Need to have a picture-perfect Instagram strategy? Check out these tips for how you can make the absolute most out of the popular social media channel.
When Instagram first launched in 2010, I was a social media manager for a finance brand. None of us knew what to do with the channel, so we settled on “Just throw some office pictures on it every month.”And that was that. No strategy, no planning. Just a few photos of Sandra from accounts and the office plants.
Fast forward 11 years. Instagram is now one of the top social media platforms with over 1 billion+ monthly active users and 25 million business profiles. And I definitely know how to strategize for Instagram.
It’s one of the top channels we use at my agency Contentworks for brand building, and competition is fierce.
In this article, I’m going to show you how to create an Instagram strategy that wins 2021.
Want to know why Instagram is so significant for marketers?
So, how can you create an Instagram strategy that wins 2021 (and doesn’t take forever)? Let’s do this!
Does your ideal client fit the IG demographic? I repeat this line a lot—but it’s so important to know your demographic. While Instagram is one of the top social media platforms, it doesn’t mean you have to be on it.
Here are a few quick checkpoints before we get started:
So, if your target market is in the 50-64 category, you might choose to utilize Facebook, which is more popular with this age group.
Research by Facebook on IG highlights the top interests of Instagram users.
Of course, there are tons more popular categories on Instagram including parenting, technology, fashion, and pets. That said, if your product or service is very niche, it might not get traction on the network.
Take a sneak peek at your competitors. Do they have Instagram? If so, how’s it going for them? What works and what doesn’t?
Further research shows the type of posts Instagram users like to see in their feed. Remember that in 2021, online fatigue is a real thing. Followers are looking to brands for entertaining, creative, and uplifting content.
Once you have established that your target client fits the IG demographic, do a little research on their behavior.
To produce great content, captions, hashtags, and campaigns, you need to know what your followers like seeing in their feeds.
If you have an Instagram account already, it’s easy to check up on your followers by running an Agorapulse report. There you can check the best times to post, the most popular hashtags, the top posts, and much more.
You can see below that my most popular hashtag is #amwriting for example.
If you don’t have an Instagram account, visit your competitors and take a peek at their followers. Who do they follow on Instagram? What hashtags are they using? What other brands are they interested in?
Audience research doesn’t take a long time and can uncover some very interesting insights that will help build your strategy.
The top 5 most popular countries for Instagram are:
Here’s where you need to be very realistic about your brand’s resources. That’s time, budget, and people to work on this strategy.
Researching other brands and their strategies is great. Aspiring to their success is awesome. But, there’s no point trying to copy Starbucks ’ Instagram strategy when you don’t have its resources.
Let’s check in on what you need.
Instagram is all about visuals, so you need to have a plan. Are you going to post branded JPEGs or actual photos? This will depend on whether you have physical products to display, events to attend, a large team, a physical location, or clients you can feature.
Contentworks Agency IG is predominantly photos of our team, clients, partners, and events. The vibe is fun, carefree without too much styling or filtering.
Meanwhile, brands like Paperchase focus on product or JPEG only, with stunning visuals, desirable colors, and pleasing arrangements. The vibe is beautiful, colorful, and aesthetically pleasing.
The good news is you don’t need a huge design team to succeed on Instagram.
A high-quality smartphone and someone committed to managing the channel is enough to begin. You will, however, need a writer or a social media manager who can write great captions. This is key.
If you have a designer and videographer, this is a huge plus for creating engaging video Stories and rolling GIFs. (Check out my article winning at social media on a budget for more hints and tips.)
Reels is Instagram’s answer to TikTok.
With Reels, you can record and edit 15-second videos, add sounds and effects, and then share the videos. It’s a good idea to include video as part of your Instagram strategy. Instagram Reels includes a wider range of video editing tools, effects, and speed controls than Stories. So, if you have the time, it’s possible to do this well and on a budget. (Learn more about Instagram Reels.)
Time for regular posting
Committing to taking great photos or videos and writing good captions is something you need to decide on. You can learn how to schedule posts on Instagram as you do on your other channels.
Remember: Content on Instagram should be unique as often as possible, so avoid copying images from Facebook and Twitter. Consistency is key, too. So, even if you’re only posting one image a week, it’s important to maintain that.
Brand guidelines include colors, fonts, logo presentation, and other key elements of your visuals.
If your brand is established, you may already have brand guidelines, which is great. Having documented brand guidelines means any member of your team or an external agency can manage your online presence and maintain seamless consistency. However, you might need to annex a few extras for your Instagram account.
Here are some things to include.
The filters you use on your posts (if applicable) can really create your Instagram brand. Noting them down along with any edits on brightness, color, and saturation is a good idea.
Whilst product and campaign hashtags will vary, there may be a core set of hashtags that define your brand and sector. Keeping a note of these in your brand guidelines makes it easy to add to them into posts.
If there are hashtags you don’t want to use, add them in a “banned” section of your guidelines.
Your Instagram image font doesn’t have to be the same as your Web or email font. It’s Instagram. Have some fun!
That said, it’s a good idea to keep a note of the main fonts you use on your posts.
If you use Canva, you can save these in teams. Canva Teams makes it easy to stay on-brand with logos, sharable color palettes, and font. Using the same font on all your images makes your Instagram page look tidy and helps to cement your brand.
A good example is Tesco; its beautiful food pics are complemented by tidy, unified fonts always in white.
This is another style point to include. Do you plan to brand all your IG images with your logo?
If so, are you going to brand them all in the same place, such as the bottom right of your image? (Hint: Please do!)
Your TOV (tone of voice) should be consistent with your brand overall. However, it can be tweaked for Instagram. For example, if your brand voice is formal and professional on your blog, it might use emojis and a friendlier tone on Instagram. There’s room for maneuver.
The way your respond to comments, Story mentions, or tags is all part of your branding. Do you acknowledge tags? Do you share Stories featuring your brand? What about how you handle complaints?
Engaging with your audience is very important, and user-generated content is a big winner on Instagram. So, your brand guidelines should include this.
These should be beautifully branded for your IG channel. Check out Next as a good example:
You probably already have KPIs (key performance indicators) set for your other social media channels. What are they? Do they apply to Instagram?
To simplify it: What do you want your Instagram marketing to achieve?
Your Instagram KPIs will depend on your product and sector. But loosely speaking, they fall in these categories:
You can monitor this by tracking likes and comments on your Instagram posts and Stories. What is your engagement rate? (likes + comments ÷ no. of followers x 100).
The point is to see growth, replicate successful posts, and finetune your approach.
Can’t be bothered working it all out? The Agorapulse report does it all for you. It even tells you your brand awareness score and increase month on month. Here’s a snapshot from my personal IG account Charli Says.
You can monitor this KPI by tracking shares and listening for mentions of your brand. You can do this easily in your Agorapulse panel using the “listening” tab. Increasing brand awareness can be done organically without spending your budget.
To drive sales on Instagram, you might track web traffic via Google Analytics, landing page views, or Instagram Checkout, which lets users buy products from brands directly on Instagram without leaving the Instagram app.
In regards to paid advertising, you will want to be on top of your KPIs and ROI (return on investment) because this costs money. Instagram Checkout fees are significant, especially for small businesses. The selling fee is 5% per shipment or a flat fee of USD 0.40 for shipments of USD 8.00 or less. You keep the rest of your earnings.
Brands have seen great success with the Instagram Checkout feature. Brands like MAC cosmetics boasted these incredible stats. The key is to stay on top of your numbers.
Pinning down your KPIs will ultimately help you to decide on the content you post on Instagram. Which leads us into the next actionable.
This is the fun part. This is where you pull together all the above research and turn it into something that showcases your brand while reaching your business objectives.
Understanding what tools are available and how you can make them work for your brand is key.
Here are some examples which you can adapt for your own brand:
If you have a small business and want to get more followers and mentions then sweeten the pot with a tagging contest. Tag other small businesses to create a joint incentive. Here’s a great one from Chloe’s Cupcakes, my favorite cake makers:
UGC featuring audience posts or Stories, adds trust and authenticity to your account and expands your reach too. IKEA encourages users to tag its IG account and frequently features posts like this one adding warmth and relatability to their account.
Brand Stories have an 86% completion rate. That’s huge compared with other forms of communication like blogs and long form videos. IG Stories offer brands so many choices when it comes to styling, effects or indeed how they choose to utilise them. Stories are highly effective for educational purposes as shown by National Geographic.
To promote other great businesses like Jamie Oliver:
Or to prompt some FOMO with a flash sale like Tatti Lashes who neatly showcase their offer and how it can be used at checkout.
Utilize Instagram Carousels to showcase your product range like Ted Baker . This beautiful Carousel saw a 2-point lift in ad recall and 22% increase in sales to 18-24-year-old buyers. Not surprisingly.
Instagram now has so many tools for marketers to play with. Your strategy might also include micro influencers, IG takeovers, Reels, and brand collaborations. The key is to remember your demographic, keep your account on brand, be consistent, and most importantly, have fun!
An Instagram Strategy, as with your other platform strategies, should be reviewed and adjusted on a yearly basis. Take note of what worked well, what didn’t, and keep running those reports.
Get started on saving time and energy on your own social media management! Check out our free trial of Agorapulse to help you schedule, track, and measure all your social media efforts.