Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automation are making our lives easier. They’re also making digital marketing and advertising easier and — in many ways — better (more impactful, farther reaching, better targeted and, ultimately, earning a higher return-on-investment (ROI)).
The same goes for social media: the smartest business owners and brand managers are using automated social media marketing tools for more impactful, farther reaching, better targeted social campaigns that are helping them to win big on the top social networks.
What about Instagram?
With more brands than ever finding success on Instagram, there’s no question it’s a good place to put some of your business’ marketing resources. But – even though it’s free to use – it’s easy to spend a lot of time and a lot of money on tactics that might not work. AI and marketing automation can help to streamline and monitor activities there for maximum success.
Instagram and Automation
Here’s how to get started:
Instagram is an especially exciting place to explore how automation might help you succeed. In 2018 the photo-sharing social site hit the one billion user mark — that’s a lot of people engaging with a lot of content! There’s no reason you shouldn’t be there trying to snag a piece of that pie.
However, capturing people’s attention takes much more than just sharing an image and waiting for the “Likes” to roll in. You need to spend time liking other users’ content (relevant content, that is), interacting with people (the right people, ie: your target audience and strategically-targeted influencers), fostering engagement, and attracting followers. (And that’s time many businesses simply don’t have.)
Why not automatically drive Instagram follower growth and engagement? Here are a few tips and tools for getting started:
–> Use a social posting/scheduling dashboard.
Whether you choose Hootsuite, Sprout Social or Buffer, plan and write your Instagram posts in advance, scheduling them to publish over the coming weeks or months (including cross-posts and reposting evergreen content). That’ll save you and your social team time (no more logging in everyday) and result in a better-planned social post calendar.
- Caution: Cross-posting (reposting content) can feel like a great way to make good use of existing material — and it’s true: it’s good practice to post things more than once to be sure more people have the opportunity to see it. But there can be too much of a good thing. People don’t appreciate having to see the same thing too often, so cross-post and re-publish with care.
- Remember, while posts can be scheduled in advance, engagement should happen in real time. There will also always be the need for “on the fly” posts when something urgent or exciting comes up.
- Most of the top social dashboards include access to good reporting and analytics. Use those (often!) to ensure your posts are performing well and functioning to support your overall campaign goal. Some posts not resonating with your audience? Swap them out for fresh content in the next month’s plan.
- Note: Unlike most other social networks, Instagram has an added need for advanced post planning because of the photo gallery — that snapshot of your account’s content when they visit your Instagram profile. Not only do your individual posts (pics) have to be great, but they should look good as a group too. Tools like https://preppr.com/ provide a post planning editorial calendar that let you see what your pics will look like in your gallery once they’ve been published.
–> Find and follow #Hashtags.
Use tools like Buzzsumo and other hashtag tracking tools (even manual keyword and hashtag social network searches will work) to find content and influential people posting about that content that’s relevant to your brand, or if you’re an established brand, posting about your brand. The resulting lists/reports can help you discover shareable content and people with whom you should engage.
–> Explore follower growth and engagement tools for Instagram.
Note: Followers gained through the use of tools may never be as valuable to your brand as those real people, influencers, brands and businesses with whom you’ve won a hard-earned “follow back” through meaningful (and mutual) engagement; however, seeing as sometimes social can be a numbers game (especially Instagram; high followership can be seen as strong influence) it might be worth trying to grow your following in a variety of ways, especially in the beginning.
- Caution: If you’re following a bunch of accounts just for the sake of following (in hopes of earning follows back), and they’re not part of your target audience or relevant or likely to help evangelize your brand, they’ll wonder what you’re up to and not follow/engage back. The old social media marketing rules still apply here, even when you’re using automation: the goal should be for timely and meaningful engagement that starts a dialogue. For businesses, following and engaging on Instagram should be strategic, targeted and “handled with care”.
- Don’t forget: a single “like” isn’t going to win you any real fans, you must plan to engage meaningfully with those accounts after you’ve made that initial connection.
- For engagement, try Quick Replies. If you have an Instagram Business Profile you can use Instagram Quick Replies to send pre-written (by you) Direct Messages (DMs) to incoming questions from followers. You still have to login and view incoming DMs but this will save you having to craft new, custom replies each time.
- Auto-Welcome New Followers. There are a variety of tools that allow you to set-up automatic DMs upon follow. These are at-risk of seeming very cut-and-paste (and robotic) so make sure that your welcome message reads like it’s from a real person and offers something of value to the recipient — an offer or a clear call-to-action.
–> Most importantly…
- Don’t automate too much! Instagrammers are savvy folks and can tell when a like, DM or comment is from a bot — it can feel irrelevant and impersonal.
- Monitor results! Finally, when it comes to using automation in Instagram marketing, make sure you’re analyzing results constantly. Just because automation might hint at “set it and forget it”, it’s not and tactics should be reviewed and revised often.
Whether you choose to grow your Instagram account manually or use the automated services mentioned above, an Instagram marketing agency can take care of it all so that you can focus on growing your business in other ways.