The all in one A-Z Instagram marketing guide.
You probably know it’s no secret that Instagram marketing is a very important skill in 2018.
In fact, 43% of eCommerce starts with the customer on Instagram.
The bottom line is that you need a proof-tested strategy for your Instagram profile to stand out.
And I have exactly this for you:
A complete Instagram marketing guide for 2018:
Let's dive in!
While this first step may seem obvious, you want your Instagram profile to be visible to the public.
The issue about having a private profile is that anyone who is not following your Instagram account won’t be able to see your photos and videos.
Which is very bad because:
When someone finds your Instagram profile for the first time, they want to see your pictures and videos...so that they can make a choice whether to follow you.
To control your Instagram profiles visibility:
The big question...
Update (July 2018): Is now very easy to answer!
It used to be debated that after you activated ‘business mode’, your organic engagement would decrease.
Now Instagram has officially confirmed that if you activate a business profile, you will not be penalized by the algorithm or see a drop in engagement.
And this is awesome because you will be able to access:
1 ) Free Instagram Insights & Analytics
The main benefit to having a business profile is getting free insights for your account. This is data such as your followers geolocation, when they are online and where people find your content (explore page, feed, hashtags).
2 ) Instagram Story Links (With 10,000+ Followers)
If you are planning on marketing with Instagram Stories, at 10,000 or more followers you can add links to your story posts.
3 ) Product tagging on your Instagram posts (currently only available to approved US businesses)
As this feature is only available to approved and selected businesses in the US, it is not available for everyone to consider as a pro or con. This guide covers more information about tagging products in the Content section. For non-US businesses, you can review the section in this guide where I discuss using a shoppable Instagram feed.
4) Extra business information for your Instagram profile
You can let people know what type of business you are (category), and add a contact button in your profile.
Here’s how you can switch to a business profile:
Alternatively, you can watch this video:
You are living in a mobile-first world.
So your profile picture on Instagram should reflect this.
By being mobile responsive!
Here’s what a mobile responsive logo looks like:
The idea behind ‘mobile responsive’ is that design is visibly friendly for mobile users.
Thus, your logo should be readable for the tiny 110 pixels profile picture.
But what is good mobile design? Well, it’s large, legible, bold and memorable.
So here’s some options on how you can create an Instagram friendly logo:
I know this may seem like a crazy 'micromanage' thing to do, but it’s the small details that are vital, as they make the big picture happen.
And… you always want to make a great first impression as this could be as little as losing a follower or as big as losing a sale.
Start telling people what you want them to do.
Because they are not mind readers… unfortunately.
In your Instagram bio, you want to leave them with a simple and executable call to action plus a link to a landing page—that’s right, not your homepage Steeeve!.
A landing page is created for a specific conversion. Therefore, you want to provide a URL that takes a user to a specific webpage.
This could be a product on sale, an email sign-up form in return for a digital freebie, a contact or booking page and so on.
The idea is that the landing page has ONLY ONE goal in mind, without distractions.
So, here’s some examples of call to actions which you can use in your Instagram bio. Oh, and always place your call to action (CTA) at the end of your bio!
Some other call to action ideas include:
Moreover, now that you are getting people to leave Instagram to visit your website landing page, make sure it is mobile friendly (designed for mobile users) and has good hosting (fast page load times).
It’s 2018, if you don’t have a mobile responsive website you must live on Mars.
For example, here’s my website adapting for different screen sizes, so it works for mobile, tablet and desktop users.
Note: This website runs using Webflow, which has 100% responsive website templates.
To understand if Instagram is driving results, you need to track how many people are clicking your link in your Instagram bio.
Firstly, if you have a website I recommend you get Google analytics https://analytics.google.com/ to see where your website traffic comes from (Instagram, Pinterest, Google Search, Facebook and so on), what the demographic is, and what specific pages get you that traffic.
Secondly, you can use websites such as Bit.ly to create shortened and trackable links to place in your Instagram bio.
Pro Tip: Make sure you are sending users to a landing page with a single and very clear conversion goal. These are web pages with a goal such as booking a call, purchasing a product, getting a digital freebie like an ebook and so on.
Here’s how you can create a Bit.ly tracking link:
You can then follow this Bit.ly made video guide to setup your first link. And make sure to place it on your Instagram profile to start tracking how many users click that link!
An alternative to using a click tracking link...
...or activating a business profile to tag products.
Is to join a service which generates a live shopping feed from your Instagram account photo uploads.
Shopable feeds look like this:
This works SO DAMN WELL for eCommerce stores who are uploading lifestyle photos, which feature their products such as a home decor or fashion brand.
If you want to create a live shopping feed, I recommend any of these services. They all do the same and it comes down to personal preference on what fits your brands style and budget.
Plus: A lot of these services come with included Instagram post scheduling and profile analytics/insights too!
Four Sixty - https://foursixty.com/
Later - https://later.com/linkinbio/
Get Snapppt - http://www.getsnapppt.com/
Note: If you are a USA Shopify store owner, you may want to take a look at this article regarding selling on Instagram and streamlining the process by activating a business profile which lets you tag products and link to them straight from Instagram: https://help.shopify.com/manual/sell-online/facebook-sales-channel/instagram-product-tagging
The biggest failure to Instagram success is a result of not uploading high quality content.
High quality content is:
You can do every other strategy in this guide perfectly. But if your content lacks in quality...
...your followers, engagement and business will not grow.
So how do you create amazing content?
There’s two simple methods:
1 ) Create the content yourself
There is no trick to it other than hard work and giving a monkeys-ass.
Want to take great pictures? Buy a camera, pay models, pay for a photographer, take photography lessons, build a homemade studio, learn to use lightroom and photoshop, follow and copy top photographers, analyze their images, practice and then practice some more.
There’s no magic pill here.
Note: it’s very easy to take stunning photos with a smartphone. This tutorial is a great starting place for anyone wanting to take Instagram-worthy photos:
2 ) Leverage content creators images
A popular (and smart) method to curating high quality content is through leveraging other content creators work.
And giving full credit to the original creator.
Note: To give credit to original content creators on Instagram, a popular method is to include in your caption “Photo: @original-creator”.
My Surf Photography Instagram account does exactly this. It is a feed of surfing images, which contain a short caption, credit of the original photographer/creator and surfer, plus some hashtags.
The business Pura Vida Bracelets also leverages their customers and models to create content for them. Their customers can post pictures to Instagram of them wearing bracelets and jewelry using the hashtag #puravidabracelets and Pura Vida then re-posts it.
Look at the quality of images and how they’re reaching out emotionally to their audience.
Most people want to travel and experience these amazing places: it motivates them and aligns with their lifestyle.
Note: It’s not always so easy when you're first starting off. But there's a trick to make it easier: Email customers one or two weeks after their purchase. In the email ask them to upload a picture of your product with a branded hashtag (#yourbusinessname). And in return say that you will share it on your Instagram account plus give them 15% off to them and any of their friends next next purchase—this way you are giving them a valid reason to upload. Plus you may generate more sales!
Here’s where things get sticky!
Note: And it’s not from the Mars bar I just ate...
If you want to succeed on Instagram you need to brand your feeds content.
Your feed is the front cover of your business. It should look like professional popular blog...
...after all Instagram feeds are images with text.
So, your Instagram feed should have consistency so everything looks as if it was part of a brand.
Think of it this way:
You wouldn’t go blogging about motorbikes on a blog that is about gardening. Or change your logo's color each time you use it.
So the same applies on Instagram!
Don’t upload a picture of a car, then a cute dog, then some sweet ice cream you just ate, and then a video of worker at your office doing a handstand on your bosses desk whilst blasting backstreet boys in the background, then a product, then you playing golf...you get the idea. Hopefully...
Don’t use a different filter/editing style on each image.
Instead edit each photo using the same filter/editing style and only upload pictures related to your niche.
Here are some top examples of feeds which have amazing brand consistency:
Did you notice how all the images have a similar filter/editing style and contain a subject matter relative to their business niche? It’s highly recommend you learn to edit photos using Lightroom and Photoshop if you are a content creator taking your own photos.
Moveover, here are is a recap of the golden rules to keeping a consistent feed brand:
Your upload consistency is very important.
Instagram’s algorithm rewards users by:
And here's how you get rewarded:
Stick to a upload schedule and commit to it.
You should be uploading 1 post per day at roughly the same time.
Note: Most brands are uploading 2-3 images per day at their users most active times.
You can use a scheduling application such as Later.com to help you plan out your feed and future posts. It will give you a notification when it’s time to upload. Or you can use an automation software such as Jarvee to upload posts for you.
Instagram considers the engagement your post receives from the moment you press share. This is how many direct message shares, likes and comments your post gets.
Posts which get a lot of likes, comments and shares within the first hour of its upload will get chosen by Instagram’s algorithm as popular .
The algorithm will then promote this type of content because it thinks others will also like it. So it starts placing it on the explore page and in the top posts section for any hashtags you use.
The result is awesome, as it drives a free organic traffic to your profile, resulting in more engagement and new followers.
To help speed up and boost your engagement when you press that share button, do these following steps 15 minutes before and after uploading:
Instagram wants you to be part of the community, not to upload and close the app.
Using a geographical tag on your posts is a must do.
Even if you don’t know the location, it’s best to guess or go broad.
For example, if you know the photo was taken in France, but are not sure exactly where... tag the location as France.
This way, anyone looking at posts geo-tagged with France will be able to find you.
To Geo Tag your posts on Instagram follow these steps:
Pro Tip: If the location you are looking for isn’t available on Instagram, you can read this guide https://help.instagram.com/1618893218361276 on how to create one via Facebook.
The Tag User feature is fantastic.
Why you ask?
Because everytime you tag someone in your photo, they get a notification and you show up in their tagged photos feed.
And it gets better:
If the tagged account has lots of followers they will see the tagged photo and *fingers crossed* visit and follow your account.
There should be no excuse to not attempt to tag someone in each photo you upload.
Now, there are a few tagging methods to consider:
Know someone in the photo, tag them.
Did someone ask you a question and you responded with a video? Tag them.
Has someone won a contest you hosted, tag them on your announcement post.
Using a product or showcasing a service, tag the business in the photo. A perfect example is @magic_fox as he tags lots of clothing he wears, gaining extra exposure of people following those brands.
If you are uploading a picture or video someone else took, tag them in it.
Tag a niche specific account which shares the best content in a certain niche. For example @dogsofinstagram shares pictures of dogs from people across the globe.
And don't forget that you can tag many accounts in one photo, leading in more traffic generation.
Here’s the point of a caption:
To spike engagement and drive towards an end result.
In simple terms this means to get more likes, comments and even drive link clicks in your bio.
Keep it real: Feel free to write whatever the heck you want in your caption, there is no wrong or right but as a rule it’s good to provide context about your photo or video.
So here is how you can spike engagement:
You can provide a strong, simple and firm call to action:
Or you can ask a question:
Note: The key to asking questions is to keep them short, simple and fun. No one’s going to answer a long form question. This is where 50/50 questions work perfectly (yes/no or thumbs up/thumbs down or fire/snowflake).
Hashtags help users discover your content and optimizes the reach of your post(s).
Every time you include a hashtag in your caption or posts comments—it becomes discoverable in the hashtags search results along with anyone else using the same hashtag.
For example, if you run a pet store and use #petstore, #lovemypet, or any other pet related hashtag, people will see your post in the most recent posts section…
...resulting in more discovery (likes, comments and followers).
And if it gets a lot of engagement, it gets featured in the top posts section from anywhere between 1 to 12 hours!
Now the strategy for using hashtags is always changing due to the algorithm changing so frequently, but this method is a foolproof way to ensure you get some extra discoverability and engagement.
On Instagram you want to find a list of 20 niche related hashtags which you can pull from each time you want to post.
Let’s break these 20 hashtags down into groups of 5.
Group 1 - Popular Niche Hashtags x 5
These should be 5 big hashtags which have 100x the amount of followers you have in uploaded posts. Don’t get these confused with popular hashtags such as #love and #fitness which have a ton of spam and won’t bring any results.
For example, if you have 2,000 followers, you are looking for hashtags that have over 200,000+ post uploads. If you are a female travel blogger, a great hashtag would be https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/sheisnotlost/
The idea with these hashtags is to rank in the top posts, which will drive a lot of traffic as they are frequently searched.
Group 2 - Niche Hashtags x 5
Next up you want to find 5 hashtags with 50x the amount of followers you have.
With the hashtags you find, they will be used primarily for ranking in top posts more easily, but also optimizing your reach through being found in the hashtags recent posts section.
Group 3 - Niche Specific Hashtags x 5
Finally, find 5 hashtags which have 25x the amount of followers you have.
These are your really niche specific hashtags and will take the longest to find. But are totally worth the engagement they will return as they are less populated and give your posts more time to be found.
You should find that you easily will rank for the top post positions here and also remain in the recent posts for longer periods of time, as less users will be uploading content with these hashtags.
Using the search feature on Instagram, start typing in keywords related to your niche.
Once you find one, take a look at what posts are being uploaded to see if your media would fit in nicely.
Note: Avoid hashtags which have lots of advertisements and spam related posts.
Then store the hashtags in a text app such as Notes on iPhones which you can copy and paste from later.
Pro Tip: A cool trick is to create a shortcut on your phone to automatically paste a caption template. Here’s guides that will show you how to do this.
Question: Where do I use these hashtags?
You want to place hashtags at the end of your caption, or you can place them in a comment instantly after uploading a photo (but not recommended due to rumors correlated to posting hashtags in comments and shadowbans).
Question: which hashtags should I use?
I recommend using 2 hashtags from each group which best represent your photo/video context.
It’s good to test different hashtags, and continue to add any new hashtags you find to a list.
Question: How many hashtags should I use Aaron?
If you are looking to grow fast, use 5-10 hashtags per post.
If you are not worried about your engagement, I recommend you use 3-6 hashtags per post which BEST represent the posts content.
Question: Should I use the same hashtags on each post I upload?
No, this can result in your profile being silently flagged for spam and not appearing in hashtag search results.
Question: Do I need to include spaces or special characters before hashtags to hide them?
There’s no need to do this, but making your caption visually appealing is always a benefit. Here are some cool ways to structure your caption:
Caption template 1 [emoji]
Photo credit: @if-necessary
#hashtags #go #here
Caption template 2 [emoji]
Photo credit: @if-necessary
#hashtags #go #here
Instagram rewards people who take advantage of Instagram Stories.
Mainly because they want to kick Snapchats ass to the curb...
But also due to the fact that businesses can advertise through it—the more eyes on stories means more money made for businesses, which results in lots of money spent on ads and a happy Facebook revenue stream.
Anyway, here’s how you can use Instagram stories for free to increase engagement with your profile and appear in the explore feed for stories and hashtags:
Ask a question
When you upload a photo or video to Instagram stories you can ask a question.
If you are uploading a video of you talking, it’s recommended to ask the question there and then to get a better response.
When you ask this question, make sure to include a poll option so users can vote on the answer like in this Story uploaded by @surfsumo:
This is how you can add a poll to your Instagram story:
50/50 questions work best on Instagram as its easy for your audience to answer.
Give a call to action
Did you release a new product?
Or do you want to announce a holiday sale?
Let people know in your story by giving them a call to action: click the link in your bio.
This is a brilliant method to drive missed traffic which may have not seen your promotional post on your feed.
Or try some of these ideas to provide value:
Instagram’s community gives what you give.
Note: The old follow/unfollow method is not as effective with Instagram's algorithm and is also a major consumption of time unless you use automation. Therefore, it will not be referenced in this section of the guide.
If you want to grow your likes, comments and followers, you need to go like others photos and leave a meaningful comment on them.
And no, not something like “cool 👍” or “love this”. A meaningful comment is 4+ words that actually references something going on in the image or video plus two emojis to visually stand out.
To engage with these users:
You want to find big (50k+ follower) Instagram profiles like yours. Then you are going to:
And here’s why:
These users who are commenting on profiles like yours:
The idea here is exposure. The more exposure the more you will grow.
Doing this lets others know you exist and it also lets Instagram know you are active within the community, which helps you appear more in their algorithm!
Note: Try to mix up your targeting, don’t use the same accounts over and over again otherwise you will run into the same people.
You love them or you hate them.
Instagram “bots” as they’re referred to.
I’m a fan of using automation software.
And here's why:
Automation is a standard practice of business and if used legitimately, which means not using automation to cheat, be dodgy, spam, be unauthentic or disrupt users experience...
...it can be very helpful towards your Instagram growth.
On a side note, people will say automation is dying with the history of algorithm changes during 2017. But this didn’t affect people using automation tools but also manual users who saw a drop in growth and engagement too. It’s important to remember that Instagram automation is all about exposing your profile to the right people who didn’t know you existed.
Never think that automation will gain you thousands of followers alone, because content will always be the deciding factor as to why someone wants to follow you.
Anyway, I’ve been a long time user of automation software (I even teach a course on it here), and my video above covers the newest Instagram automation software I use, plus a beginner setup tutorial for those interested.
Learn and grow from understanding your Instagram audience.
Instagram Insights and alternatives
To understand your Instagram marketing campaign you need analytics.
There are two ways you can access analytics or ‘insights’ for your account.
1) Instagram insights via a business profile
IF. AND THAT'S A BIG IF...you are happy to active business mode on your profile you will get access to Instagram insights for free, right inside the Instagram app.
While this can seem very appealing, you need to weigh the pros and cons we discussed earlier about activating a business profile.
If you choose to do this:
You can access the insights via your profile or click on view insights for specific posts you upload.
2) Use alternative Instagram analytics services
There are plenty of companies which offer Instagram analytics and insights.
There is no reason to subscribe to 50 analytic services when one can do the job. That’s why I’m recommending Iconosquare:
Iconosquare - $9/month (https://pro.iconosquare.com/)
SocialRank - $0/month (https://socialrank.com)
Sprout Social (for serious marketers) - $99/month (https://sproutsocial.com)
Note: SproutSocial while expensive, offers a full suite of tools and reports to maximize all of your social media marketing profiles and campaigns.
Advertising on Instagram is a very simple process.
And guess what:
You don't need a business profile or even Instagram account to start.
Because it’s all done through the Facebook Ads Manager.
Now, I could bombard you with 10,000+ words about Instagram ads.
Here’s a video showing you how to create an Instagram ad in real time.
Note: It’s good to test different images or video adverts to see what works best with your audience. Businesses who test multiple images and text for one product are the ones who find success. Always ask yourself this question “would you buy this if you saw the ad you made?”.
Influencers are your go-to source when it comes to getting a huge surge of traffic.
And traffic means sales.
Influencer’s in short, are a page or someone who has (generally) 50,000+ followers. Most of these pages will be very niche specific, such as photos and videos of dogs only. Or it will be a person who has a strong influence in a specific niche. Niches such as traveling, blogging, photography, sewing, fishing, skateboarding, boating, fashion are popular.
You can reach out to these pages either by a direct message on Instagram, or by looking for contact information in the profiles bio.
It then comes down to arranging an agreement to upload a “shoutout” for a specific price and time.
Shoutouts can range from $25 to $5000+ for big name influencers.
It’s always recommended to start off small though, looking for accounts with 50k-300k followers. Send them a message, asking how much they charge for shoutouts or if they accept free products instead.
Don’t get offended if they don’t get back to you—big accounts get bombarded with direct messages every day, yours most likely got pushed down.
So how do you get this shoutout?
You can offer them your product for free, in return for a shoutout, a.k.a a picture or video of them using your product and tagging you.
You can provide them with a picture or video that you have of the product, and pay the agreed price.
Check out these examples of influencers doing shoutouts for brands:
There’s no true secret to this strategy.
Firstly. focus on making great ads that lets people know WHY they need your product so that you reach out to them on an emotional level.
A perfect example are fidget spinners.
They're a boring piece of plastic which spins. How was it marketed? By using emotion and logic:
Emotion = “Do you have ADHD? Do you have OCD? Find yourself feeling anxious? Sometimes forget things? Get bored a lot? Shake your leg when sitting? Friends say you talk a lot?”
Logic = The solution is a fidget spinner, it reduces anxiety and it has a hardened metal case plus only costs $10.
So start testing ads with different influencers.
Oh and for the love of marketers sanity, don’t create ads where its a white background, your product in the middle and some text that says SALE or FREE SHIPPING. You’ll waste money on the ad and no one will want to buy your product.
Pro Tip: Make sure the influencer has at least a 4% engagement rate on their profile to get a worthwhile return on your shoutout investment. This ensures they don’t have fake followers. Here’s a neat tool to check an Instagram profiles engagement rate. https://phlanx.com/engagement-calculator
If you are serious about growing your Instagram followers:
You want to leverage other platforms.
Pinterest is a fantastic option because its a visual platform just like Instagram.
You can use a service called IFTTT.com to automatically Pin (upload) every Instagram picture you post.
People who find your picture on Pinterest and click on it will visit your Instagram account.
And (fingers crossed!) follow your account if your content is amazing.
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