Do you want to start an Instagram campaign?
If so, you need to do it right.
Instagram is an exciting platform, and it’s one of the fastest growing out there. It has more than 300 million active users each day, according to recent data published by Branex.
But beware: Running an effective campaign isn’t quite as easy as it seems.
Every platform is unique, and Instagram is no exception. To land a campaign successfully, you’re going to need to understand what factors Instagram’s users are looking for.
I’ve done a lot of work with Instagram, and I’ll explain exactly what works in this article.
1. Decide the 4 T’s
Whatever you do, don’t start an Instagram campaign without a goal-driven strategy. You can waste a lot of time and money if you don’t know where to focus your efforts.
I like to break these down into the four T’s, just so I can remember them: target, tactics, timeline, and total spend.
First and foremost, you need to understand exactly what you hope to accomplish with your Instagram campaign.
If your goal is to drive people offline to an event or your local store, you need to choose your campaign strategy wisely. Certain tactics, like running contests or hashtags, will work best.
If your goal is pure brand awareness, your options are more open.
Large brands like Starbucks use Instagram every day to increase awareness without concerning themselves with direct sales.
If your target is direct sales, however, you need to craft a strategy to reach potential customers.
Most (if not all) of your posts should include a call to action of some sort. This is usually a direct link to a sales page, but it doesn’t have to be.
Adidas did this well in their Instagram campaign to build pre-launch hype for their new shoe line designed by Kanye West. The image included an easy-to-remember URL.
Even without anything to sell, Adidas’ post acquired over 100,000 likes the day before the product went live.
Finally, your goal may simply be to grow your Instagram following. If that’s your plan, you’ll need to use a few techniques in addition to the basics I’ve explained before.
Once you know the target audience you’re trying to reach, it’s time to decide on the tactics you want to use.
There are as many ways to run an Instagram campaign as there are marketers, and I’ll cover a handful of those techniques here.
But it’s smart to have a general idea of what you want to use to achieve your target.
If you want to run a contest, have a budget set aside for prizes, legal fees, and general management. Get ready to review a lot of posts and to communicate with followers.
For influencer marketing, you’ll need to prepare a list of individuals you already know or would like to work with.
You’ll also need to decide if you want to have these influencers run sponsored posts for you or not.
Another technique I’ve seen some brands do very well is run campaigns with other companies.
This is a great way to connect followers to another business that offer products or services that are complementary to your own.
WeddingWire included Sandals Resorts in one of their posts. The post was popular, and both companies got publicity.
If you sell digital or physical products, you could consider sharing promotional coupons with your Instagram followers.
When Amazon received an 86.27% corporate reputation rating, they announce a discount of $8.62 on every purchase over $50.
They shared the promotion on Instagram and received thousands of likes.
I recommend building your Instagram following for the long term, but a few special campaigns will run indefinitely.
Usually, you’ll run a few regular campaigns to build your Instagram following and to engage potential customers with your brand, then supplement those with a few short-term strategies.
If you’re going to run a contest, influencer marketing campaign, or product launch, decide when the campaign will end.
It provides a sense of finality to the project and gives your team the motivation to pull everything off in time.
You don’t have an unlimited budget, so decide what makes sense to invest in your campaign.
If you have a product to sell, I recommend predicting the sales you’ll receive from the campaign and basing your strategy on that number.
If you’re not sure what you need to spend, I’d recommend starting with a low amount, testing the success of your campaign, and increasing if need be.
Whatever your total spend, it’s a good idea to plan ahead and not end up with surprises when the final bill arrives.
2. Learn about your audience
The first step to creating a successful Instagram campaign is having a deep and intimate knowledge of your audience.
You need to understand exactly what they’re looking for, how they interact, and who they trust.
Chances are, you already know a lot of this from previous experience.
But to really tap into the ultimate success you can have with your campaign, you need to understand the depth of interaction on a much deeper level.
I’ve found a few tools to be really helpful with this. They allow you to explore exactly who is following you and why.
Analyze what engages your audience with Simply Measured
Simply Measured is one of the most comprehensive tools I know to track how well your campaign is doing on Instagram.
You’ll be able to see what strategies your competitors are using and how well they’re doing.
You can track engagement from your previous posts and understand exactly what your followers are engaging with and enjoying.
This allows you to get a much deeper sense of who your customers are engaging with and how you can reach out to them more effectively.
As you continue to run the campaign, Simply Measured will also give you feedback on what’s working and what isn’t.
This can help prevent you from continuing to publish post types that simply aren’t resonating with your followers, and instead, repeat what is working.
Find connected influencers with SocialRank
If you want to find the most valuable followers your brand has, SocialRank is the tool I recommend.
You’ll be able to easily track the engagement of those followers and learn who’s adding value to your campaign.
You can also keep track of where your followers are located and get a good feel for general trends.
By filtering followers by interest, you can see common topics and discover new types of content that would help engage them.
Find more followers with Crowdfire
Crowdfire does a lot more than just analyze your followers, but that’s what we’re going to use it for in this step.
The app will allow you to find new users with similar interests to your existing network of followers and promote to them, as well.
By noticing the similarities in its recommendations and the current followers you have, you can easily begin to understand what exactly your audience hopes to find.
3. Create a message
Once you understand the makeup of your audience, it’s time to craft a message that will appeal to them specifically.
A lot of brands skip this step, but it’s critical to your success. While you can let your brand personality take shape as you post, it’s better to decide ahead of time.
This is particularly important on Instagram, where 51% of millennials want to see your brand personality, according to Sprout Social.
Have a voice
The first and most important part of your campaign is how you talk to your followers.
Unless you’re an established company with a need for a formal style, like an accounting firm or law group, you should build a voice that’s casual.
Deciding on the tone of the message is important as well. Most companies go for a friendly style, but the opposite can work well.
Cards Against Humanity uses its abrasively honest voice across its products and Instagram feed.
Have an angle
From the audience research you conducted earlier, look to find the deeper needs and desires of your followers.
What do they really want? How do they perceive themselves?
This should be the basis for your campaign angle. Appeal to your followers in a way that inspires them to achieve their biggest goals or live out their dreams.
Most GoPro customers aren’t using the camera to film larger-than-life escapades, but they would like to.
GoPro uses the angle of daring adventures and excitement to inspire its followers.
Look for the deeper wishes of your customers, and appeal to them on this level in your campaign.
Have a bigger reason
Few people want to promote a company for the company’s sake but would be more than happy to promote for a cause they believe in.
As a result, the best campaigns use a reason bigger than just promoting their brand.
To understand what would work well with your campaign, look for common interests among your followers. What inner characteristic does your brand help them act on?
Airbnb knows that its customers use the service for hospitality and welcoming others into their homes.
As a result, they created an effective campaign promoting the idea that anyone is accepted and welcomed by their brand.
The campaign was a wide success, and the posts regularly got hundreds of thousands of views.
4. Don’t only exist on Instagram
Instagram is a wonderful platform, but to be truly successful with your campaign, you need to promote elsewhere, as well.
One of the mistakes I often see beginning marketers make is running a campaign only on one channel.
This prevents others from pitching in from other places, and it makes your brand look inconsistent.
Instead, promote the campaign on all your channels. Here’s how to do that.
Build a custom landing page
In order to effectively reach your target audience, it’s a good idea to build a landing page for the campaign itself.
Make sure it carefully represents the branding and style you’re going for on your Instagram campaign.
The closer it is in branding and feel, the more effective the campaign will be.
Your followers will see the clear and direct link to the Instagram campaign and be more likely to follow through with what you’re offering and take action.
Ikea does a great job of matching their Instagram style to their landing page. They frequently post pictures of items for sale.
When they promote a new image on Instagram, they mention that there’s a link in the bio to shop for it.
Sure enough, the link in the bio takes us to a page with each item for sale. Their landing page looks exactly like their Instagram feed!
While you don’t need to match your Instagram feed to your landing page to this level of precision, it’s a good idea to have a clear connection between the two.
Include your Instagram feed on your website
A number of your followers aren’t on Instagram but would benefit from the content you share there.
This is especially true if you’re an e-commerce site with products to sell. Linking Instagram with your website is important to drive sales from your Instagram campaign.
If you do a lot of product promotion on Instagram, you can increase engagement on your website with these photos.
It also adds a feeling of fresh content to your website even if you don’t update the site frequently.
To get this started, use an app like SnapWidget, which will include your Instagram feed on your other web properties.
Promote on all your channels
If you’re running a contest or other specific campaign, you need to promote the content on your website, as well.
This isn’t the same as creating a landing page or including your Instagram feed. Your website itself needs to show your focus on the Instagram campaign.
I recommend linking to the campaign in the main menu of your website.
When the campaign launches, or during the whole promotion period if it’s short, you can even include a reference to it on the main page of the website.
Stella Artois’s Buy a Lady a Drink campaign was featured prominently on Instagram.
But in addition, they included it on their website, listing a link to the campaign on the main menu.
5. Develop a hashtag
Every Instagram campaign needs a hashtag.
Of course, it’s easy to create a hashtag, but more difficult to create one that drives new customers and increases your brand’s awareness.
There are lots of strategies for deciding what type of hashtag will work best to promote your campaign, but I’ve found these tips to be most effective.
Keep it short and simple
Nobody likes a long hashtag. It’s hard to type on a tiny smartphone keyboard and more susceptible to spelling errors.
The best hashtag campaigns use a hashtag that’s short and simple: preferably three words or fewer.
Calvin Klein’s #MyCalvins campaign was a tremendous success, in part because the hashtag was easy to remember and spell.
To ensure that your followers remember your hashtag (and use it), make the phrasing memorable.
Be very clear about what it represents, and set the tone with examples you’ve created. Followers will generally take the lead of what’s trending, so set the trend yourself.
Canadian Tire created a campaign to encourage camaraderie and neighborliness with their followers.
They used videos of friendly snow shovelers helping out unsuspecting homeowners and tagged the post with #ShovelItForward.
One of the biggest frustrations with a campaign is having your hashtag used for another cause.
This is most common with broad, single-word hashtags that can be applied to a variety of contexts.
The team promoting the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them developed the hashtag #WizardingWednesdays to indicate Harry Potter trivia days.
A more general tag like #wizarding or #harrypotter would have become entangled with thousands of unrelated posts.
Related to your brand
No matter what hashtag you choose, make sure it represents your message and brand.
Nobody did this better than Coca-Cola’s #ShareACoke promotion. The brand name was in the hashtag itself!
While you may not need (or want) to include your brand name in each hashtag, make sure the relationship is clear.
Don’t just include your own tag
Finally, include multiple hashtags. Posts with a number of tags perform the best, according to Marketo.
Include 5-10 related hashtags about the content of the image to gain traction.
As people find your posts with these hashtags, they’ll encounter your branded hashtag and may begin using it as well.
6. Promote through influencers
Influencer promotion remains one of the most popular and effective ways to promote, and Instagram takes this to a new level.
The platform has garnered much of its popularity through the influencers it attracts and has built.
Leveraging these influencers remains one of the key parts of most Instagram campaigns.
I’ll explain some of the most effective ways to run an influencer promotion campaign on Instagram.
Find the right influencers
When choosing our influencers, there are three criteria to keep in mind.
First, make sure they’re influencers for your audience. Earlier, when we conducted our audience research, we got a good idea of the people who impact our followers.
This is an important list to keep in mind because these are the people we’re going to use the most in our campaign.
Second, make sure they’re influencers with high engagement. A bigger following isn’t always better on Instagram.
You’re going to have more success reaching out to individuals with a small but loyal audience than ones with a massive reach and low engagement.
Look for post likes and comments as a percentage of followers.
This may mean targeting smaller influencers with a few hundred fans whose posts get dozens of likes and comments.
In the long term, you’ll get more success with him or her than through an influencer who has millions of followers and only a few hundred likes and comments.
Third, make sure they represent your brand well.
Not all influencers are created equal. Spend time reviewing his or her posts and make sure it’s a partnership you’d like to form.
Get specific on how they can help
To get an influencer to pitch in and help, figure out exactly what he or she should do for your campaign. There are a few ways you can leverage the reach of an influencer.
First, consider a sponsored post. This is probably the easiest and most familiar way of going about things.
Most of the bigger influencers use this strategy already and will have a good understanding of how to do it. According to Adweek, expect the price to be around $200-$400 per sponsored post.
This is only an estimate, however, and you can and should negotiate the rates depending on the influencer’s audience size and how much value he or she will deliver for your brand.
Another way to involve an influencer is to consider having him or her “take over” your Instagram feed.
This is a common strategy in which a well-known influencer or celebrity gets control of a brand’s account and posts things relevant to him or her.
The Hallmark Channel let actress Amanda Righetti take over their channel in a promotion to garner interest in the original movie Love at the Shore.
If you like the idea of a takeover but don’t have the budget for an influencer to manage it, you can host a takeover with an employee or business partner.
7. Run a contest
Contests can easily go viral on Instagram, especially if you run them effectively.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of a contest on Instagram is user-generated content, or UGC.
This branded promotional content created by your followers expands your reach exponentially and can lead to much better engagement with your message.
Lokai bracelets have UGC as the basis for most of their content, with users sharing pictures of themselves wearing the bracelets across the world.
I’ve seen a lot of contests. Some were run well, and others were run poorly. Here’s what the good ones had in common.
Get the legal requirements right
Depending on the country or state you’re based in, the requirements for running a drawing or giveaway may be different.
Check up on the specific details, and consider having a lawyer look over the fine print of your campaign before you begin.
Whatever you do, make sure to communicate clearly to your audience how the contest will work.
Clearly indicate what the prize is, how the winner will be chosen, and how and when the prize will be delivered.
Offer a tempting and related prize
The first part of a successful campaign is creating a compelling prize. It isn’t enough to give away something big and exciting, though.
A brand new car or iPhone may draw thousands of shares, but if it’s not related to your brand, it won’t help.
Make sure your prize includes your brand’s Instagram message. Cellucor did a great job by offering branded coffee mugs.
Oftentimes, the easiest and most popular prize is simply a free product.
Most contests on Instagram encourage followers to enter by following the brand, liking a photo, and tagging friends.
This is a good way to build brand awareness and increase the spread of the message, but it isn’t the only way to promote your brand.
You can also require users to post something on their own or even sign up with their email address on your website.
But remember: The more you require of users to enter a contest, the less likely they are to do so.
Decide the winners
There are three common ways to decide the winner of your contest: by votes, by jury, or by chance. Whichever you choose, make it clear how you’ll decide who wins.
If you run a campaign that encourages users to post their own photos, you can award prizes based on the image with the most likes or comments.
If you use a jury, let your followers know the criterion beforehand.
For choosing randomly, I recommend using a tool like Random.org to get a truly random number.
You also need to explain how and when you’ll contact the winners. It’s best to give these details at the start of the contest.
If you don’t clarify these details early on, you may leave registrants wondering and complaining about the results.
8. Consider ads
If you really want to expand your campaign quickly and have money to spend, consider Instagram ads.
Instagram is quickly growing as an ad platform, according to research conducted by Social Fresh.
Since Facebook started incorporating its ad platform into Instagram, you can easily target users on Instagram with the ad platform developed by Facebook.
To get started, choose Edit Placements on a Facebook Ad campaign.
Uncheck the boxes next to Facebook, Audience Network, and Messenger.
Your ad options on Instagram include Feed and Stories. Choose one.
For the most part, the rest of the ad process is the same as it is for native Facebook Ads.
While many feared that ads would ruin the platform, Instagram ads are proving to be highly effective and have met with little resistance from users.
Depending on your campaign goals, ads could perform very well for you. ASOS achieved some huge results with their ads, according to Instagram.
One of the key factors behind the success of ASOS on Instagram is its inclusion of users on its platform with ASOS As Seen On Me.
This is a unique blend of brand- and user-generated content. ASOS has an official account specifically dedicated to posting photos taken by users.
Ads have helped the campaign become even more effective.