In the last six months of 2016, Instagram gained 100 million new users. Think about the scale of that. In roughly 182 days, 100 million new individuals downloaded the app and became users. That’s nearly 500,000 new users a day. Those users are active as well; Instagram users like an average of 4.2 billion posts every day. So how does your startup get in on some of those likes and increase your app engagement?
As an inherently visual platform, Instagram attracts brands that have products which translate well in visual representations. You’re more likely to find a fitness brand selling athletic wear or exercise products on the app than a consulting management firm. While it’s not my place to tell you whether you can (or should) use Instagram, it’s wise to consider whether your brand will translate well in this visual medium.
A social media presence has become a necessary, rather than a potential, part of marketing your startup. Since there is a low cost to entry (the Instagram app is free), anyone can become a part of this platform. While you’ll pay to sponsor your posts, advertising on Instagram is an effective way to engage with your customers, expand your customer base, and to sell your product. There have been over 40 billion photos shared to date, and there are an average of 95 million photos and videos shared every day. Standing out among those kind of numbers is difficult, but not impossible.
On Instagram, users have feeds that continually update as the profiles they follow post new content. As you post new photos and videos, they will appear as active viewers refresh their feed. A 2016 study conducted by Forrester found that the top 50 global brands post content on average of 4.9 times per week. This is more than double the 2015 average, and reflects an increase in engagement and user demand for new content. However, do not sacrifice quality for the sake of quantity. One well-executed post that draws significant engagement will drive your revenue returns more than three poorly executed posts.
Maintain a Visual Identity
Just as with any other branded image, you need consistency across platforms. Filters are frequently used on Instagram, and can boost the appeal of your images to your viewers. Creating and maintaining your signature branded look on Instagram links your content to your brand identity.
Pick a filter and stay with it. This way, users will see continuity across images when they are on your profile’s landing page. The types of images that you use on your profile should reflect your brand’s personality, identity, and echo the type of relationship you want to have with your followers and consumers.
A startup in the beauty industry may want to portray an image of sophistication as an iconic and classic style. The photos and videos that you would post on your feed would use captions and images that reflect your unique brand identity. Any disconnect between your visual content and your brand, such as a fitness brand posting pictures of fried and greasy foods, risk coming off as inauthentic and insincere to users.
When you look at the profiles of major brands, you’ll see that their follower to following ratio is high. This means that while they have high follower counts, they typically follow a much smaller percentage of users. As a public profile, users can see who your profile is following. While in the early stages of building up your follower count, you will likely need to follow a larger number of profiles to elicit in kind follows, it’s wise to selectively follow users at later stages.
For instance, once you have a robust and engaged follower count, it’d be unwise to go on following sprees and follow other users at random. The people that you follow should be a reflection of your brand, and the image that you want to maintain. As a tech-based startup, it’d be wise to follow influencers in the tech world, other startups you have relationships with, and media personalities who write about technology.
80% of Instagram users are from outside of the United States. This can translate to huge global sales and the potential to expand your brand into previously untapped markets across the world. Engaging with a global audience may seem difficult at first, but can have major returns. Consider using hashtags in other languages to put your profile in non-English speakers’ feeds, and posting content that appeals to international audiences.
50% of Instagram users follow at least one business. Users are engaged with the businesses that they shop at, identify with, and are willing to purchase new products from. Advertising using your Instagram profile is easy. You can use a business profile, which allows you to add your website directly to your profile.
Now, when you post content you can embed links so interested users can go directly from the photo of your product to purchasing the product on your site, all on mobile. In fact, 75% of users take action, such as visiting a website link or purchasing a product, after they look at an advertising post.
Add Relevant Hashtags
Hashtags, such as those used on Facebook and Twitter, are used to connect users to posts and content that are relevant to their searches. When someone searches for “shoes” on Instagram, they are shown results from other users that use the hashtag, along with users who post content about the subject.
Research by Simply Measured has shown that posts that include at least one hashtag have 12.6% more engagement on average. Using relevant hashtags with your posts is an easy way to increase your engagement, but will only drive your Return on Investment (ROI) when they are relevant. Simply, if you’re using #shoes on a post that advertises your telecomm product, you’re unlikely to drive any revenue.