By Colm Fitzgerald, on 12 January 2021
Instagram is a highly visual platform that creates more user engagement than both Facebook and Twitter. This makes it an ideal marketing channel, especially for B2C brands. In fact, 72% of Instagram users say they’ve made a purchase after seeing something on the platform.
With Instagram, there are a lot of different content avenues to consider: normal feed posts, IGTV, lives, stories, and now Instagram Reels. And identifying your overall marketing plan goals and how Instagram fits into it is a central question to be answered. This is why developing a strong, deliberate content strategy is crucial. This article is a guide to help you plan, prioritize, and optimize your Instagram content strategy.
How To Create an Instagram Content Strategy
Over 1 billion people use Instagram monthly and it’s likely that you’re already familiar with how it works, but a quick refresher on what the latest features and options are doesn’t hurt. Building any content strategy begins with identifying your brand or account style as well as goals and target audience.
Set Clear Goals
Before deciding on content style or types it’s essential to know what your desired outcomes are:
- Do you want more sales?
- Is engagement your primary aim?
- Is building community a goal?
- Brand loyalty?
- More followers?
Answering these questions (among others) will dictate the type of content that best suits your objectives. If engagement is your aim for example, then focusing on metrics such as likes, comments and views will obviously be prioritized. The better your plan, the more time you’ll save by having focused, outcome oriented posts that serve your best interests.
Deciding on a budget for ad spend is also a primary factor to be considered. How much are you realistically able to spend for an Instagram content campaign? What content will resonate most with your target audience?
Find Your Audience
Discovering the types of people who might be interested in your brand and what your offer is essential. Whether it’s photos, Reels or stories, analyzing your own Instagram account metrics to see what drives the most engagement is a perfect starting point. Another trick is to check the accounts of successful competitors in your industry. By viewing their followers you can get a general idea of the audience that would most likely also enjoy your content. Finding out what hashtags they use and what communities they belong to are other great ways to narrow down your target demographic. You can actually follow specific hashtags just as you would another account.
Define Your Instagram Style
Creating a deliberate style or branding for your Instagram account will set you apart and attract a certain demographic. Put some thought into the colors, filters and types of content you share to find a branding style that fits the culture or image you’d like to present. These could be your brand colors or hues that project a certain vibe. Think pastels or earth tones for a laid back feel or neon for energy and pop. Using one filter for all your posts is a simple way to generate your preferred brand style.
Hawkers has created a cool, sharp and laid back style for their Instagram account.
Define Your Instagram Style Schedule Your Posts
With Instagram you’ll want to post content daily and so a publishing calendar is essential to keep things on track and organized. Create a diverse mix of content with images, videos, stories, etc. and sprinkle your content calendar with a variety of media. With some time you’ll see what types of content works best for your specific goals.
In line with your Instagram content publishing calendar you can schedule your posts with third party apps. Tools like Hootsuite, Sprout Social and Later offer various scheduling, editing and analyzing options to get you organized and optimized. Finding the right time to publish your content really depends on your specific audience, yet with a bit of experimentation you can find what hours drive the most engagement.
Utilize User Generated Content (UGC)
Some of your customers will likely tag or feature your brand/products at some point. This can come through a UGC strategy you’ve developed or organically. It’s important to make sure the UGC you choose to repost is in line with your overall strategy and style, and of course is appropriate for the message you’re trying to send. Remember to always ask for permission before using any UGC content.
Use Instagram Stories for Business
Instagram Stories have become extremely popular with users since being introduced in 2017. These short, casual videos with a 24 hour lifespan are also being successfully utilized by businesses. Instagram stories are generally a light hearted affair, so don’t be afraid to get goofy and share your unique humor. Behind the scenes and product demos are great content ideas using stories.
Unlike with regular posts, Instagram doesn’t penalize you for posting too many stories. So, depending on your business type, you can post as many stories as you like to improve engagement and grow followers. Just pay attention to whether it’s pushing users away and reduce posts as necessary. Using clickable links to drive traffic and sales, and incorporating hashtag stickers for reach are both highly advisable.
Try Instagram Live and IGTV
Instagram Live may seem a bit nerve-racking as you only get one take but it’s an excellent tool for creating more engagement and growing your following. Lives can also be shared post broadcast on Instagram Stories, too. Instagram Live can be used in a range of ways, including to:
- Tease or give sneak peeks of new products
- Run product demos, Q&As and tutorials
- Promote exclusive deals only available to viewers
IGTV takes video on Instagram a step further as an extremely versatile option for longer format content. The first step is creating an IGTV channel by setting up your account. Businesses are using IGTV to promote products, share how-tos, build brand value and more. The platform is a lot like YouTube and many vloggers are already taking advantage of its potential reach. Keep your eye on IGTV analytics to see what lands with viewers, especially your drop off rate to determine if your videos are being watched the whole way through.
Consider Influencer Marketing
In terms of influencer marketing, Instagram is the holy grail. As a way to gain trust from consumers through a third party and increase reach, influencer marketing has become a go to for many businesses. In fact, 67% of marketers partnered with influencers in 2018. Search for prominent and relevant influencers in your industry niche and simply reach out. Influencers can promote your products with unboxing, product testing and giveaways. They can also create specific hashtags that their own followers can use to spread the word. Be aware that partnering with prominent influencers isn’t cheap, so find one that fits your budget and go from there.
An Instagram influencer who focuses on makeup and hair tutorials.
Optimize Your Content
Clear goals, great content and a deliberate schedule will greatly improve your chances of Instagram success. Optimizing your posts to further improve engagement, however, will take your efforts to the next level. And skillful use of relevant hashtags is one of the most powerful techniques a marketer has on Instagram. Here a few tips on how to optimize Instagram content using hashtags:
- Industry Hashtags - These are typical hashtags that are commonly used in a specific industry. Millions of posts will have these hashtags as they’re extremely popular. Think ‘#makeup’ for the cosmetics industry for example.
- Location Hashtags - If physical location is important for your business, then adding location hashtags is a must for local exposure. Hashtags could be as broad as #Losangeles or as specific as a particular neighborhood.
- Brand Hashtags - These are hashtags you create that are unique to your brand. Catchy, clever and short works best to prompt users to add them to their own posts. Brand hashtags are particularly powerful for UGC campaigns.
- Holiday and Event Hashtags - Special events and holidays are a fantastic opportunity for marketers to get creative and be seen. General (#christmas) and custom hashtags related to these events can boost engagement and get your brand in front of eager shoppers.
In general, your Instagram content strategy relies on what your audience likes and what they expect from you. Consider what they are following you for and try to provide value in relation to that. A well-planned, creative and stylish approach to this highly visual platform can do wonders for brands, and Instagram provides a host of marketing opportunities to achieve various marketing goals. By exploring and trying different content mediums, and then tracking metrics, you can gradually develop an Instagram content strategy that grows your business and establishes your brand as a leader in your industry.