Instagram is often thought of as a social network for influencers. It is the network that the Kardashians used to initially grow their social media fandom. And, it was thought of as the young person’s social network, until recent years when Snapchat and now TikTok took that claim. However, Instagram does have value for sales professionals, and as the 7th most visited website in the world, it can’t be ignored.
Instagram has Changed
Instagram has changed over the years, though, of all the major social media networks, it’s stuck to its core structure the most. It is a network to share photos and videos. It is a visual network, While they have added a few features, the basics of Instagram remain the same. However, the way in which people interact and connect has changed.
More is not Better
The method to grow Instagram over the past 10 years has been to post as often as possible, and this method only increased as IG Stories were introduced. And, users would throw every possible hashtag they could think of into every post. That has changed.
Instagram now, similar to how Twitter has changed, puts a priority on accounts with high percentages of engagement. If you post frequently, but those posts get low levels of engagement, your future posts will be seen by fewer people. The biggest reason Instagram made this change was that Instagram, which originally was mostly a network in which people scrolled through looking at photos, has shifted to become a network in which people connect and grow relationships. The algorithm changes, in essence, prioritizes relationship building.
To have success on Instagram, an account must not only post quality content, but also both proactively and reactively engage with other users. The method of, “post and ghost,” while still popular on Twitter, does not work well on Instagram.
Automation is Less Effective
Instagram use to be full of automation. It still has an automation problem with bots making spam accounts and spam likes, followers, and comments. However, Instagram has taken strides to limit that, and users have become adept at recognizing fake accounts and inauthentic engagement.
Instagram does still have options for scheduling posts, most notably through Facebook Business Manager / Creator Studio, but you’ll be far more effective posting organically and engaging with users during the time you spend on the network posting.
The Adults are in the Room
It is a misconception that Instagram was ever just a network for young people. While the social network did skew toward a younger audience, the difference in the average age of a user on Instagram, compared to the average age of a user on a social network like Facebook, Twitter, or even LinkedIn, was not that big of a difference.
Around 40% of active Instagram users are over the age of 35, and another 24% are between the ages of 25-34. Only 7.2% of Instagram users are under 18 years old. So, there are a lot of people on Instagram in all age brackets, and many of your target customers are probably at least somewhat active on Instagram.
It Isn’t Just for Ecomm
Besides influencers, eCommerce businesses perform the best on Instagram. And, Instagram continues to add tools to help Ecomm businesses sell on Instagram, such as Instagram Shop. But, almost any type of business can do well on Instagram, if they have the right focus.
For many businesses, especially B2B, Instagram won’t be a network in which people see your post and immediately click to buy. However, Facebook does offer advertising options that can help you do just that. Instagram for most businesses is a network to increase brand awareness and grow relationships.
Digital Prospecting Cadence on Instagram
Prospecting on Instagram is a bit different than on other social networks. It is almost like three social networks in one. You have the Instagram Feed, IG Stories, and then Direct Messages. Direct Messages are used much more on IG than on Twitter and in a fashion more similar to LinkedIn (which yes, means there is a good bit of spam messaging also), however, the interactions are often more social and less about business. Thus, to be effective on Instagram, you need a relationship-building focus and not a lead-generation focus.
Follow and Engage
The first step in an Instagram cadence is the same as with most social networks, you follow targeted prospects and begin engaging with their content.
Follow Targeted Prospects
It is socially acceptable to follow a prospect on Instagram without previously engaging with them. However, it is recommended that you do engage with a post or two of theirs while following as doing so makes it more likely they’ll notice and follow back, and it shows you’re not a bot just following random accounts.
Follow only the amount of people that you can reasonably engage with. For most, this may mean following 5-10 people every other day or so. And, Instagram does monitor for what they consider “aggressive following,” so you want to go slow in following people, especially if your account is new.
Worth noting, Instagram can also be a fun network for you. So, consider following accounts that post about topics that interest you outside of your work. You will find that doing so creates a more enjoyable experience for you when on Instagram, and that might lead to you spending a bit more time on the network. We find that when people use a social network strictly for business and don’t add any pleasure, they’re far less likely to consistently use the network.
Finding Targeted Prospects
Finding targeted prospects on Instagram is not as easy as it is on LinkedIn where you can just type in a job title or scroll through employees of a company. Following industry hashtags can help. Going to company accounts and checking for employees tagged in posts is another tip that can help find key people within a company that you’re targeting.
If you have names of prospects, you can search for them, though if the name is common, you’ll likely get a lot of results and you’ll need to click through a few to find the right person. A tip to keep in mind is most often people will use the same username on all social networks, or some variance of the same username.
Engage With Targeted Prospects
Engaging is the name of the game on all social networks. It is especially important on Instagram when you’re looking to grow relationships. Keep the engagement organic. Don’t log in to IG and click Like on the first 10 posts you see. Click like when you generally like the post. And, comment when you can with something more than a one-word comment.
Direct Messages are a great way to connect one-on-one on Instagram. The best way to do this is to reply to an IG Story (for users that post IG Stories). That reply goes into their Direct Messages and is a warm lead into a DM, versus sending what would essentially be a cold DM. And, the way the notifications work, they’ll be more likely to see your DM. From there, you’ll likely need to engage in more small talk prior to shifting into business lead generation mode. Keep in mind that most Instagram users have the intention to use IG and engage simply for pleasure, but, their buying decisions are heavily influenced by Instagram and they likely do form some relationships on Instagram.
Instagram is too often overlooked as a lead generation tool. However, it is vital that you view the social network from a relationship-building approach, and not traditional lead generation. It won’t likely be a social network that you generate high volume leads from (unless you invest in Instagram ads), but it is a social network that you can establish relationships with key targeted prospects. And, it’s a social network that you can have some fun with!