With over 1 billion active users monthly, Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms of the day.
It’s used by individuals looking to connect with others and pass the time of day, influencers looking to build a respectable following, small businesses looking to spread the word about their brand, and brands large and small looking to grow.
Whether your company is new to the market or you’ve been around for years, Instagram provides incredible opportunities for growth.
Let’s explore the different ways in which startups can use the platform to accelerate growth and reach their goals faster.
1. Jump Aboard a Trend
A lot of what happens on social media is about current events, trends, and happenings. On Instagram, the way to stay in tune with the world is to cleverly use hashtags.
Depending on the industry your startup is in, you can easily find a hashtag that is currently trending, has lots of followers, or attracts a large portion of your target audience.
Be careful about your choice, though, as you don’t want to embroil yourself in a particularly controversial topic. If you can offer relevant input, you may want to consider hot topics. But if not, don’t get involved just for the sake of exposure. Social media users are very good at spotting when someone is trying to hijack a trend for their own benefit.
2. Or Create Your Own
The other great way to use hashtags is to create one that is specific to your brand.
This is a trickier approach, as you truly need to know your audience well and to understand social media trends. This knowledge will help you identify a topic that correlates both with your company and the wavering interests of the public.
Of course, you don’t have to aim for virality. You can simply create a hashtag that will be used by your clients and customers looking to spread the word about you.
Your goal is to make it recognizable but not too similar to something that’s already out there so that it won’t be confused with another hashtag. Naturally, your hashtag also needs to reflect your brand and appeal to your target audience.
3. Automate Parts of the Process
Social media marketing can take up a lot of your time, especially if you do everything manually.
Fortunately, there are plenty of tools out there that can help you automate at least parts of the process, giving you more time to work on your social campaigns or work on taking your startup to the next level.
Look for a tool to schedule your posts, so that you don’t have to brainstorm every time you need to post something.
You can also use a tool to eliminate fake followers, tools to help you track engagement and reach, and tools to identify the influencers you want to work with.
4. Work with a Rising Star
Speaking of influencers – try to establish a long-term relationship with a micro-influencer or two who are likely to make it big, given time.
You most likely won’t have the budget to work with an established influencer, and in fact, you probably don’t even need to. The new trend in influencer marketing is the micro-influencer, a person who is often more trusted than someone with a much larger following.
Your goal should be to establish an actual relationship, rather than just exchanging money for a share, a post, a campaign. As you grow, and as the influencer’s influence grows, your partnership will remain authentic – and neither your nor their followers will question the honesty of their recommendations and endorsements.
5. Work on Gaining Followers
While follower counts are still just numbers, they do matter in the world of Instagram.
For starters, you will be able to unlock certain features only after you reach certain figures. For example, once you hit 10k, you will be able to add swipe-up links to your Stories. Swipe-up is an incredibly popular and easy-to-use feature, plus it can literally boost your conversions overnight.
There are different ways to get free Instagram followers, and you might want to explore some of them. However, you do want to make sure that your following is real and engaged. Faking followers can help you in the very short-term, but in the long run, it never pays off.
6. Make Sure to Use Plenty of Stories
Half a billion people use Stories every day – and 58% of users state that they become more interested in a brand after seeing it on Stories.
Posting images on your feed is a necessity, but Stories are easier to engage with. They’re much more instant, bite-sized, and enjoyable, and they don’t require scrolling.
Stories also provide the ideal opportunity to do practically anything and to do it off the cuff. You can use them to show your products in action, take your followers behind the scenes of your company, show them how you do/make something, give them tips and tricks on the best ways to use your product, and so on.
When creating Stories, keep in mind that video is much more personal, and it sends out more signals than an image. A still can only go so far, but a video can provide endless opportunity.
7. Tailor Your Content to Your Industry
With so many options available on the platform, you can choose a content format that best fits your brand and industry. Between reels, stories, IGTV, polls, and the like, you can find an ideal way to engage with your audience.
For example, food and beverage brands see a lot of engagement from the combination of images and videos on their feeds. You see their product in action, delicious and yummy, being consumed right there on your screen. Who wouldn’t want to eat that muffin right now?
Take real estate as another example. This is an industry that is primed to benefit from Instagram – for instance, by doing virtual tours of their properties on Stories. A series of Stories can showcase different rooms and practically turn into an online TV show whose next installment you’ll eagerly await.
Fitness brands can do mini-workouts or even entire sessions via Live. These have become especially popular in 2020, and the Live home workout trend will certainly continue.
8. Use User-Generated Content
We can’t overlook a major Instagram marketing trend that’s here to stay – user-generated content.
In short, it means sharing content created by your followers, fans, or even other social media users you’re not connected to yet. Naturally, sharing what they’ve taken the time to produce will cut down your own content production times. But, more importantly, it will allow you to spread your community web, highlight some of your fans, and perhaps provide them with more exposure.
Not to mention that users (as opposed to brands) tend to be much more trusted online. After all, they have no ax to grind. A brand is not really likely to speak ill of itself, so their marketing material is likely to be positive. On the other hand, when an impartial user speaks well of a brand, this is considered honest and trustworthy. It’s a fantastic resource to tap into.
Make sure to always highlight the user, and never try to take credit for some else’s content.
9. Run an Ad or Two
Finally, let’s not forget that Instagram also offers another avenue of exposure – ads.
As always, your best approach is to utilize both organic and paid native advertising tactics, and focus on them equally. If you have a limited budget or if you’re just starting out and want to raise some awareness, the common rule of thumb is to start with ads and then work your way up to organic promotion.
Instagram offers several different options that include both video and photo ads, and you can make great use of carousel ads. Story ads tend to perform really well, but you can also try appearing in your audience’s feed as a sponsored post.
Refine your targeting, consider the ads you want to place, and make sure they align perfectly. Take into account buyers at different stages of your sales funnel and base your ads around the knowledge and interest level of your audience. That’s how you’ll get the most bang for your advertising buck.
Consider these tips and how they might be able to connect your startup with your target audience. Instagram offers practically endless possibilities – all you need to do is find an outlet you enjoy creating and your audience enjoys consuming. Once you’ve got that and are ready to put in the hours, you’ll be well on your way to growth.