Social media can be one of the best places to build your brand and form relationships with customers, but with so many platforms out there, it’s easy to spread yourself too thin.

You’ve likely heard the news that Instagram has some of the most engaged users of all the major social platforms. While true, the engagement that many businesses can get on Instagram isn’t something that comes without effort and strategy.

To make sure your business does well on the platform and to avoid some of the biggest Instagram mistakes, ask yourself these 7 questions before you dive in and start an Instagram profile. 

  1. Are my customers active on the platform? 

Before you give any thought to the strategy and tactics you might use for Instagram, do a little investigative work to determine if your customers, (target market in marketing-speak) are active on the platform.

In general, the Instagram user base is predominantly female, under 35 years old, and more than half of the 700 million unique monthly users follow brands on the platform.

The questions you ask in order to find out where your customers are hiding out in terms of social media is largely a factor of your business. The users you’ll want to look for will be much different If you’re operating a brick and mortar bridal shop and sell dresses than if you’re an online health food store, for example.

  1. What action(s) will I want my followers to take? 

If you’ve done some digging and found out that you do indeed have customers or potential customers that use Instagram the next step is to figure out why you’ll use the platform to build relationships and engagement with them.

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This is an important question that too many businesses seem to forget to answer before they get started on a new project for social media and it often leads to a big mess when it comes time to measure the impact of their work. At the end of the day, everything that businesses do is to make money or make an impact.

Instagram has some great features that allow you to sell directly from the platform, but if you’re just starting out you should consider building your brand before all else. Look for actions that indicate you’re moving forward with your goals and build your profile in a way that encourages your followers to take those actions. 

  1. What are the best practices I should follow when getting started? 

It’s easy to make a mistake that will cost time and money when you’re just getting started on Instagram so do a little reading into the best practices. Look into what the brands in your industry are doing, dig through their posts to determine what works for them and what doesn’t.

In addition to looking into similar brands, consider the platform’s best practices. For Instagram, you’ll want to avoid buying followers or using any sort of automated growth system. These can be tempting, but often will result in negative consequences and the exact opposite results you intended.  

  1. Do I have an eye for good content? 

Good content is harder to create than you probably expect if you haven’t had experience with a highly visual platform like Instagram before.

This can be difficult to create for some businesses and often requires a creative eye. For example, service based businesses have a larger challenge than product based businesses, and brick and mortar shops have it easier than strictly online businesses.

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Whatever your specific situation might be, it’s a good idea to spend a week just keeping your eyes peeled for photo opportunities and taking a quick picture with your phone. Once you have some content saved up, take it to a few people who fit the profile of your target market and ask for feedback.

This should give you a good idea of how good of an eye you have for content, how long it would take you to identify opportunities for capturing it, and what sort of content is prefered over the rest.

  1. How can I communicate my brand on Instagram? 

Branding is so important. Assuming you already have your brand established at least in your own mind, this part should be easy to do. Look back on the images you took and got feedback on and ask yourself how each one represents your brand in some way.

You don’t need to overanalyze everything here, but be sure to create content that amplifies the identity you’ve built for your business. For example, say you’re selling high-end women’s perfume – you’ll want images that look more sophisticated and proper than the discount perfume shop down the street.

Keep things consistent and uniform and you’ll create continuity on your profile that gives your followers an interesting view of who you are as a business.

  1. Do I have the time to put into Instagram? 

This is so important to consider before you put the time into getting started. Instagram isn’t a static platform where you can post updates here and there. Followers that you gain will eventually stop following your account unless you consistently post relevant content.

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Make sure you have time to post at least once per day – more often as you’re getting started – and interact with your followers to build those relationships. This sort of engagement is what turns the platform into a useful business tool instead of just another place to put pictures of your business.

  1. How will I know what’s working for me? 

This is one of the most important questions to ask yourself. If you’re managing your own profile day-to-day, it’s likely that you have some general idea of what’s working but limited actual data on the subject.

Instagram has built in analytics capabilities for you to examine with some basic data on things like follower growth, impressions and reach, but Instagram analytics alone only give you part of the picture and most businesses need more in-depth info to get the best insights and results.

There are third-party tools out there for you to get a deep dive into what works and what doesn’t when it comes to Instagram. Most of them can be used without spending much money, for example, Owlmetrics is a great tool that will help you get all sorts of insights that the built in Instagram analytics don’t provide.

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