The best way to market your business on Instagram is to think of it as part of a larger sales funnel. Use Instagram (or any other social network) to build an audience and brand, then periodically refer followers to another web page to collect leads.
Whether you make money as a paid influencer, an affiliate marketer, or by promoting your company, your Instagram marketing usually needs to link to an outside website. Instagram is most useful for marketing products, but service businesses can also use it by sharing information, showing off expertise, and building audience trust. Here are 3 steps for marketing on Instagram
1: Link to a Landing Page in Your Bio
Even though you need to link to an outside page, Instagram is link-averse compared to other social networks. You can’t link inside a post, although you can type a url and hope viewers take the time to type it in their browsers. Instagram Stories allow for links, but Stories are only available temporarily. Therefore, it’s best to have a landing page link in your profile bio.
This page can be any number of things. I recommend that it has an email opt-in with a lead magnet. A lead magnet a free information product, discount code, or some other affordable offer that entices a visitor to enter his or her email address in return. You can then continue to engage with them through email marketing.
Another type of page can be the sales page, where you directly invite the visitor to buy your product, a sponsor’s product, or sign up for a sales call. I’ll discuss when to promote your sales page later, but keep in mind it has to be for something you want to sell over and over for weeks or months at a time. It would be tedious resetting your bio’s link if you want to promote multiple pages in a short time frame.
2: Build Your Audience Organically
If you’re a small business or self-employed individual, it’s better to grow your following organically than pay for ads or use Instagram Promotion. Paid ads are only worthwhile if you market for a large enterprise company. These organizations have the money to spend, and sell at such a scale that they can experiment and find the return-on-investment sweet spot. Many bloggers and YouTubers report that when they try paid Instagram Promotion, they only earn single to double digit new followers, which they could have easily brought on for free.
Additionally, there are users who “buy” followers from sketchy marketing firms. These so-called followers only stick around for as long as you pay for them. If you run out of money or desire to pay, they disappear. In her YouTube video “How to Gain Instagram Followers Organically 2019 (Grow from 0 to 5000 followers FAST!)”, Vanessa Lau explains this phenomenon, and gives us a better way.
Lau starts with an often overlooked idea, optimizing your profile name for search. If you include your profession or title in your profile name, it’s more likely you’ll be found when users search for it as a topic.
Next, Lau teaches us about content creation, where she stresses the “Know, Like, Trust” rule. Whatever you post on Instagram, you should first make people aware of you, then be entertaining enough that they enjoy your posts, then be useful enough they trust what you say. You can do keyword research to see what topics are trending, then create visuals encapulating those ideas (learn the art of the meme!) You need to find out what your target audience cares about, and deliver.
Don’t skimp on the captions. Lau treats them as miniature blogs. Think of your pictures as billboards to capture users’ attention, then engage them with a caption where you share ideas in text. Treat captions like you would Facebook posts. Lau likes to show some vulnerability so followers can relate to her.
Here are some rules when using hashtags. Mix the sizes, meaning use some that have giant numbers of hits, as well as smaller niche ones. In fact, niche hashtags should make up 80% of your total. Also, don’t use the same hashtags over and over, since Instagram would think these are spam. Lau likes to use 4 or 5 groups of hashtags, saved in a memo or text app on her phone, that she can rotate.
Finally you must engage with the community. This is a lot of work, but it’s where you show you’re a real human person. You can do this by responding to their comments on your posts, commenting on their posts, and direct messaging followers who consistently engage with you. In fact, direct messaging is another opportunity to link to your sales page, which I’ll discuss in the next section.
3: Post Your Sales Pitches Sparingly
As I said before, Instagram is only the beginning of your sales funnel. Your job here is building trust and relationships. Only a small percentage of your audience will convert into clients. This is especially true given Instagram’s algorithm, in that not everyone sees every post you share. Instagram marketing should be treated similar to blogging and treated as a long term effort.
This doesn’t mean you can’t link to your landing page often, if that landing page is for building your email list. You’ll have a much easier time selling to your email subscribers, because if they’ve made the effort to click your bio link and enter their addresses, they’re more engaged. It’s easier to link to sales pages, with multiple offers, in an email than in Instagram.
The point is, Instagram should only rarely be the platform you make a sales pitch. With email marketing, the common rule is to send 3 emails with content, then link to a sales page on the 4th. With Instagram, I would wait at least twice as long.
I mentioned direct messaging your followers, and this is a long game as well. I know I hate DM’s from people I’ve only connected with a day ago, asking me to hire them. Oddly, they all want to make websites for me when that’s MY profession! When you DM someone, you should start by asking questions about their industry and what troubles them. I’m reminded of high-ticket sales master Dan Lok, who says deals are made by listening, not talking. Again, you need to learn what other people care about so you can sell them solutions.
In my book “Be True, Cut Through: Practical Digital Marketing For Small Businesses,” I take a dim view of social media giants Twitter and Facebook. Facebook is still the king of social media, but it’s user base is shrinking, and Mark Zuckerberg is pinning his hopes on his other network, Instagram. Instagram is the choice of young adults and kids, but I’ve met business owners who have older audiences on it. Instagram has over a billion users now, and it’s a more positive environment free of Facebook’s political acrimony. It’s a great platform for entrepreneurship.
That said, you shouldn’t rely solely on it to grow your business. Its users are still subject to ever-changing terms of service and algorithm updates, so it’s beneficial to have your own website. I go over the cost of making a website here (Can We Afford It: Small Business Website Costs), and how to pay for it in this article (Website Cost: Small Business Financing). Come back for more web design and marketing knowledge!