If you haven’t considered using Instagram to market your business, it’s probably time to think about it. 1 billion people use Instagram each month, making it the second most visited social network behind Facebook. In fact, 37% of American adults use the platform, giving you a better than 1 in 3 chance of reaching your audience using the platform.
But if you’ve never marketed on Instagram before and aren’t a regular user of it personally, it may seem mysterious to you. How much time or money should you expect to invest?
Not surprisingly, there are a number of trade-offs to consider depending on what route you go with your Instagram marketing. Let’s take a look at three major decisions you need to make that determine what the time and money investment will look like.
Decision 1: DIY or digital marketing agency
The first decision you’ll need to make is whether you want to do the strategy, planning, and posting on your own, or whether you want to hire a professional to help.
A professional doesn’t necessarily mean a full blown digital marketing agency. There are a range of options to choose from. Here are a few examples in that range, starting from higher dollar investment (in general) to lower dollar investment.
- An Instagram marketing agency
- A digital marketing agency
- A full-time professional freelancer
- A part time freelancer
In general you can expect to get better results with the higher end options. Higher dollar investments will tend to get you proven systems, consistency, and better communication. But it’s always possible you’ll find a part-time freelancer who does a great job.
Regardless of where you land in that range, a professional can help with any number of things, potentially including:
- Photography (more on this in a bit)
- Scheduled posts
- Live posts
- Audience building
- Paid advertising (more on this in a bit as well)
The higher your investment, the more items from that list you’ll have help with. Depending on all the variables, you can expect to pay anywhere from $100 a month (a great deal on a part-time freelancer) to $5,000 a month (something all-inclusive with an Instagram marketing agency).
Decision 2: DIY vs professional photography
Whether you use a professional photographer or do the bulk of the photography yourself, one area you don’t want to skimp on is your pictures. After all, Instagram is all about the visuals! You can be active and engaging on Instagram, but if your photography isn’t great, your results will be mediocre at best.
Fun fact: just because you spent a lot on a camera doesn’t mean your pictures are great. I hate to be the one to tell you your baby is ugly, but a good camera doesn’t directly result in good photos.
A professional photographer can make photos taken with an iPhone look fantastic. A bad photographer will get horrible photos even if he’s using an expensive camera.
So you need to ask yourself this question: “Self, do I have time to start a new hobby that will consume a lot of time? Or do I want to pay a professional photographer, saving myself hundreds of hours?”
That’s not an exaggeration! If you want a new hobby, feel free to jump in. Remember that your initial work won’t be nearly as good as your work even a year from now. So you may want to wait to post your photos on your business’s Instagram account, and just use your personal one until you’re much better.
But if you want to save hundreds of hours, hire a professional photographer. That arrangement can take any number of forms. You could have them do…
- A weekly photo session
- A photo session each month
- Occasional photo sessions throughout the year
- One or two photo sessions during a year, lasting one to two hours each
For each photo session that’s an hour or two long, you can expect to pay $100 – $600 or so. Depending on your strategy and what kind of business you’re running, that could be once a year, once a week, or somewhere in between.
Also, not all businesses lend themselves to custom photography. You may need to hire a graphic designer instead. The investment for good graphic design is very similar to the investment for good photography.
Decision 3: Organic vs paid advertising
If you aren’t deeply involved in social media marketing, you may not be aware that it’s very much a pay-to-play situation. In other words, social media companies are in business to make money! So they’ve made it much harder to get your message out there than it used to be. Unless, of course, you pay them.
Yes, it is possible to still get a lot of reach and engagement on Instagram organically—meaning without using paid advertising. You may still pay a digital marketing agency or even just a photographer, but with organic efforts you won’t give the social media company any of your money.
But it’s amazing how much more reach you can get by just allocating a small amount of money to paid advertising! Tim did an in-depth analysis of paying to build a Facebook audience several years ago, and similar strategies still work today on social media.
If you didn’t know, Facebook owns Instagram. So if you do decide to utilize paid advertising, you’ll actually need to link your Instagram account to a Facebook Page. Then you can run paid advertising campaigns, get access to statistics, and have the ability to pre-schedule your Instagram posts.
So what’s a reasonable budget for paid advertising? First, if you don’t want to learn the ins and outs of the strategy behind paid advertising and the tools required to do it, you’ll probably end up paying a professional a couple hundred dollars a month to manage the paid advertising for you. As far as the actual advertising budget goes, smaller organizations can get a lot of mileage out of a $50 – $200 budget, or you can spend $1,000 – $2,000 a month if you really want to go all in.
While that’s only three decisions to make, they’re pretty big ones! You can end up spending thousands of dollars a month, or you can do everything yourself and spend dozens of hours a month. Most likely you’ll end up somewhere in between. It all depends on how much time you want to invest versus money as well as what results you’re hoping to get.