The one question I get more than any other about Instagram, is the one I want you to be asking:
Can I actually make any money by investing in Instagram?
As business owners that is a VERY important question to be asking for any tactic or tool we invest time, energy or money in.
For me, the answer is an emphatic HELL YES! I have made several thousands of dollars from Instagram. Of course Instagram is one part of my overall customer acquisition strategy (so things like a book, a podcast, a referral from a past client etc. also contribute) but Instagram is the primary ‘relationship building’ tool for me at the moment (for more than email, which I under-utilize). For me, I simply prefer communicating via images so I do it better and more consistently, which really is what matters. How do you prefer to communicate? Are you inclined to express yourself visually? Yes? Then Instagram may just be your new favorite thing!
Instagram is so valuable at the moment (which of course is subject to change) for these reasons:
- It’s Free
- Users are very connected to the platform and spend not only large quantities of time, but valuable time using it (first thing in the morning and last thing at night) so you have a chance to really reach them
- Because of the above ^ you can easily build real relationships with strangers in a more intimate way than email
- Because it’s visually-driven it gives you ample opportunity to build desire by connecting emotionally with your audience
- It’s as targeted as Facebook so you can reach a hyper local audience if that’s your jam
- It’s well supported with tools for scheduling, analytics, content creation and more
- It’s more versatile than ever (you can now use it from your phone or desktop)
- There are several ways to build a tribe on Instagram and not all of them require a ‘picture perfect’ feed!
I could go on and on. But I know the real question on your mind is HOW do you profit via Instagram, right?
Well I am actually a little sorry to tell you that it’s not some secret recipe. The process for earning revenue via Instagram is literally the same as any other marketing or communication platform – it’s the 6 Stages of Marketing:
The 6 Stages of Marketing
- Attract / Build a Brand + Platform
- Broadcast / Build Awareness
- Engage / Build Relationships
- Convert / Encourage Referrals / Revisits
- Measure / Collect Data & Analyze
- Improve / Apply Data
Which I am not going to overview too much detail because you can read all about it here – but I do want to go through each of these stages to cover some instagram-specific strategies and tools to help with each. Sound good?
Just like with your brand overall, the attraction phase of marketing on Instagram is the most important. If people don’t see you, or don’t get you, they don’t buy from you. Simple. So building your Content and Visual Strategy is critical to ensure Instagram is really working for you (which is why we started the month with that!) Making sure that your instagram feed is a beautiful, inspiring place for your ideal client to be is a great start. This is where you’ll get people to essentially ‘opt-in’ to getting to know you… their choice to ‘follow’ is your first instagram conversion!
– Attraction Tool –
The ‘attract’ phase is so much about the ‘pretty stuff’. This is where instagram really shines, but only if you plan and prepare. The best way I’ve found to do this efficiently is a tool called Planoly. You’ve already heard and seen a lot about this tool this month – basically because it’s changed my world! There is also a tool called Tailwind (that also does Pinterest) that’s very similar, but for me I couldn’t get into it the way I could in Planoly. If you missed it, check out the content from last week where I walk you through my visual workflow, there are a few more tools and resources and an inside look in Planoly (who, btw has has offered #wwd members 50% off any monthly plan – coupon code: workingwithdog)
This stage is all about getting your brand out there and getting tons of eyeballs! On instagram there are two primary ways to get the right people seeing your images: The first, is to get them from another space (like your blog, Facebook, twitter, your catalogue or tradeshow booth etc.), to your instagram to participate in your visual story. The second, is to find new people within instagram, people searching for tags related to what you do or who see an add or promotion you’re running. I should say as well that recently, taking breaks from instagram seems to slow down my engagement (so try not to go days or weeks without posting anything – that will likely impact your reachnegatively ).
Get Them to Instagram
On of the most effective ways to get people on Instagram can be to prioritize it in all of your other marketing (put it on your packaging, or call it out on your business card, mention it in interviews) give someone a reason to check out your feed since we know we’d like them to not disappear, but be interested in a relationship with us. Instagram is a great place to build relationships.
Find them on Instagram
Instagram has about 400 million daily users, so you can bet, some of those people are smack dab in the middle of your target audience!
Some tactics that work really well for boosting traffic within Instagram are running contests (photo contests especially where people can use a particular hashtag to alert you to their entry- check out this on & offline version we put together for you) or challenges (also an excuse to get emails). Of course advertising (promoting posts) is also a very effective way to reach more people. You don’t have to spend a lot to have great results.
Of course there is a lot of talk about hashtags in instagram as well, and although there are mixed reviews of their effectiveness, generally the data supports that posts with hashtags get more views and more engagement*.
How Do I use Hashtags?
A hashtag is a word proceeded by the # symbol. Example: #doglywisdom – now if you click on a hashtag in most social media platforms it will show you a feed of all the images that have had that hashtag included in the caption or comments. Try clicking on the #doglywisdom here and you’ll see what a hashtag feed looks like. It shows the most popular and most recent images that have been tagged.
For your purposes, this is helpful if you’re hoping your potential client might discover you by looking at the feed of relevant hashtags, sort of like how you’d search google! For example, I’ve searched #branding #logodesign #brandidentity hashtags on instagram to find designers to hire. Your customer might be doing the same for something like #seattledogtrainer or #houstonpetphotographer or #coolpetproducts or #dogbed or #naturaldogtreats or #madeintheusa or #crueltyfree — see what I mean?
People aren’t just looking for stuff to buy, they’re looking for information too – hashtags work for that ( #photoshoptutorial – #DIYdogtoy ) so if you’re creating great blog content, you can add up to 30 hashtags (I suggest doing it as the first comment, rather than in the caption) with lots of different hashtags that you think someone may possibly search. It can’t hurt, right?
The best news, is that if you look at any of these examples you can see the quality isn’t universally high – so if you’re producing really pretty content [ATTRACT!]- it will stand out in the feed and a discerning person searching may click on you and fall in love!
Now you need to understand that hashtags aren’t always used for this… sometimes they’re used for contests (as mentioned above) or a brand can say ‘use this hashtag for a chance to be featured’ – then they will look through all the images that have been tagged and choose some to regram. Also, sometimes a hashtag is simply for fun – like a little side not or side commentary, for example “oh man, today was crazy. Mondays! #amIright “. That’s OK too. It’s not doing anything for your brand awareness, it’s just part of your voice & personality.
. . .
Like with #hashtags, much of this Broadcast stage is trial and error… just try lots of stuff and see what works! (see #5 & 6 below). Don’t make the ‘if I build it they will come’ assumption – don’t ‘wait to be discovered’ usually you will need to put solid attention into getting your stuff seen!
– Broadcast Tool –
Smarthash is essentially a hashtag heat map tool that allows you to copy/paste groups of hashtags (you can have up to 30 on one image) from the app into your instagram comment or caption. Over time, smarthash shows you which hashtags are working best for getting you attention. Red is great, orange is medium, yellow is some attention, and grey is basically useless. It also allows you to split test (copy a random sub-group of hashtags) and test those separately. I haven’t been using it long so I am still testing it, but so far so good!
One of my most commented on posts (well, most commented on that wasn’t just a photo of my dog – everybody loves Frenchies!) was this one. In the caption I offered to review other peoples’ instagram accounts (for free). Even though my reach has been quite bad (I think because I took a couple week break from Insta) the engagement on this post was very high because I was offering something of real value and making good on it, right there in my feed.
I cannot say enough about delivering value to your ideal client. The number 1 Dogly Principle is ‘Generosity’ for a reason. Give, give, give. Don’t worry about what you’re getting in return. This is part of relationship building, it’s part of being a good person, it’s part of making the positive impact you want to make. If you can find quick and easy wins like this that relate to your business, brand or products, DO IT! Don’t hesitate… even if you have to spend a couple hours reading and responding now and then – you’ll get new customers, you’ll learn tons about your ideal client, and your Instagram reach will benefit. Win. Win. Win. This is one of the easiest ways to show your people that you genuinely care, which may just end up being they buy your thing instead of the competitors’.
– Engagement Tool –
Repost for Instagram
One fantastic way to engage with your customers or potential customers is to regram (share) their photos. The most highly rated app for this is ‘Repost for Instagram’ on ios and android – this app grabs the content creator’s info and shares it along with the photo. Personally, I prefer to do this the old fashioned way (with screenshots and dropbox as I discussed in the Instagram Masterchat) mostly for aesthetic reasons (I do tag the content creator in the photo and in the caption).
The MOST important thing to remember about converting people – is it usually requires some sort of pressure. A promotion, an ask, a time-sensitive offer. To finally get people to jump from follower to buyer, you have to ask for it. If you spend most of your time doing everything else in this list, when you finally do ask for the sale, your people will be MORE than ready to buy from you!
Within our ‘Content Marketing’ theme we discuss conversions at length (which I highly recommend checking out as a supplement to this article, because it’s got everything you need to do this effectively). Just keep in mind when it comes to instagram, you’re still operating in a curated visual space – so don’t go and make some ugly text-heavy graphics shouting about your sale – keep in classy San Diego! Just because you’re asking for the sale does not mean you have to break stride with your visual strategy.
The next most important consideration when it comes to conversions off of instagram, is that you’re probably better off trying to make that first conversion something easy and/or free. Get them to click on to your website, or get their email, or get them involved in a contest or challenge. Sometimes you can jump straight to the sale, but usually, there are going to be at least one or two small conversions first. In this case, the link in your profile becomes ground zero for making the most out of instagram!
– Conversion Tool –
Linktr.ee one was brought to my attention by #wwd member Holly Montgomery, and while it’s not perfect (sometimes there is a warning from Instagram that you’re about to leave the platform, but not always) it’s an amazing tool to keep multiple links together in your insta bio (where normally you can have only one at a time). You simply copy the linktree link into your bio (top right in the image above) – then update the links on your linktree whenever you want, with whatever you want!
I am going to throw this one in as well – because once you get people onto your website, SumMe is one of the best tools EVER to make sure you grab their email and get them on your list so you can nurture them into converting with the cold hard cash. Luckily, we did a whole masterchat + article on this tool in April!
*A Note about Personal vs Business Instagram Account: There are rumors (but no data that I have found) that suggest that having a business account limits your reach to your audience. My official position on this is that just like Facebook, it is in instagram’s best interest to keep businesses happy, so pending any real, actual, tangible evidence to the contrary, I’d say go business if you’re a business. Why? Well there are insights and conversion tools available to you that make life easier for, you guessed it, conversions! Which is really the whole point of using the platform. I believe that if you’re consistently sharing quality content, your account will only benefit from being a ‘business account’.
These last two stages are a bit more boring, and therefor often overlooked, but you’ll be making life a lot easier, and any investment in instagram a lot more effective if you don’t skip them! First, is measuring the effectiveness of what you’re posting. The most simple form of this, of course, is seeing what content your audience responds to most… and posting more of that! Obvious perhaps, but this one can often be surprising. Additional metrics to help engagement like optimal time of day to post (for your specific audience) are very helpful too.
– Measurement Tool –
Tool: There are two great ways to get instagram data that I am familiar with (probably many more that I’m not!) The first I’d suggest (as mentioned above) is free, and it’s to turn your account into a business account to access the insights within Instagram. There’s not much here, but it’s especially helpful to know things like what time of day your users are most engaged and what your reach, profile views etc has been from week to week. The second is Iconosquare, which is now a paid platform with all kinds of extra bells and whistles. You can also get a look at metrics for most popular photos and most commented-on posts in planning apps like Planoly.
Why do we bother measuring anything? Well to improve it of course! This one is obvious so I won’t spend much time on it – except to say two things… First of which, is that although we have a lot of ego wrapped up in our number of followers on social media, really (and this is especially true on instagram) it is the ENGAGEMENT that is key here. So spend more time and energy ensuring people are liking, commenting and getting involved in what you’re doing, rather than focusing on how many followers you have. The second, is that you’re going to be perform much better, over a longer period of time, if you reflect on your incremental improvements. Track and acknowledge how far you’ve come, and not just how far you have to go. This is not just a ‘nice to have’ – it’s incredibly important for your growth. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint, so pace yourself and reward yourself at every turn!
– Improvement Tool –
Tool: Measuring your improvement over time is critical to not only your mindset, but also to have data about your growth. To measure your improvement on Instagram I have some very basic suggestions: keep a spreadsheet, a white board, a notebook or document of some kind where you track your followers or progress month-on-month. Of course if you’re using one of the analytics method above you can look this up – but I think it’s solid to have a habit to go in and physically look & write your followers (and ideally, if you can figure it out, any revenue generated directly from instagram).
Have you Converted from Instagram?
Tell us about it in the Facebook Group!!