It's hard being the new brand on the block, and building a strong customer base from nothing is tough.
One of the best tools for getting your brand name out there right now is Instagram.
Unlike its parent company, Facebook, Instagram hasn't suffered any decline in popularity lately, especially among Millennials and Gen Z.
It's the top social media site out there these days, and for brands in a lot of different niches where visual content is a must, it's a must-have marketing and sales tool.
But to be successful on Instagram, you need strategy.
It's a pretty crowded platform, and you need to be able to stand out and get noticed.
In a recent blog post, digital marketing guru Neil Patel offers some smart but easy-to-execute strategies and tactics that you can use to bootstrap your business's Instagram presence.
Create a branded hashtag (and use it, of course)
The main reason that you joined Instagram is probably to get the word out about your brand and your products, especially if you’re an e-commerce brand.
But what if your customers are already talking about you on Instagram, but you don’t know about it just yet?
Search for the hashtag of your brand’s name to find pre-existing user-generated content.
For example, when you search the tag “#topshop,” there are millions of photo results.
That means that there are millions of photos generated by Topshop customers that the brand didn’t have to ask anyone for.
But another great way to keep track of your customers’ photo posts is to create an official brand hashtag.
You can simply use your business name, an existing slogan, or some other creative phrase.
Then, let your customers know what the tag is by adding it to your bio and encouraging followers to use it in their posts.
User-generated images don’t just give your brand more exposure, they also give other Instagram users exposure so that they can gain more followers, too. It’s a win-win situation.
You should also add these tags to your images to repeatedly remind your followers about it.
Then, when you want to find some customer photos to regram on your page, just head to your branded hashtag to find them all in one place.
Now, you’ve got an archive of all of the posts related to your brand that you (or any other Instagram user) can browse whenever they want.
If you do decide to repost customer photos, then be sure to tag the user who took the image. Don’t forget to give credit where it’s due.
Another way to build your brand when you have no followers is to steal Instagram followers from your competition.
Steal followers from your competitors
Your competitors have already done a ton of the heavy lifting and collected a huge base of engaged followers.
You can use this to your advantage.
All you have to do to find and attract your own following is to head to your the Instagram profiles of your competitors and steal the audience.
You should already have a pretty good idea of who your closest competitors are. But if you don’t, try using a tool like Webstagram to find some popular accounts in your industry.
Search for keywords and hashtags that relate to your brand to get started. The top accounts relating to that keyword should appear.
To view a similar account, just click on it. You can also search for keywords right in the Instagram app instead.
Following these accounts will lead you to more and more competitors. Keep going down the rabbit hole until you’ve followed several brands similar to yours.
Following them not only helps you steal their audience, but it also helps you keep an eye on exactly what they’re posting.
So how can you actually steal followers from the competition? Engage with them.
Follow individual users that are commenting on competitors’ pages. Like their photos, comment on them, or send them a direct message letting them know about your store.
Make them notice you. Tell them a little bit about your brand and why they might like it.
It also helps to post sponsored images or product reviews when you can.
Offer sales in photos and use the Instagram sales app
Most people use Instagram to search through and view photos.
If you save exclusive offers and promotions for the description/caption, followers might scroll right past it.
That’s why you should offer promotions right in the photos themselves. Overlay details of your promotions in images.
You can overlay text to your images
You should also install an Instagram sales app that you can sync to Instagram to make it easier to sell different products of all sizes and colors.
One well-known sales app is LIKEtoKNOW.it.
All that users have to do to buy your products is sign up for the tool, integrate it with Instagram, like your image, and receive the shoppable products from the post in their inbox.
These tools allow stores to sell on Instagram through their posts or bio, just like LiketoKNOW.it.
It’s hard to navigate from an Instagram post to product pages.
Users have to head to your brand’s homepage, search through tons of different product categories, and just pray that they find what they saw in your post.
These tools take that pain away. But so can simply making your Instagram shoppable.
This will direct followers straight to a place where they can make purchases right from your photos, all without ever having to exit out of the Instagram app.
On shoppable posts, users can tap to view product names and pricing of the products in your images.
Then, they can just tap to read a product description and make their selection and final purchase.
If you create a shoppable gallery, users will be able to see the number of likes on each image, tagged products, customer ratings, and the total number of purchases for the last month.
Then, you can add this link to your bio so that users can view an enhanced view of your feed with shoppable images only.
You can easily build a gallery with Yotpo’s Shoppable solution. All you have to do is paste the link to your Instagram shop right into your bio.
Yotpo will generate a shoppable, enhanced feed for you automatically by pulling the product information from your tagged products on Instagram.
These simple but potent Instagram strategies can help you build a following and make more sales, leveraging the power of the world's leading image-based social media platform.
For more smart ways to build your brand using Instagram, check out the full blog post from Neil Patel.