Instagram turns 12 this year – the social media platform has grown tremendously since its beginnings as a simple photo-sharing app. Today it’s the seventh most visited website worldwide with 2.9 billion total visits per month and a robust marketing tool for businesses and influencers.
With direct access to a highly targeted audience, Instagram ads are a great marketing strategy to grow your business.
“As a business expert who works with everything from physical and digital startups to established businesses, over the past two decades we’ve often seen paid and organic social networks become more of a ‘pay to play’ environment than ever before. “”, says KK Hart, CEO and Principal Consultant of Hart Marketing and Communicationsa multi-disciplinary consulting and marketing firm for independent entrepreneurs.
The social platform offers a slew of new business marketing features such as buyable Instagram posts, advanced analytics, and new ways to drive traffic from Instagram Stories.
Share your true unfiltered voice
In a space where everything is highly organized, edited and filtered, Hart recommends doing things differently. “In the current business climate, I recommend a shift in focus to using Instagram to be the true, unfiltered voice of the brand for two critical customer prototypes – both the new-to-brand potential customer and the existing customer already engaged.. This is a proven best practice in any niche.
People react positively to authenticity, and in the digital world where that seems pretty rare, that’s good advice.
Organic vs Paid
Each strategy – whether it’s growing your social media organically or running paid ads – has its own pros and cons. Algorithms make organic posts very competitive and difficult to maximize since only a segment of your followers will see these posts, naturally this pushes brands to engage in paid marketing options.
Instagram’s ad reach surpassed Facebook’s last year – Facebook’s global ad reach grew by just 6.5% this year, while Instagram’s grew by 20.5%.
“That means prioritizing both Instagram posting and advertising fully tailored to the needs of the ideal customer for new sales and existing customers for upselling and cross-selling. Often, especially on social media platforms like Instagram, there’s a thought process whereby everyone who follows you has already learned everything about the company – so they don’t need to be pressured into buying. That’s completely inaccurate,” Hart says.
She advises using organic posts to “create that coveted fear of missing out and give existing customers a chance to see what they can’t find on the website or other channels – focusing on authenticity as the goal. This is what encourages upselling and cross-selling to the most important customers – those who have spent their first dollar with the company.”
Paid ads are great for reaching potential new customers. “Use paid ads to increase exposure to customers who have never purchased before. Focus first on getting their attention, then offer an easy way to take the first step – which is more often than not, an opt-in lead or email, join a curated community, or ask a question.This makes subsequent long-term conversion possible, with a focus on a healthy mix of education, motivation, and perseverance,” adds Hart.
Conversion optimization is key
In order to run successful ads on social media, it’s essential to optimize for conversion – that conversion can be whatever your goal is for a specific campaign. Which includes everything from clicking on a website, making a purchase, joining an email list, or any other business goal you might have.
Second, split testing your social landing pages to make sure you’re using the one that works best is also important. Aligning your social strategy with your business goals is what will yield the best results.
“Conversion optimization wins every time. Make the effort to cultivate a better communication strategy for every aspect of the end-user experience digitally – this includes everything from when the customer leaves Instagram to visit website, lead response time, images for use on social media versus landing pages, and having an automated, yet personalized, process to nurture customers through the sales process,” says Hart. “Many companies seek vanity metrics from their biggest competitors instead of focusing on genuine, unique differentiators that set them apart.”