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How to Create Your Instagram Brand Strategy [Everything You Need to Know in 2020]




Marissa P.: Hello, welcome to SEMrush's webinar. Today we're talking about how to create your Instagram brand strategy, so everything you need to know for 2020. I'm pretty excited to talk about this.

My name is Marissa Pedersen. I run the travel website Postcards to Seattle, and I also have Instagram and other social media channels as well. With us we have Corey Walker. Corey, go ahead and introduce yourself.

Corey Walker: I'm Corey Walker, and I'm the president and owner of The Marketing Specialist. I work with a lot of companies on social media, and email marketing and I'm also the co-author of Instagram for Business for Dummies, and Instagram for Dummies.

Marissa P.: We also have Rebekah from Tailwind. Can you tell us about yourself Rebekah?

Rebekah Radice: My name is Rebekah Radice and I'm marketing manager at Tailwind, which is a social media scheduling application for Instagram and Pinterest. Very excited to join both of you here today.

Marissa P.: Is there a part you're looking forward to most for this webinar?

Rebekah Radice: I think the biggest part is getting everybody to feel very confident about going into 2020 what their strategy looks like. Even amidst all of the concern; there's been so many changes on Instagram, constantly changing...and I think it's left a lot of people feeling a little unsure about what they're posting, what they're scheduling, what that content really looks like for 2020. Hopefully, we can answer a lot of questions.

Corey Walker: I think a lot of it's going to be more about getting back to producing really good content that people want, and not worrying about tricks, and buying likes, and all that kind of stuff. Just stick to the basics, give the people what they want and you'll be successful.

Marissa P.: I completely agree. I think being authentic is really what it comes back to. People want fast tricks, all these tips of how to get the most likes, the most followers, but I really think being genuine is important. Well great. Rebekah, can we get started with your presentation?

Rebekah Radice: We are going to share some ways you can create your Instagram brand strategy for 2020. Because as we know, having a strong, consistent Instagram presence, well, it builds brand awareness, it creates lasting relationships, and it swings open that door to sales opportunities. 

Developing a Winning Instagram Brand Strategy

Today we're going to talk through three quick steps that are going to help you find your ideal audience, create the content that they love, and then define, refine and grow your brand. All of that without a big budget, because I think that's pretty important too; that we don't feel like we have to spend a ton of money on ads to be able to get seen.

In a perfect world, your audience, your Instagram audience, what would happen? They would find you, they'd come over, they'd follow you, they would swoon over your content, absolutely love it. Then instantly make the decision to either work with you, to reach out to you, to buy from you, download, whatever that call to action is. 

We know that in reality this very rarely happens, right? Most people, they go through a long decision-making process—it's also known as the customer journey—before they take that final step with you.

The good news is that you can nurture those Instagram followers with wildly helpful content, like we just talked about, and that is going to earn you the opportunity to convince them to follow you, to connect with you, to opt-in, to download, and to ultimately buy, because we know that's what it's all about. 

Before we dive in, I want you to think about what your current Instagram brand actually looks like. How well would you say people know you? How well would you say they like you, they trust you, and they recognize your current content? When they read your posts, do they hear your voice? It's so important. Then when they see your images, do they instantly recognize that that is your brand?

The goal today is to help you absolutely know that your audience knows, likes, trusts, and recognizes every single thing that you do, so that you can begin to formulate that brand strategy that naturally attracts those exact right people, and that is going to boost brand perception and recognition.

We're going to do that with these three simple steps to your 2020 Instagram brand strategy. First of all, we're going to help you identify your ideal audience. Then we're going to help you create the content that they're absolutely going to love. They are going to want to seek that content out. Then last but not least we're going to show you how to use the three Cs to close that deal, so to move them from your Instagram content into a place where they can interact, they can engage with your most important and your top-performing content.

How to Identify Your Ideal Instagram Followers

How do you identify your ideal followers? Because attracting that ideal follower sounds pretty great, doesn't it? It would be that situation where those people, they just love everything that you do, which means they're going to engage a whole lot more often, they're going to interact with your content, and they're going to take that ultimate step. They're going to buy from you. They're going to reach out, get a consultation from you.

Too often I have found that we are very scattershot with our Instagram strategy and we end up attracting anybody and everybody instead of those people that do what we call self-selecting, they're just going to automatically know that your product or your service is exactly right for them. We want you to find, connect, and attract people that aren't everybody and anybody but are your ideal audience. What does that look like?

Your ideal audience on Instagram is people with a need that you can fill. What do you do within your business? Maybe you're a blogger, so this could relate to the expertise that you write about. Maybe you're a maker or you're a seller and it could be related to those products that you're making. These are people with a direct need that you know you can fill. 

They're also people that you can deeply impact. If you want to build that ideal audience, you have to focus on those people that are going to become raving fans, those super fans that just adore you. 

Then they're also people that you truly enjoy engaging with. As you're interacting with people on Instagram, who are those people that just put joy in your heart? You love knowing that they're coming back and they're interacting with you every single time that you are posting.

Then finally, they're people that are excited to buy what you're offering. They want to work with your company and they want to support all of your efforts. These could be those people that are reading your blog posts. These could be people that are clicking over to your Etsy shop. 

If you're saying, "You know what though? I'm just getting started." That's okay. Use Instagram to get to know them, to understand who these people are that are excited to buy from you. Ask questions. Learn about their dreams. Learn about their hopes. Learn about their struggles. 

Creating Instagram Content That People Love

After we've found our ideal audience, now we've got to get to work. Now we've got to create that content that they're going to love. If you've had a situation where you're posting, and you're posting, and you're hearing crickets and you're wondering, what is going on? Is it the algorithm? Not necessarily. 

Organic reach is still alive and well on Instagram, but these are really the keys to tapping into that algorithm and being able to share the exact right content that your exact right audience is looking for. Then also share it at the exact right time when they are on Instagram, so you're getting it in front of them...when they're there to engage with you.

As we know, content is central, it is at the core of the Instagram experience. It's why your audience comes over to Instagram every day. When you understand your audience, you can create this content that you know is going to strike, it's going to really hit a mark and hit home with them. 

To do this, you're going to have to do a little bit of testing. You're going to have to find your perfect mix of content. A great way to do this is first and foremost just get in there. Start sharing content. Start interacting. Start hearing and listening to what your audience has to say.

Then you can also use what we call the “VALUE” framework. This is the top content that time and time again we have found that no matter the industry, no matter your niche, is really going to hit that mark. The “VALUE” framework stands for a few different pieces of content that I said you can start to test to find your perfect content mix.

The first is V, it stands for valuable. This is content that is helpful, it's educational, it's teaching, it's learning. Think about what type of content are you already creating. Maybe on your blog, maybe within your courses. Maybe it's conversations that you're having, those frequently asked questions. How can you turn that into helpful and educational content over on Instagram? 

A in “VALUE” is for aspirational. Aspirational content could be idealized, it could be tangible, that attainable content that gives them your vision and maybe gives them something to really hang onto, so that goal. Let's say you have accomplished something rather big within your business, or maybe it's just small steps that you've taken to get to where you are today. You can share those steps. 

The L within “VALUE” is life cycle. That could be anything from content that's building awareness, maybe nurturing relationships, encouraging action. Think of life cycle as content that it keeps moving them through your funnel. What content can you share that just naturally moves them through those different stages?

Then the U within “VALUE” is unique. This is your proprietary content. This is branded content. This could also be very business-focused content. It's very specific to your business.

Then evergreen. Evergreen is timely, it's relevant, it's useful for years to come. Think of this content as something that your audience wants to know today, and they'll probably want to know in the weeks, the months, and the years to come. 

Over on Tailwind, we have a tool that's called Content Playbooks, and this can really help you simplify all of that planning too.

Connecting with Followers and Converting them into Customers

We've come to number three in our three-step process. Number three are those three Cs. It’s connect, communicate, and then close. Bringing that full circle into how you're going to move those people from a connection, from a follower, into an actual buyer, a customer, and be able to close that deal whatever that deal happens to look like for you.

We're going to start with connection right up at the top. As we know, you've got that one link, that darn link that Instagram gives you right within your bio. It's the one opportunity that we have as Instagram users to transport our followers, those viewers that are reading our content, from Instagram over to our most important content, and what they care about most, those topics. 

Every single time you post something new on Instagram, what do you have to do? Well, you have to swap out that link within your bio, right? It's that one extra step that we have to remember to do every single time we post, and then we've got to have that call to action, “click the link in my bio”. What happens eventually is, as people are scrolling through your feed, they see that call to action, they go to your link in bio, but unfortunately, that was a long time ago and you've since then swapped that link out.

The better solution is getting that one link, just one link that's automatically going to swap out. Tailwind has a tool we just recently launched that's called Smart.bio. You can check it out at Smart.bio, where you never have to change out your link again, because we're going to automatically update your landing page. This is a page that you get to customize to your brand. 

The second C is communicate. Communicating is announcing, letting people know where to find you. If you're a local business, you could use signage. Maybe you have a newsletter that goes out, you could add to that newsletter, "Hey everybody, come find us over on Instagram." You could get found by using the right hashtags. 

You could also run contests. Maybe run a challenge. We're getting ready to put out a Instagram challenge for 2020 that is going to help people do exactly what we're talking about here today, figure out how to create your content, figure out how to find your ideal audience, figure out what those top hashtags are. 

Don't shy away from using stories, whether it's getting you on video, maybe it's creating little gifs that you're sharing within those stories. Maybe it's just creating images that are supporting or promoting your offer. Don't forget how important and how critical stories are to your overall brand strategy, and how important they're going to be as we talk about just being real, being you in 2020. 

Another opportunity is product tags in posts, so you can tap on a photo. You've probably seen this. If you've got an online store, it's a terrific way for you to actually close that deal, for you to move people off of Instagram and into your exact offer.

Then finally and most importantly as you're thinking through all of this, is to get your strategy into a system. Because all of this feels like, oh, that's fine and good. I can find my ideal audience. I can create content, but then what happens? Oftentimes we fall down in the actual system, and we fall down in the follow up as well. We fall down in getting that content out there, in getting that content scheduled, and Tailwind helps you do exactly that. 

As I wrap up real quick here, we have a special offer, and I just want to say thank you again to SEMrush. This is our third webinar, Tailwind's third webinar with SEMrush, and we just feel so, so lucky to partner again with them. 

We have a very special offer, $30 off. It's a $30 Tailwind credit off of, as I said, we have Pinterest and Instagram, so if you use both, this would be good for either one. You can grab that special SEMrush offer at bit.ly/30semrush. 

I'd love it if you have any questions that we don't answer after this, if you want to connect, you can find me Rebekah@Tailwindapp.com is my email, or anywhere on social media, including Instagram, @RebekahRadice. 

Making Boring Industries Look Interesting on Instagram

Marissa P.: We have a question from one of the followers. They say, "My industry is somewhat boring, how can I showcase it so people will be interested?" This is a great question because we have such a wide variety of people who are on Instagram now, but some of them may not be visual or the most exciting industry. 

Corey Walker: There are ways. You can promote your company culture. If you've got a really active company, you can highlight different people within your company, tell their backstory. I don't know if you're familiar with Humans of New York, but that kind of style, where you're just getting into what their personality is.

Human interest is always really interesting to people. You can do fun and silly things. Things that you wouldn't think of, like Charmin is really witty and a little bit crass, because they can get away with toilet humor. You wouldn't think that, what are you going to say about toilet paper? Well, they manage to, so go out to Charmin and look at some of their posts. 3M Canada does some really fun things. 

The TSA does all sorts of things, which you would think TSA, that's kind of dry, but they will showcase some of the weird things that they get out of people's luggage. There's definitely ways to tell a story, or maybe you want to educate people about what goes into making your product. If you can inject some humor, it kind of takes the dryness out of whatever your product might be.

Rebekah Radice: I think the other thing we forget about too is that, to someone, your business is very much interesting.  In reality, you're solving somebody's need somewhere. I think this really goes back to, we're getting a lot of questions about organic reach and the algorithm, and it really goes back to how important it is to find those exact right people to cultivate those relationships so that they are the people that are interested in your content.

How Important is Brand Consistency on Instagram?

Marissa P.: Well, speaking of branding, how important do you think it is for the Instagram brand to match a brand's website?

Rebekah Radice: Personally, I think it's very important. I talked a little bit about how well do people recognize you, and that really has to do with your branding. Creating a seamless brand means extending it out from your website to your social channels, to say that newsletter we were talking about, email. 

I don't think there has to be a direct connection, because Instagram, your style, your theme can definitely be different than say your images found elsewhere. If you've got a brand color, you definitely need to find that in what you're creating.

This also goes back to your brand voice as well. If they're listening to say your YouTube videos and pop over to Instagram, and you're talking very different on Instagram than say you're talking over on YouTube, there's an immediate disconnect, and disconnect creates distrust. You need to be very, very careful that what people see, what people hear is very similar, congruent to what your brand is.

Corey Walker: A lot of small businesses might not take the time to do this, but any large company you go to is going to have brand guidelines. Having an established logo, the typography, the type of photos that you're using. 

If you can take the time as a small business and pin down some of those, it's actually going to make things easier as you go along because you have this road map that says, you know, I should kind of be following right in here, instead of one day I'm using this font, and one day I'm using this font, and it just looks all funky and crazy. Then they don't recognize that that's you, because you're using all these different materials and looks.

Rebekah Radice: Yeah. There's this tendency to think, oh, I'm doing the same thing over, and over, and over again, and I need to play around with the fonts or the colors. We're doing ourselves a disservice by doing that because people...can't instantly recognize what our content is.

Organic vs Paid Traffic on Instagram

Marissa P.: Okay. Let's get into organic and paid traffic. This is a big question I think on people's minds. Organic traffic has completely dropped off, which many people have known. The question is, is paid social a way to get around this? I'm assuming they mean promoting the post.

Rebekah Radice: I think you need to have a balance of both. I think you need to get that content out there, allow it to kind of get some legs organically. Otherwise, you're never going to know if your content is actually resonating with your current followers, with your audience.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with putting money behind that post as well. I'm a believer you don't have to have a big budget. We have tested this over and over and over again, in putting a very small amount as far as ad budget behind something, and being able to grow. 

I think what you need to be careful of is thinking that putting money behind something is going to solve all of your Instagram problems. The truth of the matter is that bad content is bad content. For me, it's focusing more on putting out really good content, seeing that it's resonating with your audience, and then start to work towards a budget.

Corey Walker: Well yeah, and the other thing goes back to the first part of your presentation was talking about identifying your audience. If you are going to take that next step of doing ads, make sure you target it correctly because you can blow so much money if you don't know who your audience is.

Marissa P.: Would you recommend looking into insights, for those who have a business profile, as far as seeing who their audience is?

Corey Walker: I would definitely go and look at the insights of who's in there, and look at specifically who's liking, who's giving you those comments. All of that is going to be really important. Then you can look at if you've got a close competitor, who's liking all of their content? How is it different from yours? How are they doing things better? How are you doing things better? See how you can create better content.

Effectively Promoting Your Product on Instagram

Marissa P.: That's a great point. When you're showcasing a product that you're trying to sell, such as a book or an e-course, what would be the best way to promote that on Instagram, to try to showcase that?

Rebekah Radice: Really you're only limited by your creativity when it comes to Instagram and how you promote your content. The important part is that you're not promoting for the sake of promoting, but you're finding that content that we talked about within the presentation, which is useful, which is helpful, which is educational to your audience, and which is also going to help them self-select. 

What are those ways that you can share this that are going to answer people's questions they didn't even know they had, or are going to be able to tell them exactly how they can work with you, or how they can hire you, or how they can take that next step with you?

Corey Walker: Plus you're getting new followers all the time, so they might not know your backstory, or what the book's about, or what the course is about, or the best tips that are from that course or book. 

Another thing I was going to mention that I did with my book was I had, if someone bought the book, I put a call out to readers, "If you have the book, I'd love for you to take a picture with the book and then tell me your favorite tip from the book."

Marissa P.: That is a really good idea.

Corey Walker: That got people excited because it's like, oh, I get to be featured on Instagram on her account, and showcase the book. People would get excited about it. 

Rebekah Radice: It brings in those testimonials, that third party that is also incredibly important.

Hashtag Tips for Instagram

Marissa P.: Well, we have a lot of questions about hashtags. I know that's always a topic. Is there a set number of hashtags that you recommend using? I know 30 I think is the maximum, but what looks professional? What works?

Rebekah Radice: To me, you use every one that Instagram gives you. You get 30 hashtags, try to use 30 hashtags. Not in a spammy way, in a very precise and exact way, where you really understand what those hashtags are that you want to be known for, that you want to rank for, that you want to be found for. 

You probably have three to five categories that you talk about, that you write about, that are on your website, on your blog, that are most important to you. Going out and doing the research, finding those 30 hashtags, and then changing those out. Again, this goes back to testing, but really testing to see what's working for you.

One of the big myths within hashtags that I'm sure Corey is going to second this big time, I'm making an assumption there, is that the bigger the better. That is not necessarily the case with Instagram hashtags. In fact, if you can get niche-ey, if you can get more specific to say your business, to your industry, to your location, the better off you're going to be in connecting with those exact right people. Would you agree with that Corey?

Corey Walker: Oh yeah. Yes, definitely. I usually recommend people do a little combo of both. You might do a bigger hashtag and, say you're a realtor, so you might do #realtor, and you're going to get in the hashtag hub for like two seconds, but a lot of people might see that. Then if put, say #SacramentoRealtor, you're going to be in a much smaller audience, but that's probably going to be the audience you want to be in. It’s probably going to stay in that hashtag hub a lot longer because there aren't as many people using it.

Marissa P.: Where are you putting the hashtags? Are you putting them in the caption or in the first comment? 

Corey Walker: I haven't seen any difference in the way they function. I will often put it in the comment just because I think it looks a little cleaner versus up in the caption, especially if you're going to use a lot of them. If I do put it straight in the caption, I'll usually do some little dots to kind of push it down a bit. There shouldn't be a difference in the actual functionality of it. 

Rebekah Radice: Yeah, I agree. There's been a lot of rumors that it matters in the placement and where you put them, but there is no proof behind that. 

Corey Walker: Yeah, and if I could add one little tip is on my phone in my notes, my hashtag notes, so I can quickly just go over there, cut and paste, and move it over, so I'm not typing. Because if you are doing 30 hashtags and you're trying to type them out, I don't know about you, but that would take me like 10 minutes. Yeah, if you can have some area on your phone, or if you're doing it on your desktop just a doc that you can go to and quickly copy and paste, that's going to help with that speed.

Rebekah Radice: Within Tailwind, we actually have what are similar to Twitter lists, if you remember those, but they're hashtag lists. It's exactly what you're talking about, where you can save all of your hashtag lists, and you can just click on those, drop those right in. I have notes in my Apple Notes, just pages and pages of hashtags. It can be nice to automate some of that.

The Impact on Business of Instagram Removing Likes’ Visibility

Marissa P.: It looks like we have time for one more question. The big news is the likes going away on Instagram, which has already been in effect in certain countries. What is both of your opinions on how this will affect business accounts for 2020, when there are not likes shown for engagement?

Rebekah Radice: Yeah. You know, I know there's a lot of fear, a lot of worry around this, and it is only a test right now. We do not know that this will become permanent. I don't know about both of you, but I can still see likes. We took a poll, and on the marketing team more than half couldn't anymore.

It seems to be business accounts can still see them, over creator and personal accounts, which is interesting. I believe we're coming full circle in terms of social media and Instagram. Where we're coming back to a place where it is about relationship marketing, it is about engaging with your audience, it is about building a loyal following, not just anybody and everybody. 

Instagram says that this has everything to do with mental health, and making sure that, because we get low likes we don't feel bad about ourselves. That's a very real situation that I'm certain every single one of us has suffered from at some point. 

Could this be a bad move? Possibly, but right now we just, we reached out, we wrote a post about this about a week ago and reached out to a whole bunch of people in different countries that haven't had likes for, gosh, eight, nine months. Every single one said it was no big deal, that they had just adjusted how they're tracking and measuring. 

I think there's just going to be a shift. We're a bit like a pendulum, and we moved way too far over to a place where everybody was buying followers, and buying likes. It was a pretty negative space, so I'm all for anything that brings us back to a more authentic, organic conversation, and those relationships.

Marissa P.: I agree. Yes. Well, what is one final tip that you can leave us with before we go?

Corey Walker: I'll give you a stories tip, is to try to be good about adding a location in there, and adding your real location versus a city. Because that real location will actually go out farther than just your actual location.

Then Canva can also be a really good resource if you want to do anything with your highlights, anything with creating stories, really anything having to do with Instagram. Check out Canva if you're not a natural graphic artist. It's super easy. That would be my tips.

Rebekah Radice: Yeah. I love Canva. Mine would be kind of along the lines of everything we've talked about, which is, find and build your tribe.

I'm also getting more interaction probably on stories than anything else at this point. I think people just feel really comfortable in responding and reacting, so do the exact same. Then come back at the end of the day for 10 minutes and rinse and repeat, do that all over again. It's going to be critical to your 2020 strategy, and this like apocalypse, or algorithm apocalypse, whatever is hitting us on Instagram at the moment. Just that you really get back to the basics of going deep and not wide with your Instagram audience.

Marissa P.: That's a great tip. Thank you very much. Well, this was a great conversation. I know I learned a lot today. I'm sure everybody else did. Thank you very much for both of your time ladies.

Rebekah Radice: Thank you, Marisa. Appreciate you hosting.

Marissa P.: Okay, have a great day.

Rebekah Radice: Yeah. Take care. Bye.

Corey Walker: Bye.

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