How To Maximize Instagram DMs To Achieve Your Marketing Goals

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Josh Brown

Last Updated: Sep 26, 2023

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Do you use Instagram DMs to engage with your following? It sounds like a silly question.  But, with so many features being added to Instagram to help brands spread awareness, engage with their audience, and uncover major sales opportunities…it can be easy to overlook the more basic features the platform has to offer.

But, that doesn’t mean you should overlook Instagram DMs as a means to growing your business. The truth is, this simple, often-taken-for-granted tool can allow you to engage with your customers and nurture your relationships in ways that aren’t possible on other channels.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to use Instagram DMs to proactively and reactively reach out to your audience for a variety of purposes.

Let’s dig in.

Instagram DMs For Marketing Purposes

If you haven’t really thought of using direct messages on Instagram for marketing purposes, you might want to think again.

375 million Instagram users actively use the DM feature for various purposes. Those belonging to Gen Y and Z are most likely to use DMs on Instagram; it’s the second-most popular messaging platform for these age ranges, with Facebook Messenger still holding the top spot.

As with all marketing initiatives, though, a strategic approach to direct messaging on Instagram is essential to your overall success.

Let’s discuss what this all entails.

Before You Start Sliding Into Your Followers’ DMs…

On the surface, using Instagram DMs to engage with your audience might seem pretty simple. And…well, the act of using direct messages certainly isn’t complicated.

But taking a strategic approach does require some planning. So, before you start shooting out messages to your followers and target audience members, you’ll want to take a step back and make a game plan.

Define Your Internal Logistics

First things first, you need to be sure your team has the capacity to engage with your audience on an ongoing basis.

(Looking at this the other way, you don’t want to start using DMs only to realize you can’t keep up with it as time goes on.) Some key things to think about here:

  • Who will be responsible for managing your Instagram messages?
  • When and how often will they perform DM-related tasks?
  • Who else within your team might they need to work with to enhance their efforts?

Again, since you’ll be adding tasks onto your team’s already-full workload, you may need to move things around a bit to ensure your DM-related initiatives get the proper attention. You can also hire an intern and have a mentorship program in place for the intern to grow into the role. You should also set clear goals for your initiatives, too. These goals will touch on a variety of areas—from marketing and sales to customer service and support. 

Basically, you want to give your team something to strive for as they leverage DMs for business purposes. You’ll likely want to start with a more broad outlook, then get more specific once you figure out what it is you actually want to accomplish. Are you aiming to increase brand awareness and engagement?  Focus on improving metrics such as:

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If enhancing customer service and support is your goal, you’ll be focusing on KPIs such as:

  • Response time
  • Resolution time
  • First contact resolutions

If you’re looking to increase sales, you’d of course look at the number of sales that have come from engagements via Instagram DMs. Make sure to include UTM parameters within any product links you send your followers so you can attribute sales directly to these messages.

It may take some time to get an accurate idea of the impact your direct messaging efforts will have on your business’ overall performance. But, as time goes on, you should be able to identify realistic milestones to strive for—which will allow you to become even more strategic in your approach.

Solidify Your Brand’s Voice and Tone

Chances are, your brand already has a style in terms of its voice and tone. And, hopefully, you’ve allowed your brand’s voice to shine through in the content you post on Instagram.

When it comes to Instagram DMs, you definitely want to keep your brand’s voice and tone in mind. But, you’ll want to take a more balanced approach here. On the one hand, it’s important to be consistent. If, for example, the team at MeUndies were to reply to DMs asking about special promotions in a more serious tone, it would likely be a bit off-putting to the customer.

On the other hand, though, you do want to take the specific circumstances into consideration. If a customer messages you with a complaint, you’d definitely want to take a more serious and empathetic tone. (Needless to say, using your brand’s “regular” voice would likely be quite insensitive at such moments.)

On that note, it’s worth mentioning that your direct messages will, of course, be created by an actual person within your organization. So, while you do want to maintain alignment with your brand’s overall voice, it’s also important for the individual to be more personal and personable when engaging with customers via DM.

Plan Out Your Messaging Workflow

With the above in mind, you do want to have a plan in place as for how to communicate with your audience via DMs. As discussed earlier, you’ll want to define:

  • Who will be responsible for responding
  • How long—at most—it should take to respond
  • How your team will mark conversations in terms of being read, replied to, and closed.

(Remember how we said there’s more to DMing your followers than the act of messaging them?) You’ll also want to create Quick Reply templates for common scenarios.

This allows you to create multiple message templates based on your audience’s general needs, questions, and/or concerns. From there, you can personalize these templates on an individual basis—ensuring that you’re giving each customer the attention they deserve.

(This goes along with what we said earlier about striking a balance between branded voice and personable communications.)

It’s worth noting that, while an AI chatbot technology is all the rage by today’s standards, Instagram doesn’t provide this option for businesses as of yet. For our purposes, this is actually a good thing: By setting up Quick Replies, you can automate part of the process—then jump in to add a more human feel to your direct message conversations.

Set Your Audience’s Expectations

Once you have the backend processes set and planned out, you need to let your audience know your DMs are open for engagement.

The easiest way to do this is to ensure your profile shows the Message button within your bio.

message button in Nike's bio to allow Instagram Dms

You can also mention that your DM’s are “open” directly in your bio.

Instagram Dms open in bio example

You might also use other platforms (e.g., your website, other social media channels, etc.) to point your customers toward Instagram for direct messaging purposes. This will give them yet another option for communicating with your team—which may become the go-to option for some.

Finally, if you don’t plan on using Instagram for certain purposes (i.e., if there’s a better way for your customers to, say, receive customer service), make this clear in your bio. This is where adding extra “Contact” buttons to your bio will come in handy.

extra contact buttons in Instagram bio

Having set your audience’s expectations for engaging via Instagram DMs, you’ll be ready to take the next step—and actually start engaging with them.

Proactively Reaching Out To Your Target Audience

Okay so, you’ve created a game plan. You’ve made it known that your brand is open to communicating with your followers via DMs. The thing is, though, your audience may or may not take you up on your offer. Unfortunately, this means all your planning and preparation can easily go to waste….that is, if you allow it to.

Instead of sitting back and waiting for your followers to come to you, why not be proactive and reach out to them? Again, though, you need to have a strategic approach when doing so.

Let’s take a look at what this means.

Reach Out Based on Customer Engagement

Overall, there are a ton of possible ways your audience will engage with your brand—both on and off Instagram. Many—if not all—of these instances provides opportunities for you to reach out to them via direct message.

On Instagram, you may decide to reach out to those who:

Of course, your follow-up messages should clearly connect to the content your audience is responding to.

In fact, you should always have a clear idea of how you intend to follow up with engaged audience members before you even post your content. Otherwise, you run the risk of missing out on major opportunities for your business—and also disappointing your customers with subpar responses.

Take this Story poll from Fanclubclothing, for example:

example of story to get more engagement and Instagram dms
Instagram story poll

Depending on an individual follower’s response, the team could then send over a direct link to products matching the style they chose.

You might also consider the ways your audience engages with your brand outside of Instagram, as well. For example, you might use a customer’s purchase and browsing history to develop highly-personalized offers, and deliver them via DM:

Instagram dms example

Now, in going this route, you need to tread carefully. 

If a customer isn’t connected with you on Instagram, you definitely don’t want to track them down to offer an up- or cross-sell (or anything else, for that matter). But, if they’ve:

  • Followed your brand on their own volition, or
  • Made clear that it’s okay for you to contact them on Instagram

…then you should definitely see this permission as an opportunity to engage further with them.

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Engage Based on Audience Interests and Behaviors

For target audience members who haven’t directly engaged with your brand on Instagram, you’ll want to use DMs to get the ball rolling.

Basically, you’ll be looking to identify those who are similar in some way to your current followers on Instagram. These would be:

For example, though the above user didn’t tag Fabletics in their post, they did use the hashtag “#fabletics” (amongst other fitness-related hashtags). Clearly, this would be a good time for the clothing company to reach out to this individual.

Now, remember: We’re talking specifically about using Instagram DMs to engage with these individuals.That said, it makes sense to target those who are clearly interested in brands like yours and who are active on the platform. (Looking at this another way, it wouldn’t make sense to target those who might be interested in your brand, but who don’t really use Instagram all that often.)

So, you’ll want to take a closer look at the profiles of those who use certain hashtags or post certain content. Check for consistency, and for clear usage of Instagram’s various features. Absent these things, you might want to just move on to a more active and qualified prospect.

One thing to note, though: Before reaching out via DM to those who don’t yet follow your brand, try to engage with them on the platform in other ways. Follow them; like their (relevant) posts; comment appropriately if they use a relevant hashtag. Do something to put them on your radar—and to show them you’re open to engaging further and adding value to their Instagram experience and overall lives.

For one thing, it’s a lot less “in your face” to go this route. Starting off with a direct message might work—but it also might come off as a bit forward. Secondly, they might not even get your message in the first place. If the individual doesn’t follow you, your message will likely end up in their “Message Requests” inbox. Unfortunately, they won’t be notified of your message—and will only see it if they actively check this hidden folder.

So, again: While our goal is to engage with your target audience via direct messages, you may need to start by planting seeds using Instagram’s other features and functions, first.

Providing Added Value to Top Customers

So far, we’ve talked about DMing those who have taken a specific action. But, you’ll also want to consider reaching out to those who, overall, have proven to be your absolute best customers (on Instagram and off).

Here, you’ll again be using their engagement and purchase histories as a basis for your outreach. But, the messages and offers you’ll send will be based more on goings-on within your business than they are directly associated with your followers’ actions.

A few examples of when this applies:

  • If you’re about to release a new product or service that certain followers are interested in
  • If you have a new segment- or audience-wide promotion coming up that applies to specific followers
  • If your company has reached a certain milestone (e.g., an anniversary, a follower count, etc.)

You could also take a similar approach when a given customer reaches a certain milestone—whether they recognize it or not. Brand anniversaries, birthdays, milestone purchases…any of these instances are perfect moments to reach out on Instagram with a highly-targeted reward for your loyal and high-value customers.

Responding To Your Followers’ Direct Messages

Ideally, if you’ve opened the door for your audience to engage with your brand via DMs, they’ll take you up on the offer.

As we said earlier, you’ll want to be prepared for your followers to reach out for any number of reasons. This not only means having templates ready for each of these occasions, but also being able to fully provide for your individual customers whenever they come to you in need. This may mean:

  • Delivering the right content to followers asking for more information about your products, services, or overall brand
  • Pointing customers to the appropriate product pages to help streamline their buyer’s journey
  • Solving service-related issues directly in the direct message chat—or, if that’s not possible, connecting them to your customer support staff

Of course, these are just examples of a brand providing for the customer as expected by the customer. This is all well and good—but it’s also the bare minimum as far as providing value to the customer. Really, your goal should be to go above and beyond every time a customer reaches out to you via direct message.

Using the examples from above, you might…

  • Present product or service customization options for those looking for specific features and overall value
  • Showcase higher-value products (upsells) or complementary products (cross-sells) to those interested in specific products
  • Delivering more in-depth help content revolving around best practices when using your products or services

It’s the difference between your followers saying, “Gee, you really helped me out there!” and “Gee, you really helped me out there…and you gave me way more than I expected!” Needless to say, the latter outcome is definitely what you should be aiming for at all times.

Using Direct Messages Strategically

It sounds painfully redundant, but direct messaging on Instagram provides the most direct way to connect with your followers and overall target audience on the popular platform. In taking your individual conversations off the public part of Instagram, you’ll almost certainly be able to engage with your followers in a way that can’t happen when replying to their comments and the like.

Are these other aspects of the platform are, of course, crucial to your overall Instagram presence? Absolutely. But adding a strategic DM initiative into the mix can complement the rest of your efforts—and allow you to supercharge the value your followers get from engaging with your brand.

Author Bio

Josh Brown from Helpjuice

Josh Brown is the Marketing Manager at Helpjuice – knowledge base software that can be used to help better support your customers. In his spare time, Josh enjoys reading, BJJ, and doing arts-and-crafts with his daughter.

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