Best practices for finding and reaching your target audience vary widely by social network. You want to break down the targeting process step-by-step for each network. We’ll begin with Instagram.

Step 1: Define Your Target Audience

Why is it important to spend time thinking through who your target audience is?

  1. It will challenge your assumptions. Chances are, your target audience is larger and more diverse than you think. This is good news, because it means more opportunity, but it also complicates your strategy, since you’ll have to come up with different strategies for different Instagram user persona types.
  2. It will make your life easier. Defining your target audience clearly gives you a solid foundation from which to create and promote all future Instagram content. There will be more method to your madness.

Sidebar: This is an iterative process. You can’t just define your target audience and then never re-evaluate.

Here’s how to go about defining your target audience on Instagram.

  1. Start with your larger marketing personas. No need to reinvent the wheel. Start with the personas which your whole marketing team goes after today.
    You’ll add nuance and detail to these personas once you start digging into the social data.
  2. Use a listening solution to understand the conversation on Instagram. What does the conversation look like around your industry and target topics (not just your brand) on social today?

    Who is talking, who is driving the bulk of the conversation, and what is everyone saying?

  3. Aggregate what you know about your personas with the social data. Once you’ve spent some time looking at the conversation, you’ll be able to fit the different conversation types and their participants into each one of your persona buckets to bulk out these personas and make them Instagram-relevant.

Pro Tip: Expand your focus beyond topics related to your brand: once you identify a popular Instagram user discussing topics relevant to your brand, dive into his/her profile to understand what he/she cares about on a general level. It’s important to understand the whole persona, not just the parts that directly connect to your brand.

Now you have a pretty good idea of who you will be targeting on Instagram. Use these personas as your guides.

Now, how do you reach each persona on Instagram?

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Now that you’ve segmented your various target audiences on Instagram and learned more about what they care about, it’s time to reach those audiences. That will take a different strategy for each persona, but before you develop those individual strategies and content tactics, you’ll want to do the following to reach your target audience as a whole.

  • Identify the best time to post on Instagram using industry best practices and your social analytics platform of choice.
  • Identify which pieces of Instagram content and which campaigns have generated the most engagement for your brand over the past year.
  • Do this for your competitors’ Instagram content, as well. This can be a major source of inspiration for your brand.
  • Leverage Instagram Stories. More than half of Instagram’s 500 daily active users are on Instagram Stories. Use this feature to interact more deeply with your audiences, generate greater engagement, and stay top-of-mind (and top-of-feed) for Instagram users already following you. Remember to track this data as you go along.
  • Follow appropriate hashtags using Instagram’s new hashtag follow feature. This feature is perfect for targeting niche communities—and it will increase usership; it makes it easy for Instagram users to delve deeper into the specific worlds they find appealing. As we’ve established, multiple niche communities (personas) are potential buyers for your brand.

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Now you can begin taking this information and applying it to individual strategies for each of your personas. 

Remember that just because a strategy hasn’t been used in your vertical or industry yet doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use it. Let’s say Nike rolls out an excellent Instagram campaign with massive reach, engagement, and press pick-up—but you’re a tourism brand. Just because you don’t sell the same thing doesn’t mean you can’t use similar tactics, like video, tight influencer partnerships, and simple, text-driven branding.

Step 3: Use Influencers as Conduits

Next up, invest in an influencer strategy. Influencers are your way in to the communities (and likely buyers) that you’re not reaching today. Begin by:

  • Defining Your Goal: What would a successful campaign look like to you? What do you expect from the influencers? Do you want them to help raise brand awareness or to help drive more sales? Whatever your goal is, make sure you define it so you have a strong foundation for every other aspect of your campaign.
  • Defining Your Performance Metrics: How will you keep track of your performance to ensure that you’re reaching your goal? You need to define which metrics will be relevant for measuring your campaign performance. For example, the number of social media impressions, reach, click-through, etc. Consider creating an Instagram analytics dashboard to measure the level of brand awareness raised by influencers.

In our 2017 State of Social Marketing report, we found that brands are using influencers for a variety of reasons, including extending their reach, sharing branded content, and promoting products and offerings. It is undeniable that Instagram is extremely effective as a medium for influencer marketing. Influence Central conducted a survey in which consumers said that Instagram influencers are the sixth most effective in influencing purchases.

From the 2017 State of Social Marketing Report from Simply Measured

Step 4: Keep Listening and Analyzing

Social marketing is essentially a never-ending testing process. To succeed on Instagram, your social analysis should consist of two processes:

  • Listen in to the larger conversation on a regular basis. This conversation will change as your audience changes, and especially as your audience grows.
  • Analyze your owned content. Are you publishing the right content based on the information you have about your target audience? Are you hitting your goals? How are you stacking up against competitors? How do you need to pivot?
Step 5: Put Together Your Content Calendar

Now it’s time to put together a content calendar based on what you know about your target audience on Instagram and how to reach them. Color-code the content you’re pushing out for each persona. You’ll add to and delete from this calendar over time as you identify which strategies work and which don’t.