6 Steps to Creating a Winning Instagram Strategy for Your Brand

To help brands make the most of the world’s top engagement platform, we’ve compiled a comprehensive strategy and a checklist of questions any brand should ask before publishing their first (or next) Instagram post.

Instagram has recently hit 400 million monthly users, with 80 million photos being uploaded every day. According to our data, it’s the most engaging social network right now – top profiles earn more than 110× the engagement of Twitter’s most-engaging profiles.

The platform offers amazing opportunity for brands to connect with their fans and millions of potential customers, but succeeding on Instagram takes more than simply publishing pretty images.

How are you performing on Instagram?

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1. Why Instagram?

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Your Instagram presence should be aligned with your company’s business, vision, and goals. Clarify your objectives with your stakeholders, communicate them to your social media team, and connect them with your Instagram KPIs. No two companies are the same, and the same goes for Instagram goals. So what are yours? Here are some just to get your started:

  • Display your product
  • Lead users to your website
  • Get new customer leads
  • Provide social customer care
  • Increase brand awareness among your target audience
  • Strengthen brand loyalty with your customers
  • Announce company news
  • Share your company culture
  • Attract new talent
<div style=" background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAAGFBMVEUiIiI9PT0eHh4gIB4hIBkcHBwcHBwcHBydr+JQAAAACHRSTlMABA4YHyQsM5jtaMwAAADfSURBVDjL7ZVBEgMhCAQBAf42×cNbpAqakcM0ftUmFAAIBE81IqBJdS3lS6zs3bIpB9WED3YYXFPmHRfT8sgyrCP1×8uEUxLMzNWElFOYCV6mHWWwMzdPEKHlhLw7NWJqkHc4uIZphavDzA2JPzUDsBZziNae2S6owH8×PmX8G7zzgKEOPUoYHvGz1TBCxMkd3kwNVbU0gKHkx+iZILf77IofhrY1nYFnB/lQPb79drWOyJVa/DAvg9B/rLB4cC+Nqgdz/TvBbBnr6GBReqn/nRmDgaQEej7WhonozjF+Y2I/fZou/qAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto –44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;">

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A video posted by Socialbakers (@socialbakers) on <time style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;" datetime="2015–10–14T13:43:58+00:00">Oct 14, 2015 at 6:43am PDT</time>


2. Find your audience

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Build a detailed profile of your target audience. (Ask your colleagues in marketing – chances are they already have one.) Think about your prospects’ lives on social. Whom do they like to follow on Instagram and what type of content do they enjoy? What time of day do they prefer to check their Instagram feed?

3. What to snap?

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  • What types of Instagram content are you able to produce? Which topics can you cover? Brainstorm with your team on creative possibilities and research the best examples of Instagram. (You can check the top accounts for every major industry in our study.) Be open to ideas – it’s always better to test as many options as possible in the beginning and keep using the ones that perform the best.
  • Build a style guide for your account: brand aesthetic, composition, filters, and tone of voice for captions. How will your brand values be reflected in your content?
  • Determine what stories you can tell. Don’t underestimate the power of storytelling on Instagram. National Geographic, the most-followed account in the world, publishes the story behind every shot in the caption (as well as tagging the photographer).
  • Be mindful of your audience. Be consistent and keep the quality of your content high. Your account should be visually appealing with stories that are relevant and provide value. Always post with your followers in mind – they agreed to see your pictures in their feed, and that’s a big deal. Above all, do not try to hard sell your products – that’s not what Instagram is about.

4. Build relationships

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  • Ensure your account makes a good first impression and fill out your profile completely (bio, website link, profile picture). Be attentive as details do matter here!
  • Test different posting frequencies and times of day to see what works best for your audience.
  • Will you repost user generated content?
  • You can also use the "Send To” option to send customized content to your followers.
  • Have a plan in place for social customer care. You will be surprised how many questions you will get in comments and direct messages on Instagram: support and job inquiries, negative comments, sales leads, and spam. Make sure your team is ready to address each question promptly and knowledgeably.
  • Monitor your branded hashtags and popular hashtags in your industry.
  • Remember: you are there for your community, not the other way around. When engaging with other users, be relevant, not spammy. Ideally, you should build strong relationships and be there for your fans. And when you have a product to promote, they will be there for you.

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A photo posted by Socialbakers (@socialbakers) on <time style=" font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;" datetime="2015–08–26T14:17:06+00:00">Aug 26, 2015 at 7:17am PDT</time>


5. Grow your community

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  • Say it with us: "cross-channel integration.” Identify those customers of yours that are already on Instagram and follow them (you can easily do this by exporting your company’s mailing list(s) to your dedicated Instagram device). If you are active on other social media platforms, notify your fans/followers that you have an Instagram account. Embed links to your Instagram or your Instagram feed into your website, e-mails, and other marketing channels.
  • Ask your employees and partners to follow your Instagram or even do a shout out for you.
  • Engage with your followers and other users as much as possible. Follow accounts, like things, comment. Be human!
  • Research your hashtags. Don’t overdo them and use only the most relevant ones.
  • Tag. Always be sure to tag any people or brands in the photo, as well as the photo source if you repost.
  • Add geolocation to your posts where applicable. It will allow other users to discover your content.
  • Find the biggest influencers in your industry and see if you can’t partner with them.

6. Are you succeeding – or just posting?

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Follows, likes, comments and engagement are all important, but also make sure your Instagram helps you to reach the goals that you had in mind before starting. Analyze your results using a social media analytics tool like Socialbakers Analytics and be ready to adapt and optimize your strategy according to what the data tell you. Apart from knowing what’s going on in your industry you can do competitive benchmarking against your competition and use data to see what content (photos, videos, topics) works best for you.

Don’t be too hard on yourself if the results don’t come in the first few months. Managing a successful Instagram account is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time to build an engaged, loyal community on Instagram – and when you’ve done so, with your overall vision and goals in mind, the results are well worth it.

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