are even successful at this point, and influencers begin to highlight their products. Once you are on the radar send a bespoke pitch, using different forms of media, offering pre-made content that fits their taste, with the product points that you believe resonate the most with their audience.
You might find that your brand is approached by the influencer requesting product samples for use in reviews or posts. This is a valuation that you have to make depending on the value of your product and the reach of their audience. If you take this approach, encourage the use of a tracking URL, or unique hashtag so that you can track responses to this content and make an assessment of post performance. This can be used to benchmark influencers against each other for future interactions.

Running an Instagram Contest

Incentivising your fans with giveaways and gifts is a great way to get them engaged with your brand, and sharing your content. Instagram has become one of the most popular platforms for competitions as it is easy to offer a prize to users without having to wade through excessive red tape, or design special splash screens or be forced to use third party apps. In this section we will outline a few of the most popular ways to set up and promote an Instagram contest for your brand. Double tap / like / comment / follow to win contests are simplest, although perhaps least effective competitions. In order to propel your content further users just have to complete an engagement or combination of engagements with your post to enter for a chance to win your prize. This helps to give your account or post a boost and can be a great way to get new followers or bring your existing audience onto the platform, but the level of engagement for these competitions for existing users is relatively low.  In fact users entering this type of competition will likely not share their entry to have a better chance of winning! More effective forms of Instagram contest usually involve some form of user generated content. With all of this business and marketing jargon, you may have forgotten that Instagram is primarily a photography application, and its users love to create and share images. Embrace the spirit of the platform, and run a competition to judge the best photo or video!

Choosing an entry method

A successful competition needs rules, so you should decide on how to allow your audience to submit their entry. At this point refer back to your campaign goals and think about how best to communicate your message. Usually brands run competitions with these entry methods…

  • Include a hashtag and theme in your post to enter. Users simply tag their post with the competition hashtag, and related relevant theme for extra exposure, and publish. This makes it easy to review all of the competition entries and choose a winner. You can use a tool like Iconosquare to research the top trending hashtags in your niche when picking your theme. Then be sure to choose something memorable and representative of your brand or prize as your competition tag.
  • Tag your brand in entrants’ posts to enter. Users are required to tag your brand’s Instagram page in their post in order to enter. In this case you ensure that all competition submissions can send traffic to your account, leading to better exposure.
  • Most contests on Instagram now require a combination of user generated content and engagement action (such as like, follow, tag or share). However be careful about making your entrants jump through too many hoops, as it can scare participants away.
  • Using third party applications open up the possibility for more complex competition entries including allowing entrance with an email address. When prizes are of high value, or confidential contact with the winner is required after the competition is over it can be important to have contact details. This is also a strategy used by many brands to generate mailing list subscribers.

The marketing toolkit developed by Wishpond includes apps that make running instagram contests a breeze. Plus they have an excellent landing page building tool and importantly a built in social media analytics system for tracking the success of your competition.

Picking the winner

Once your competition has run it’s course, and you have shared the best (or worst) of the entries, you have to decide on a winner. We don’t ever suggest that you pick someone based on reach as this is unfair and untransparent. However there are two methods that you can use to help you to pick a winner fairly and increase your reach while doing it. By having followers vote on the entrants to decide the winner you can get fans engaging with one another on your terms. This is a great way to create a sense of community around your brand. Votes can be swayed by users with larger audiences, but the key is here to keep the focus on the submissions, promoting your favourite picks to other users, but ultimately letting them decide. For an even fairer way to choose your winner, you could assemble a panel of judges to decide on the winning content. A predefined set of criteria can be shared with fans, and judges can explain their decisions, which in itself can help to deepen the conversation for better or for worse!

Paid Advertising on Instagram

One fantastic benefit of Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram, is its seamless integration into Ad Manager. Most new social media platforms, despite gaining traction with a big user base, take a while to develop a fully featured ad platform, as developing a mature revenue model from their audience is usually a later step. Even compared to Twitter, which has been on the scene for a lot longer, the demographic targeting options, post types, campaign structures, analytics and reporting of Instagram paid advertising are pretty advanced. Rather than it being a separate platform, Instagram ads are treated as a “Placement” option for Facebook. So you can even run ads on Instagram from your Facebook account, without even being active on the platform. Video ads are possible, as well as images, and it is simple to add multiple creatives to judge which ads get the best response. Plus paid advertising on Instagram includes CTA link buttons, which take users to external sites. As links are not normally embeddable on Instagram, this is a key feature, particularly for e-commerce stores that want their users to be able to shop their products from their Instagram feed directly.

Types of Instagram Adverts

Creating adverts on Instagram is easy.  All you need is an active Facebook Ad Manager account, with your billing details attached. You can simply boost your existing posts, much as you would on Facebook, or create content especially for the paid ads. This is an effective way to expand the reach of your existing content, get people looking at your feed and find new followers. “Dark posts” are not visible on your normal Instagram feed, yet created solely in ad manager. For those with a sizeable budget, this is a fantastic way to test content before pushing posts live. You can run a selection of creatives quietly to different audience segments and test the responses. Once you have analysed your results, simply role out the top performing post to your public page, and promote from there, providing you with greater assurance of good results. This method can also be a fantastic way to connect with localised communities. Allowing you to customise content for specific audiences in particular regions, or even for certain interest demographics.  Bespoke content, created for niche audiences is a real trend for social media in general, and even if you think of your product as being mass market, you would be surprised how effectively a localised, or niche strategy, can expand your reach and deepen your connections with existing users. With the same targeting options as on the Facebook ad platform, retargeting is also an option.  Using your standard Facebook tracking pixel, you can tag visitors to your website with a cookie (maximum lifespan is 90 days), and serve ads to them on Instagram. Many advertisers opt for simple generic retargeting ads, or content marketing, but it is possible to get granular in your tracking, tagging users depending on which individual products, pages or categories they have visited.  This form of “dynamic retargeting” takes a little more experience to set up, but if approached with a well thought out strategy, it’s possible to get fantastic results.  This is pretty commonly used by major clothing retailers (such as Asos) that have a huge range of products, and very advanced product recommendation engines.

Measurements for Success

Like any form of paid advertising, it’s important to track certain key performance indicators (KPIs).  This could be anything from clicks, to post engagements, sales or sign ups. The point is that you should refer back to your campaign goals, and then prioritise them in order of importance. If your goal is to generate revenue, then it is crucial to calculate return on investment (ROI). Effectively tracking your ROI allows you to gauge the profitability of your campaign, perhaps the most crucial metric for any business. Unfortunately, the ad platform doesn’t generally want you to be watching your return on investment so carefully, as a higher ad spend is money in their pocket. For this reason, we like to pull the data out of Facebook’s Ad Manager and into a spreadsheet to make this calculation. You can also connect this ad platform data with other analytics channels, such as Google’s Universal Analytics. As Facebook and Google are increasingly treading on each others toes, their platform integrations are frustratingly inadequate. Facebook are keen to keep you on their ad platform, so the only way to connect your ads data to your analytics account effectively is through the use of UTM tracking parameters. This is essentially just adding a category, action and source tag to the end of your URL, which allows you to identify individual ad creatives later in Universal Analytics. Yes, tagging every ad individually is a little bit arduous, but the power of this data is huge. Information from your website analytics platform will give you feedback on how your traffic from Instagram advertising behaves on your site.  This means tracking bounce rates, event paths, conversion funnels is all possible and tagging individual campaigns and ads allows you to see how different audience demographics, or ad creatives perform further along the user journey. In fact, UTM tracking can be used for your regular Instagram campaigns also, if you wish to include tracking parameters in your bio links, and post descriptions. Which some of these are not clickable, and the URL might be a little ugly, you can simply hide them behind a shortened link using a tool such as bit.ly or Google’s URL shortener.

Top