How Instagram Helps Marketers and Work-From-Home Professionals Increase Their Influence

If you don’t have thousands of dollars to expand your reach, you need to flex your IG muscles.
September 15, 2020 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Sixty-two percent of Americans were working from home as of late spring, according to a May 2020 Gallup survey, making ecommerce even more critical to any successful marketing campaign. Social channels are especially helpful in encouraging customer demand, which offsets risk amid a deep recession.

Instagram in particular is one of the most profitable sites for promoting goods and services, especially if you operate in a niche — think fashion and beauty, travel, health and fitness, food, consumer goods, home and decor and digital services — that makes heavy use of multimedia content. In fact, ecommerce makes up 15.8 percent of total interactions on Instagram, according to a January 2020 report by Socialbakers.

Here’s how marketers, independent contractors, freelancers and small-business owners can expand their reach and acquire new customers on Instagram.

Create a business account to draw inbound interest

Instagram has 120 million U.S. users, according to analytics firm NapoleonCat. More than 200 million global users visit at least one business profile daily, according to Instagram, and 60 percent of people say they discover new products on the platform.

“Create a business account so the Instagram marketplace knows that you exist,” advises Tony Noskov, founder of Snoopreport, a firm that developed Instagram Activity Tracker for individuals and businesses. “An Instagram business account lets you see real-time metrics on engagement so you can adjust strategy, interaction and content to attract inbound interest on goods and services. A business profile enables brands to publish location, store hours, website and phone number. Put a call-to-action button that moves consumers along the sales funnel to possible conversion.”

Thirty-seven percent of U.S. adults are Instagrammers, and 63 percent of them visit the site daily, according to Pew Research. Noskov’s Instagram Activity Tracker lets anyone monitor a public user’s likes, comments, follows and other activities.

For businesses, the tool is helpful for building a list of influencers and for benchmarking competitor strategies. Instagram also comes equipped with native tools that allow users to optimize photos and videos without having to pay for additional software or services.

Related: 10 Marketing Strategies to Fuel Your Business Growth

Make time for social outreach

Between March 1 and July 10, 132,580 businesses closed around the country, according to Yelp’s Economic Impact Report. Social marketing can mitigate economic risks by unforeseen forces. It’s prudent to seek deep-pocketed clients or customers who refresh the work pipeline so you can better sleep at night. Allocate one day per week to be actively engaged on social channels or with online promotion.

If you’re busy with current projects, you should still commit at least 10 percent of your workweek to marketing. You may find higher-paying gigs that come with less headache. Delegate by hiring a low-cost intern who won’t mind earning money and class credits to use Instagram for business.

Define the target audience

An effective approach when using Instagram is to first define your target buyers. Businesses can define market segments in several waysm including demographics, values and lifestyle, consumer behavior, disposable income and geography. By identifying their ideal buyers, marketers can customize messages and offers, as well as concentrate on a smaller group of consumers who benefit the most from a product or service.

Companies are in a better position to optimize marketing efforts, pricing, product design, shipping and other aspects of their businesses when they better understand their customers. This can lead to improved key performance indicators (KPIs) like click-throughs, conversion rates, profit margins, customer satisfaction and other important business metrics.

Who is your ideal client or customer, and how do they interact with your Instagram content? What keywords, hashtags, photos and videos do they respond to? What communication styles best resonate with them? One helpful approach is to create a buyer persona — a fictional representation of a few ideal customers based both on experience and data. By knowing who specifically you’re targeting, you can improve content, sales and marketing, product design, delivery and other aspects of customer acquisition.

Related: How to Land the Digital Marketing Job of Your Dreams

Benchmark top performers

An Instagram strategy shouldn’t be set in stone; it should be liquid. You must continually optimize methods based on new preferences and trends, but once you’ve gained actionable insights from top accounts, you can begin to create aesthetic visuals for your brand.

The key is to capture amazing photos and videos and to tell stories that spark lively discussions from people who will like, comment and push your brand. Write compelling captions that convey the essence of your craft, i.e. what makes you tick and why you’re the right person (or product) for the job. Display client stories or give audiences a behind-the-scenes look at how things operate at your place of business.

The end strategy you settle on will depend heavily on your industry and target buyers. That’s why it’s important to observe and understand why top performers are converting the way they are. Something in your approach resonates with them and aligns with how they consume and engage with your Instagram content.

Once you’ve found a good fit, keep your foot on the proverbial gas pedal.

Could You Be Making (or Multiplying) Your Income With Instagram?

From vendors to hobbyists, learning to build and monetize an IG following could accelerate your career.
September 4, 2020 7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I’ve been an entrepreneur for multiple decades now, and, every few years, I find myself evaluating Instagram for its revenue potential. My opinions have ranged from interest to apathy. Lately, I’m leaning toward interest, perhaps because the platform is trending toward my “guilty pleasures:”

● Fitness and workout tips

Fashion ideas

● Fun new recipes

Food, Fashion, and Fun. The platform is a way to stay abreast of the posts from my children, their cats, their children, and a broadly dispersed set of friends.

But in the current downturn, could Instagram bolster flagging businesses or the hundreds of thousands of people who are underemployed? Let’s take a look.

Overall, the IG economy of $1.8B in 2018 is now nearly double. Who’s getting this money? According to Shopify, IG accounts with 10,000 to 100,000 followers can make around $200 a post by acting as influencers for ideas or interests or by sharing photos and posts about sponsoring products. Accounts with 100,000 to one million followers can make $670 a post.

There are the storied results of celebrities who can make $10,000 to $100,000 for each post. But conversely, there are legions of people who pose, blog, photograph and share 2-3 stories a day who are making only a little money or nothing at all. So today, I’d like to break this down with examples of several who monetize the platform well for clues as to what you can do.

Related: Instagram Stories: 18 Marketers to Follow for Incredible Inspiration

How can you monetize Instagram?

● By selling your own goods from your page or through IG ads.

● By selling someone else’s goods as a licensee or affiliate.

● Through sponsored posts where you receive pay to create awareness or interest in somebody’s products or goods.

And, for better or worse, you can also create a business or a side hustle to teach people how to manage IG, manage their IG for them, or act as an agency to help influencers strengthen their IG presence and secure good matches with sponsors.

Let’s examine these options in further detail.

You can sell your products.

A New York bakery called the Flour Shop has established a presence on Instagram ​that it credits​ with producing 100 percent of its sales. Their cakes and cookies are highly visual, of course. All they need to do is post a photo of their famous Rainbow Cake or the product of the week and customers come running (we can assume they’re sending in orders or picking up curbside for now). The medium can be a salvation, and it costs nothing but the time it takes to photograph and post. In this case, a local business doesn’t need to have a vast following — if the followers are loyal and engaged, even 1,000 will do. The business can also boost its revenue further by placing IG ads — and if it’s effective for their audience, expand the targeted advertising to Facebook and Twitter as well.

You can sell someone else’s products and garner commissions.

As an example, Dominique Sasche of Houston, TX, (@DominiqueSasche) is an Emmy-winning broadcaster. She also has an avid following on YouTube and Instagram who watch her beauty and lifestyle content. While she doesn’t overtly act as a salesperson for anyone’s products, you had better believe that when she tests “seven eye concealers in seven days,” all eyes (yes, pun intended) are on her. Through sponsors and connections to subscription products, she is able to augment her producer salary, which public estimates have pegged at $800,000 a year. Her work as an influencer is, very literally, a “second job,” but the results are superb.

Related: What You Need to Know About Instagram’s New Ecommerce …

You can create a new career and business. ​

Twenty-something entrepreneur Zach Benson first won national accolades as a dancing champion and a finalist on the TV show, “So You Think You Can Dance.” He developed a unique breakdance style that garnered followers on YouTube and traveled through the world teaching dance for several years until an injury ended his dancing career. As with many displaced entrepreneurs, he used what he had — an audience — and proceeded to learn all he could about Instagram to create a new career as the owner of an agency, ​Assistagram,​ which builds and represents companies and influencers and matches them with sponsorship deals and accounts.

And then came Covid.

Interestingly, some individuals and products on IG are doing better than before during the current pandemic, as they provide desirable products and ideas to the vast marketplace that is largely sheltered at home. Cooking lessons, home improvement, recipes, crafts — all are winners. So are ideas for achieving fitness at home. But other sectors, such as travel and tourism, have faltered. So, what can entrepreneurs in these categories do?

In Benson’s case, his audience and network stayed intact during the months of isolation. For him, the challenge was a painful share of his corporate clients who suddenly paused or ended their work with him.

Recalling the words of a favorite college professor — “The biggest risk of all is not to take one” — he decided the time was right to focus on his unrealized dream of specialization in tourism. He cold-emailed the Dubai tourism board and the luxury hotels within their database and volunteered to connect them with the best influencers in his network for free. The outcome is a new and booming business focus on tourism marketing, as it’s a sector that badly needs his help. He was able to strike by developing new contacts and offerings during a time period when most other participants had faded away.

Of course, there are bad examples in Instagram marketing, too—people who charge money for mentions on their posts such as “#[brandname]Insurance” on a page whose subscribers are following for fashion and fun. The impressive number of views still result in nothing in return, and the influencer’s credibility rapidly falls.

Conversely, however, some of the greatest strengths in entrepreneurship are the ability to create magic from nothing. For example, a prominent keynote speaker in Utah, Michelle McCullough, put up a post this week saying, “I solemnly vow to never buy a product from a random IG ad again.” Her picture showed a floral dress stretched over her arms that was obviously several sizes too small, despite her having ordered: “XXL, just to be sure.” The item she’d purchased was apparently internationally sized. Hilarity ensued. Intentionally or not, the post appealed to one of her popular principles — that none of us is perfect, and sometimes we’ve just got to have a good laugh and go with the flow.

Sometimes our audience simply needs a reason to smile. And sometimes entrepreneurs need to expand their marketing repertoire with a little trial and error to bring a new or expanded source of revenue in. With a little forethought and study, perhaps the world of Instagram could provide a new marketing and revenue opportunity (or several) for you.

Related: Instagram Analytics Guide: 28 Metrics, 11 Free Tools, and 4 Data …

Top 5 Mistakes Companies Make on Instagram, and What to Do Instead

Instagram is not a platform that businesses can afford to ignore–but it can be challenging for businesses that don’t have “Instagrammable” products or services to share. Especially if yours is a B2B brand. But Instagram is worth your time and investment. Read the full article at MarketingProfs

Instagram is not a platform that businesses can afford to ignore—but it can be challenging for businesses that don’t have “Instagrammable” products or services to share. Especially if yours is a B2B brand.

Yet, with more than 500 million active users and an engagement rate that is 10 times higher than that of other social sites, Instagram is worth the time investment.

However, if your brand isn’t using Instagram effectively, you could be wasting time—and annoying your followers.

Here are five mistakes I see businesses make on Instagram every day—and what your business should be doing instead.

Mistake 1

Not Pushing Followers to Your Own Platforms

Instagram has always limited users from adding links in posts. For the longest time, you got only that one link in the Bio, which frustrated businesses that were used to being able to post their latest blog post, new products, or even their website URL several times a day on sites like Facebook.

New To Instagram Live? Here’s How To Show Up Like A Pro

Live streams have surged in popularity. Here’s how to ensure yours goes smoothly.
June 1, 2020 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

From the entertainment sector to the health and fitness industry, stay-at-home orders have forced many entrepreneurs to improvise and share their skills virtually. Instagram Live has emerged as an outlet of choice for enterprising business owners. Hop on Instagram right now, and you’ll likely see dozens of users and brands either going live or advertising an upcoming live stream.

Though it’s becoming more popular in recent months, live-streaming has largely been underestimated. But it won’t stay that way for long: Instagram’s algorithm rewards live-streaming with additional push notifications and a position at the front of the line in users’ Stories feed, so it’s only a matter of time before brands and businesses catch on. Streamers can also see and respond to comments in real time, which opens up the potential to directly communicate with and engage your audience.

Related: 5 Ways to Get More Followers and Brand Exposure With Instagram Live Videos

If you’re looking to use Instagram Live to create content or even sell virtual services at this time, here are four tips to help give you a running start.

Free up your Wi-Fi

In 2015, the average American household had around 10 smart devices; the advent of internet-connected appliances is rapidly driving this number up. Studies project this number has since doubled and will eventually reach 50 devices per home.

Smart speakers, smart doorbells and smart security cameras all tug at your Wi-Fi connection throughout the day. When it’s time to go live, you want the maximum available bandwidth possible. Consider closing down or temporarily disconnecting devices tethered to your Wi-Fi connection. This minimizes the chances that you’ll experience interference, a pixelated feed or a blip in internet connection that short-circuits your stream entirely.

If you see yourself live-streaming regularly for the foreseeable future, hardwire your setup and connect your phone directly to your internet router via Ethernet cable. A lightning-to-Ethernet adapter is here, a Micro USB-to-Ethernet adapter (for Android devices) is here, and a USB-C-to-Ethernet adapter is here.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Instagram Takeovers

Consider the split-screen live feature

Since late 2017, Instagram has made it possible for two accounts to live stream at the same time. During a time when most people are home and many are spending more time than usual on social media platforms, a two-screen offering can create freshness and variety.

Here’s how to create a two-person Instagram Live:

  • Coordinate beforehand with your guest or live stream co-host; they will need to be viewing your live video already before you can invite them to join.

  • Go live on Instagram, then locate the two faces icon at the bottom of the screen.

  • Viewers who are watching your live stream will appear as co-host options; select your guest and invite them to join. Once they accept, the split-screen will appear.

It can sometimes take 15 seconds or more for users to be notified that you’ve gone live; consider preparing an introduction of some kind to fill the dead air time before your guest arrives and is able to join you on your feed.

Concerned about going live, having your stream look presentable and pressing the right buttons? Make a dummy Instagram account and practice as often as needed to boost your confidence before you broadcast to an actual audience.

Related: Interact With Customers Through Instagram Stories and Live Videos

Leverage Story highlights

Instagram launched Stories in 2016 as a response to Snapchat, but any content created would disappear after 24 hours. In December 2017, though, Story highlights were added, and users can feature past Story content or live-streamed content below their profile description.

Consider creating a Story highlight to show off your live streams. The majority of viewers watch your replay, not your actual live stream, and your content will reach a larger total audience when replays are available. Don’t let a low number of live viewers discourage you.

You can also grab a hyperlink from any Stories post. Simply go to the icon at the bottom right of the screen, tap, then tap “Copy Highlight Link.” Your Instagram live replay can now become source content for email campaigns or other initiatives and help you cross-pollinate your audience to Instagram.

Related: How to Use Facebook Live and Instagram Live to Boost Your Business

Put your phone in “Do Not Disturb” mode

If you do all this work, but then receive a phone call during a live stream, the call will take priority and your stream will pause or end altogether. Don’t let this happen to you, especially when you’ve hustled to gather your followers in one place.

Toggle on the “Do Not Disturb” function in your smartphone’s settings section. If you plan to live stream regularly, you may want to create a pre-broadcast checklist; include this settings tweak in your preparation.

Live streaming can be scary at times — don’t let fear or gear stop you from sharing your expertise with your community, especially when they’re stuck at home and unable to consume your services in person. Use this time to learn the ropes, and you’ll have a new strategy for your future marketing toolbox.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Analytics: Metrics, Insights, Tools and Tips

How to Make Instagram Your Not-So-Secret Sales Weapon

Year after year, the social media platform continues to prove one of the strongest, most reliable marketing channels for product-driven brands.
May 26, 2020 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

We’ve all heard it before: Social media is important for sales. But specifically, Instagram — with its focus on high-quality images and the aesthetic side of marketing — can take your product to new heights, if used correctly.

In fact, research compiled by Our Social Times discovered that engagement with brand posts from consumers is increasing at a rate faster than that at which brands are creating Instagram accounts. According to Sprout Social, the presence of brands on Instagram is up by 71 percent from last year, and as a result, 86 percent of all existing brands are now on the platform.

With 67 percent of all adults between the ages of 18 and 29 maintaining IG profiles and the number of users growing daily, Instagram marketing is a not-so-secret weapon for getting high-quality visuals and descriptions of benefits in front of target consumers.

Here are three key tips for harnessing its product-pushing powers:

1. Make products “shoppable”

One of the many reasons companies adore Instagram for marketing purposes is because of its “shop” feature. Say there’s a high-quality, multi-colored visual of a man wearing an attractive pair of running shoes. If an Instagram user wants to see how much the shoes cost or order them, the “shop” function in the photo permits this via a shopping-bag icon that converts to the title of the item and the price with a single click. That same icon can also directly take an Instagram user to the website where they can purchase the product.

Feature your products in stunning, brightly lit images as much as possible, and make sure to use a business account to take full advantage of the “shop” feature by tagging items in the photo when posting them. The success rate of this feature, of course, depends on a number of variables, but brands have reported sizable increases in product traffic, according to BigCommerce.

One such example is Native Union, a tech accessories company that reported a 100 percent increase in revenue from Instagram and a 2,662 percent increase in traffic from Instagram after only nine posts with the “shop” feature.

Another company featured in the same BigCommerce report, Spearmint LOVE, recommends taking to Instagram Stories to announce that your page is now using the “shop” feature with a brief consumer tutorial.

Related: 5 Tips to Grow Your Brand On Instagram In 2020

2. Experiment with different creative advertising tactics

Different creative tactics work well for different brands. Finding what works best for your brand on Instagram will take some trial and error, but seek to outperform yourself creatively.

Ryan Bartlett is the founder of True Classic Tees, an apparel company focused on offering the perfect plain T-shirt to consumers. Bartlett swears by Instagram and advises other product-focused companies to test at least 10 to 15 new types of creative advertising each month.

“Use a combination of video ads, testimonial ads and carousel ads,” he suggests. “If you can’t get video, photos still work great. Some of our best-performing ads are single-image ads which I never would have anticipated.”

In other words: Try a little bit of everything, assess analytics, then tweak and try again. And at the end of each month, conduct an analytics-assessment meeting with your team to determine which types of ads performed best. Then, create more content similar to these high-performers.

3. Show how to use your product

As long as you’re experimenting creatively, consider creating videos featuring your product in some way. For example, if your product requires some type of tutorial to use or understand (even a simple one), create engaging, well-lit video guides.

A big-name company that does a great job of this on Instagram is Lowe’s. In addition to the ocassional how-to, they also use visuals demonstrate how a home can quickly be improved with their products, such as a time-lapse displaying a house lit up with Christmas lights or a quick video showing the revamp of a porch, including the addition of rocking chairs, throw pillows and a new doormat.

These visuals spark ideas in consumers’ heads that take them past needing something and into genuinely wanting it. Use your business’ Instagram account to (ethically) build the desire to purchase in your audience.

Show consumers the ideal of how your product is used and what it can do for them — how it can improve the current quality of their lives. Even if purchasing your company’s new teapot set isn’t a current need, a short video presenting the reality of a cozy weekend — complete with your teapot set playing an important role, of course — can be all that’s needed to make a purchase happen.

Related: 15 Ways to Optimize Your Instagram Profile

Now’s the time….

The continuous implementation of the “shop” feature, experimentation with different ads to invoke action and showing consumers the use of your products will contribute to increased traffic from your Instagram account to your company’s website.

Get creative and have fun with this! This not-so-secret weapon will continue to come in handy as you diversify your product line, introduce new launches and demonstrate new, exciting uses as the year progresses.