Today I’ll show you the basic outline for building an Instagram strategy. At least enough to get you started.
How to Build an Instagram Strategy
Everyone’s saying you need to build an Instagram strategy but it seem like no one is saying how, right?
I get it. The thing is, it’s hard as well as personal. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all photo-creating money-making Instagram strategy you can copy and paste into your marketing plan. I mean, people may tell you that and may even try and sell you that but I’m telling you, it’s something you have to build and customize to your specific brand.
But before the Instagram Strategy: WHY should you use Instagram?
At this moment one third of Internet users have an Instagram account so there’s an excellent chance your target audience is here. This is an opportunity to showcase and promote your services and brand to people who may not yet know about you and all you have to offer.
Instagram is an ideal tool to build a visual identity, telling your brand story through beautiful images, intriguing captions, and appropriate hashtags. When executed well, Instagram can help you develop a deeper connection with your audience.
General Posting Strategy
As a brand (and yes, if you sell something, you’re a brand), it’s important to follow a posting strategy to help your audience know how to think about you. Why should they follow you? How will you engage, inspire, or motivate them? What are some ways you can deepen your relationship with your audience through the images you post?
Think about these questions and jot down some answers.
The best way to create a strategy is by focusing on one area of your brand; choosing a niche. When choosing a niche ask these types of questions: What can you do better than your competitors? How about what will your audience find interesting, inspiring, or motivational? What is important for your audience to know? Find these answers and you’ll have your niche.
Once you’ve brainstormed a few ideas try writing a paragraph about your brand.
Here’s my (current) write up as an example:
I’m a professional writer with blogging, marketing and tourism experience. I also have a bachelor of journalism and diplomas in media and communications and biblical studies.
Unlike most business writers, I spent a decade working as an in-house writer, marketing manager, and audio producer at an international non-profit. Aside from working in a variety of roles, and with a range of personalities, this experience taught me how creating authentic marketing messages can build meaningful relationships and make emotional links with constituents.
I recommend thinking this through before asking a social media marketing strategist to help you create an Instagram strategy. You know your brand and goals best and by getting clear on your goals and who you serve ahead of time, your chances of creating a laser-focused strategy are that much more likely. If you want to learn more about this process check out my article on positioning.
Once you have your paragraph, think about what your Instagram posts should feature to showcase who you are and what you do. In my example, I aim to promote things I’m working on (freelance or personal), things I love (new discoveries, funny stories, interesting ideas, books I’m reading), and exclusive tips (for the freelance writer).
When thinking about what types of photos you’ll post keep in mind every post should drive people to your business and that your Instagram content is a reflection of your brand and core beliefs—your feed tells a larger story of who you are and what you stand for.
Jot down a few photo ideas before moving on. Don’t worry, these are still brainstorms for now.
Still stuck? Here are a few questions to help you.
- What drives your business?
- What are your biggest takeaways?
- How will what you share enrich your followers’ lives?
HOW should your posts look, sound, and feel?
At all times your Instagram posts should speak to your audience, appealing to their interests. Your posts should engage them using thoughtful language intended to interest, inspire, or motivate them to take the next step with you. If you are promoting an event or contest take care to craft your caption in a way your audience will respond best—focus on the benefits instead of the promotion.
WHERE should you focus?
Your Instagram posts should focus on what your users will find interesting, inspiring, and motivational. What makes you or your business/services special and unique? What is there to discover? And what would your audience be interested in seeing?
WHEN should you post?
Posting consistency is more important than how often you post. However, Monday and Thursday are higher use days for Instagram in general so these are good days to aim for. Once you have your strategy in place use a free tool like Iconosquare or Websta to analyze your followers and learn what days and times they’re more likely to use Instagram and adjust your posting schedule as necessary.
WHAT should your posts consist of?
All posts should contain a photo, a caption, and hashtags.
- Your photos must be high quality, with good framing, and interesting content. Photos should be planned and edited with third-party apps
- Captions should tell your audience a story. At every step, take the opportunity to draw your audience in and point back to your strategy.
- A good practice is to create a list of 10-20 hashtag relating to your business, brand, and products and reference several from the list each time you post
Using hashtags is a critical part of your posting strategy. By finding and using the most relevant hashtags for your updates, your posts will be exposed to users in your target audience who don’t yet follow you. You should mix brand-specific hashtags with more general hashtags. Instagram uses hashtags to organize and categorize content so by not using or misusing hashtags your posts could go unnoticed.
The best way to gain followers on Instagram is by having a great profile. Here are the elements.
- Description. Your profile description should reflect your niche and give the user enough information to be motivated to follow you
- Portfolio. When a new user visits your Instagram account s/he will often view your photo portfolio before choosing to follow you. You want to make sure your portfolio is not only filled with beautiful images but reflect your niche. If the user visits your portfolio and your portfolio is off topic or contains weak/poor images, it could prevent new followers
- Photos. Your photos should reflect your brand’s online voice and emotion related to it
Before taking a photo ask the question, “what do I do better than anyone else?” Find or take photos supporting your answer.
Before posting a photo ask the following questions:
- Does this photo showcase my talent?
- Is this photo interesting?
- Is this photo on-brand?
- And is this photo beautiful?
If the answer is yes, post away! If you’re not sure, don’t post the photo.
Posting quality images is more important than posting often. Beautiful images increase your brand value in the user’s eye while weak/poor images decrease your brand’s value in the user’s eye.
Follower Tactics | How to Build an Instagram Strategy
Once you’re clear on your target audience, and have your profile description, portfolio, and photos in line then you can begin following other users.
Search Instagram and find as many people in your target audience using keywords. Aim to follow 100 or 200 people to begin. Many will follow back out of courtesy but even if users don’t follow back you have gathered a pool of users to draw photo ideas from. Try to find new people to follow every time you log on to Instagram.
Like and Comment
Another way to gain followers is by liking and commenting on photos. A good strategy is to like and/or comment on three to five photos every time you log on to Instagram. Try to be encouraging, positive, and upbeat.
Also remember to respond to your followers comments on your photos. A quick “thanks” goes a long way. Remember to @ tag the follower you’re posting to.
Reposting other users’ images is a great way to showcase your brand without having to come up with all your own content (or your own social media manager!). Not only do you highlight and support Instagrammers but you add beautiful images to your portfolio extending your brand.
You can use repost apps, take screenshots and repost yourself, or save the image on your computer and manually add it to your mobile device before posting. Just be sure to give credit to the user you’re reposting (@ tagging) and add relevant hashtags.
Hashtags As part of an instagram strategy
Adding popular hashtags to every post will expand your reach and expose your images and profile to new users.
Adding brand-specific hashtags to every post and encouraging followers to use it in their posts helps you create community and cultivate loyalty. When your followers use your hashtag it exposes your brand to their audience, with the added bonus of the user’s advocacy.
Cross promoting your Instagram posts on your other social media profiles like Facebook or Twitter exposes your followers there to your Instagram feed. You can also use your Instagram feed to encourage users to find you on your other profiles, provided you are using beautiful images with an interesting caption to relay the message.
Conclusion for How to Build an Instagram Strategy
There is a learning curve to Instagram, but by following a posting and follower strategy will get you a long way. As well, learning a few basics about photography, utilizing third-party apps and filters, and reposting will help you create an engaging portfolio as long as you stick to your niche and showcase the best of your brand.