Every month, around 700 million people post to or scroll through their Instagram feeds. Less than a year after its launch, Instagram Stories has more than 250 million daily active users, almost 100 million more than its main rival, Snapchat. So, it’s no surprise Instagram Content Marketing is gaining in popularity.

To say Instagram is a valuable tool for marketers might be a bit of an understatement. According to the 2017 State of the Creator Economy study (SOCE), 89 percent of creators used the platform in 2016, an increase of 3 percent from the year before. The study also found that there was a 42 percent net effectiveness momentum in the way US consumers viewed marketing messages on the platform.

If your brand hasn’t tried Instagram content marketing, there’s never been a better time to start. But first, it helps to understand what makes content marketing on Instagram tick, and what its benefits are.

Product Sampling PF Flyers instagram

How Instagram Content Marketing Works

One thing that sets Instagram apart from other content marketing channels is the limitations it has in place. You’re not going to publish a 500-word or 1,000-word blog post on the platform. Any text you include with the content you post is likely to be fairly minimal.

Instagram is an image-based platform, so the content you use is going to involve photography, graphics, or video. You can post content to your regular feed (where it will remain forever), or create stories, which have a shelflife of 24 hours.

Otherwise, Instagram content marketing works in a way similar to other forms of content marketing. Before you start posting to the platform, you want to have a clear objective or goal in mind. Ask yourself, what do you want each post to accomplish? It might be to get more followers, or to get people to visit your brand’s website. Your goal might be to promote an event your brand is sponsoring, or to share that event with people who can’t be there in person. Your brand doesn’t have to be solely responsible for producing the content you share on Instagram. You can include user-created content that relates to your brand, and use influencer content as part of your strategy as well.

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Benefits of Content Marketing on Instagram

Compared to other types of content marketing, Instagram offers brands and marketers several benefits:

It’s visual.

Visual content tends to outperform other forms of content. As the SOCE pointed out, social media platforms that feature visual content have the strongest positive trends in engagement. The human brain also processes visual content much more quickly than other forms. According to Thomson Reuters, the brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text, and 90 percent of information that’s transmitted to the brain is visual. Plus, about 40 percent of people respond better to imagery.

It has high engagement rates.

A study from Forrester revealed that Instagram was at the top of the pile when it came to engagement between consumers and brands. While brands on platforms such as Facebook or Twitter had engagement rates of around 0.1 percent, brands on Instagram had engagement rates of around 4.2 percent. Additionally, about three quarters of users took some sort of action, such as going to a brand’s website, after viewing a post on Instagram.

It’s a way for customers to learn about brands.

About half of all Instagram users follow at least one brand on the platform. Instagram users aren’t just following brands — they are also learning about new companies and services on the platform. Around 60 percent of users have said that they learned about a brand from Instagram.

Examples of Stellar Content on Instagram

What’s great content look like on Instagram? Let some well-known brands show you how it is done:

Lowes Home Improvement

Home improvement store Lowes is all about helping people fix up their homes. The brand aims to show people that DIY projects shouldn’t be intimidating. The content it produces for Instagram is a great demonstration of that. Take this video of a woman upcycling an old dresser into a sink vanity. The video clearly shows the problem, and how to fix it. The project looks quick and simple, and people who are interested in learning more about it are encouraged to follow the link in the brand’s profile.

Lowes Home Improvement Instagram Content Marketing

Marvel

While some people aren’t too happy about the Spider-man franchise being rebooted yet again, Marvel Comics was able to make good use of Instagram to promote its newest series. The brand produced a trailer to announce the big reveal of the trailer for the movie. The video had a bit of a homemade feel to it, mimicking the vibe of Spider-man’s first costume.

Marvel Instagram Content Marketing

Ben & Jerry’s

I scream, you scream, we all scream for…Ben & Jerry’s Instagram feed. It’s full of delectable ice cream-centric content, such as this image of an out-of-control ice cream sandwich. The brand includes a link to the recipe in its profile. Ben & Jerry’s also makes good use of hashtags, such as #nationalicecreammonth and #pintslice, to promote its content.

Ben And Jerry's Instagram Content Marketing

Vans

Sneaker brand Vans is a great example of a company using user-created content as part of its content marketing strategy. It occasionally features re-grams of photos taken by fans wearing their favorite pairs of the brand’s shoes. Re-gramming user content is a great to way to increase loyalty and engagement rates (as people are likely to use your hashtags and tag your brand).

Vans Instagram Content Marketing

Oreo

Oreo is great at producing whimsical content for Instagram, capitalizing on its cookie’s ability to help people relive their childhood. The brand is also really good at picking themes for content and sticking with them. One example is the Oreo #WonderVault, which the brand uses to introduce new cookie flavors to people.

Oreo Instagram Content Marketing

How Your Brand Can Nail Instagram Content Marketing

If you’re ready to give Instagram content marketing a try, follow these four steps to get it right:

Choose quality images/video.

This should go without saying. Make sure the images you use in your content are clear, crisp, and visually appealing. You want a viewer to be able to tell what’s going on in the picture after just a quick glance. If you’re using video, make sure the picture is clear and that the sound is audible.

Beyond that, make sure the images or video you pick are actually worth looking at. No one cares about a still shot of your product. Instagram isn’t a catalog, so there’s no need or reason to feature photos of your brand’s products all by their lonesome. Think action when deciding what type of photos to post. Show someone using your product, for example.

Use the right hashtags.

Hashtags help users find your content on Instagram, but there is an art to using them. You don’t want to make every single word in the caption of your post a hashtag, for example. Instead, choose tags that are most relevant to your post, and include them at the bottom of the caption.You can leave a few spaces between the caption itself and your hashtags, so that the the hashtags end up “below the fold” and not immediately visible.

Get the timing right.

While timing might be less important on Instagram now that it’s changed its algorithm, when you post to the platform might still have some bearing on who sees your posts, and when. Knowing when your followers are most active on the platform can help you pick the best time to post, according to the Daily Dot. You can use the Insights feature (available for business profiles) to see when people are looking at your posts, and where they are located in the world.

Engage with followers/comments.

If you want people to continue to like and comment on your brand’s content, you need to engage with them when they do so. Respond to comments on your posts. The sooner you respond to comments, the more engagement you’ll create. Don’t let comments go stale or wither on the vine. Re-gramming followers’ posts is another way to create and raise engagement.

One last thing that’s important to know about Instagram content marketing: The platform makes it a bit tricky for brands to share links in posts. You can’t include a clickable link in a caption, but there are some ways around that. You can include the link in your profile, and direct your audience to it.

If you really want people to be able to click on your links directly from a post, you might consider making Stories. At the end of 2016, the platform added the ability to include clickable links in Instagram Stories. It’s not perfect, since people still need to click “see more” to get to the link, but it’s better than nothing.