Instagram is a fan favorite amongst both consumers and influencers. Ranking 6th by the number of active users at 1 billion, Instagram is a top contender among the likes of its parent company Facebook, as well as YouTube and WeChat.
But what do brands think about the platform? Judging by the numbers, brands view Instagram as a critical channel to reach consumers—over 25 million business profiles exist and roughly a third of the most-viewed Instagram Stories stem from business accounts. With 80% of Instagram users following a business profile, it’s no question why brands think highly of Instagram: it’s a direct advertising avenue to valuable customers.
Instagram represents an opportune channel for consumers to find brands and brands to reach customers. But how does this dynamic work aside from ad placements? You might’ve guessed—influencer marketing.
Through authentic partnerships between brands and influencers, consumers are exposed to curated content that increases brand awareness, generates audience engagement, and drives purchase intent. Mastering the art results in a robust Instagram influencer marketing strategy.
In 2019, 89% of marketers say Instagram is a strategically important social media channel for influencer marketing (compared to 70% saying YouTube). Herein lies the importance of Instagram as a primary vehicle for brands achieving positive results
Before developing a cohesive strategy, brands must understand the Instagram influencer marketing basics. That means knowing how to use the platform to get the most out of its key Instagram Business features including:
Just as your brand’s website is the digital representation of your storefront, your brand’s Instagram business profile is the social media flagship.Whether it’s designing the perfect sponsored Instagram Story, creating a good Instagram caption, or utilizing shoppable Instagram posts, Instagram presents brand’s plenty of opportunity to leverage the power of Instagram influencer marketing.
Here we explore the main Instagram features brands need to take advantage of in order to solidify their Instagram influencer marketing strategy.
A brand that’s new to Instagram will learn right away that in order to use it, you need to create an Instagram business profile. This allows your brand to establish a social media presence and achieve business objectives through Instagram’s business features and insights. It’s also a good idea to request Instagram verification so that your business is “authenticated” by Instagram’s standards, denoted by a checkmark.
Want to know who follows and engages with your business account? Or see what your fans and customers like about your brand’s content and offerings? By taking the first step to create a business profile, brands get access to a goldmine of audience insights that will help them learn about their core audience in order to optimize content, messaging, and social media activity.
Brands absolutely need a business profile on the platform in order to work effectively with influencers—profiles establish a brand’s presence within the Instagram social ecosystem. You can also read more about Business Profiles on Facebook’s Help Center to get started.
Once your brand has set up an Instagram business profile, the next step is to begin posting visual content for your followers. Ideally, your posts will also show up in user’s Discovery feeds (with the intention of attracting new followers so that your content appears in their regular feeds). While each brand has its own Instagram aesthetic and messaging style, there are techniques ensuring your brand’s Instagram content is positively received.
For starters, make sure your brand’s Instagram account isn’t spammy, overtly promotional, or completely lacking visual quality. Similarly, brands should avoid posting:
Since Instagram is a hub for striking visuals, your brand should publish content that is professionally aligned with your business while pushing the boundaries of creativity. Striking a balance between professionalism and originality will position your brand in the best light possible. For example, choose a theme that you can consistently feature on your account so that followers learn to associate that type of content with your brand.
Another important tactic is crafting good Instagram captions and knowing how to use Instagram hashtags. By understanding important Instagram caption trends, brands will be better prepared to post either branded content or collaborate on influencer sponsored content with a powerful punch. From long-form narratives to strong CTAs to personal stories to age-old humor to minimalistic approaches, captions complement Instagram posts in order to engage with and cultivate the target audience.
Hashtags also play a role in messaging, but their main strength lies in discoverability. When users navigate the Instagram platform, they have the option to search for content that they find interesting. While searching generic words is futile, typing in an Instagram hashtag will surface all content tagged with that particular hashtag.
Therefore, brands should be savvy when it comes to assigning hashtags to an Instagram influencer marketing campaign so that Instagram users can discover and recognize your content. Not to mention, hashtag campaigns also make your Instagram influencer marketing strategy more cohesive—a strong trust signal to Instagram users.
The Instagram Stories format is another creative way for brands to reach the 400 million highly engaged Stories users. Brands can upload their own branded Stories—a wise choice, as 33% of Instagrammers say they’ve become interested in a product they saw on Stories—and they can lean on Instagram influencers to endorse their brand on their personal Stories.
By collaborating with Instagram Stories influencers who understand intricate audience details, your brand can get in front of Instagram users who are receptive of authentic sponsored content. This helps your brand increase awareness, earn consumer trust, and potentially drive conversions.
Instagram may have started as a photo-sharing app, but it has evolved into a video-sharing platform, too. Noting the benefits of a strong online video marketing presence, Instagram video has established a hold on social media consumers with the following formats:
In Q1 2017, 5.2 million users watched branded Instagram videos. Even more impressive, sponsored Instagram videos generate three times more comments than sponsored Instagram photos—a testament to the strength of video in an Instagram influencer marketing strategy.
Not knowing Instagram influencer marketing basics can leave your brand behind, so be sure to incorporate any or all of Instagram’s video formats to capitalize on the burgeoning online video marketing arena.
Instagram is a recent force in the e-commerce world. Shopping on Instagram has enabled brands to create an immersive storefront for users to discover and explore their products. This includes Instagram Shopping features such as:
Each feature is intended to streamline the shopping experience for users, while also making the platform more business-friendly. Most recently, Instagram announced a feature that allows users to shop on Instagram’s platform and make a purchase without leaving the app. While only available to a handful of partner retailers, the shopping cart capability will roll out to U.S. users over the course of a few weeks. This tool is primed for working with influencers.
Branded content is a way your business can capitalize on the 68% of users who come to Instagram to interact with influencers. Testing branded content in 2017, Instagram decided to roll it out to the masses which is why sponsored creator or publisher content often features tagged business partners.
Now that you understand the most important Instagram features for your business profile, we’ll outline six of the most strategic elements of the beginner’s guide to Instagram influencer marketing.
We’ve heard it said, “Know your audience.” But solely knowing who your audience is neglects a crucial aspect, which is where your audience is.Before deciding to even run an Instagram influencer marketing campaign, brands must know if they can reach their audience on the platform. Determine if your target demographics exist on Instagram and if so, what their user behavior is. Ask yourself:
Gathering insights like these will ensure that you know the relationship between your core audience and those who influence them most, ultimately putting your brand in a better position to develop an impactful Instagram influencer marketing strategy and achieve positive ROI. Otherwise, you’ll be left guessing.
As with any marketing campaign, brands need to clearly define goals and KPIs. Failure to do so will result in ambiguous and indistinguishable results. It will also leave both your internal team and influencer partners unable to benchmark performance.
When you decide to launch an Instagram influencer marketing campaign, take the time to list out high-level and granular goals. Instagram influencer marketing goals fall under either brand awareness or direct response key performance indicators (KPIs).
Once you’ve determined that your audience is on Instagram and you’ve planned clear goals, your next step is to find Instagram influencers. This means knowing the costly errors to avoid, the best free search tools, and expert advice on how to identify the best Instagram influencers for your purposes. Before launching a search, answer the following questions:
The answer to these questions should jumpstart your search and put you on a more direct path to finding the right influencers. And once you’ve located potential influencer partners, run through the following checklist to ensure the best fit:
With 61% of marketers agreeing it’s difficult to find the right influencers for a campaign, brands should ask the above questions and follow advice from the pros. Then, you’ll have a better success rate finding Instagram influencers who are a good match for your campaign’s goals and in line with your brand’s values.
Similar to setting clear campaign objectives, brands need to outline expectations in order to effectively execute an Instagram influencer marketing campaign. Without communicating about expectations regarding deliverables, deadlines, pricing, ownership, messaging, quality, FTC compliance and more, both brands and influencers will experience the challenges of a poorly organized influencer marketing campaign that could have easily been avoided.
On top of that, your brand should treat influencers as business partners in order to achieve optimal collaboration. If you restrict influencers’ creativity too much, sponsored content will come across as less authentic. On the other hand, if you give influencers free rein without any guidelines whatsoever, your campaign may suffer from a lack of consistency across influencers or miss the mark in terms of messaging.
Once you’ve found the appropriate ones, it’s time to reach out to the influencers. This requires an understanding of how to contact the influencer, as well as performing some basic research to prove your investment in the potential partnership. Consider the following questions before deciding to reach out:
Thoughtful influencer outreach is imperative to securing interest from top Instagram influencers, especially if you’re running Instagram influencer marketing for the first time. By showing influencers that you’ve done your research instead of blasting untailored emails, brands will increase their chances of getting noticed by equally invested influencers.
Which brings us to another vital factor—nurturing influencer relationships. As you perform influencer outreach and begin to negotiate the terms of your influencer relationship, consider what influencers find important in influencer brand partnerships:
Ultimately, brands are wise to invest in long-term influencer relationships in order to increase longevity and authenticity. In order to do this, brands should:
Next, create sponsored content that resonates with your audience. Much of this relies on whether or not you complete steps 1-5. If you have, the rest will usually fall into place as authentic sponsorships stem directly from covering all your bases.
However, it’s still a smart idea to double-check that the sponsored content for your Instagram influencer marketing campaign checks the boxes for authenticity. Before approving influencer content, run through this list:
If you ever have the slightest hesitation about the authenticity of an influencer’s Instagram sponsored content, do not just accept the deliverables and allow the content to be published. Assuming you’ve crafted a rock-solid influencer contract, you should communicate with the influencer about expectations in order to level set.
That doesn’t mean you need to strictly control influencers’ creative license, but brands have a say in the final product. When in doubt, do not approve inauthentic sponsored content or you’ll risk jeopardizing your brand’s reputation.
Last, but not least, brands need to track and measure the performance of their Instagram influencer marketing campaigns in order to benchmark, derive rich learnings, and optimize for future efforts. Measurement will vary depending on the structure of your campaign. Ideally, you should already know what metrics and KPIs you’ll be monitoring from your initial goal setting.
Some methods of conversion tracking for your Instagram influencer marketing campaign may include:
In addition, you’ll need to measure the KPIs that you originally set out to attain. Tracking performance will typically fall into three buckets with each category including variable KPIs within:
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Before starting on your own, we’ve gathered campaign overviews from top brands to inspire Instagram influencer marketing for beginner
Warby Parker launched an Instagram influencer marketing campaign featuring seven influencers in their “Wearing Warby” series. With a strong foundation in artistic and authentic content, the seven Warby Parker influencers drove a 3.45% overall engagement rate. Each individual post captured their creative outlets, whether it was food, design, theatre, music, or dance.
Campaign Takeaway: Each influencer showcased a snapshot of their artsy personalities and how Warby Parker’s eyeglasses tie into their creative routines.
Target has run a variety of influencer marketing campaigns on Instagram including its ongoing #TargetSwim campaign which features a host of fashion Instagrammers modeling its swimwear line. To go with the body positivity theme of this campaign, Target partnered up with a diverse set of models on Instagram to generate a 9.8% engagement rate. Plus-size model and body activist Denise Bidot highlighted the importance of self-reflection to give herself a confidence boost in her well-received sponsored post.
Campaign Takeaway: Fashion Instagram influencers focus on Target’s swim line in their sponsored posts in anticipation of summer, with a successful campaign centering on body positivity.
In the Dunkin’ holiday-themed campaign, Instagram nano-influencers with followings between 1,000-10,000 enabled the brand to appeal to more niche and intimate audiences. With a strong presence in Philadelphia, Dunkin’ was able to leverage local nano-influencers to promote its handcrafted espresso drinks as well as its rebrand from Dunkin’ Donuts to just Dunkin’. While targeting a modest combined following of 1.1 million Instagram followers across the group of influencers, Dunkin’ achieved a 5.2% average engagement rate.
Campaign Takeaway: By tapping into the niche networks of Philadelphia-based nano-influencers with consistent and authentic sponsored Instagram posts, Dunkin’ effectively raised awareness of its latest push into the espresso coffee drink market.
As a beginner in the world of Instagram influencer marketing, be sure to equip yourself with the best resources in order to help develop an effective, long-term Instagram influencer marketing strategy. That means starting with the Instagram influencer marketing basics so that your brand builds a solid foundation for many Instagram influencer marketing campaigns to come.