Instagram has over 700 million active users. That means there’s less competition than other platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, which presents businesses with a great opportunity to really home in and target their audience without having to spend a ton of money to do so.
Instagram has come a long way from the days when they were the new kid on the block and probably best known as a site for future brides to be to look for wedding inspiration. Instagram has added a number of tools to their toolbox to help businesses craft the kind of marketing strategy that best speaks to their ideal audience. Whether it’s through photos, video, expanding their reach through hashtags, or the ever-popular Instagram Stories feature, this platform is proving to be a secret weapon in many business’s marketing campaigns.
Rich: Jenn Herman is a social media consultant, speaker, and globally recognized Instagram expert. She is the forefront blogger on Instagram Marketing and her blog, Jenn’s Trends, has won the title of a Top 10 Social Media Blog in 2014, 2015, and 2016.
Through her blog, consulting and speaking, Jenn provides tips, resources, and training for small to medium sized businesses that need to structure their social media strategies. Her business background includes administration, sales, HR, and marketing, and she enjoys bringing all of these skills together to help you grow your business.
Jenn has been featured in Inc., Fox News, Yahoo! Finance, CBS Radio LA, and numerous other podcasts and publications. She is the author of Instagram For Business For Dummies, and Stop Guessing – Your Step By Step Guide to Creating a Social Media Strategy. Jenn, welcome to the show.
Jenn: Thank you so much for having me, I’m excited to be here.
Rich: This is awesome. Alright, so let’s just start with a simple question, how did you find your way to Instagram?
Jenn: Well I will admit I was kind of a late adopter compared to a lot of people. All my friends are on Instagram and at the time I had started my blog but I wasn’t using Instagram and everyone was like, “You need to be on Instagram”. At the time I wondered if I really needed another social media platform, there’s so much else going on.
So I kind of resisted doing it but with my blog figured I needed to jump on this Instagram bandwagon and figure what it was all about. So I downloaded the app and I instantly fell in love with it. Now this was going on about 4 years ago but I absolutely loved it. I love photography, I loved the community environment and how engaged everyone was on Instagram and I just turned into that crazy person taking pictures of everything. It got a little bit crazy, I’m not going to lie, and then it calmed down a little bit. But I still love it today.
Rich: Ok, so confession time. Now I loved Instagram almost from the beginning, but as a person. Now we have accounts for flyer new media and The Agents of Change, but I cannot say that they’re actually a big part of our marketing effort. So can you convince me that I should be putting more effort into my business Instagram? Help me Obi-Wan, you’re my only hope.
Jenn: Of course I can. And so my first thing that I always tell people is that any business can be on Instagram. But that doesn’t mean every business should be. There’s literally people using Instagram out there where you’re like, there’s no way that business can use Instagram, and they are. There’s a lady out there who’s a medical examiner and she uses Instagram as an educational tool about diseases, and health, and death, and all these amazing things that she does. It can be a little gruesome so it’s not for everybody.
Rich: I happen to know somebody – my transcriptionist – who loves that sort of stuff. Do you know the name of this particular account, if she’s not already following it?
Jenn: I can’t remember off the top of my head – I’m literally trying to rack my brain – but it’s so early in the morning for me I’m still a little groggy. But I will find it and I will make sure you have it so you can drop it in the show notes.
But so anybody can absolutely use it. The thing is if it’s where your audience is, if your audience is using Instagram, then you should be on Instagram. If your audience is not there then you’re better off putting your time and energy into the platforms where they are. Whether it’s Twitter, or Snapchat, or Facebook, whatever the case may be. So absolutely if your audience is actively using Instagram, if they’re coming to your conferences and they’re using your hashtag and sharing photos, and videos, and boomerangs in your conference, then you should probably be there, too.
If it’s something for the podcast you could share tidbits of your podcast. You can share advice, tutorials, and tidbit takeaway type things and behind the scenes to see what is life behind the scenes in the life of Rich Brooks. Then absolutely, but there has to be a strategy behind it and you have to know why you’re using it in terms of what is your end goal, are you looking to get more listeners on the podcast, are you looking to get more people at the conference, are you looking to get more people reading your blog, are you just trying to build your brand awareness. There’s all these different reasons and once you know what that reason is and who your target audience is, then you can build your strategy for Instagram.
Rich: Ok, I think that’s a very sound point that any social media platform – Instagram included – comes after you know what your goals are and after what you’re looking to accomplish and what you want people to accomplish.
So that being said, I’m kind of all about driving traffic to my website or blog to generate leads, but Instagram doesn’t seem to me like the best channel to accomplish that, we can’t put links anywhere but our bio, or ads. How could Instagram fit into someone’s plan for driving traffic to a website?
Jenn: I am so glad you asked this question because that’s my favorite questions. Because this is everyone’s biggest issue with Instagram, “I can’t drive traffic”, and I promise you that you can because I do it every single week.
The key is that you need to understand the way Instagram users work. You’re right, it’s not like Twitter, or Facebook, or LinkedIn, where you can link dump and just put links in all of your posts. So you have to be very strategic.
Now I have to say – and I’ve proven this – it’s been proven a couple times, but the bounce rate off of Instagram is virtually zero. Meaning, the quality of traffic when you get the traffic on Instagram, it’s pretty much the best social media traffic you can get. You aren’t going to get as much traffic as you do from something like Twitter or Facebook, but the quality of traffic is so exponentially good that you don’t care. You’re like, I’ll take those 12 clicks or those 38 clicks compared to the 100, because you know that once they’re there you’re going to keep them on your website and you’re going to get the conversions.
So to do this, first of all you have to have a great Instagram post, whether it’s a photo or video, and you need to make sure that you’re telling something of value. So for me, when I put out a new blog post. I have the image of the blog post, I say a new blog post is live, and in this week’s blog post I’m talking about blah, blah, blah, if this is something you struggle with you’ll want to read this blog post. Give them a teaser, let them know why they want to read it, and then very clearly use emoji’s or capital letters or whatever to say, “click on the link in my bio”.
So what they end up doing is they read your caption, they go, “I want to read this blog post”, they click through on your profile photo on the link, and that link should take them directly to your blog. Not necessarily that blog post, but at least your blog page where that is the most current blog on your page. So you don’t want to send them to your homepage where they have to navigate your blog and find what they’re looking for, you want to send them directly to your blog. And boom, there you have them and they’re reading it right there on their mobile device. They’re reading through and maybe seeing other articles that are related to it or they see something you have going on with other call to actions on your blog, or registrations and that sort of thing. And that’s how you get the conversions.
Rich: Alright, I can definitely see that with a podcast because it more or less works the same. But on Agents of Change we could certainly have the bio link to the podcast homepage, which would be basically the blog, and so just when we post a picture of you and maybe your best quote, just say, “To listen to this episode go to my bio page so you can see the link”, or something along those lines.
Jenn: Yup, exactly.
Rich: And then of course we can also do ads as well, which would be clickable by people directly to their iTunes or the specific post that we’re trying to promote.
Jenn: Yup. And if you’re a business profile – which I’m a huge advocate of.
Rich: We did upgrade in the last few months.
Jenn: Good. And if you have more than 10,000 followers – which doesn’t apply to everybody – but it you have more than 10,000 followers and you’re a business profile, in Instagram Stories you can also add clickable links to your stories.
So I can do a blog post notification and I can do a short little video, I can do some still images, and I can include a link that they can swipe on my story and take them directly to that link as well. And that link can be anything.
So even if your profile is linking to your podcast but in your story you want to link to the blog or to a registration, that link can be absolutely anything you want it to be. So there’s the caveat that you have to be a business profile with over 10,000 followers, but if you have that than it’s absolutely advantageous to use Instagram Stories to drive traffic.
Rich: Alright, so I’m a little shy of that 10,000 mark for both flyte and Agents of Change. What are some tactics you would give me to get my numbers up to 10k so I could start doing this if I wanted to?
Jenn: So first and foremost let me tell you what not to do. Do not buy followers, that’s always my biggest warning, and don’t do the “follow for follow” game. There’s so many people that try to play that tactic out there. Yes it will build up your following but they’re completely irrelevant, so I absolutely discourage that. Instead you want to focus on organic traffic tactics so you want to do things where you can say – especially if it’s things for the podcast or a blog – and let’s say you said, “Hey, we had Jenn Herman on the podcast, we would love for you to check it out”, then in your caption as well say, “tag 2 people below who might be interested in listening to this podcast”.
So now you’re asking your existing followers to list their friends in the comments. And if you think about that, if you had 100 people leave a comment with naming 2 people, well there’s 200 new people that just saw your post who are possibly likely to follow your account as well. So that is a quick and easy way to start building up your audience without having to do a lot of work because your audience does the work for you.
Another tactic is contents. I’m a huge advocate for contests in terms of building your audience strategically, if you can give away something of value that is related to your audience. So whether it’s a free consultation, maybe it’s an opportunity to win a t-shirt, or something that your audience would care about, and you just run a simple contest. So along the lines of “like this post, tag 2 people in the comments below and tell us your favorite episode on the podcast”, or something like that. So you do that and then you go through and pick a winner and give away the prize.
But by doing that you’re getting people to compete and get them to tag people in the comments and it gets more people to view your page and get to see what you’re doing. The more people that see it and find out what you’re doing, the more likely they are to follow your account. And if part of the content is they have to follow your account, then all those people that got tagged that want to participate will follow in order to enter the contest. So you can quickly grow your numbers that way.
And then of course you want to be authentic and engaged and be responsive so when people comment you respond. It’s being there, it’s being present, it’s engaging with other people. One of my favorite tactics that I kind of call “Insta stalking” whenever there’s an event. So let’s say you have your conference back east, what I will do is I’ll totally stalk that hashtag and so anybody that posts content with your event hashtag, I go through and ‘like’ all of their content.
So what happens is I’m just scrolling through all of the hashtags – whether it’s photos or videos – and I’m liking all that content. What happens is those people who are posting that content keep seeing “Jenn’s Trends” liking their content and they’re like, “Who is this Jenn’s Trends person?” They go over and see my profile and think I’m probably something interesting to follow because the people at your conference are my target audience.
So you don’t want to do it for just any event, you want to do it for an event that’s related to your industry. If you’re in the fashion industry you might want to follow – or stalk – a hashtag related to a Fashion Week or something like that. So you want to pick things that are relevant to your target audience.
Rich: Ok. So you mentioned hashtags, so let’s just jump into that question. I’m more of a Twitter guy than any other platform so I certainly know and love the hashtag. What are your recommendations from a marketing standpoint for using hashtags in our posts? I mean I see some people where the entire post seems to be hashtags and I can’t even read those hashtags at a certain point. Does that even matter? They’re basically a forest of hashtags so nothing stands out. And maybe that’s fantastic because you get pulled into all these searches. What are you recommending these days for a hashtag strategy for a small business?
Jenn: So the most important thing is that yes, you need to be using hashtags, you absolutely need to be using hashtags. You need to get strategic with them in how you use them. It doesn’t matter where you place them. You can put them in the original caption, you can put them in a comment, it makes no difference and really does not matter. It’s just a matter of personal preference.
But you can use up to 30 hashtags. I recommend at least 10-15 for small businesses. You cannot use more than 30 though. If you put 31 hashtags in your post, your caption will not post, it will just be blank. So make sure you’re counting your hashtags and you do not go over 30.
But using 10-15 is ideal and you want to use a combination of popular hashtags, “popular” meaning anything over about 500,000 images or posts per hashtag. You want to use some moderately popular, which his in the 100,000-500,000, and then you want to use some less popular ones, and then you want to use your brand specific. So for example I use my hashtag #JennsTrends and #learnfromjenn, so those are my two branded hashtags that I always include in my post. Then if I was sharing something about being on a podcast I would have #podcast #entrepreneur #mompreneur, those are things that are related to my brand. In my industry I do #socialmediamarketing because that’s the topic.
So if you want to find those things that are related to your industry – not just a hashtag like #love or #kimkardashian just because they’re popular – those are irrelevant and they do absolutely nothing for your brand. So you want to go through and create a list of ideal hashtags for your brand, your industry, and your topic. And then you can either save them as a note on your phone, or if you have Android and you use predictive text that makes life super easy.
But just kind of know what your normal hashtags are and then if you have a post that’s specifically about meeting up at a networking event, then you might run hashtags like #networking or #conference or #meetinginreallife or those sorts of things. So you can add additional hashtags that you don’t normally use that are related to that individual content.
Rich: I guess my biggest question after listening to you say all of those things that sound super smart is, why? Like what are the benefits to doing all that? It seems like a lot of additional work went into that, quite honestly, and I’m going to have to focus on this and think about it and now I’ve got to do some research to find out what words are over 100,000 and which ones are 500,000. It just seems like a lot of additional research and work. Do you have evidence or are their analytics that show me where I’m getting my audience that I know that using the hashtag is increasing my visibility and getting me more followers?
Jenn: So the best analytics you can do is post something without hashtags and then post something with hashtags, and look at the difference in your engagement. It’s absolutely been proven by multiple studies over and over again by individual users over and over again that using hashtags will drastically increase your level of engagement. We’re talking exponential. You could be getting 10 ‘likes’ on a post without hashtags but you can get 80 likes on a post with hashtags. It’s exponential the difference that hashtags play.
So what ends up happening is when you get strategic and you find those right ones, you look at those popular ones, moderately popular, and less popular and you incorporate them. What ends up happening is you ideally want to show up in hashtag searches for your target audience.
So I always use the example of the brand Duck Tape, they were using all these hashtags and they weren’t getting a lot of great results. So they were using all these hashtags related to their product about duct tape but they weren’t getting a lot of results that were driving traffic results. So they started thinking about it and they realized who is our target audience? Their target audience is the DIY’ers, they’re the home renovation people, and they’re the home décor people.
So they started thinking about who their target audience was that’s using Duck Tape. And when they changed up their hashtags to things related more to DIY and home repair, all of a sudden they saw a huge influx in new followers, a huge influx in website traffic, and it was all related to making sure they got in front of their target audience with the right hashtag search, because people are searching hashtags.
Especially if you’re a local business like a restaurant or a local real estate agent or a consultant business, if you’re locally based people are looking for you. They’re literally going on Instagram and looking for best places to eat dinner or real estate and homes that are available. They’re searching those hashtags but you want to make sure you’re showing up in those hashtags.
And that’s where getting strategic with these right hashtags ensures that your content actually shows up. And what ideally you want is on a hashtag search you see the top 9 and then you see all other chronologically. So if you’re doing this properly then the Instagram algorithm says your post is performing really well, then what happens is you show up in those top 9. So if you’re target hashtag is for #instagramtraining, of you go to that hashtag and you see my post as one of those top p, I’m more likely to get traffic and more likely to get someone clicking my profile and following me, clicking on my blog or whatever it is, because I showed up in those top 9 which is the first hashtag results anybody sees.
And that’s where the real traffic comes, just from putting hashtags out there to get ‘likes’ is not a strategy in itself. You want to be able to show up in a hashtag search where your audience is going to find you that will lead to whether it’s getting somebody on your email list, signing up for a service, buying your product, whatever it is.
Rich: That makes sense. It just sounds like I need to do some research to find out what some of the best keywords are or hashtags are, and then what their volume is as well. And then you mentioned that we should also have some branding ones. You have #jennstrends, ours might either be #flytenewmedia, or #takeflyte, or #agentsofchange. And that’s basically just to string a bunch of those things together?
Jenn: Absolutely. And you can figure out, I would do a quick search on Instagram or you can even use tagboard.com. If you type in a hashtag you can see who else is using it, because of course if you put something like #takingflight, chances are a lot of people are using that for other purposes. So you might decide that’s not a good branding one.
Rich: Well we misspell the word “flyte”, so it’s #takeflyte.
Jenn: Then probably nobody is using it, in which case you can absolutely use it.
Rich: I think there’s an Australian boy band called Take Flyte, and they may be using it too, but I think I can crush them.
Jenn: There you go. Do it. But that’s the thing, you want to do a little research and make sure is anybody else using it, is it something that’s been used a couple times but nothing consistently that you can make it a consistent use. So absolutely figure out what that word or phrase is and just string it together as one long word. I do recommend that if you’re doing this you read it properly, and then try to read it improperly.
So for example, if you were to use #yourusername, it might look more like “you ruse..”, it doesn’t look like “you’re user name” it looks like other letters coming together. We’ve all seen bad examples of that in the media. So make sure you read your hashtag and even your user names before you go ahead with them and make sure they don’t read something inappropriate.
Rich: Good point. I’ve definitely seen a few of those where I thought you should probably use some capitalization in there.
Jenn: Yeah, those help.
Rich: So we talked a little about hashtags, I don’t want to go too far down the rabbit hole but at the same time I’m kind of like, when Instagram started it was all photos, now we have videos and Stories. What are you telling your clients, is there a right type of mix, do I have to do Stories, do I have to do videos, can I consider a boomerang to be a video? How are you recommending people mix some of these additional newer tools into their Instagram marketing and branding?
Jenn: My best advice is test them out and see what your audience engages with. Now my audience doesn’t like videos. I can create videos and I just don’t get the engagement, that’s just the audience I’ve cultivated, that’s what they like. I do photos, I do not do videos, it just doesn’t work for me. And that’s great. I know that, they know that, we’re all happy. But other people love videos and if your audience loves videos then you want to create more videos than photos.
Likewise, Stories versus Instagram proper are two completely different platforms and you will get different engagement on both. If your audience loves Instagram Stories than go hard and heavy on Instagram Stories and just occasionally to the regular Instagram content, or vice versa. My audience likes Instagram Stories but it’s not huge, I don’t get a ton of results on Instagram Stories. I get way more engagement than on my regular Instagram posts than I get on my Instagram Stories.
There are some times when that’s flipped and that depends on the content. But that being said, I do Instagram Live and every other week that’s kind of my podcast version where I do Instagram LIve and I go on for an hour and it’s webinar style. And those get great engagement for me because I promote it, I tell people about it, they can see me, they know they can catch the replay if they don’t see it live. So I push traffic there, even though I’m not big on Stories, I use Instagram Live a lot.
So it really is a matter of where you want to be, where you want to create the content, but also what your audience is going to react to. It just really takes testing and knowing your audience, so ask them. Say, “Hey, if I created more videos would that appeal to you?”, “If I was doing more stories, would that appeal to you?” And if you try something, don’t try it for a week and think it didn’t work and then bail on it. You have to give it a couple months of consistently for your audience to decide if this is something they’re going to engage with or not.
Rich: I think that’s very true and I’ve definitely heard so many stories about things that are widely popular now, and one of the ones that jumped out to mind is on Moz the “whiteboard Fridays”. Those are huge now and my entire team just devours them. But they went like a year where almost nobody noticed them, and even after 2 years they weren’t getting the traffic there that they were getting at the blog but they just felt that this was the right platform and it grew and grew and now it’s one of the most popular things on their site.
So I think if you feel that this is the right way to communicate with your audience you just have to decide to commit that time. And sometimes your audience needs to find you rather than pushing things out. So just something to keep in mind.
Jenn: I agree with you 100%.
Rich: Jen, this has been great. I think we only got to half of the questions, I’m sure there’s a lot of people that want more. For those people, where can they go online to check more of your stuff out?
Jenn: I’m pretty much everywhere as Jenn’s Trends. It’s Jenn with two “n’s” because I was born in the 80’s with a zillion other Jennifers so I’m always Jenn with 2 “n’s”. So I’m on Instagram @jenns_trends, and you can find me on Twitter at the same handle, and my website is jennstrends.com. And on the website we have links to all my social media, all my blogs are on there, I’ve written over 150 blog posts just on the topic of Instagram. So if you have a question I have answered it. If I have not, please tell me and I will answer it in a blog post. So everything you can possibly need is there, the links to my books are there as well. But yeah, absolutely reach out and feel free to shoot me an email or a note over on direct message on Instagram and let me know you heard me here on the podcast, I’d love to hear from you and see how I can help.
Rich: Awesome. Jen thank you so much for your time today and sharing all your expertise.
Jenn: Thank you so much for having me.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine. He knows a thing or two about helping businesses grow by reaching their ideal customers, and to prove that, he puts on a yearly conference to inspire small businesses to achieve big success. You can also head on over to Twitter to check him out, and he just added “author” to his resume with his brand new book!