Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Considering that 72% of Instagram users have made fashion, beauty or style-related purchases after seeing something on Instagram, there’s no better time to show off your brand and products to the world.
With a base of 1.07 billion active users, it’s no surprise that over 200 million businesses have an Instagram presence.
For most businesses, the question is not “if” they should use Instagram, but “when” or “how”? Inside the workings of “when” are tried-and-true “how” steps that businesses can consider taking if they want to leverage Instagram in the most effective ways for their brand.
1. Set your goals and determine your target audience
Before your company starts posting, the reason for being there must be understood and articulated. Why are you there? Is it to build brand awareness, to sell products or something else?
Today’s companies need to know how to make data-driven decisions. I urge companies to clearly define their social media KPIs, closely track the performance of each post they publish, and do the best they can to attribute posts to sales. It will help you determine what content formats work the best in terms of engagement and sales so you can produce more of them and spend less time working on the ones that don’t.
2. Do a competitive analysis
What types of content do your competitors post? What do you like? What don’t you like? What do you think converts? Use this information to create your first (of many) drafts of your social media strategy.
Who are you there for? What defines your audience, both in terms of demographics and in terms of things they care about. If you have customers that frequently purchase from you or subscribe to your brand, ask them what they think of your social media content. Conversely, what are other brands – not necessarily related to your business – doing that you should test and learn about? This honest and open feedback can take your social media strategy (and sales) to the next level.
3. Make sure your Instagram presence is consistent with the look and feel of your company’s aesthetics
Is your company playful and energetic, dignified and formal, tranquil and thoughtful or wild and irreverent?
It is likely your company’s characteristics have already filtered down into how your product or service is packaged, your logo or in the words you use to describe yourselves. Consider Instagram an extension of all of this, so it should be a place that looks and feels like your brand — in every word used, in every single post.
4. Snackable video content is taking over social media
This concept is not only true for Instagram (Reels and IGTV) but also applies to TikTok, Snapchat (Snaps) and YouTube (Shorts). While longer videos will always have a home on platforms like YouTube, consumers don’t have long attention spans. They want their content to be short, to the point and entertaining.
If you can find creative ways to check all these boxes, in addition to creating a compelling offer that motivates the viewer to take action, you stand a good chance of generating the sale. Make sure your “Link in bio” is where you want people to go — to a landing page, your website or a product page.
Related: 4 Reasons Why You Need to Be Making Instagram Reels in 2021
5. Don’t shy away from educating your prospective and current customers.
Compile a list of questions or concerns your current and prospective customers have and how your product solves that problem. Educational content helps brands build trust and authority — which should ultimately translate to followership and sales.
For example, if you’re a vitamin and supplement brand, create static and carousel posts, videos and eye-catching graphics that explain how the ingredients in your product work. If you’re an insurance broker, create content that speaks to the differences between whole and term life insurance and why each has merits.
6. Be authentic
Today’s consumers want to know more about the company they’re giving their money to. Don’t be shy about lifting the curtain on your business — showcase what life is like in your office, feature your employees and even encourage them to do takeovers.
Also, ask yourself what your brand stands for, what causes you support and communicate your values on social media. Today’s consumers want to do business with companies that align with their core values.
I would advise brands now to avoid stock photography wherever possible. Instead, take the time to create real-life, in-the-moment content that is visually appealing. Remember, at its core, Instagram is still a visually-driven social media platform.
Related: 3 Simple Things Businesses Need for Instagram Growth
7. Ensure you’re delivering a top-notch shopping experience – both on and off Instagram
If your followers choose to shop for your products on Instagram, ask yourself what kind of experience you are providing them. Are your product photos high quality? Are you including lifestyle images as part of your product carousel?
Alternatively, if people prefer to navigate away from Instagram to your website to purchase your product, what kind of on-site experience are you delivering? Do your website and product pages appear correctly across all devices and operating systems? Does any unnecessary shifting occur? Does the page load slowly?
These questions may seem basic, but a slow loading page or broken buttons could be the difference between your next customer and your next sale. I would also encourage business owners to implement strategies, like display remarketing, that bring shoppers back to complete their purchases.
8. Collaborate with influencers
Examples of popular collaborations that I’ve seen work well include sponsored posts, giveaways and brand ambassador programs. Doing so will expose you to shoppers who may have never heard of you before. I would advise companies to choose their influencers wisely, however.
Don’t spend the bulk of your annual marketing budget on a one-time collaboration with a mega influencer that has millions of followers. Instead, opt for nano (under 10k followers) or micro-influencers (under 50,000 followers) that closely align with your brand values and are passionate about your products.
This also goes back to the concept of being authentic. Today’s consumers are savvy and can tell when a brand ambassador isn’t passionate about the products they’re pitching. Take great care in selecting these folks, closely measure their results and continue to work with those that resonate with your audience.