So You Want to Launch an Instagram Channel for Your Business

Seven Critical Steps to Ensure Your Success

Although over a billion use Instagram a month (that’s one in every eight people on the planet), It’s never too late to launch your small business on the social media platform…if you’re ready. Before you get your property ready for its close-up, let’s consider some staggering usage stats:

  • 80% of Instagram users follow at least one brand on the platform, 200 million users visit at least one business profile a day, and 60% of people use Instagram as a product discovery engine.
  • People on the platform have more disposal income — 42% earn more than $75K a year.
  • 95% of Instagrammers also use YouTube, which affords you the luxury of seeding your story across multiple visual platforms.
  • 25% of Gen Z and millennials actively seek out information about products and services they want to purchase using Instagram Stories.

Brands are clued into the benefits of having a presence on the platform to the tune of increased content marketing budgets and 2X year-over-year advertising investment. According to an e-Marketer study, 84.5% of companies that employ over 100 people will utilize digital content marketing strategies in 2019. Instagram has stepped up its game with business features, analytics, and support. What does this mean for your business, you say? It means you have a waiting group of prospective customers primed for purchase.

However, success is not predicated on you creating a profile and slapping up a few beauty shots of your products and hashtag them into oblivion. Consumers have become sophisticated, selective, and discerning, and it will take more than a drone shot of your shop to cut through the noise. Not only do you have to craft a strategy that centers on your ideal guest, but you also have to have the time and resources to manage, monitor, and optimize the strategy based on feedback and results.

Here are the seven critical steps you need to consider to ensure success on the platform.

Step 1. State your objectives

Before you start strategizing campaigns and planning clever captions, first determine your objectives. Ask yourself why you want to be on Instagram in the first place. Do you want more awareness about your products or services and reach the right people? Do you have a set of unique product features you want to show off? Want to learn more about your customers? Are you curious about social selling? Remember, it’s not enough to get on the platform to one-up the competition. You have to have a distinct purpose and reason to be, which will help give focus to your story strategy.

Step 2. Know your audience

It’s not enough to want to attract the free world to your products — you have to know your customer to attract them. Go beyond demographics and understand their wants, needs, and lifestyle preferences. How do they start their search? What are their pain points and challenges? What product benefits, features, and offers appeal to them and motivate them to book? Who influences their decision —magazine editors, top Instagram influencers, reviews, celebs, friends and family, a combination, or all of, the above? What’s their buyer behavior — do they prefer to buy via their smartphone or in-store? Is your customer on Instagram, and if so, how are they using it? What brands are they following? What kinds of content appeals to them?

Lean on your data — social, CRM, website, ratings and reviews — and keep tabs on your competitors to draw a specific picture of the person you want to appeal to, and the ways in which you can connect and communicate with them to inspire action. Data is directional in crafting stories that will compel and convert, but it’s also helpful to engage with your prospects directly on social media. Ask them questions, get their feedback, and listen to what they have to say. The confluence of data and human touch are the keys to understanding your customer.

Step 3. Craft a strategy and a unique story

Haphazard posting and ramshackle stories do not a strategy make. Creativity count when you want to captivate guests with content that puts the scroll on pause and makes them feel part of your experience.

And it all starts with positioning and purpose. Articulate what makes you stand apart from your competitors. What makes you the best option of the lot? What drives you as a brand and bolts you out of bed in the morning? How can you substantiate that you’re the preferred option? What do customers get out of buying into your products and services, and more importantly, how will they feel? What is your story and why does it matter to your customer?

Use your core brand pillars as a starting point to crafting your strategy, but then add in your customer profile and objectives to the mix and then you start to get a clear picture of the story you need to tell and how you need to tell it.

Step 4. Ensure you have high-quality brand assets

Let’s be honest, you’re here to show off your business, and you have products to sell. Our culture, for better or worse, is consumed by image and presentation — they need that eye candy to lure them in. According to Prezi’s State of Attention study, 33% of business professionals say that visual stimulation is critical in maintaining their engagement.

Although you can use content from customers (UGC) and influencers, you’re going to need a sizable amount of brand assets to keep the machine going. Not only will you need beauty shots of your products, but also lifestyle shots that bring it to life. For example, let’s say you own a hotel. Show them the kinds of sumptuous food and drink they’ll savor, key them into your location and nearby cultural events and attractions. Highlight all of the special aspects of your hotel that will inspire them to book. Let them imagine themselves in your space and lead them along their visual fantasy.

Knowing your customer, your brand and objectives will help shape the kinds of images you want to showcase on the platform.

Step 5. Staff someone to monitor and manage

Even though there is a myriad of automated online tools that make scheduling and promoting your content a cinch, you’ll need real people on the front lines to execute, monitor, and manage your Instagram strategy. Not only will they give you real-time insight into what’s going on with your business and the competition, but also they’ll be able to escalate and resolve any specific issues. Hire talent that understands the platform and can be agile with tools that will drive engagement and growth.

Step 6. Have a distribution strategy in play

Content is powerful in the context of its distribution. Consider how you can get the most legs out of a photo shoot or piece of content. When planning shoots, think about the shots you’ll need, the formats, as well as the permutation of use. Could an Instagram Live event become an edited YouTube promotional video? Could an image that performed well on the feed be used in your Instagram advertising campaign?

Step 7. Optimize based on data

All great marketing starts and ends with customer-driven data. Data will give you strategic direction about your customer, the kinds of content they want to consume and the stories you should be telling, and it will also tell you if your strategy is making a mark. Review your analytics regularly to learn more about your followers, their habits and behaviors, as well as the content that resonates. Use that information to refine your content, moving forward.

“Data is the leading source used to develop a content strategy. This allows marketers to personalize content for more effective, relevant storytelling.” –BrightEdge

First impressions count and you want to make sure that if you launch on Instagram, you’re doing it right. Consider your customer, company, and competition, and forge a content strategy that not only serves your customer based on their wants, needs, and preferences, but showcases the uniqueness of your brand.


A version of this article first appeared in Storified Hospitality Group.


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