With all of the ranting and raving about Pinterest the last six months, there has emerged an internet marketing sleeper.  Most people associate Instagram to hipsters taking pictures of their Air Jordans or putting a filter on their Olive Garden dinner. But the growing powerhouse remains mostly untapped in the marketing arena. Some have tried to implement Instagram marketing strategies, but to be candid, the vast majority of marketers are doing it all wrong.

This is where the help comes in — and 3 steps in particular — to get you success with Instagram marketing.

1. The Follow Strategy

There is a lot more to following people on Instagram than simply ‘following people in your niche’. One needs to think bigger and smarter than this.

In this example, we will use the hip hop clothing niche. We will assume you sell Kid Cudi shirts.

You own an online hip hop clothing shop, with exclusive apparel for Kid Cudi, and you want to build a cult following for your shop. Your journey starts with a simple hashtag search on Instagram. For obvious reasons, you would put in #kidcudi, #cudi, etc.

Now, this is where the marketing ‘gem’ comes into play. Most people would go straight to Kid Cudi’s official account, and start following people. This would work, but this strategy draws the casual fan. We want to attract buyers for our online shop. So you would search #kidcudi, and go after people who posted pictures using the #kidcudi hashtag. Follow them, and also follow people who ‘liked’ their #kidcudi pictures as well. This attracts the most active — and passionate — fans.

Next, you want to use caution with your follower/following ratio. If you have made it clear in your Instagram username and picture that you are a Kid Cudi niche account, you will get a good ratio of follow-backs. To maintain optimal integrity of your account, keep your follower/following ratio as even as possible. We all have seen that account that has 2,000 followers, but they are following over 10,000 people, right? Instantly, that account loses credibility.

Luckily, there is another workaround to keep your following count balanced. Once you have established yourself as an authoritative account in your niche, (over 1,000 followers or so), you can start liking and commenting on pictures instead of following the accounts that uploaded the pictures. Naturally, people will see your comments and follow you, because they are interested in the same niche. Remember, keep your comments entertaining and authoritative. Using Kid Cudi as an example, you might just simply comment on a picture of Kid Cudi by putting ‘#cudilife” as the hashtag. This intrigues people, and it comes across more authoritative and official than a long rant about Kid Cudi.

Finally, once your account has reached ‘multi-thousand follower status’, your account becomes more viral and you will start building an organic following.

Remember, these are activities that you can be doing while waiting in grocery store lines or filling up gas tanks. These are income-producing activities that, over time, will make a big difference in your business.

2. The Content Strategy

As mentioned before, you only want to spend time doing income-producing activities. You do not want to let Instagram be a time-suck. Your Instagram content strategy should not take more than 5 minutes, 4-5 times a week.

The most time-effective strategy for your content strategy is to repurpose other content. Just remember to ask permission first. In Instagram culture, the token shout out (including the original posting Instagram handle) will suffice, and people are flattered to be mentioned in your Instagram post.

So again, we perform the search on Instagram as we mentioned before, and we find Instagram uploads that are funny, entertaining, controversial or highly educational. People are on Instagram to be entertained — avoid the fluff.

Next, we copy the content. On an iphone, you can push the home and on/off button at the same time, and it takes a screenshot of your screen. Then, credit the source and upload your version (perhaps with a different filter) and add your own witty or unique comment. Research and get a feel for the top hashtag searches for your niche and add those in every upload. For Kid Cudi as the niche, it would be wise to include #kanyewest, #goodmusic, #chiptharipper and other associated acts with the artist. Uploads that are well optimized with the hashtags will gain more exposure.

3. The Sales Strategy

The sales strategy is where most retailers, or Instagram marketers in general, do it completely wrong. Naturally, one would want to plaster their products all over Instagram. However, nobody once to feel like they are being sold on Instagram. The solution is to opt for a more secrete, hypnotic strategy that people call indirect selling.

Your indirect sales strategy is simple. Promote your niche and not your product. Instead of uploading a picture of a Kid Cudi shirt, opt for the hot skater girl wearing a Kid Cudi shirt. You have the web store domain on your Instagram profile, and people will start asking about the products inside of your photo uploads. For the vast majority of your content, you are promoting the lifestyle or the niche. Kid Cudi quotes, Kid Cudi concert photos, etc. Naturally, people will want to see more of your content and they will want to buy whatever you are selling.

This is attraction marketing — and the right way to do any type of social media strategy.

Closing

Instagram remains to be the world’s biggest social media sleeper (along with Slideshare) in terms of untapped marketing reach. Following the above strategies could completely overhaul a struggling retail business – especially in the 15-30 niche. Capitalize on these 3 steps and give your business in extra boost this year.

Have you tried to market your products on Instagram?  What has worked best for you?