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Social Media Marketing: How to Use Instagram to Grow Your Business

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Written by Micah Phillips

It’s no secret that Instagram is one of the biggest and most influential social media platforms of the day. In fact, the once-humble site for sharing photos of your dinner has more than 800 million monthly users as of September 2017, making it one of the most popular websites ever. This means that the sheer volume of Instagram’s user base makes it a fertile ground for marketing.

Using Instagram to grow your business, however, requires more than just having an account and posting blindly to it. You need to understand Instagram, how it works, and what the best practices are for reaching your target demographic through this burgeoning social media behemoth. Here’s how to use the power of social media marketing with Instagram to grow your business.

Build a Following

On Instagram, you’re only as powerful as the number of accounts that follow your own. Otherwise, each and every one of your posts are essentially screamed out into an empty void, dependent on hashtags and dumb luck to end up across a user’s feed.

Building this following is, of course, easier said than done, but there are a number of things to consider that will help you attract new followers. They include the use of interactive hashtags, following the “80/20” rule, interacting with other Instagram users, and cross-posting content from existing social media accounts.

Use Hashtags Interactively

Without an established follower base, much of your exposure will rely on hashtags. Proper hashtag use is crucial here, as loading your Instagram posts with as many hashtags as you can think of is not going to get you much traction. Fewer hashtags, but ones that are targeted more specifically, will help you build your following.

Instead, focus on interactivity. Ask a question and request a hashtag in reply regarding product or service development to engage your audience. Likewise, create a hashtag encouraging customers to take a photo with your product, as this provides your business with the ability to search for these posts, sharing them to your own feed and increasing your exposure.  This helps to build long-lasting relationships with your followers; loyal customers, of course, provide high levels of value for your brand.

Follow the 80/20 Rule

Social media marketing is as different as traditional advertising methods as you can get. If you’ve already ventured into marketing your business on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms you’ve likely learned firsthand that bombarding these sites with traditional marketing methods is a recipe for disaster. The trick here is to throw out what you know about marketing and adopt a different approach.

Social media users want to be entertained and informed, not marketed to, and that means the majority of the content you post anywhere needs to be focused primarily on those goals. Only around 20 percent of your content should be traditional marketing; the other 80 percent should focus on providing value and enrichment to your followers without attempting to sell them products or services.

Interact with Your Fellow Instagram Users

Never let an opportunity to interact with fellow users on Instagram when it’s presented to you. If someone comments on one of your posts, be sure to respond positively; the interaction can help convert new customers and aids in creating brand loyalty. This, in turn, can lead to followers becoming unofficial brand ambassadors for your business. If these individuals have large follower bases of their own, this has the potential to have a strong positive impact on your own follower count.

Additional methods to consider include creating content that invites interaction in some manner. Posts that suggest your followers to “tag a friend” or something similar has the potential to expand your influence organically without having to rely on hard-sell marketing tactics that would turn off prospective new followers instead. No one likes being approached directly by businesses that appear as if they’re just looking for new customers. A friend tagging another friend, however, is much more acceptable.

Social Media Platform Cross-Pollination

Nowadays, any business that uses social media marketing effectively doesn’t limit themselves to just one platform. If you’re already posting on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other major social media site (and you should be), make sure to post across these sites and invite your followers there to join you on Instagram as well.

If you do this, however, be sure that the content you post on Facebook, for example, is different than the content you post on Instagram. While cross-posting should be encouraged, your Instagram feed should have unique content; otherwise, there’s no reason for followers from other platforms to join you on this new one.

The Final Word

Using Instagram for social media marketing is a mix of science and art. You need to know the platform inside and out, understand what types of content are most popular with your target demographic, and then leverage that content through creative and interactive use of hashtags and other marketing methods. It’s not necessarily difficult, but it’s not exactly easy either; it’s going to take some trial and error to find the formula that works for your brand.

The most important factor to success as an Instagram marketer, though, is perseverance. Don’t give up if one tactic or strategy doesn’t seem to elicit the type of response you’re hoping for. Keep track of what tactics you’ve employed and how they’ve worked, consult Instagram’s built-in metrics to analyze your posts and their reach, and keep building on even modest successes. As long as you’re consistent, you’ll see that follower count grow — and that’s the bottom line.