Instagram has two modalities on the web. One of them is as a self-contained social network. There are a significant number of people on the site that don’t care about the links in posts or anything outside of the site. They’re there to browse pictures, like them, give them kudos, share them with their friends, and generally have a good time. Then there’s another section of the userbase that treats it like any other website; something to stay on or leave as the case may be, depending on the impetus offered to them. If they see a post they like with a link that tempts them, they’re fine clicking it.
Of course, the third segment – marketers – exists as well. There are plenty of marketers on the platform looking primarily to target the second group. They don’t think to care about the first group as much, simply because it’s easy to calculate the value of people who click.
You can get value from the first group. You get brand awareness and you get them thinking about the content of your posts. Then, later, maybe they remember your post, remember your product and your brand, and decide to buy something. Maybe they did it in your retail store on Amazon or something else of the sort, though, so it’s not hard to see why it’s impossible to track. Brand awareness is a tangible (but hard to measure) thing.
I’m not really here to talk about brand awareness and the benefits it can bring to you. I’m here to talk to you about that second group, about the people you’re trying to get to your site, and how you can get more of them to visit.
Let’s reverse engineer this for a moment. At the top end you have your goals; more traffic, generally because it leads to more conversions. In order to get more traffic, you need two things; more people to visit and more opportunities for them to visit. This means you need two things on Instagram; more followers and more posts. You can add in likes as well, because more likes on posts means you get more exposure for them and can get more viewers. That, in turn, means more traffic.
Connect Other Social Accounts
The first thing you want to do is integrate Instagram as heavily as possible with the rest of your online presence. This primarily means your Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts, but also means your website as well. The idea is to pull in as many people from other engaged sources as possible. Don’t try to force people to get Instagram just to support you, but focus on getting people who already have Instagram to follow you.
The goal here is to kickstart your audience as quickly as possible with as many people as possible who, and this is important, already like your brand. People who don’t like you enough on the other social accounts aren’t going to follow you, but people who like you and also happen to have Instagram are going to give you that follow.
This starts you off with a relatively large audience – depending on the number of Instagram users on your other accounts – and they’re going to be made up of your most engaged users. This gives you plenty of engagement right off the bat and will help make your early posts much easier to promote.
I’m sure you’ve learned this by now, but there are two primary kinds of hashtags; branded and generic. Branded tags aren’t going to get you a wider audience. They’re designed for containing and monitoring your presence and your conversations. Don’t worry about them too much in the early days of Instagram. They only come into the forefront once you have multiple discussions – or a contest – that you want to track.
What you’re going to want to do is fine hashtags you can use that will expose you to a large audience. The kicker is, you don’t necessarily want to be using the most popular hashtags. Sure, #love might have almost 700 million posts, but that just means you have an insane amount of competition.
That said, I recommend using a mixture of the ultra-popular tags and the more niche tags. The popular ones will get you in front of more people more quickly, but they won’t have a very high engagement or click rate. The more niche tags will attract more interested users at a lower rate. Thankfully, with Instagram you’re working with a relatively large cap on your tags. You can use several of each category and come out ahead.
Hand Out Targeted Likes
Neil Patel – of QuickSprout fame – has one primary technique that got him a lot of followers early on, and that was to like the photos of others. When you like photos, the people who posted them will check you out to see who you are and if you’ve posted anything they might like. If you have, they’ll either like some of your posts or will follow you, or both.
Your goal here is to exploit this tendency. I recommend doing something like this:
- Do a little research and decide on a topic that can be targeted with some broad and some narrow generic hashtags. This should be something relevant to your business and industry, but not necessarily focused on your brand in particular.
- Post five or so images relating to that topic over the course of a few days. Use the tags you selected.
- Identify a few thousand users who are active in the hashtags for those niche topics. Visit their profiles and like 1-2 images from their profiles, ideally images that are relevant to your chosen topic.
- Wait for the people you liked to roll in, check you out, see recently posted content they like, and either like it or follow you on the assumption that they’ll see more.
There’s nothing exploitative or against any terms of service with this technique. It’s all a perfectly valid – and targeted – way to grow your profile.
I don’t recommend the random like scheme. Neil considers volume to be more important and likes thousands of photos from thousands of accounts in order to achieve his effect. I feel like the audience you get from a more targeted campaign is going to be smaller but more dedicated to you. They’ll be more likely to click links and more likely to share, like, and comment on your posts.
Set the Stage
The next thing you should do is set the stage for Instagram users who arrive on your site. There’s a lot to this, so these tips might seem a little disjointed.
One thing you should do is make sure your Instagram bio has a link to your website in it. Rather than link specifically to your homepage, though, I like to make a landing page. A landing page that looks and feels like a hybrid between Instagram and your site as a whole is a pretty good idea. You can also use it to pitch some specific aspect of your site or business, which you think is going to be most attractive to Instagram users.
The next thing you should do is, of course, make sure your site as a whole is mobile compatible. You need a responsive design so your site displays properly for the people coming over from Instagram. Given that Instagram is an almost entirely mobile platform, it makes sense that any traffic coming in needs to be shown a compelling time with a mobile site.
Next, you want to establish the habit of adding a call to action and a link to the descriptions of your images. You don’t want it to be an easily-ignored template you add to the end of every post, though. Try to make sure it’s original from image to image, that it links to a page that is relevant to your image, and that the call to action is unique. The idea here is to keep it from getting so stale that people ignore it, like with ad blindness.
Produce Good Content
Instagram is heavily focused on images, so you need to make sure your images are as high quality as possible. This means primarily that you need to take good photos, compose them properly, edit them so that they look better than they did when you took them, and post them in a way that avoids removing quality, like through strange cropping on odd sized images.
The biggest thing to help you here is practice. There’s a reason photographers are paid as much as they are for their work. They have spent years honing their craft, and no yahoo with a smartphone is going to supplant them. I highly recommend actually hiring a photographer, or at the very least paying for exclusive rights to stock photos so other people can’t use them against you.
Now, Instagram’s API is limited such that you don’t have the ability to post new images from the web or from a third party app. You can only make posts through the official Instagram app.
However, nothing stops you from taking a photo from a real digital camera, uploading it to a computer to edit it for proper publication, then uploading it to your phone so you can post it on Instagram. In fact, many of the most prominent Instagram users have a system similar to that in place.
Use Broadcasters and Influencers
There are two main types of user you want to target on Instagram; the broadcasters and the influencers. Influencers are content creators that have dominated a niche and built large audiences. They’re very beneficial if you can attract their attention, but that in itself is very hard. They have their own content to produce and share, and they don’t always want to feature others or network with anyone who isn’t at least their equal on the site.
Broadcasters are much more potent when you can get their attention, because their modus operandi is not original content, but rather content curation. These are people who share the content of others and direct their audience this way and that. Getting shared by a broadcaster is going to get you a lot of attention, though it may be brief and short-lived.
Attracting the attention of both is more or less the same. You need to produce content they would be interested in, then you need to get their attention with that content in some way. The easiest way would simply be to mention them or tag them in your images, but that won’t always work. You can also reply to their images with links to yours, or you can try to leverage their audience to bring you to their attention.
Become a Contest Hub
Contests are another way to boost up your follows and your engagement. Run contests with prizes that are relevant to your business, and you can get a lot of exposure, a lot of shares, and a lot of likes.
Since your primary goal is to get traffic to your website, you’re not going to want to be hosting your Instagram contests entirely on Instagram. Instead, you’re using Instagram to advertise your contest on your website. This gets people to visit. Then you just make sure the contest page has links to other parts of your page, in order to draw users in and get them to see what your site is all about.
Nothing stops you from running some contests on Instagram as well. You can ask for user submissions using a hashtag, and you can feature the best submissions on your website, for a double whammy of traffic generation.
And, of course, everything needs your link. You should always have a link pointing to your site in the description of your images. The links don’t have to point to the same place all the time, but they need to be there, so people have some way to get to your site if the mood strikes them.