Given that Instagram is one of the fastest-growing social channels in the world, it’s unsurprising that most brands are using Instagram to reach their target audience.

A well thought out Instagram strategy should form part of any marketer’s arsenal – where applicable of course. In the early days of social media, it was common practise for brands to be on every single channel that existed (who even used Google+?). Whilst you might be easily discoverable, you’re not necessarily going to reach the right people, with the right message, at the right time.

I know it sounds obvious, but it’s crucial to make sure that Instagram is a channel where you can actually reach and engage with your target audience, otherwise quite simply, you’ll waste your money.

With lots of new features and updates to the platform over the last 12 months, it’s important to make sure you’re keeping up with the competition.

Here’s how:

1. Tell a Story

“Every great story has a beginning, middle and an end. Not necessarily in that order.”

This is gospel according to Tim Burton. Whilst I’m aware he’s a film director not a marketing director, he knows a thing or two about storytelling.

Stories are becoming increasingly popular and are fast overtaking the traditional news feed on Instagram. These short snippets can excite and engage audiences in a world where brands have mere seconds to attract people and land their message.

Brands that are looking to raise awareness of their brand or drive traffic to their website, in other words, throughout the customer journey, should consider how they can use Stories as part of their marketing strategy.

Organic Stories can excite audiences by giving them access to exclusive content that only lasts for 24 hours. Or not. Stories can also be saved as permanent ‘Highlights’, which is ideal for brands that are showcasing products and services, such as retail or health & beauty.

Working with an influencer or celebrity? Instagram Story ‘takeovers’ can help attract new followers and also give users access to content they can’t find anywhere else, which helps brands build a loyal fan base.

And with the newer carousel ad format allowing you to have a sequence of three images or videos, you can quite literally have a beginning, middle and an end.

2. Create a seamless customer journey

Whether you’re driving people to your website, or you encourage them to navigate somewhere else within Instagram (e.g Stories to Feed), make sure that the customer journey is simple to follow. I previously touched on the low attention span that consumers have, so creating a complex user journey is just not going to work. Your drop-off rate will likely skyrocket if it’s too convoluted.

Thankfully for retailers, Instagram rolled out taggable & shoppable products not too long ago. Once a ‘shopping’ profile is approved by the powers that be at Instagram, retail brands have the ability to tag individual products within their content. Users can tap for more information including price and product description, with the option to leave Instagram and view on the brand’s website ready to purchase. This feature has made it very easy for brands to drive conversion rates. Win win all round!

But a seamless customer journey should be applicable to all brands, not just retail brands. Make it easy for consumers to find the things that they’re interested in, and keep it engaging and exciting, considering that you have a very small window of time to capture their attention.

3. Provide users with an interactive experience

Once you’ve grabbed your user’s attention, it’s important to keep them there. Make the most of the interactive features that Stories has. Some of the newer features include questions and polls stickers.

Questions are great for gathering consumer feedback and reviews, which can not only be used to inform future content, but can also provide specific feedback on products and services. They’re also great for hosting Q&As. Perhaps you have an expert within your field that people would be interested in asking a question? Or perhaps you’ve partnered with a celebrity or blogger who would draw in new audiences that would be interested in your product or service.

Polls work similarly to Questions, but are more limited in that users only have the option to vote between two things. Polls can also provide good insights into who engages with your content as you can see who has voted.

Let’s not forget GIFs. Everyone loves a GIF! Instagram is pre-loaded with lots of fun stickers and GIFs that can make a simple piece of content a little bit more exciting, especially with younger audiences. Custom GIFS can also be uploaded to Giphy, making them searchable within the app. This creates make a more personal experience to connect with your audience.

Again, some of these might sound a little obvious, but it’s often the ‘quick-wins’ that can be overlooked when it comes to planning a content strategy.

4. Get your money’s worth

They say the best things in life are free. Well, unfortunately that rule doesn’t apply to social. You may have seen Becca’s recent post which highlighted that organic social is dead. With that in mind, when it comes to reaching audiences, it really is ‘all about the money’.

Thanks to updates to the Facebook algorithm paired with increasing industry pressure, consumers are much more aware of sponsored content than they used to be. Brands are fighting for the limelight and have a huge amount of competition to consider when creating their own ad strategies.

In order to maximise results with paid social, you should consider the different placements available to you and whether they support the objective you’re looking to meet. Facebook has a handy guide with everything you need to know.

Being present across multiple ad placements means that you’ve got more chance of reaching your target audience in the most cost-effective way.

5. Find the perfect partnership

You might be sick of hearing the word ‘influencer’, but a partnership with the right individual can work wonders in delivering results for brands. Influencers have authentic voices that people trust and connect with, and are much more likely to excite people with their content.

But paid partnerships in marketing certainly aren’t new. Celebrities have been endorsing products for donkey’s years. And if you have big budgets to work with, then you have the option to choose an influencer with hundreds of thousands of followers (also known as a macro-influencer). Choosing well-known influencers can help instil trust & authority with the consumer.

The downside to working with those types of influencers is that they could quite easily have fake followers. Remember when ‘like gating’ was a thing on Facebook (might be showing my age here)? For those who don’t, it essentially involved brands posting content that encouraged users to ‘like’ for the chance to win a prize, resulting in lots of fake profiles being set up to enter the competitions. Facebook clamped down on this and banned like-gating in 2014.

We’ve seen a resurgence in this sort of activity on Instagram, except now people are buying fake followers. People are regularly being called out for buying followers and tricking brands into believing that they have a genuine following.

Instead of going for the bigger influencers, try partnering with influencers that have a smaller, but more engaged following. Shop local if you will. These types of influencers are much more likely to deliver genuine engagement at a cost-effective price.

So there you have it – 5 simple ways to win over your audience using Instagram. Considering how many people are using Instagram, combined with the interactive functionality of the platform, it’s worth making sure you’ve properly considered Instagram in your social plans for 2019.