Trying to Promote Your Web Design Startup on Instagram? – Here are 10 Tips
In 2013, Nathan Chan launched his digital magazine for young entrepreneurs – Foundr. By the end of 2014, he made the decision to launch and focus his marketing campaign on Instagram. Within three months he had 10K followers. Within a year, he had an email list of 120,000. Today, this magazine has over a million subscribers and is a go-to resource for any startup entrepreneur.
During an interview, Chan stated that he had a lot of questions without answers in the beginning, to wit:
- “How are we going to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace to cut through and stand out?”
- “Are we going to content marketing and have a blog?”
- “Are we going to crush it on Instagram and use that as a massive lead generator and social platform for us?” (Note: he did crush it on Instagram – one year into his Instagram campaign, he had over 100,000 followers).
As a startup designer, looking to market on Instagram, you probably have the same questions. So, let’s take a look at Instagram as a marketing tool and how you can bet use it.
First and foremost, you need to know that there are over 500 million daily users of Instagram. It is obviously one of the most popular social network platforms – probably because it relies on visuals – photos, videos, etc. – that users can access from any device, and that provides information and tells stories in very simplified ways.
Let’s face it. Consumers are in a hurry, on the go, and impatient. They do not want to spend a lot of time reading, and Instagram satisfies all of these needs. This platform has moved from individuals posting selfies for their followers to admire to a major marketing platform for businesses of all sizes and niches. In fact, 62% of Instagram users follow at least one company/business.
Chan realized this when he made the decision to market on Instagram, and you should too. And as a startup designer, here’s the beautiful thing: you have visuals to share!
Instagram may seem like a huge challenge at first – even intimidating. And, truth be told, it is. It is not a “short-term affair,” so the first thing you need to prepare for is slow steady growth, not a raging stampede to follow you. But if you remain steady and consistent, over time, you will grow that following, accumulate leads, and generate business.
To make your task a bit less daunting, here are 10 tips and strategies that you can incorporate.
- Get a Theme
Like any content published on the web anywhere, the point is to entertain, educate or inspire. This can be done in any number of ways, but the point is this: focusing on making a sale will get you nowhere. Your audience will be far more engaged if you focus on topics that they will find engaging.
One of the ways to do this, and to keep followers coming back for more (and sharing your content), is to create content that they love and want more of. If they can anticipate that they are going to get more of that great content on a regular basis, they will come back.
Chan understood this. Instead of focusing on sales of subscriptions to his magazine, he understood his audience. They were startup entrepreneurs who needed inspiration. So he developed a campaign of great quotes and sayings, often on a background of a cool photo.
And he posted several times a day:
Gradually, but not too gradually, people came and came again. They became followers, so that they could always see what saying/photo was posted next. And they shared his posts with their tribes. As reported, his following grew to 10,000 in three months.Of course, Chan did other things with his bio and discussion threads, but more on that later.
Who is your audience? What do they need and want?
Before you develop a theme, you need to know what will appeal to your audience.
- What brand of humor do they appreciate?
- What is their language structure and usage?
- What are their pain points?
As a web designer, your audience may be varied. Business owners come from all niches; they are of all ages. But the one thing they have in common is that they want an amazing website design that is going to attract and engage their audiences.
- Finding Your Audience
Your task is a bit trickier. Business owners who have websites; new entrepreneurs who want websites; and even non-profits and individuals who find the need, all come from a variety of niches and exist within a variety of demographics. Each of them has a different audience, and you must show that you understand each of those audiences, as you appeal to potential clients.
How do you do this? You commit to lots of variety in the visuals of the designs you have created for a variety of clients.
Unfortunately, as a startup, you don’t have a large portfolio of customers you have already served. So, you have two options:
- Begin with one niche or demographic that you love and that you know you have a talent for. You can always branch out later. Are you more a traditionalist and a bit conservative? Or do you prefer more avant-garde, progressive designs? This will determine the audience you target.
- You can also take a wider view and attempt to appeal to a much more diverse audience. This will be tricky and will require that your posts, your advertising, and your collaborations will have to be far more diverse too. There will be more work involved.
As a newbie to Instagram and to your niche, you may want to seriously consider the first option. Once you have a following and a strong customer base, you can then begin to widen your target audience.
- Dive in and Start Posting
You won’t get a single viewer or follower until you post. Yes, you will feel uncomfortable in the beginning, and your posts will not be wonderful, but you must get your feet wet. There are, though, some things you can do as you get started.
Search for “web designers” on Instagram. Check out those that have large followings, and review the types of posts that have the most views and “likes” (these show up as hearts). Also, review the comments and discussions that the most popular posts include. This activity will give you good ideas about the types of posts you may want to craft.
Because Instagram is a visual platform, you will have to create visuals that present your value to your target audience. If you don’t have a portfolio of examples, best get busy on those now. You will want a repertoire to post.
You can also use other websites as great and poor examples. Comparing these and pointing out the differences makes you look more like an expert. This could even be a theme for a period of time.
- Engage Your Viewers
Just as you would do on other social media platforms, your goal is to get your viewers involved with you. Fortunately, you can do this on Instagram – you can run surveys, contests, ask questions, start discussions. As a designer, you can offer a free design as a prize. To enter a contest, there can be requirements – share your post with five friends, for example.
- Use Hashtags
Instagram users often search by hashtags, in order to find posts on topics they have an interest in. Thus, if someone is interested in vegan diets, they might search by that specific topic – #vegan diets, or #vegan food, or #vegan recipes. The results will give the searcher related submissions.
By using the right hashtags, you can expand your visibility. There are “trending hashtags,” those that are most common and most used in topic searches. A common one in your field would be #web designs or #web designers. Certainly, you should use these, but, because they are so common, your competition will be stiff.
Get creative and more specific, to see if you can’t craft some hashtags that are less common. You might try #sleek website designs, for example. Come up with as many as possible, test them out through your own searches, and decide on five or 10 to use with each post. (Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post, but this is a bit much).
There are also tools that will evaluate the popularity of hashtags based on their performance. Using those that have medium levels of performance can be effective, but you will be “bigger fish in a smaller pond” and thus get more traffic.
- User Tagging
This is another way to get consistent and more visibility. If you have active followers, you can tag them in your posts. Instagram will then send those followers a notification, and you are more likely to get more comments, likes, etc. on your posts. The more likes and comments you get, the more your post is considered “high engagement” and it will then be moved up on the feeds of your followers.
- Use New Features that Instagram Adds
Things are always changing on Instagram. What began as a platform for individuals to post selfies and perhaps family photos to share with their friends have moved far beyond that. One great feature is live video, and many businesses are now using this to tell their stories, to show production or “how-to.”
One way you can use this feature is to develop a video portfolio of your designs or a brief bio putting a face and story to you.
- Find Influencers and Collaborate
This has become a major way for startups and small businesses to spread their brands and promote their products or services. And it is effective because you are now being promoted by someone whose followers trust him. Here’s how this normally works:
- Identify Instagrammers in related niches who have large followings and whose audiences will be similar to yours
- Make a proposal. This usually means some type of payment to the influencer to promote you in a way you both agree upon.
- If you go for smaller influencers, you may be able to set up cross-promotional arrangements that do not involve payment. You might partner up with a graphic designer, for example, or a freelance copywriter who produces web-based content for businesses.
- Use Instagram Ads
Direct advertising can be pretty effective, and, on Instagram, it’s relatively cheap. Certainly, it’s worth trying. To set up an Instagram ad campaign, it is best to check out the ads of your competitors or related niches, and see how they are constructed. And because Instagram ads are visual, they tend to have a higher engagement rate by viewers. Of course, any small amount of text you use, in captions, for example, must be creative as well. If you struggle with creative phrases or slogans, get some professional help from freelance creatives or writing services. Upwork is a great source for such writers, as is the creative copywriting department of Trust My Paper.
- Become a Follower
Sometimes, we are so focused on our own posts, trying to engage our followers and use them to gain more followers, we forget that we should be followers too. The more your follow others, the more your brand gets “out there.” Here’s a few tips for this:
- Find people you already know. Search for them via your profile page, by clicking on the “find friends” in the upper right-hand spot on your screen. You’ll get people from your Facebook friends list, contacts, and even suggested friends.
- Use Instagram’s search bar to look for businesses that are related to yours
- Use hashtag searches to find influencers and related businesses. And start following followers of these.
Instagram is a social platform, and you want to develop connections and relationships. You can do this by following others, commenting, liking, and participating in discussions. This takes time, of course, but getting your name in as many places as possible is important.
Patience. And perseverance. These are the two qualities you will need as you market your web design business on Instagram. Growing a following just takes time. But if you use these 10 strategies, you will have every chance to grow your following (and your business) at a faster-than-average rate.