Since I spend so much time online, I can’t help by notice that a lot of business owners, and especially those who are just starting out in the digital space, assume that Instagram, and any social media for that matter, is free.
I might ruffle some feathers with this post, but let’s discuss this topic and see why the notion that “Instagram is free” might be wrong and misleading.
Hopefully, after reading this post, you will want to give powerful advertising capabilities Instagram has to offer a try.
Is Instagram free?
Yes, it’s free to use, but if you want to see real benefits of Instagram you should let this notion that social media marketing is free stop you from putting a few dollars behind your content to give it a boost it deserves.
Of course, you can slowly build your following organically. And that is totally fine, but it’s nice to know that you can give that additional boost to your handle and your content to accelerate the process.
There is still some kind of stigma around companies promoting their content; it’s almost looked down upon, and it’s a huge Instagram marketing mistake. Well, seasoned business owners and marketers understand the need to boost their reach, especially with an ever declining organic reach, to see real results.
It is pay to play type of scheme and you have to accept it at this point.
The faster you can get over this — the better.
Here I go into a rant
It was never free in the first place.
Ignore the very beginning of social media marketing when any garage punk band was able to upload their questionable demos on Myspace. Let’s forgive and forget for good.
One things that is often overlooked is the fact that social media marketing has a word “marketing” in it; and good marketing is seldom free. Brands pay to appear on traditional marketing channels, like print and TV.
Besides, I cannot stress it enough that, by far, Instagram is one of the most targeted channels out there. Print, radio and TV stations provide “average demographics” reports which include demographic and socio-economic data on average viewership. Yet, there are always those people who don’t quite fit the “traditional viewership” of a given channel.
So, for $1,000 paid to a local TV station, people who are not in a perfect target audience, people who went to grab a snack while a commercial was on, people who never turn on their TV at a time when an ad is running will get included into the mix. Then people who viewed a specific ad have to be enticed enough to search out more information about a brand or a product.
With Instagram advertising, every cent spent is working for a smart advertiser (assuming targeting is effective and refined). Businesses pay to get access to people who fit in lots and lots of filters and categories and actually see the promoted post.
Full disclosure: I am NOT saying that you should mindlessly waste money on Instagram. In fact, I highly advise against just boosting all of your posts, because this is wasting money. You want Instagram to make you money, not waste it, correct?
What I do recommend is if you do want to see your content get some sort of virality factor, promote it correctly.
This equation has two parts to it. Two things need to happen in order for Instagram advertising to be well-justified.
Promoting epic content on Instagram
On one hand, you have to put your best foot forward and only promote your most stellar content. Think of paid Instagram promotion as a way to put gasoline on a fire, not as a way to push some low-quality nonsense into more feeds.
See what content usually performs best or which post has garnered a lot of engagement. This is a good indicator of stellar, engaging content that has a chance of going viral and bringing in a lot of additional engagement through a paid boost.
Also another way to identify the content that might do great when promoted is the content that serves one or multiple content objectives:
Strive to post something that strikes the chord of at least one of these Es (the more the better).
Finally, don’t forget that Instagram is all about bold imagery and aspirational lifestyle. How can you through your images create this association with aspirational lifestyle? Identify what makes your product or offering “cool,” what people in your target audience would want to associate themselves with and go for the gold.
Finding target audience on Instagram
The second part of this strategy is ensuring that content you’re promoting is really relevant to your target audience. Never promote your stuff just to be seen by anyone. Use highly-targeted strategies that will ensure that your content is seen by the audiences who need to see it. Be very specific here.
It is crucial that you know your audience. Not only does it help to target the right people on Instagram, it is also one of the determinants of the success of your ads. When you know your audience members, and correctly target them online, your costs per click will be extremely low.
Plus, when you know who you’re talking to, you’ll know what to say to them. What are their needs and struggles?
People in your audience strive to achieve something, whether it’s financial freedom, prosperous life or love. You need to understand their drives and desires. If they haven’t achieved their goal, there has to be something in their way that acts as a block, whether mental, financial or physical. Identify what those blocks are to understand their struggles.
How can you entice them to click on your ad?
To appeal to your audience, you have to tell and show them how your offering will help them overcome their blocks and, finally, achieve their goals.
If you have amazing content that deserves to be seen by as much people as possible and you know who those people are you’re after with you content, then, it’s well-justified ad spend.
Think of context
One thing advertisers often overlook is the context in which their ads are being served. Context is essential not only because it makes your ads look organic and unforced in the feed. It’s also a key detail because the same ad can perform completely different in two different situations.
If you promote a weekday lunch special in your restaurant on weekdays right around typical lunch times, the ad is likely to be much more effective in bringing in traffic to your restaurant, than the same ad running on the weekends. You should strive to catch people right when they are actively searching for solutions to their needs and wants, not when they are not aware or are not looking for those solutions.
These two considerations are important not only for advertising on Instagram, but advertising in general.
Have you tried advertising on Instagram? What kinds of results did you get? I’d like to know! Share in the comment section below or head over to Instagram @lesyaliu to continue the conversation!
To be honest, that’s how we’ve built some traction on Facebook. If there’s a post that I want to make sure gets seen, I throw at least a dollar a day on it. Even if it doesn’t end up getting shared, those likes can turn into followers and sometimes they actually click through to whatever we’ve got going. While I try not to spend over a couple hundred a month, I remember when we used to spend more on snail mail and weren’t sure if anybody saw it at all! 😮 At least I KNOW I am creating brand recognition in the least and maybe a subscriber (who I might be able to convert into a paying customer). I know a lot of folks who scoff at this method, but it’s a win-win for me. Thanks for sharing on a touchy, but current blogging topic.
Thank you! Yes, I don’t think there is anything wrong with promoting your stuff. At the end, that’s why you are in business — to sell. The only important thing is that you create quality content that deserves to be seen by as many people as possible.