You would have heard by now that Instagram is open for advertising. Mom and Pop stores are all ready to take the plunge but the folks at Instagram isn’t opening a rate card for advertisers when they said they were taking promotions. Why?
How User Experience is important to the User
Facebook is a good example of something that is spinning out of control when it comes to advertising and promotions. Every nook and corner is being used to show you some advertising and they now appear on your mobile feed as well. That is probably one reason why the app got so bloated that they had to take out the Messenger functions and put it into a separate app.
Instagram will stand to lose users if there is an advert appearing in your feed all the way. This is why they are only negotiating with big brands with between US$500,000 to US$1 million to spend monthly on Instagram advertising.
This sort of advertising will appear in your Instagram photo feed as a ‘sponsored post’. So if you suddenly are seeing Ben & Jerry’s adverts in your photo stream, hey, you probably used the hashtag #icecream a little too often.
Besides, Instagram sponsored post are location targeted. So if your Ukrainian hryvnia can’t buy enough dollars for an Instagram campaign, what are you gonna do?
Black Hat Techniques
There are only a few which you can take advantage of. The reason is simple, you can’t post active URL links unless it is part of your profile. So that limits the amount of spamming, but spamming can still happen.
First, you need to have an active account where you post a regular feed. Don’t be lazy on this as people who eventually follow you want to know if you are one of those fly by night entities where they post a whole load of stuff for one day and then silence is all they hear. The rest of the work is detailed down here.
#1 Use the Follow4follow Method to grow your followers
Getting followers without paying for them is very hard. What’s more it makes no sense paying for fake followers as they don’t convert to anything meaningful.
So get down to the basics, search for hashtags of things which are related to your business. If you are an online shop, so much the better as the world is your oyster. You can start adding people from all over the world. Add the #follow4follow or #followback tag. This will help you get even more people. Once you have those #f4f fans, you can grow it even more by going through their own followers to add them to your account.
This is a lot of leg work but that’s what you have to do when you don’t have a million dollars to spend on Instagram advertising.
#2 Use location tags to find followers to add follow
This is a little more tricky but it can be done. Look out for tags of locations within your sphere of business. If you live in a city like NYC then look out for #nyc or #newyork. Problem with this method is that there are a lot of cities in the US which have similar names to cities in Europe. So do your homework, add those by checking their feed using Iconosquare. This site lets you see stuff on their feed and know the relevance. If that person is just visiting a place of your business sphere, chances are you have to add them to find out if they would be interested in coming back.
Restaurants, cafes and even retail shops should use this method to best optimize their reach without having to pay a cent.
#3 Use that one link available to you in your Profile
Think of this as your one phone call while in jail. Nothing else matters. So think very hard on where you want this to lead.
If you had to put a link that says something about your business or service? Will that be an impressive site that you spent time on? Or just another template website to bore the hell out of people? Think very carefully about this as people do not want to click on a link to a sales pitch.
#4 Use hashtags to find followers of similar Interest
If you sell waffles, of course you would follow people who post waffle pictures. Engage them if you like, and hopefully they will return a favor.
For example, I post pictures of drones used in aerial photography and Instagram users who use that hashtag often will follow you base on that. This is also where the ball gets rolling and as long as you add more, then people will follow you back in kind as you have the same interest.
This can also be a branding exercise, if say you are pushing out your own special brand of toys or for that matter drone related accessories. Just with those drone pictures alone, I have people asking me questions on where to buy them or if I can sell them one. Now that’s what I call a sales lead without even trying very hard.
#5 Bait your comments to an Instagram Feed
This is the last trick in the book. People know that user accounts are clickable. What you do is to insert a secondary Instagram account that is nothing more than your product catalog. Link baiting is something Instagram cannot avoid as these are they are users. Some companies create entire catalogs on Instagram, This was how Ikea for Russia created the catalog.
By citing the @useraccount in the comment section of a post to any of your followers, you are actually baiting them to come take a look. This eyeball method is what you basically need to optimize traffic. Sometimes you can follow a celebrity and do the same thing….it’s called link baiting by Facebook, and by posting something like that on a celebrity who has a million followers, you could slide your product catalog in on the sly.
The Last Frontier of Social Media
Social media campaigns and marketing is a lot of work. Do not think for one moment that you can spare the dime and do the time. Many will eventually give up because it is a full time affair posting, creating and crafting content for Instagram.
However Instagram is relatively free of interference from its owners, Facebook. There are certain blocked hashtags you can’t use on Instagram but you can always get around this to find similar minded users by browsing their feed. This manual method of identifying of customers is what builds your followers. And once you do that, you can engage with them directly.
The outright sales pitch is probably not very useful. You can of course use Instagram for branding as well. Contest wise, it’s less visible as the web site Iconosquare is the only place that let’s users engage with brands provided they bother to user the site to log in.
Right now, there are no real third party apps which can access Instagram APIs fully on a mobile app. Some allow you to browse your feed but not manage your post. It is probably this stage of Instagram which is not yet regulated makes it a real challenge for mass market spammers.
The idea behind the instagram black hat strategies is not about spamming but chosing your content to market to like minded folks. This, takes time and the rewarding part is seeing your content post do its magic without having to part with a million dollars for Instagram advertising.