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It's Time to Talk About Instagram

From a mere hundred thousand users at its launch in October of 2010, Instagram’s user base has grown exponentially to a whopping 800 million users as of April this year. Within seven years, it has become the platform for high engagement and targeted advertising. Its active users “like” more than 4.2 billion posts and share over 95 million photos and videos of their food, travels, and selfies every day. It is no surprise then that a significant amount of businesses, around 15 million of them, have registered accounts in the mobile app.

But is Instagram really the hottest platform when it comes to social media marketing? We will tackle the pros, cons, benefits, and challenges in placing your business front and centre in the mobile app, to truly harness the power of this social media mammoth.

What is Instagram?

Short answer: Social media platform focused on image sharing.
A brainchild of two programmers from Stanford, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, Instagram allows its users to share photos and videos via its mobile application. These posts become even more personal when you apply any one of their 23 digital filters giving a different style, mood, and atmosphere to every post. The connectivity and reach of these images can go beyond your domain of “followers,” however, through the use of hashtags and geotags.

As of May this year, there are 7.7 million active users in Australia, making it the third most popular mobile application in the country. The young adults (ages 25 to 34 years old) occupy the highest demographic at 31%, followed only by the late teens (18 to 24 years old) with a 27% share, and the third spot was taken by the early middle-aged (35 to 44 years of age) at 17%.

The lower ends of the demographic belong to the late middle-age (45-54) at 10%, the adolescent (13-17) at 8%, and late adults (55 and above) at 7%.

Do I need Instagram?

Short answer: Yes.
If you are a young company still trying to get a grip of your market, or you are already established and looking to broaden your impact, you really cannot ignore the benefits this platform can bring to your approach. The platform is tailored for audience-focused marketing, especially since the majority of its audience are ‘frequent shoppers’.

When you see these statistics, it really is no surprise that there are 1 million plus active advertisers on the platform each month. In 2014 alone, it reported a peak engagement rate at 4.21%, leaving other social media apps, Pinterest at 0.1% and Facebook at 0.07%, far behind. This high engagement rate could come down to Instagram having a much smoother interface or focusing on more digestible content like images and videos.

Aside from that, the mobile platform has impressive features for attracting engagement. It has clickable Call to Actions like “Shop Now,” “Learn More,” and “Install App,” which you may use depending on which suits your campaign the best. Also, a glaring “Share” button will appear when you hover over the post for more than four seconds, prompting more action from the user. These features, on top of their core set, makes it a formidable conduit for marketing.

What will it set me back?

Short answer: It can be expensive, but it is worth it.
Due to this, the cost of advertising is not cheap. With an average of 80 cents for cost per click (CPC), it is almost as much as, if not higher than Facebook. However, this is understandable, as CPC prices rise with the performance you expect to see. Higher prices generally mean higher conversion rates and more revenue.

However, as with everything, there is a caveat. Just because you run an ad on the platform does not mean it will be automatically seen by all of Australia’s 7.7 million active users. You see, social media marketing works on a targeted approach, and Instagram is no exception. Unlike TV, radio, or print, your ad shows up only to people who are likely to purchase your product, or you have chosen to target. Surprisingly though, this makes the platform much more efficient at selling your product, because you are not wasting your money showing ads to people who are uninterested in your product.

But there is a catch. The same customisation that allows you to reach those who can find value with what you offer can also stop your ads from appearing. As the platform also permits the users to hide advertisements and promotions that they think have no importance to them, or are not interesting, or they just find annoying. This leads to a smaller reach and wasted investments.

Remember: If you cannot spend money to make money, you have an income stream NOT a business.

Can users opt-out of my ads?

Short answer: Yes.
Creating a promotional campaign that won’t be blocked or hidden can pretty tricky, but it is doable. First things first, do not push for sales. People go to Instagram to see amazing content and engage with real people, so you need to keep this in mind when creating your ads.

Place ads that add value to your audience arouse their interests or represent their cause. Make them clever. Add humour (there’s nothing that the Internet loves more than humour). Be controversial. Be viral. They might not buy your product or service, but you will gain them as followers.

Moreover, once you have a grip on them, then your job has just started. Make sure you follow up on your promotion. Keep your feed exciting. Satisfy their hunger for good content. These people wake up each day looking for the most recent trend, the latest information, the most prominent news, or the most viral videos. Keep them updated, glued, and amused, and you will eventually convert these followers into buyers.

The Bottom Line

Short answer: Worth it, as long as you are willing to invest in great content.
Instagram is a solid platform to promote your product, service, or business. Its reach is far and wide, but you can narrow down your approach to people who would benefit from you. Keep in mind though; users can fight back and choose not to see your ads.

Circumvent this by producing quality ads that add value to your audience, excite their interests, or stand for their goals. Then you can follow it through with incredible content, a regularly updated feed, and a well-planned campaign. Doing this, you will maximise your budget, get a good return on your investment, and make your business known.

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