Last Updated on July 20, 2018 by David Bryan
Is Instagram really the ‘rising star’ of social media marketing for business in 2018? What are some of the benefits and drawbacks for businesses wishing to incorporate this social media channel into their marketing strategy? How and why should it be integrated with other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and how can its ROI for businesses be measured? Before a concerted campaign via Instagram is authorised, these are just some of the various questions business executives may ask. In this article, we explore these questions in detail and the benefits of Instagram for business, so if you wish to learn more please read on!
What is Instagram?
Instagram is a social networking app that allows users to connect with one another through sharing pictures and videos, either publicly or privately. Although primarily used on smartphones, the app can also be accessed from a desktop device.
The popularity of the app largely stems from its simplicity – it focusses exclusively on the sharing of pictures and videos, making it a relatively simple and user-friendly app. As a result, Instagram is now the hom of visual storytelling, from insights into celebrities’ lives, to newsrooms and nature, and of course, for businesses who have utilised its features as an effective marketing tool.
The rise in popularity of Instagram
Instagram was founded by CEO Kevin Systrom in 2010. The app had 10 million users when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg bought it for $1 billion in 2012. Critics were quick to judge – how could Zuckerberg spend such an insane amount of money on a company that had just 13 employees?
However, in September of 2017, Instagram reached a staggering figure of over 800 million monthly active users. The time spent to add each 100 million users to its database has decreased over time; from 13 months for 100-200 million users and 9 months for 400-500 million users, it took just four months for the 700 millionth user to download the app after the 600 millionth user joined Instagram in December of 2016.
Predictions for the future of Instagram after 2018 vary, but most analysts suggest, as do past growth figures, that the social media channel shows little sign of slowing down.
Instagram for Business: Using Instagram as an effective business tool
Aptly coined social media’s ‘rising star’ for business in 2018, the social media channel certainly argues a very convincing business case. The photo-sharing app has combined the very best from some of its peers, such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, to create a hugely successful marketing tool for business in 2018. However, as is seen with other social media platforms, Instagram still requires a considerable amount of time and effort in order to both create and maintain a page that users can engage with and truly enjoy. Below we explain the various benefits and drawbacks of Instagram for business in more detail, and some of the ideas they’ve adopted from other social media platforms.
Benefits of Instagram
- Facebook – Taking a leaf from Facebook, Instagram now allows for business accounts. Facebook’s Ad Manager tab allows for business pages to view the performance of an advert as well as the recent activity on their page. Instagram has now incorporated this aspect for businesses using the channel, together with all the benefits it brings. A user can now see how their posts compare with one another, and which posts are most popular, as well as at what time of day their page is most active. A business account owner is also able to see the demographics of his/her followers and can, therefore, tailor posts to this target audience in the hope of creating sales leads, much like Facebook’s ‘targeted advertising’ feature for businesses. Although relatively new on Instagram, but by no means basic, is business advertising. The chance to advertise to a completely new audience on a different platform is an exciting thought for business, and Instagram is even arguably better for advertising than its bigger, older brother, in which it took the idea from! Sponsored stories slot right into the user’s home feed and fit in well with the social media channel’s simplistic features.
- Twitter – By no means new, but still integral features of Instagram, are the ‘follower’ and the ‘hashtag’. Taken from Twitter, both of these features make it easy for users to connect with one another and make themselves known on the social media channel. Putting hashtags in the descriptions below posts makes it easier for people who aren’t following you to access these posts. The beauty of hashtags is the fact that they make your content more discoverable and increase user engagement. This is coupled with results from a recent Forrester study, which found that content on Instagram generates 58 times more user engagement per follower than Facebook and a whopping 120 times more user engagement per follower than Twitter.
- Snapchat – A relatively new feature which was introduced in 2016, Instagram stories allow the user to share moments in the format of a slideshow which disappear after 24 hours. The benefits of this for business you may ask? The story doesn’t get added to the user’s profile, so there is no need to worry about spamming your followers with posts. Furthermore, the feature allows the user to draw on the story and add texts that can be linked to an external site. For businesses looking to expand in 2018, the use of this feature is extremely appealing as a picture or short video can generate traffic and potentially create sales leads. Alongside this, a business’ target audience may be active on Instagram rather than Snapchat, and so it allows for businesses to use features which they would otherwise be unable to use for their target audience.
- Videos – Users are loving the flexibility of the app and the features available for video editing in 2018. The maximum time allowed for a video has increased from 15 seconds to a minute-long. The fact that 4 times as many customers would rather watch a video about a product than view an image or read about it, means Instagram has proved very popular for businesses who can now advertise on the app easier than ever.
- Millennials – A further benefit of Instagram is how well-tailored the app is for businesses whose target audience are the ‘millennials’. Approximately 37% of those born between 1980 and the early 1990’s (the millennials) are active on Instagram in 2018. Therefore, for businesses wishing to engage with this target audience in 2018, they are certainly doing something wrong if they are not on Instagram!
Instagram success stories
Levi’s – The pioneering jeans brand wanted to generate sales leads and generate traffic to its website among its target audience of 18-35 year olds who lived in Mexico. The company ran a campaign called #LiveInLevis, whereby short videos, exclusive to the social media platform, where broadcasted to Levi’s followers. As a result of the Instagram campaign, Levi’s saw a 30% increase in sales for its new women’s range. This success was combined with the added benefit that the cost of the Instagram videos was 68% lower per view, compared with adverts on other social media channels. The success of Levi’s campaign certainly shows that this social media platform is good for business in 2018.
Groupe Renault – The French automobile manufacturing company became one of the first brands worldwide to make use of Instagram stories when it became a feature in 2016. That very same year, the company sold over three million vehicles, which is hardly coincidental! The company wanted to launch its new model, the limited edition Twingo Midnight, to a younger audience, and so took to Instagram to create an elegant and creative advert that users could engage with. Valérie Candeiller, Head of Media at Renault, wrote that “not only did [the advert] reach a lot of people, but there is proof that the Instagram campaign changed brand perception”.
Drawbacks of Instagram
Firstly, Instagram isn’t primarily a platform that focusses on commerce, with the majority of people following friends or celebrities. In 2018, the idea of shopping on the app is not a priority for users, and so it can be hard for businesses to generate sales leads and traffic to a website. A business will need to a create a post that will really capture the interest of a user, but the app is highly technological, and social marketers know that the modern-day consumer is extremely fickle! This can create issues for business, as a user simply may not be interested in the product or service a business is trying to market.
Furthermore, the success of posts can only be tested through the process of trial and error, and so the money and time spent on a campaign on Instagram could be wasted if it does not perform as expected. Instagram is completely based on the image, and so a business needs to be aware of what is being posted. If the post does not perform well, people are likely to overlook the page.
Alongside this, it has previously been mentioned how well-suited Instagram is for businesses whose target audience are the ‘millennials’. However, this benefit can also be seen as a drawback in 2018, as a company’s target audience may potentially be inactive on the app, meaning an Instagram campaign could be pointless for business. Additionally, the fact that millennials are so active on Instagram means the app is now more competitive than ever. In March of 2017, Instagram hit the milestone of more than one million monthly advertisers, an increase of 800,000 from 2016. For companies to stand out in an increasingly competitive market can be difficult, and this is a clear drawback for businesses using Instagram in 2018.
Integrating Instagram into a business marketing strategy
Instagram is arguably less formal than any other popular social media site, and the fact it is primarily based on the sharing of images and short videos means there isn’t a lot of reading that needs to be done. With this in mind, one can see why B2C marketers prefer using Instagram over B2B marketers.
From a survey conducted in 2017, it was found that approximately 71% of B2C marketers were active on Instagram, with 64% of B2C marketers claiming that Instagram was an effective tool for business. B2C companies tend to focus on content which is shareable and captures the interests of its followers.
Consumers will more than likely tend to use peripheral processing to subconsciously decide if they like a product – eye-capturing videos and pictures will help a customer with this decision. As Instagram is based on the idea of posting pictures and videos, it can be relatively easy for B2C marketers to create sales leads and generate traffic through the use of the social media site in 2018.
However, the figures for B2B marketing are vastly different; only 31% of those businesses surveyed were active on Instagram, and of this percentage, only 15% found the social media channel to be effective. Traditionally, B2B marketing is harder on Instagram because clientele will, in most scenarios, want to be educated about the product or service and will want the company to demonstrate their expertise within an industry. Lengthy and detailed content tends to work, but this is hard on a social media platform such as Instagram that is quite informal and laid back, perhaps explaining why such a small proportion of B2B companies market on Instagram, and why an even smaller proportion find it to be an effective marketing tool for business.
Integrating Instagram with other social media channels
A company should take every opportunity to publicise their brand as much as possible in 2018. One way in which to do this in 2018 is to be active on various social media platforms. Below we talk about the ways in which to integrate Instagram with popular social media channels such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Integrating different channels allows for wider audiences to be reached and can be a huge ROI for business, so be sure to read on!
Facebook currently owns Instagram after it bought the social media channel for a sum of $1 billion in 2012. With access to over 1.13 billion monthly active users, a company should seriously consider investing time and effort into a marketing campaign involving Facebook in 2018! This is especially true for B2C marketers, as 71% of those B2C businesses surveyed stated that their campaign involving Facebook was successful.
A business is able to link its Facebook account with Instagram by clicking on the settings tab on their profile. By linking the two platforms, any posts shared on Instagram will automatically be shared on Facebook along with the caption, saving the user doing it manually – it couldn’t be easier for businesses in 2018!
The fact that YouTube is a site for viewing and uploading videos means that images from Instagram, unfortunately, cannot be uploaded to this social media channel. However, with Instagram increasing the maximum time for videos from 15 seconds to one-minute-long, social marketers should utilise this for business, in order to display their videos across both social media platforms. This is done manually, by saving an Instagram video and uploading it to YouTube. Videos can also be saved from YouTube and uploaded to Instagram, but remember they must be less than a minute long!
Although now not as popular as Instagram, Twitter is still a huge social media channel, with 328 million monthly active users in the second quarter of 2017. A social marketer should, therefore, be sure to integrate this social media channel into their marketing strategy to reach as wide an audience as possible.
When a user posts an Instagram photo or video to Twitter, the tweet does not have the photo embedded inside; a user instead has to click on the link where they are taken to the Instagram site in order to view the photo or video. However, through the use of the third-party website IFTTT, the user can link both their Instagram and Twitter accounts, allowing for a user to view Instagram pictures and videos without being taken to the Instagram site itself.
Integrating LinkedIn and Instagram must be done through third-party websites such as Zapier, which automatically share Instagram photos to a user’s LinkedIn page in 2018. There is no direct integration through either site as the two social media platforms are vastly different; one is a simple, informal photo-sharing app while the other is used primarily for professionals to network. Integrating both these channels, however, can be very useful for businesses on Instagram wishing to expand their network in 2018. This is primarily the case for B2B companies, as 73% of those surveyed found LinkedIn to be useful in generating leads and sales.
SEO of Instagram
Optimising Instagram for SEO in 2018 is crucial for businesses which are active on the social media channel. Below are some SEO techniques to use.
- Make use of hashtags – A fundamental part of Instagram, hashtagging increases the chances of a post being seen by someone who isn’t following you, potentially increasing brand awareness in the process. However, be sure not to use too many hashtags in a post as this could give off the wrong impression of your business – you don’t want to appear too spammy!
- Make use of the bio – It can often be confusing as to what a company is or what it does, as Instagram is based on photo-sharing rather than written content. Therefore, you should be sure to include relevant information in the bio of your Instagram page, as well as a link to a relevant site or blog, allowing a potential customer to fully understand the service or product you are offering in 2018. Remember, your bio is your introduction, and we don’t have to stress the importance for businesses to create a good first impression! Be sure to use keywords relating to your business throughout your bio and posts, as keyword optimisation is arguably the most important form of SEO. Search engines are drawn to these keywords so be sure to use them!
- Tell a brand story with your images – Be consistent with your posts and paint a picture as to what it is like to use the product or service you provide. Be creative and share a combination of relevant pictures and videos to educate and interest potential customers and clientele. This is turn can help to generate traffic and sales leads for businesses in 2018.
Return on Investment of Instagram
Measuring the effectiveness of a social media campaign for business in 2018 can be difficult as it is hard for a user to understand how well a post has performed in terms of customer acquisition, lead generation and revenue, for example. However, in 2018, the ROI potential of Instagram can be extremely valuable to social marketers.
Below we list some of the various ROIs Instagram can offer for business in 2018.
- Likes and comments: People can be introduced to your page through followers liking or commenting on your posts, which subsequently shows up in their friend’s news feeds. Using the hashtag appropriately can also market your business to potential new customers, which can generate traffic and lead to possible sales leads in 2018.
- Referral traffic: The linking of your Instagram page with your external website will undoubtedly generate traffic. However, in order to generate traffic in 2018, a business will want to create a positive image around the brand to help raise brand awareness, subsequently enticing the follower to want to find out more about the business. Be sure to focus your content on creating a positive image rather than trying to generate sales – the mind of the modern-day consumer is extremely changeable, and you may lose followers if they feel you are centred around sales leads.
Opace customers use of Instagram
We have taken some time to compare traffic generation from various different social media channels to the sites of some of our clientele here at Opace. Although not many of our clients use Instagram in their marketing strategy in 2018, one B2C company has found tremendous success with it thus far, with the social media channel creating over 66% of the company’s traffic, 38% higher than Facebook! This shows how effective Instagram can be as a marketing tool if used correctly by certain types of businesses. It shows that perhaps more businesses will begin to incorporate Instagram into their marketing strategy in the near future as they realise the benefits being seen by other companies.
When to include Instagram in a marketing strategy
Named the ‘rising star’ of social media for business, Instagram has access to over 800 million users in 2018, and its combination of some of the very best features from various other channels means it does provide a convincing business case. However, the apparent popularity of the app among millennials means a company’s target audience may not actually be active on the app, and the fact Instagram is not primarily focussed on commerce means it can be difficult for businesses to market themselves on the social media channel in 2018.
Despite this, the simple and creative design of the app has fared well for the majority of B2C companies, with 64% of those surveyed stating it made a significant impact on lead generation and brand awareness.
There are various techniques to optimise the SEO potential of Instagram for business, and social marketers should utilise these SEO techniques when wishing to market their business in 2018. Despite the various drawbacks of Instagram for business, and the fact B2B marketers found their campaigns involving the app to be less successful than B2C marketers, Instagram is still an extremely popular and cheap marketing channel that should be utilised by businesses both in 2018 and into the near future.
Contact Opace for Instagram advice
We hope you have enjoyed this article. Why not contact Opace for Instagram advice and expertise, we have all the expertise you will need. Visit our contact us page or call us now on 0121 222 5757 today.