7 Instagram Marketing Tips from an Actual Expert

Instagram isn’t necessarily for every business, but it could be for yours.
Brainstorming a clear strategy before creating your business' Instagram is more important than many businesses realize, says expert Pei Ketron. (Photo: Pei Ketron)

When Pei Ketron started using Instagram, she was an elementary school teacher with a part-time wedding and portrait photography business. Almost eight years later, she has 837,000 followers and a full-time travel and commercial photography business thanks to her Instagram account.

“I started on Instagram because it was a photo platform — perfect for someone like me who loved sharing photos online. The advantage of Instagram was that it finally allowed me to connect with clients, other than just wedding and portrait clients,” she said.

She also teaches sell-out workshops in both photography and social media and offers social media consultation services for businesses and brands. NCR Silver asked her for tips on using Instagram to build a customer base and increase sales.

Related: 9 Ways to Get More Likes and Grow Your Brand on Instagram

A good Instagram feed starts with a good offline aesthetic

insta-aesthetic

(Photo: The Mill)

If your business is dark or just not very photogenic, your customers won’t be inspired to take and share photographs there. The minimal clean aesthetic and white tile walls at The Mill coffee shop is a great example of how important the look and lighting of your business is to building a good Instagram feed.

“The food looks good, the toast looks good, the lighting is really good, and that tile wall is pretty cool, so I want to take a picture of my friend in front of that white tile wall,” said Ketron.

“Instagram has pushed everyone to create a better visual aesthetic for their business — it becomes trendier if it has the visual aspects to go along with it. If there’s no actual physical location, then having good photography to post and share is important; the need for content is giving businesses more incentive to work with a good photographer.”

Related: How to Make Your Restaurant More Instagrammable

Have a clear strategy before you start posting, and stick to it

A lot of businesses think they need an Instagram account but they don’t really know why, or how to use it. “When a business starts to post on Instagram without a goal, you can tell — it looks really messy,” said Ketron.

Whether you’re a photographer or a brick and mortar business, Instagram is about showing people what you offer, the environment you offer it in and why they should shop at your store, drink coffee in your café or hire you to take their family photos.

“There’s a certain aesthetic that people are expecting or hoping for when they follow an Instagram account. If you stray from that, your followers may be disappointed.” -Pei Ketron

Ketron noted that Instagram’s user base is a little older that it was when the platform launched. A high-end fashion brand might not be able to convert a lot of sales if their followers are all in their teens or early 20s. But that shouldn’t necessarily stop you from posting.

“A business has to decide whether they’re going to target the audience that might convert to sales, or recognize that a lot of marketing is aspirational marketing, and that their followers could become clients someday down the road,” she said.

Post content that brings joy to your followers

joy-to-followers

(Photo: The Mill)

Ketron said the posts that encourage her to like or follow a brand the most are those that bring her joy. “It is pretty or is it interesting, have I learned from it, has it elevated my mood or sparked my interest in some way?”

Practice good Instagram etiquette

Post too little and you’ll have a hard time maintaining engagement; post too much and your followers might not appreciate you taking over their feed. Hashtags are big in Instagram, but too many makes a post look like spam. And definitely don’t tag people just to get their attention.

“I don’t like being tagged in a photo that I’m not in or wasn’t a part of. When someone I don’t know tags me just to get my attention, that’s very poor Instagram etiquette,” said Ketron.

Related: 5 Social Media Mistakes Small Businesses Make

Use the profile link to drive traffic to specific pages on your website

Instagram doesn’t allow links in its captions, which makes driving traffic to your website a little bit trickier, but Ketron says it’s not impossible. “It has become accepted Instagram protocol to just say ‘follow the link in my profile.’”

So whether you want to encourage your followers to check out a sale, buy tickets for an event, register for a workshop or reserve a table at your restaurant, you can update the link at the top of your profile to make it easy for them to get there. Just remember to update the link again when the sale or event is over.

Stay on top of the Instagram algorithm by engaging with your followers in a genuine way

insta-engage

(Photo: The Mill)

Instagram recently announced it was updating its algorithm to show posts a user is likely to engage with first. This could make it harder to be seen. To stay on top, make sure your followers are engaging with your content regularly. Do this not only by posting good content, but also by engaging with your followers.

“We talk about social media a lot in terms of what we’re casting out to the world, but brands need to recognize that it should be more of a conversation,” said Ketron. “As a brand, you need to like the photos from the people you follow, follow the people who are interested in you, and comment on their photos in a genuine way. They’ll be more likely to remember you, think of you, and if they haven’t seen you for a while, they’ll look you up because they’ve been missing your content.”

Instagram isn’t for every brand, but it could be for yours

If your business is highly visual, starting and maintaining an Instagram account is a no-brainer. If you’re a company that makes, say, a medical device, you might think twice before investing time in Instagram, although Ketron said that doesn’t mean you couldn’t make it work.

“An Instagram feed full of medical devices probably isn’t going to be a big hit. But a creative marketing team could use the account to tell the stories of the people’s lives who have been saved by those medical devices,” suggested Ketron.

“Instagram isn’t necessarily for everyone or every brand, but there are creative ways to make it work for brands that you might not think belong there at first.”

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