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Have you been thinking about using WhatsApp API for business but don't know what it is or how it works? This ultimate guide to WhatsApp Business API answers all your questions. We'll cover what is WhatsApp API, how to manage contacts and send messages according to WhatsApp's best practices.

WhatsApp Business API Account Basics

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WhatsApp has two products - WhatsApp Business App & WhatsApp Business API. We’ve outlined the product differences in our WhatsApp Business blog. In this guide, we are only focusing on the technical aspects of WhatsApp API and what it means to businesses.

For a start, the WhatsApp API is designed for medium to larger companies in mind. Since it’s an API, there is no app and front-end interface. Instead, it requires end-users to take the WhatsApp API endpoint and integrate it into their business software.

WhatsApp is particular with who it allows connecting to their API directly. At this point, it has only given access to a handful of large companies like Singapore Airlines, Uber and Wish.

Rather, businesses wanting to connect to WhatsApp API are encouraged to use third-party services called Business Solution Providers (BSPs) or WhatsApp Partners. It’s easier to get approved for a WhatsApp API account by applying through them.

WhatsApp Business Solution Providers

Today there are more than 60 official WhatsApp Business API Solution Providers on Facebook’s directory. Your experience may differ radically depending on your BSP. To simplify things, there are two types of WhatsApp BSPs - SMS providers and Others.

SMS Providers

The first group are SMS providers like Twilio and Vonage. As SMS providers, these companies are already using their proprietary APIs before they started selling WhatsApp accounts. Hence, the API you need to connect to will be similar to their Legacy SMS API.

These BSPs are great for businesses who are already using their service and wish to integrate WhatsApp API as one of their communication channels. It allows businesses to use multiple chat platforms without having to connect everything themselves.

The ease of applying for an account depends on your BSP. For instance, Twilio have a self-service platform that allows you to get started without talking to anyone. While Vonage is more enterprise-oriented and requires you to talk to sales.

But because these SMS providers are integrating WhatsApp API with their proprietary API, it takes more time and effort on their end to include or update any new features from WhatsApp.

Others

Next, we have the other groups that do not identify as SMS providers. Although WhatsApp started with SMS providers as BSPs, there are other companies that received partnerships like CRM vendors, chatbot agencies and self-service bot platforms.

These types of WhatsApp Busines Solution Providers like 360dialog are more likely to use a proxy API. Because their API is similar to WhatsApp’s, it is fast and easy for them to enable new features via WhatsApp API.

This means that their API is essentially redirecting to WhatsApp API and has the same API infrastructure. If you want new updates to reflect quickly on your WhatsApp account, then consider a BSP using a proxy API.

In this guide, we’ll be discussing all the features available directly from WhatsApp API. You can use it as a reference when shopping for BSPs. Before we go into the specifications, we’ll look at WhatsApp API’s pricing and profile.

WhatsApp Business API Pricing

To recap, you have to sign up with a BSP and pay them to get a WhatsApp API account. And as the middlemen, BSPs have to pay WhatsApp on their end to connect to their API so they can provide the service to end-users.

Essentially, BSPs pay WhatsApp a price that is different from what they actually charge businesses. And because every BSP can set their own pricing, it makes sense to find out if you’re actually getting a bang for your buck.

Generally, WhatsApp does not charge BSPs anything for messages sent within 24 hours (Session Messages) but there’s a small fee for messages sent after 24 hours (Message Templates).

However, some BSPs charge end-users for both Session Messages & Message Templates. By using the Message Template rate card charged by WhatsApp to the BSPs, it will be easier for you to negotiate a deal because you know exactly how they’re charged.

Plus, this isn’t the final WhatsApp pricing. Starting in February 2021, WhatsApp will be experimenting with its pricing model in Mexico. For more details and comparisons between BSP pricing, we have a detailed guide in our WhatsApp Pricing article.

WhatsApp Business API Profile

Now that you know the role of BSPs in setting up a WhatsApp API account for you, it’s time to look at how a WhatsApp API business profile looks like. The WhatsApp API profile is not so much different from the WhatsApp Business App profile.

Unlike other messaging apps, the WhatsApp API profile will not be searchable in-app, so it is up to the business to promote their presence. Businesses can optimize their profile by updating their cover photo, description, address, email and website.

Most WhatsApp Business accounts will be listed as a Business Account. Very rarely a business will be given an Official Business Account unless it’s a large company like Nike or Coca-Cola. These accounts have a WhatsApp verified green tick next to their name.

Getting verified is hard, but not impossible. Here is an overview of how to do it. Some BSPs allow editing your profile or apply for verification on a self-service platform, while the others require sending API calls. So take this into account when choosing a BSP.

For the rest of this article, we'll be discussing what is technically possible by calling the various APIs WhatsApp makes available. These include the Contacts API and Messages API.

WhatsApp Business API Contact Management

WhatsApp has stringent requirements when it comes to starting a chat with WhatsApp users. Generally, WhatsApp prefers that end-users message your account first to start a conversation.

Even so, WhatsApp allows companies to send their customers the first message as long as they follow a set of rules. Next, we’ll cover these rules as well as some features available via WhatsApp API to make Contact Management on your application smoother.

Contact Opt-In

WhatsApp does not want businesses to spam customers with unwanted messages. To maintain the quality of customer experience, WhatsApp requires businesses to obtain opt-ins or gain active consent from users prior to messaging them first.

The opt-in policy is only required for transactional notifications or messages sent after 24 hours (Message Templates). For the exact opt-in rules and guidelines, refer to this document by WhatsApp.

To start, there are many ways businesses can obtain opt-ins, both on and off WhatsApp. This includes interactive voice response (IVR), website forms, WhatsApp Ads, WhatsApp links, WhatsApp QR codes or through WhatsApp threads (customer-initiated messages).

For contacts to opt-in, they must first see the value of doing so. It’s best to ask them to do it at the right time and right place. For instance, if you have a SaaS platform you could ask them to opt-in to receive new feature updates when they sign up for an account.

Once they’ve opted in, avoid messaging too frequently or they might just opt-out. Or worse, they might mark your business as spam affecting your account’s quality rating. Now that you know how contact opt-in works, let’s talk about managing contacts.

Verifying and Importing Contacts

Although contacts are not stored on WhatsApp API, we’ll discuss the possibilities of verifying and importing contacts via the API features. To start, you’ll need to verify if your contacts have a valid WhatsApp ID or WhatsApp number.

This is important because sending messages to WhatsApp numbers that don’t exist will lower your account rating. Conversely, if you check too many numbers without sending messages your account will be banned. This is likely to avoid spammers on the platform.

After verifying your contacts, you can then import them to a CRM platform. While WhatsApp did not mention much about importing contacts in their documentation, we’ve covered how to do so in this article.

Once you've imported your contacts to a CRM platform, you can manage those contacts with some additional features offered by WhatsApp.

User Identity Notification

Upon opting-in to user ID notifications, businesses will be alerted whenever they receive messages from a re-registered WhatsApp account. Businesses should be aware of re-registered accounts as it means another user has taken over their contact’s number.

These notifications inform businesses if they are sending information to the right person. Unless businesses acknowledge the re-registration, they are blocked from sending messages to these accounts.

But in some cases where the business blocks a contact by choice, these contacts can still message the business by changing their number. While this opt-in feature is not foolproof, it is still a good effort at:

  1. Protecting both businesses and customers from leaking sensitive information over WhatsApp.
  2. Preventing businesses from getting flagged as spam lest they try messaging the wrong person/user that did not opt-in to their notifications.

To prevent getting flagged, WhatsApp has made it possible for businesses to monitor their account and message quality rating. Businesses can ensure the quality of customer experience by following WhatsApp's messaging best practices and guidelines.

WhatsApp API: Messaging Best Practices and Guidelines

For a start, WhatsApp Business API doesn’t allow you to send a message anytime or in any format you want. Instead, businesses wanting to message with WhatsApp API have to play by the rules which are designed to prevent spam.

For instance, you can only freely message people within 24 hours (Session Messaging) and they can only send transactional notifications after 24 hours (Template Messaging). Plus, Message Templates are content that needs to be pre-approved by WhatsApp.

It's important to understand and adhere to these WhatsApp messaging rules to maintain your phone number rating and phone number quality.

Quality Rating

To drive higher quality conversations, WhatsApp API provides businesses with insights into your phone number quality rating and status. You can find these quality insights via the Business Manager API.

These ratings indicate how WhatsApp views conversation quality with your business. Businesses have to ensure they are sending only high-quality Message Templates to avoid getting their number blocked or reported by their contacts.

Contacts have the option to choose the reason for blocking such as No Longer Needed, Didn't Sign Up, Spam and so on. Other notable reasons beyond this list include how often the business sends notifications and the time it takes for them to reply to inquiries.

When blocked, your phone number quality rating will drop from high (green) to medium (yellow) or low (red). Consequently, your phone number will be moved to a Flagged status when your number quality rating is low (red).

Once it improves to medium or high in 7 days, your phone number status will return to Connected. If your quality rating does not improve in 7 days, WhatsApp will still reinstate your status to Connected but impose a lower messaging limit on your number.

Messaging Capacity and Limit

The messaging limit is related to your phone number quality and status. It determines how many unique users your business are allowed to message daily, including new and existing conversations with users.

However, messaging limit does not apply to the number of messages sent in response to a user-initiated message within 24-hours (Session Messages). Only the number of users you’re trying to message and notification messages (Message Templates) will be limited.

In summary, WhatsApp imposes three tiers of messaging limits on businesses. Businesses start at Tier 1 upon registering their phone number. According to WhatsApp’s documentation, your business account:

  • Starts - Tier 1: Allows your business to send messages to 1K unique contacts in a rolling 24-hour period.
  • Then - Tier 2: Allows your business to send messages to 10K unique contacts in a rolling 24-hour period.
  • Finally - Tier 3: Allows your business to send messages to 100K unique contacts in a rolling 24-hour period.

Businesses can upgrade their phone number to the next tier if their quality rating is not low. And the total number of users it sends notifications to must add up to twice their current messaging limit within a 7-day period.

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For instance, if you message a total of 2,000 users within a 7-day period your WhatsApp phone number will be upgraded from Tier 1 to Tier 2. If your business sends up to the current limit every day, it takes a minimum of 48 hours for the upgrade to occur.

To monitor your phone number's quality, you can now subscribe to receive notifications when there is:

  • A change in your phone number status from Connected to Flagged and vice versa.
  • An upgrade or downgrade to your number’s messaging tier.

That's not all. To further improve messaging quality and overall customer service experience, WhatsApp has recently introduced a new policy to include a human agent pathway within a chat.

WhatsApp Human Escalation

Unsurprisingly, customers dislike chatting with bots especially if they have an issue that needs to be sorted out with a human agent. WhatsApp has finally acknowledged this pain point and made it compulsory for a WhatsApp Human Escalation pathway.

From November 2020, WhatsApp may reactively review bot experiences directly on the platform. During these reviews, WhatsApp will initiate conversations with the bot and record these messages for quality monitoring purposes. Fret not, they will clearly indicate in the thread when they are doing so.

Some acceptable escalation methods include human agent handoff, phone number, email, web support form and prompting in-store visits. However, indirect channels such as social media, a help centre webpage or a link to an app do not meet this requirement.

Without a human escalation pathway, your phone number quality rating may become low (red) and your phone number status will be Flagged. You’ll receive the warning via an update from your Business Manager and through your registered email.

If it remains unresolved in 7 days, WhatsApp will restrict your messaging limit. Businesses sending below 1,000 notifications a week will not see an immediate impact. But to increase the messaging limit in the future, you’ll have to resolve this issue first.

Types of WhatsApp Business API Messages

Now that you know how your phone number quality rating and status affect your messaging limit, we’ll discuss the two types of messages allowed on WhatsApp API - Session Messages and Message Templates.

WhatsApp API Session Messages

As we know, WhatsApp is particular about how businesses interact with customers. To ensure businesses reply to incoming messages quickly, WhatsApp imposes a messaging limitation called Session Messaging for API account users.

Session Messaging allows you to reply to contacts’ messages within a 24-hour window. Once the 24-hour window closes, you can no longer use Session Messages to reply to customers. Also, you cannot use Session Messages to message a contact first.

Even so, businesses do get some flexibility with using Session Messages. There is no need for any prior approval before sending a message as long as it abides by WhatsApp Business Policy and WhatsApp Commerce Policy.

Whenever a contact starts a chat, businesses can reply to that user without any restrictions including the number of messages and type of content. By default, WhatsApp API allows the following Session Message format:

  • Text messages (supports formatting such as bold, italic, strikethrough & code)
  • Text messages with URL (can enable preview URLs & all URLs are clickable)
  • Media messages (audio, document, image, sticker & video)
  • Contacts
  • Location

Although these message types are supported by WhatsApp API, the exact features you’ll get depend on whether your BSP provides them. Every BSP is different, so check with them first if they support the type of message you need.

Once the Session Messaging window closes, businesses will only be able to send Message Templates to their contacts.

WhatsApp API Message Templates

After 24 hours from the contact’s last incoming message, businesses are only allowed to reply with Message Templates. Alternatively, businesses can start a new conversation with contacts that have opted-in using Message Templates.

However, sending a Message Template is not as straightforward as sending a Session Message. Every Message Templates have to be submitted to your chosen BSP for approval before you can use and send them.

Till recently, businesses can only use WhatsApp API to send bulk messages in the form of transactional notifications. For instance, delivery and account updates. Any non-transactional and broadcast notifications like recurring newsletters are not allowed.

But things are changing from October 2020. WhatsApp has started rolling out non-transactional notifications in countries like Indonesia & Mexico. More recently, WhatsApp has expanded the list to include Brazil, Spain, Malaysia, United States & more.

To be eligible, businesses must have an accepted country’s address in their Facebook Business Manager registered with WhatsApp. Businesses can unlock this capability with no extra integration work and the Message Template creation process remains the same.

Depending on your business needs, WhatsApp API supports different types of Message Templates such as text, media and interactive Message Templates. But like Session Messages, the exact messaging feature depends on what your chosen BSP provides.

Now that you know how Template Messaging works, we’ll discuss the best practices when creating a Message Template for approval from your BSP.

Message Templates Best Practices

To avoid your Message Templates from getting rejected, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the dos and don’ts when creating a Message Template. Your BSP has the right to reject your templates for any of the reasons discussed below.

Formatting and Language

Your Message Templates have to be in the correct format. Incorrect formatting including misspellings and grammatical errors could give the wrong signal that your message is spammy and untrustworthy.

Next, the language selected must be supported and match the content of your Message Templates. If you select Hindi as your message’s language but the content is in English, it’ll get rejected. A mixture of languages such as “Hinglish” will also not be approved.

If you want to include a URL, the domain in your link must belong to your business. However, WhatsApp also does not recommend using a URL shortener such as bit.ly, tinyurl etc because they obscure the intended link destination.

A workaround is to use the URL in your placeholder instead of the template. WhatsApp only checks and approves the templates and not the placeholder where it's editable.

From a business perspective, we would recommend using a URL shortener as it helps businesses and marketers to:

  • Track links and add UTMs without making it too long. Essentially, UTMs are codes you add to the end of a regular URL to inform Google Analytics of the source and marketing campaign it belongs to.
  • Know how many clicks there are and understand the behaviour of people you sent the link over a messaging app.

Also, URL previews do not show by default. This feature depends on your BSP, so double-check with them if you need this feature. If you’re using a proxy API, you'll need to add an extra line of code to tell the API you’re sending a URL with a preview.

Message Templates Quality Rating & Status

To sum it up, it’s best to abide by these guidelines. Message Templates that do not meet WhatsApp’s standards may prompt contacts to block you. When blocked, your Message Template quality will drop to low and it changes your template status to Flagged.

If your template quality does not improve from low to medium or high in 7 days, WhatsApp will disable your templates and you can no longer edit or send them out. You’ll be notified via email when your template’s status changes to Flagged or Disabled.

To prevent this, ensure that your contacts have opted-in according to WhatsApp’s guidelines. Avoid sending too many notifications in a day and make sure your content is highly relevant and useful for them.

WhatsApp Business API Infographic

Further Reading

If you're interested in more information about WhatsApp for Business, why not check out these articles:

Instagram has evolved from a photo-sharing app to an important marketing platform that brands use to target their prospective customers.

When it first started in 2010, it was just another social media platform for people to share pictures (remember Pinterest?). And now it has become an important social media marketing platform crawling with influencers, brands, and marketers.

So, let’s take a look at what makes it so useful as a marketing platform and how you can use it to your advantage.

Ultimate Guide to Instagram Marketing in 2020:

Why Instagram Marketing?

Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms with a massive user base. As of April 2019, Instagram had over 1 billion active monthly users. So, the platform’s user base is too big for any brand or marketer to ignore.

If that’s not reason enough for you to start marketing on Instagram, check out these Instagram statistics that will definitely convince you.

  • Instagram has approximately 2 million monthly advertisers and over 25 million business accounts.
  • 44% of Instagram’s active users use the platform for researching and discovering brands.
  • 53% of Instagram users follow their favourite brands on the platform.
  • Over 95 million posts are created on Instagram every day.

Now that you know the importance of Instagram as a marketing platform, let’s take a closer look at ways to do it well.

We have prepared an in-depth guide on Instagram marketing and have covered everything that you need to know to succeed at it.

Set Up an Instagram Business Account

The first and most important thing that you need to do before you start marketing on Instagram is to set up a business account.

Instagram provides you with the option to either create a personal account or a business account. If you want to market on Instagram and establish your presence as a business, then the latter is the way to go. Moreover, it comes with its own set of advantages.

An Instagram business account comes with cool features like the ability to add links to Stories and to create Shoppable posts.

How to Set up an Instagram Business Account

To create an Instagram business account, you first need an active Facebook business page. You can simply go to the “create” tab at the top right and select the “page” option.

Then you select the “Business or Brand” page option and create your Facebook business page.

Give an appropriate name to your page. One that represents your business. Then select your business category.

Now, you are all set to create an Instagram business account. Just go to your account settings on Instagram and select “Switch to business account,” as shown below.

Also, ensure that your profile is set to “public” and is not a private profile. A public profile allows anyone to view your posts, which is what you will want as a business or marketer.

How to Optimise Your Instagram Profile

Your Instagram profile is your one chance to make a first impression on your profile viewers and convert them. When someone views your profile, you have a very short span of time to engage them and convert them into customers. This is why it is important to have an optimised Instagram profile.

Here are some things that you can do to optimise your Instagram profile:

  • Select a profile name that accurately represents your brand.
  • Write an engaging bio to tell your story and showcase your brand to prospective customers.
  • Add a link to your website in your bio, preferably a shortened URL that looks neat and is trackable.
  • You can also promote your branded hashtag in your bio.
  • Select an appropriate, high-quality profile picture that represents your brand.
  • Select a colour palette or brand aesthetic for your posts and use it consistently.

Leverage All Types of Instagram Content Formats

In addition to basic posts, Instagram offers a variety of other content formats, each with its unique advantages and uses. You should not limit yourself to only standard posts and should experiment with all of these fun and engaging content formats.

Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories are an engaging and fun way for brands to connect with their audiences and market themselves. The short, temporary format requires you to create fun, attention-grabbing content to engage your audience.

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When Should You Post Instagram Stories?

Unlike Instagram posts that get prioritised by the latest algorithm and need to be published when people are most active, Stories can be posted anytime. These are visible at the top of the feed for 24 hours. So they can be accessed by your audience during that period.

What Kind of Content Should be Posted as Stories?

Instagram Stories can be used to post a wide variety of content. Here are some of the numerous ways in which you can leverage Instagram Stories:

  • Promote a giveaway or contest.

This is an easy and effective way to grab your audience’s attention, increase your followers, and drive audience engagement all at the same time.

Giveaways immediately grab audience attention and encourage people to learn more. So, you should always have a CTA directing those viewers to the actual post or your website where you’re running the contest.

Also, you can ask people to follow your social media profiles to be eligible to participate, as this will help increase your followers.

  • Ask a question.

This is a simple, yet brilliant way to engage your audience and start conversations with them. But, you need to understand your audience well to start successful conversations with them.

Ask a relevant question that will spark your audience’s interest and encourage them to answer. Instagram Stories have a specific sticker that you can use to ask a question.

The best part is, that you can then post all of the answers that you get from your followers. This way, you will have enough Instagram Stories content for two days, without having to create new content every time.

  • Create quizzes and polls.

Polls and quizzes are, by their very nature, engaging types of content. The moment someone sees a quiz, they get tempted to answer to find out if they can answer correctly. Similarly, polls feed on the human need to relate to others and that’s why people want to know if their opinions match those of the majority or not.

To create polls, you can simply use Instagram Stories stickers. For detailed quizzes, you can share the link or promote the quiz via Stories. This will direct viewers to your website to take the actual quiz.

Here’s an example where this Instagram page has done just that. They introduced the quiz and asked their viewers to head to their website to take the quiz.

  • Showcase your achievements.

If you’ve recently won any awards or achieved an important milestone, then you can share that with your audience via Stories. While this may not directly drive conversions, it will definitely enhance your brand image and encourage people to try your products.

  • Post Instagram Stories Ads with purchasable links.

Instagram Stories ads are another great way to utilise the Stories format. They have an advantage over normal Instagram Stories because these can help you reach a larger number of people.

Your Instagram Stories will be available only to people who follow you, but ads can be targeted to a much broader audience. The format remains the same, just the reach increases.

Here are some best practices that you should follow to get the best out of your Instagram Stories ads:

    • Always add a call-to-action, along with a purchase link to drive conversions from your ads.
    • Use high-quality product images that clearly show the product being promoted.
    • It also helps to mention the price of a product, especially if there’s a discount, as that encourages people to click on the ad to check out the product page.

Here’s an example of an Instagram Stories Ad that has all of the above-mentioned characteristics. The product has been displayed in an eye-catching and visually-appealing manner and has a clear CTA.

Highlights

Instagram Highlights are just Instagram Stories that you decide to keep permanently displayed at the top of your feed. The format, essentially, is the same as Stories but the position is different. Instead of showing in your followers’ feed, Highlights are displayed on your own Instagram profile.

So, you can think of Highlights as a part of your Instagram profile and use these to showcase content that you want to draw attention to.

Here are some of the ways in which you can use Instagram Highlights:

To Announce New Product Launches

A lot of brands use Instagram Highlights to announce their new product launches. This is effective because Highlights are displayed right at the top and centre of the profile. And Highlights immediately grab attention and therefore are a good way to bring attention to the new product launches.

To Showcase Product Collections/Categories

You can also use Highlights to neatly categorize and display different product categories or collections. And, you can add your respective website links to each to drive people from your Instagram to your website.

For instance, clothing brand, H&M, uses their Instagram Highlights to showcase different product categories like accessories, shoes, and clothing.

For FAQs

You can also use Highlights to answer customer queries and commonly-asked questions. FAQs help your prospective customers resolve any concerns or queries about your brand or products. This, in turn, helps them to make informed purchase decisions.

In the example below, this brand uses Highlights to provide information on their policies.

Source: instagram.com

To Display Hacks, Recipes, Tutorials, and Tips

This is another brilliant way to use Instagram Highlights as you get a chance to educate your prospective customers on how to use your products. Showing your products in use is not only informative for consumers but often encourages them to buy them and try out the hack or tutorial themselves.

Similarly, for food & beverage brands, recipes are the equivalent of tutorials. Showing tempting food preparations using your products encourages people to try them themselves.

Take the example of the cosmetics brand, Huda Beauty, which provides makeup and beauty tutorials in their Instagram Highlights.

To Showcase Pictures and Videos from Brand Events

Showing footage from an exclusive brand or industry event is another effective way to use Highlights to engage your audience.

Here’s an example of how the cosmetics brand, Lakme, uses Highlights to showcase pictures and videos from their brand events.

Source: instagram.com

IGTV

Instagram TV is a cool new feature that everyone was waiting for. It allows you to post longer videos than those supported by Instagram posts or Stories. For Instagram posts, the maximum length for a video is 60 seconds and for Instagram Stories it is 15 seconds.

IGTV is the solution to this problem as it allows you to post videos of up to 60 minutes for larger, verified accounts. For other accounts, it allows a maximum video length of 10 minutes.

IGTV is designed to be compatible with mobile devices as it supports vertical videos. It is quite an engaging format as people end up watching one video after another for a long time. This makes it especially useful for brands and marketers that want to reach their audiences when they are most engaged. But, before you can start posting IGTV videos, you need to create a channel.

How to Create an IGTV Channel

Step 1: Click on the IGTV logo at the top right of your Instagram feed.

Step 2: Click on the gear icon.

Step 3: Click on “create a channel” and follow the on-screen prompts to create your IGTV channel.

How to Post IGTV Videos

Once you have created your channel, you can simply click on the IGTV icon at the top right of your feed and then the plus icon to start adding videos from your phone’s gallery.

One expert tip that you can follow is to share a 1-minute preview of your IGTV videos on your Instagram feed to promote them. This will bring viewers from your feed to your IGTV channel where they can watch the full video.

Types of IGTV Videos That You Can Create

There is no dearth of the types of videos that you can create for your IGTV channel. However, there are some types of videos that work better on this platform than others.

Here are some effective types of videos that you can leverage to engage your audience via your IGTV channel.

  • Tutorial videos explaining product features and uses
  • Q&A or AMA sessions answering a set of commonly-asked questions
  • Showcase customer testimonials or success stories to provide social proof
  • Host a regular IGTV show similar to a TV show, to build a loyal audience

Instagram Live

This is another useful feature that Instagram has rolled out in recent years. Using this, you can stream live videos that will appear in your Instagram Stories. The biggest advantage that live videos have is that they allow you to engage with your customers in real time.

So, the best way for brands to leverage Instagram Live feature is by engaging in a live Q&A or AMA session. Viewers can comment on your live video and ask questions that you can answer in real time, as shown in the example below.

Another brilliant way to use live videos is to invite guests to feature in your videos and have a chat with them.

Related Content:

Use Hashtags to Boost Your Campaigns

Using hashtags with your Instagram content can give a significant boost to your marketing efforts. Hashtags allow you to reach a more relevant audience and also increase your content’s reach. Moreover, using hashtags on your posts also has a positive correlation with your engagement rates.

According to a recent study, using up to 9 hashtags per post increases the engagement rates per post. However, don’t go overboard and use more than 10 hashtags because that might have the opposite effect.

Use Popular Industry Hashtags

The most common way to leverage hashtags for promoting your Instagram content is to use relevant hashtags from your niche. Also, ensure that you use relevant hashtags specific to each post as that will help you target the right audience who is interested in that topic.

Try to avoid using very generic hashtags that are usually flooded with posts. Instead, focus on more niche ones that are popular enough, but don’t have too much competition.

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Take the example of this post by National Geographic’s wildlife channel. They could have used popular hashtags like #photography #photooftheday, but they chose to use more specific hashtags that are relevant to the particular post.

Create a Brand or Campaign Hashtag

Another effective way to leverage hashtags to market your brand or campaigns is to create a brand or campaign-specific hashtag. The advantage of doing this is that you can use one hashtag to promote all types of content across Instagram. And, it also allows you to check the performance of your content from one place.

Use the following best practices to create and use your own hashtag:

  • Make it short and easy to remember.
  • Keep it relevant to a specific campaign or unique to your brand.
  • Use the hashtag for all your Instagram content related to that particular campaign (if it’s a campaign-specific hashtag).
  • Ask your audience to use that hashtag when reposting or sharing any of your content or participating in your contest.

Check out this post from Lays in which they used the hashtag #dousaflavor to run a marketing campaign during which they asked people to select their favourite flavours.

Collaborate With Influencers

No guide on Instagram marketing is complete without the mention of influencer marketing. Influencers are an integral part of the platform and have a massive presence and tons of followers on Instagram.

How to Find Influencers

Before you start any Instagram influencer marketing campaign, you need to first find relevant influencers in your niche. This is the most crucial step in running a successful influencer campaign and often the one where most marketers falter.

According to a recent study, 40% of marketing teams struggle with finding the right influencers and state that it is their biggest challenge.

You can find relevant influencers in your niche either by doing a manual search or by using influencer-search tools.

Manual Search

The best way for you to look for influencers manually is to do a hashtag search. Just go to the Instagram search bar and type in the most relevant hashtags from your niche. For each hashtag, look at the posts that have used that hashtag and people who have posted those.

Look for people with a substantial following and good engagement rates who use those hashtags. These will be the influencers that are relevant for your brand.

Influencer-Search Tools

If you don’t want to go through the hassle of doing a manual search, you can always use tools to find influencers. There are numerous free and paid tools available in the market. BuzzSumo, Traackr, and BuzzStream are some of the most popular ones.

All you need to do is type in your industry name, topic, hashtag, or a keyword and these tools will help you find relevant influencers as well as top-performing content.

Criteria for Influencer Selection

Once you have found influencers in your industry, the next step is to select the ones that you want to work with. This is no easy task if you don’t know what parameters to look for.

Here’s a list of some of the most important parameters that you should consider before selecting an influencer.

Reach

This is determined by the number of followers an influencer has. The higher the number of followers, the bigger their reach.

Engagement

This is determined by the number of likes, comments, and shares that the influencer gets on each post.

Brand-Alignment

This is a more subjective assessment of how well the influencer’s personal brand aligns with your brand values. And, it is the most important criteria because this is what determines whether an influencer is relevant to your brand or not.

Authenticity

This is another important parameter for influencer-selection. An authentic influencer will usually work with a smaller number of brands that they actually believe in. And they will stay true to their opinions and post only relevant content for their audiences.

Avoid influencers who promote too many unrelated brands and don’t stick to their niche in terms of posting content.

Types of Brand-Influencer Collaborations

There are several ways in which you can collaborate with influencers, here are a few of the most popular ones.

Mentions

Influencers have substantial sway over their audiences. And if they merely mention a brand, their followers are likely to check it out or even make a purchase. Brand mentions are one of the most common ways in which brands collaborate with influencers.

Reviews

Getting influencers to write product reviews is another effective way in which brands can leverage influencers. People trust the influencers that they follow. And a positive product review from them can definitely enhance your brand image and credibility.

Takeovers

You can also invite influencers to take over your Instagram account and post on your behalf. This is a comparatively less popular method of brand-influencer collaboration. But it is an effective way to drive more users to your Instagram profile.

Giveaways

You can collaborate with influencers to run a joint giveaway or ask them to promote your contests and giveaways. Running contests and giveaways is a tried and tested way to get people to follow you because they often require that as a necessary criterion for participation.

Moreover, if an influencer promotes your giveaway on their channel, then you can reach their audience in addition to yours. This will help your promotions reach a much broader audience.

Create Content That Stands Out

Instagram has no dearth of brands, marketers, and influencers all trying to grab the attention of the same people. In such an intensely competitive environment, it is crucial that you create content that stands out and is consumed by your intended audience.

Here are some expert tips and tricks to create Instagram content that stands out:

  • Try different formats like images, videos, gifs, memes, Boomerang videos, etc.
  • Use high-quality stock images for creating visually-appealing posts.
  • Maintain high image quality for all of your image and video posts.
  • Post content that is useful and relevant to your audience.
  • Post at the right times, preferably during the day time on weekdays, to get maximum engagement and views.

Leverage User-Generated Content

Creating fresh and relevant content regularly and consistently is tough. And with the new Instagram algorithm, it has become even more important to keep the relevance and frequency of your posts high.

In light of this, user-generated content is an Instagram marketers best bet. It allows you to not only engage your audience but also provides you with a regular flow of content to post.

A lot of brands leverage user-generated content and some use it exclusively on their Instagram feeds. Here are some ways in which you can leverage user-generated content to your advantage:

Twitter For Business

  • Ask your audience to tag your brand or use your hashtag to get a chance to be featured on your Instagram feed.
  • Reward your existing users by featuring their pictures of themselves using your product on your Instagram feed.
  • Repost user-generated content relevant to your brand and give credit to the original creators of the posts.

For example, the smartwatch brand, Garmin, leverages user content and posts it on their Garmin Outdoor Instagram channel.

Measure Your Performance and Improvise

After you have implemented your marketing initiatives and have run your campaigns, you need to evaluate how well they performed. This will help you understand what works for you and what doesn’t. These insights, in turn, can fuel your marketing strategy and help you improve it for the future.

You can measure the performance of your Instagram marketing campaigns either by using Instagram’s built-in analytics feature or third-party tools.

Instagram Insights

All business accounts on Instagram have with a built-in insights feature that provides data on basic performance metrics. You can check your posts’ reach and engagement. You can also get insights into your overall Instagram account’s performance. And, you can also view your audience demographics.

Instagram Analytics Tools

If you want more advanced analytics to measure your performance, not only of your Instagram account, but specific campaigns, then you can use analytics tools. From spying on your competitors to getting hashtag analytics, there are tools available for all of your Instagram analytics needs.

Here are some of the best Instagram analytics tools that you can use:

Iconosquare

This is an Instagram audit tool that provides detailed insights into your Instagram account and content’s performance. It has cool features like Instagram Stories analytics and Tags & Mentions Analytics that can help you understand exactly how each content piece performed.

Quintly

Quintly is a useful audience analytics tool that provides detailed insights into your own followers’ profiles and those of your competitors. Apart from audience demographics, it also provides insights into all of your interactions with your followers.

Minter.io

This brilliant tool takes Instagram analytics to the next level by not only telling you which posts resonate best with your audience but also you telling why. It provides insights at a granular level and can even tell you which photo or video filters perform best for you.

These are just a few of the numerous tools available in the market that you can leverage to get insights into your Instagram marketing performance. You can even get separate tools for measuring the ROI of your influencer marketing campaigns and hashtag campaigns.

So, take your pick and leverage these tools to gain insights into your performance and keep improving your Instagram marketing strategy.

Conclusion

Instagram User Manual

Use this detailed Instagram marketing guide to run successful marketing campaigns and initiatives. These expert tips will help you ace your Instagram marketing game and stand out from the crowd.