8 Ways You Can Create a Winning Instagram Profile

Do you want to attract more attention from fans and followers? Have you considered Instagram as a key marketing tool? If you’re not on Instagram or haven’t applied your resources there, it’s time to start. Instagram has 75 million daily users and multiple opportunities to reach your target audience. In this article, you’ll discover eight ways you can use Instagram to increase your reach, engagement and sales.

nike instagram profile

Tap into Instagram’s highly engaged audience to promote your products and services.

Use High-Resolution Photos

Striking visual content grabs the attention of potential buyers, and it’s the most important factor in fan engagement on Instagram for brands like Zappos.

zappos instagram profile

High-resolution photos are more likely to catch someone’s eye.

To that end, I recommend posting only high-resolution photos on Instagram. Smartphone photos are good for in-the-moment action and instant uploads, but consider hiring a professional photographer to take HD images of your products.

Make It Easy for Fans to Buy

Part of the reason people follow your company on Instagram is that they like your products and want to know about new products and discounts.

nike instagram link in image description

Include a link in the image description to make it easy for fans to buy your product.

When Nike posts product pictures, they use the image description to include a link to the relevant product page on your website. Your followers will appreciate how easy it is to buy or find out more about the items they’re interested in.

Use a Soft Sell

It’s no secret your endgame is a sale, but you don’t have to make it obvious. Use your photos to tell a story that resonates with your followers and subtly features your product.

sharpie instagram images

Use subtle marketing and showcase user pictures when possible.

Sharpie‘s Instagram stream is a great example of subtle selling. They don’t show their products as much as they show what people can do with their products. Sharpie gets in front of their audience with compelling content while selling their product, but they do it in a way that’s not intrusive.

Much of Sharpie’s content is actually shared by their followers and reshared by the company, and their fans look forward to seeing the inspiring pictures.

Create a Personal Bond

Don’t feel like everything you post needs to be a product picture. The NHL knows that behind-the-scenes photos that reveal your company’s personality help build a personal bond with your audience.

nhl instagram

The NHL takes their fans and followers behind the scenes, on the ground with Instagram.

The more you share those in-the-moment photos and engage with your fans, the more your fans feel like part of your company community. That kind of bond is what creates loyal fans who later become brand evangelists.

Use Instagram Direct

Instagram Direct allows Instagram users to send pictures and video to others privately; a direct message (DM) on Twitter or a private message (PM) on Facebook. Only you and the person or group you send a message to can see the content and subsequent conversation.

With Instagram Direct, you can reach your most engaged fans via a personal message. In fact, you have the option to reach out to individual followers or create a group message of up to 15 followers. You can even segment your group based on location and demographics. What an opportunity!

To find your most engaged fans, look through your photo stream and see which followers stand out. Perhaps there are fans who comment a lot or favorite your photos more than others. Your most active fans are the most likely to buy your products.

When you’ve identified your most active fans, you can create a group message to introduce new products, announce giveaways and contests, drive traffic to your website and more.

You can also use Instagram Direct as a chat forum. You can invite a group of people to attend a Q&A session, introduce a product with quick how-to advice or even handle customer complaints.

Keep in mind that you still have to send a picture out to the group to get started. Instagram Direct doesn’t support text-only messages.

When you use Instagram Direct as a marketing tool, it’s extremely important to send something creative and interesting. Anything that appears remotely spammy will end with those users unfollowing you.

Share Offers and Discounts

One of the main reasons people follow brands on any platform is to get information about sales and discounts. Like WalMart, you can capitalize on that by rewarding your fans with exclusive deals, either publicly via the Instagram feed or privately via Instagram Direct.

walmart instagram offers

Reward followers with discounts and special offers.

You already know word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful thing. When your followers get exclusive discounts, they tell their friends. Those friends are likely to follow you as well to get the discount.

Host Giveaways and Contests

Giveaways and contests are always popular with fans and brands. And why not? They generate buzz and each side benefits. Your fans have an opportunity to win something and you have an opportunity to reach a wider audience and gain new followers.

Keep your giveaway or contest theme simple, fun and brand-related. If it’s too broad, you’ll get irrelevant photos from people who aren’t interested in your brand or products. If it’s too narrow, people won’t bother to take and share pictures.

instagram kitchenaid hashtag example

KitchenAid used a branded hashtag so they could track entries and reinforce their brand.

When you host your giveaway or contest, use a unique hashtag. Without a hashtag, you won’t see all entries or be able to track your success. Using a hashtag that includes your brand’s name gives you the added benefit of clearly branding your campaign.

Above, you can see how KitchenAid included key information in their image and made their brand stand out.

Stream Instagram to Your Website

Did you know you can stream Instagram photos to your website? Cool, right?

Sharing Instagram photos from campaigns (like a giveaway) is great for exposure and sharing. Even if you’re not hosting a giveaway, ask followers to share Instagram pictures of themselves using your product (don’t forget to have them use your hashtag!).

Lululemon promotes their #thesweatlife hashtag by streaming Instagram photos shared by their fans. They’ve even segmented their apparel with additional hashtags.

lululemon instagram follower images

Ask fans to share pictures of your products, then stream them to your website.

Here’s an important tip: You must be familiar with and follow Instagram’s terms of service. In this instance, you need to know that you can’t save submitted photos. Just because someone submits a photo does not mean you own it.

When you embed an Instagram photo stream on your website, you may only use the appropriate Instagram URL. If a user removes his photo from Instagram, the photo will no longer show on your website.

The TakeawayNot only is Instagram perfect for connecting with customers, its image- and video-based format is ideal for increasing brand awareness and user engagement. It’s a goldmine of promotional opportunities. The more your company participates in the community and shares compelling photos, the larger its community will grow.

Once you have a sizeable audience, you can start generating buzz through public and private campaigns, as well as giveaways or contests.

What do you think? Is Instagram an effective marketing tool for your brand? Have you reached out to customers via Instagram Direct? Leave your comments below.


Written by Kinjal AdesharaKinjal has been helping ecommerce website owners improve efficiency of their websites and boost sales. She is working with Cygnet Infotech, provides end-to-end ecommerce solution. Visit Social Media Examiner where this excerpt is originally appeared.

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What to Do When Social Media Is Not Working For Your Business

Is social media not working for you?

Are you struggling to form a social media connection with your audience?

Have you found that the recommended “getting started” tips and tricks for social campaigns just haven’t resonated with your followers?

The truth is, while there are plenty of audiences that respond well to social media marketing attempts, there are others that don’t for a number of different reasons.

In this article you’ll find out how to recognize the variables that could result in an audience-marketer mismatch and how to work around them.

Why Your Social Media is Not Working?

If you feel like you’ve tried everything to connect with your audience, but it’s just not working, you’re probably looking to social media experts for advice. Maybe you’ve followed that advice, but your audience still isn’t responding. What’s going on?

istock social media image

Not all social networks match your audience. Image source: iStockPhoto

Well, it may not be the advice or implementation that’s your problem. The problem may be your choice of social platform, your industry’s expectations or even your audience’s comfort level with social media.

To find out, I suggest looking closely at age and demographic matches, the size of your audience, industry standards and your audience’s interest in engaging online. In this article I’ll discuss each of these and how they can affect your social engagement, then offer advice on how you can work on those issues.

Know Whom You’re Talking To

A recent Pew Internet study revealed that 73% of online adults use a social networking site of some kind, but only 42% use multiple social media sites.

The following chart demonstrates how these percentages break down.

pew internet study results on adults social website use

A Pew Internet study reveals the percentage of online adults using different social websites.

Considering the data from the study, let’s talk about how it can apply to you.

Imagine your audience is primarily made up of middle-aged women who, according to the study, are four times as likely as men to be Pinterest users.

If you’re focusing your social marketing efforts on Facebook because of its high adoption rate but not seeing engagement, it could be because your primary audience is spending its time on Pinterest.

It may be time to reevaluate who your target customer is. When you know your audience and their social platform of choice, it’s much easier to engage them.

Understand That Size May Be a Factor

Another reason you may not be making a strong connection with your customers could be related to the size of your audience on a given social channel.

This infographic from Mediabistro shows interests across Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.

mediabistro social media infographic

Not all interests are represented equally on all social networks.

If you’re selling a high-dollar product, you’re more likely to have a very small and specific audience. As a result, sending out broad messages via social media may not be the best way to connect with them.

Consider Your Industry’s Culture

In some cases, a company may not see high engagement simply because of industry culture. Perhaps the overall industry is behind the times technologically. That could be because either their customers or the industry as a whole aren’t familiar with social media or comfortable using it.

If you’re in a very personalized industry (e.g., the funeral profession), getting your clients to engage on social sites may be a challenge simply because they don’t think to look for you online unless it’s to look up your phone number. In those cases, it’s unlikely they’ll reach out via social media.

Not all businesses exist in industries that naturally lend themselves to online engagement.

jones-wynn funeral home facebook update

Some industries have a harder time engaging with their Facebook fans.

As an example, take the partnership my company recently had with Self Storage Finders. They’re a service that helps consumers identify and evaluate different storage providers in their area.

While this type of service is valuable to the customers who use it, those clients don’t necessarily think about discussing their storage experiences on social sites.

While these variables and their impact on engagement are frustrating, it’s not impossible to market to difficult audiences.

The following three tips should help you adapt social media marketing recommendations and best practices to suit the needs of your specific (if challenging) audience.

Keep in mind, though, that your social media marketing strategy may necessarily follow a different path than it would if your audience were more amenable to social conversations.

Know Where To Be

Conventional social wisdom says that all businesses need to maintain a Facebook and Twitter profile. I have a different point of view. I believe that creating social identities and then essentially abandoning them because of lack of engagement does more harm than good to a business.

What did you discover when you reevaluated your audience? You may have discovered that the most active community engagement portals in your industry aren’t social sites at all—they’re forums and “old-school” message boards.

If that’s the case, you have to set conventional wisdom aside and focus your efforts on the arenas where they’ll be noticed in the first place!

See What Sticks

You’ve looked at your audience, you know where they are and you’ve set up shop there. Now let’s suppose you’re getting ready to start a social promotion for an audience you’re pretty sure is going to be difficult to engage.

There are plenty of different templates out there for possible social posts. I recommend trying as many as you can. I call this the spaghetti-flinging approachbecause it’s as if you’re throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.

paid facebook ads

Paid ads can grab the attention of your target market.

If you’ve chosen to focus your efforts on Facebook, try posting text-based status updates, images, links, polls, paid ads and morePost at different times of day and on different days of the week.

While it’s nice to see engagement at this stage, the true goal of early social posting to difficult audiences should be to gather data.

Remember, you can’t trust the industry pundits to tell you what will work best for every audience, so use your own metrics and gather your own data.

Look For Your Loudest Fans

As you post more updates, you’ll likely find the members of your community who are more highly engaged than othersMake sure these people aren’t your employees, close friends or relatives!

When you’ve found your most active fans, pay attention to the exact types of content they’re engaging with. Use this data to refine your posting techniques to include content that’s likely to appeal to these users.

Take a look at the following screenshot from the Self Storage Finders Facebook page before we started working with them. This particular update didn’t resonate with audience members, so it had no engagement whatsoever.

self storage finders facebook text update

An early Self Storage Finders Facebook update falls flat with followers.

When we started working with them, we began experimenting with different types of posts and content and we noticed that fans reacted well to cartoon images.

Below you can see how catering to fans’ favorite type of post results in more likes, all because we were willing to experiment and base future posts on actual audience data.

self storage finders facebook text update with image

Extensive testing revealed that Self Storage Finders’ Facebook fans respond well to cartoons.

Know When to Cut Your Losses

Unfortunately, there are audiences out there that simply don’t respond to social media marketing. But that doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel.

Take another look at the data you gathered from your audience analysis and post experimentsCompare it to your established metrics and install analytics tools that will provide additional data to help you figure out whether your social marketing is working.

Let’s say you determine that including man-hours, image subscriptions and other investments, you put roughly $500 per month into your social campaigns. What does your data tell you? Are your social channels sending you visitors that result in more than $500 per month in sales?

That example is a simplification of social marketing’s value, of course. It’s true that social media can lead to extensive brand awareness that may indirectly lead to sales. But if you consistently see that your profits are falling short of your investments, it may be time to either refocus your strategy or pull the plug on your social efforts entirely.

The Bottom Line

If you’re not getting traction with your social media marketing, take a break from researching broad advice that promises a quick fix. Reevaluate your efforts:meet your customers where they are, consider the size of your audience and set your expectations accordingly.

Not every business will have success with social media marketing no matter how hard they try, but it’s worth the time to experiment with different tactics and gather data before calling it quits.

What do you think? Have you ever found yourself marketing to a difficult audience? If so, what social media marketing tips do you have to add for those in this situation? Leave your experience and advice in the comments.


 Written by Eric SiuEric is the CEO of digital marketing agency Single Grain. He also interviews entrepreneurs on business and personal growth tips on his blog, Growth Everywhere. This post is originally appeared on SocialMediaExaminer.com

Images from iStockPhoto.

New Research Shows Which Social Networks Ideal for Marketers

Which platforms are most relevant to social media marketing right now? Marketers need to know where (and how) they should focus their efforts for maximum ROI.

This article gives you four major research findings from reports tracking trends in social media marketing and the content that works best on each.

#1: People Spend More Time on Visual Networks

It’s impossible to miss the powerful effect of visual content on the social web. It can significantly enhance a brand’s marketing objectives by generating more customer interest and prompting prospects to take desired actions.

As an example of the power of pictures, consider that Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram each gained over 10 million visitors in 2012, thanks to eye-catching content. Numbers from Statista numbers shared on Mediabistro show that users spend more time on Pinterest (1:17 minutes) or Tumblr (1:38 minutes) than on Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace and Google+ combined.

social network use stats from comscore

Visual social networks get more time from users than non-visual networks.

If you’re looking for ways to incorporate visual content into your own social media strategy, one of the key things you can do is include one or more high-quality images in all of your blog posts. (Don’t forget to add an ALT attribute in the image properties to help your SEO!)

You can also leverage real-time photo sharing. Customers and followers are used to seeing staged photos that highlight your products and the best parts of your company. Sharing impromptu pictures can be equally compelling when shared in real time.

When you do post product or brand pictures on networks like Pinterest, Instagram and Flickr, allow others to use your images in exchange for a link back to your site.

Don’t forget video! YouTube is the second-largest search engine (after Google, which coincidentally owns YouTube). Videos uploaded to YouTube do very well in searchand boost your site’s ranking. Interviews, Q&As, product demos or tips are popular with a wide audience beyond your current followers.

heygirl meme

Even if you don’t sell tangible products, your brand can still leverage visual content by using memes.

Finally, don’t give up on memes, which are especially popular on Tumblr. For the best success with memes, make sure they’re witty and match your brand and audience.

NPR did this particularly well by modifying the popular Ryan Gosling Hey Girl meme on their Tumblr page.

#2: Google+ Is Best for SEO

Google+ is finding success with social marketers more as an SEO option than a marketing tactic. While it’s doing better than Pinterest and Tumblr, only 14% of marketers are giving high priority to Google+ in 2014. 23% of those surveyed won’t consider the platform at all.

You should still have a presence on Google+, even if you’re only using it for SEO.

socialbakers social network user preference table

Google+ is widely seen as an SEO tool, rather than a compelling social network.

As you cultivate your presence on Google+, the first thing you should do is optimize your Google author profile with a great image. With an eye-catching photo, it won’t matter if you rank third or fourth on the search engine results page. Your image is what gets people’s attention and lends to your authority.

When you post an article on Google+choose your first sentence carefully and use keywords or phrases. That sentence is part of the title tag and can affect your search ranking. As a bonus, one of the great things about Google+ is that you canedit your title and posts anytime. If you find your post isn’t getting the traction you want, try a new title and lead sentence. That’s a lot of control right there!

As always, continue to publish great content on your blog and Google+. While you’re at it, go ahead and +1 your own content. Why not? Google already knows you’re the author anyway. At the very least, it encourages others to +1 your post as well!

#3: Facebook’s Updated News Feed Affects Page Posts

In January 2014, Facebook updated their news feed algorithm to deliver more relevant content to users. Status updates from pages are no longer treated the same as text updates from users’ friends, because most users interacted with friends, not pages.

What does this mean for you as a marketer? You have to mix it up. Since users may not see or engage with your page updates often, make your posts as interesting as you can. Include photos, videos, links (don’t forget to include a preview image), questions, events and offers.

bored office worker istock photo 5984364

Use interesting and fun updates to encourage your fans to engage with you. Image source: iStockPhoto.com.

In all cases, use the story type that best fits with the message you want to tell.

One more thing: If you use Facebook’s Promote feature and your post has an image, that image can’t have more than 20% text.

#4: B2B Marketers Are Most Successful on LinkedIn

Sixty-two percent of B2B marketers say LinkedIn is the most effective platform for them, with Twitter and SlideShare close behind.

comscore and marketing profs social network confidence gap statistics

LinkedIn is the most popular social network for B2B.

How can you take advantage of the most effective social media network? Take advantage of LinkedIn’s publishing platform.

LinkedIn opened up its publishing platform (previously reserved for a few editorially selected influencers like Bill Gates, Martha Stewart and Joe Pulizzi) to all 277 million LinkedIn members. This could be a game-changer.

If you decide to publish on LinkedInknow that posts with the same basic information found on 50 other blogs won’t be successful. LinkedIn users look for well-written personalized insights, professional expertise and interesting industry opinions.

Surveys are helpful to gauge trends in social media; however, it’s even more important to track your own successes and build on them. You can use both options by keeping trends in mind and using them as guides as your marketing strategy and tactics evolve.

What do you think? Are the survey results above consistent with what you’ve seen in your own social media marketing? Which platforms are working best for you? Please share your successes and experiences in the comment box below.

About the author 

Patricia Redsicker writes research reviews for Social Media Examiner. She helps business owners craft content that sells. Her blog provides healthcare industry content marketing advice. The first version of this story originally appeared on socialmediaexaminer.com