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With over two billion monthly active users, Instagram is contending with websites as a digital shopfront. It’s also rivalling search engines for worldwide brand research. Want global visibility? We explore the best approaches to social media optimization.

Nowadays, you can create a global online presence, connect with your customers and drive sales from a pink camera-shaped box.

Experts know Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is important. It’s the difference between getting lost in a sea of WWWs versus customers finding your website in one click.

But, much like SEO, Social Media Optimization (SMO) is imperative. SMO is the clever use of social networks to increase brand presence, drive sales and connect with your global target audience.

As you’d invest in your SEO strategy, your SMO strategy should sit within your global marketing budget. Your social media channels help connect you with your customers all over the world, so optimizing your Instagram allows you to reach local audiences and engage them. 

46% of organizations worldwide plan to increase their social media budget in 2023 – and your SMO should form a significant part of this. Why’s investing in your SMO worth it? Here are our top three reasons:

1. CREATING BRAND AWARENESS

With a predicted 1.44 billion users in 2025, Instagram is a no-brainer for building brand awareness. Not new but developing, the Instagram Search function acts similarly to your typical Google search. Yet as part of the Explore page, Instagram Search is home to every account on the app. 

Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan, who runs Google’s Knowledge and Information organization, underlined the future of search engines at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference.

He confirmed that ‘In [Google’s internal] studies, something like almost 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search,’ he continued. ‘They go to TikTok or Instagram.’

In 2022, Gen Z had $360 billion in disposable income – more than double what was estimated three years earlier. That’s why you can’t ignore the platforms that influence what they buy.

Just like SEO, you can optimize your Instagram to reach your global target audience. But how do you do this? 

Through content – careful use of what you share and keeping in mind who you’re creating it for. Four areas to focus on:

  • Content: 65% of consumers prefer content in their own language. So you could opt for localized channels for different regional markets. You should call to your audiences’ wants and needs in a whole-rounded approach that respects and reflects their culture. That said, merely translating words is a no-go. 
  • Captions: Write engaging, descriptive captions and use keywords relevant to your content and desired audience. Use keyword research tools and hashtags to discover trending content ideas for your niche and locale. These dynamite words will form the basis of your content strategy. It’s essential to keep your target audience front of mind – from local keyword research to captions written in their native language. This ensures you’re communicating effectively, capturing nuance and encouraging engagement. You should also use keywords to optimize your posts’ alt descriptions. Even though they’re primarily designed for accessibility purposes, they can also help to boost visibility.
  • Profile: Keywords aren’t just for captions. They have a place in your Instagram bio and username. How do you choose the right ones? Recognize your niche and go from there, exactly as you would for SEO. Primary keywords are better suited in your profile. Save the secondary keywords for your captions. When it comes to certain languages, support from a marketing localization partner can make your words count in a competitive market. For example, Japanese and German are ‘expansive’ languages, so you’d need expert advice when optimizing your profile within the restrictions.
  • Hashtags: Don’t forget hashtags. They aren’t a thing of the past – they’re as necessary for your Instagram content strategy as ever. And, like keyword research, hashtag research in international markets is key to finding out what’s trending with your global audiences.

When localized effectively they’re a useful tool for users to discover new content in their own language. Relevant hashtags can bring your brand screen-to-face with people you haven’t already connected with across the globe.

From images to your tone of voice, your content should be localized to each target market. A lot to think about? All of this should form part of your global social media strategy and localized content plan. 

If you want to engage your international audiences, investing in your social media content is as important as your website, blog or newsletter. 

2. CONNECTING WITH CUSTOMERS

Customer communication is about creating authentic connections between screens and across continents. Two elements to consider optimizing are: response times and how you engage with your global audiences.

After the COVID-19 pandemic, the expectation of being active online has risen. 37% of British and Irish consumers say they spend over two hours on social a day, compared to 31% of consumers in the US

Nigerians spend the most time on social media with over four hours online daily. South Africans, Filipinos and Brazilians aren’t far behind. Additionally, LATAM sits at 3 hours and 34 minutes a day.

Consumers in APAC spent an average of 2 hours and 20 minutes a day whereas Europeans come in at a low daily average of 1 hour 48 minutes

Based on Hubspot research, 90% of customers rate an ‘immediate’ response as essential when they have a customer service question. 60% of customers define ‘immediate’ as 10 minutes or fewer. Your customers are online more than ever before – and they expect you to be ready to respond.

Using native Instagram tools like ‘Automated Response’ can help manage expectations. As customers prefer native communication, your conversations with them should be in their language. And, as you expand your audience, time zones become an integral part of your global social media strategy. 

There’s no need to employ in-country support yourself – outsourcing is a great option. Find a marketing localization agency with the right social media resources to run your account and you’re good to go.

However, it goes beyond DMs. Engagement and sharing your followers’ content is a big part of forming an online community. User-generated content (UGC) performs better than curated campaigns. 

According to Nielsen’s latest Global Trust in Advertising report, which surveyed more than 28,000 respondents in 56 countries, 70% of consumers trust online UGC customer reviews. This makes UGC the second most trusted form of brand messaging after word-of-mouth from friends and family. 

Building follower engagement into your global Social Media Optimization strategy can increase brand authenticity and develop trust. Both are crucial for building a loyal customer base and driving sales in your target region.

3. SELLING YOUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE

Instagram Shopping boomed in 2021 parallel to ongoing COVID-19 lockdowns. Our shopping shifted online and away from brick-and-mortar stores. And apps did what they do best: they updated to deliver a seamless purchasing experience.

Instagram shopping is an exciting tool to explore and expand in 2023. It’s a great way to reach your worldwide target audience and customers. 

However, 40% of consumers won’t purchase in a language that isn’t their own. Therefore, your global strategy is key, from optimizing your shopfront to localizing your content and influencer collaborations.

According to Instagram Business, 44% of people surveyed use Instagram to shop weekly. Buyers use native features like shopping tags and Instagram Guides. Instagram encourages businesses to tap into the power of visual storytelling to sell products and services.

A woman's hands holding a smartphone.

Optimizing your Instagram for an easy digital shopping journey is important – much like a well-designed shop layout lends to customer experience. From your shopfront to product tags, paid ads and influencer collabs, consistency, creativity and curation are key.

In 2023, Live Commerce is predicted to rise. Live shopping is the way forward for brands to market their products in real time. Featured products are shown at the bottom of the live broadcast screen, and viewers tap to purchase.

This offers consumers a more authentic shopping experience as they can see how the products work, which increases customer trust.

Additionally, influencer marketing is growing and transparency will be easier in 2023. With the roll-out of the new Creator Marketplace, brands can form direct partnerships with influencers via the app. This is currently only available in the US but expansion into other markets is on the horizon.

The Instagram Collab feature also helps expand your reach. A single, co-created feed post or Reel shows up on two profiles at the same time. And, if you’re collaborating with the right influencers in your desired target markets, you can engage a wider global audience.

Paid Partnership labels are here to stay. 45% of Gen Z consumers in the US are more likely to interact with a brand if they’re transparent and trustworthy. With Instagram’s Paid Partnership feature, they’ll display a label above all posts that contain affiliation with brand products. Another opportunity to secure brand authenticity.

FINAL THOUGHT

Instagram is a powerful tool for reaching, connecting and converting your customers worldwide. With a strong global content and social media optimization strategy, you can maximize your potential in competitive local markets.

And while Instagram is a rising platform for brand research, it’s not replacing the likes of Google. Consumers are still spreading their time across both and it’s not designed to be a comprehensive search engine.

That’s why it’s important not to put all your eggs into one basket. Instead, invest in strategies across all digital platforms to build brand loyalty and increase ROI. From SEO to SMO, influencer marketing and paid advertising, we can help. Get in touch here.

Image by Everton Vila on Unsplash