Instagram can be a bit of a mystery for business owners. It may seem that if you’re not a celebrity, then it’s very hard to be famous on Instagram. To some degree, this may be true, but what you are looking for is to build a substantial presence to engage and connect with your target market. The following 10 tips will walk you through building that presence on Instagram.
1. Hashtags need to be part of your strategy
It’s not just about your images. Hashtags are the second most important part of your post. While captions help you tell the story behind the image, hashtags allow you to get your image (and caption) seen by those outside your current circle of followers.
When users search for relevant hashtags that are related to your industry hashtags, you want your posts to show up. If not, there’s a good chance your competitors’ will. Increasing their influence and growing their followers.
There are three main strategies you can use for picking hashtags:
Make sure you use at least one hashtag on each post. Research has shown that that engagement is highest on posts with 11+ hashtags, so don’t worry about using too many!
2. Be part of the Instagram community
Instagram works best when you use it for forming relationships. It’s a social networking platform and isn’t just about posting pictures into a void. It’s about creating and establishing a community around the photos.
Hashtags will help you connect with users, Liking and commenting on other people’s photos will drive engagement and grow your followers as people tend to reciprocate.
Participating in Instagram campaigns intended to further a worthy cause can help you contribute to a greater good (A good example is #movember which is ideally suited for a visual platform like Instagram).
Helping followers feel like they are part of the action, by sharing images and videos from events will make them a real part of your community.
3. Know the optimal posting frequency
There is a lot of conflicting advice concerning how often to post to Instagram. The only way to truly find out is to test and see what works best with your audience. That said, there is some research from Union Metrics, based on 55 top brands which found that on average they post 1.5 times per day.
However, they did find that posting more often didn’t result in decreased engagement as you would expect and they couldn’t find a relationship between the amount of content a brand posts each day, and the engagement rates those posts receive, as being negative.
What this means is that you shouldn’t be afraid to push your posting frequency. Start with once a day, and gradually try increasing the frequency until engagement starts to drop and then scale back to your optimal level.
4. Keep your images in line with your brand’s vibe
Some of the most successful brands on Instagram pay careful attention to how their images contribute to their brand’s identity. They seem to have an overarching theme to their images – and this theme is also closely related to their overall company image.
Take Starbucks, for instance, whose company mission statement is as follows: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time.” Their Instagram posts support this statement nicely, offering up inspirational and heart-warming images. Rather than only posting promotions and random shots of coffee, they use their images to further their mission and story.
5. Optimise your entire profile
It doesn’t take long to optimise your Instagram profile properly, and it can have a significant impact on how many people click-through to your site (not to mention how they view your brand). Some of the best practices for optimising your profile are:
Make sure your images and description gel with your brand’s vibe (as per #4)
Always include a link back to your website. You may want to create a landing page specifically for Instagram visitors or change up the link destination to promote your current campaign or content.
- Use your company logo somewhere in your profile, so users know it’s the official profile for your business
- Consider adding one brand-specific hashtag to your profile, so users know it ‘belongs’ to you
- Include your physical location if you have a local business
- Add the URL to your website in your bio
- Make sure your images and other content are consistent with your other social media properties
Keep in mind that keywords and hashtags in your Instagram bio are not indexed and do not show up in the search. So instead of using your bio to attract search traffic, use it to articulate what your brand is about, and to attract users to click-through to your site.
6. Use the right tools to streamline your efforts
You can be successful on Instagram using only the Instagram app. However, many great tools can save you time and give you better insight into how well your posts are doing on the platform.
One of our favourite multipurpose tools is Iconosquare (formerly Statigr.am). It allows you to access your account via your web browser, find out which of your photos and videos are getting the most engagement, and track who is following and unfollowing you.
Other tools worth mentioning are Schedugram – for scheduling your posts, INK361 – a full-service tool for viewing, scheduling and managing your posts) and Olapic (formerly Piqora) for helping you find engaging posts to share with your audience.
7. Use Instagram ads to extend the reach of your posts
Instagram now allows all businesses to advertise on the platform. Although you should have one, keep in mind that you currently need a Facebook account to create an Instagram ad; ads can only be created in Facebook ad creation or Business Manager.
Test out ads for your own business to extend the reach of your organic posts. According to this case study on the Instagram site, McDonald’s received a 47 point lift in ad recall, “one of the highest Nielsen Brand Effect results seen to date globally”. It may be worth trying for your business!
8. Growing your followers is an art and a science
Without a solid base of followers, your efforts on Instagram are likely to be unprofitable. Fortunately, the #1 secret to increasing your followers is relatively straightforward: lasting engagement typically leads to followers. In other words, as you continue to post engaging, relevant images, your follower count will grow organically.
There are a few strategies that will help speed up the process:
- Remember that quality beats quantity. Edit your account and leave only the best images. No one wants to follow someone with thousands of useless images of food or other random shots.
- Always include a relevant caption. Asking a question within your caption is a great way to boost engagement
- Be consistent. Know who you’re posting for and why you’re posting
- Use a tool like Olapic to see which images are leading to the highest engagement (then post more of them).
- Engage on your own photos and on other people’s. As people see that you’re regularly interacting, they’ll be more likely to follow you.
- Promote your Instagram account everywhere: to your email subscribers, on your physical marketing materials and to your other social media fans and followers
9. Be a follower
Unless you’re a large, well-known brand, you probably can’t get away with not following people back. And not only should you follow your followers back, but you should also be actively finding new users to follow.
There are some strategies you can use for finding people worth following:
- Find people you already know: While logged in, go to your profile page and click in the top right-hand corner of the screen. Tap on ‘Find Friends’ to follow people on your Facebook friends list, contact list and suggested users list
- Search for people or companies you know using Instagram’s search bar
- Find people you might like to follow via Instagram’s Search and Explore feature. Click on the magnifying glass icon, and then scroll down to ‘Explore Posts’ or ‘Explore People’
- Follow influencers in your industry. A tool like Keyhole will allow you to search users and posts by hashtag and sort the results based on the number of likes they have received
- Follow users who are following influencers in your industry
- Search for industry-related hashtags. This is perhaps the most effective strategy for finding targeted users to follow in your niche
- Do a Google search for influential users in your industry (e.g. “social media” + Instagram)
- Use a tool like Picodash to easily search Instagram for people, places and photos
10. Post a variety of engaging photos and videos
It’s easy to get fixed on posting the same types of content again and again (this is the case on all social media platforms, not just Instagram). Posting product shots and selfies can certainly be part of your repertoire, but make sure you’re changing up your strategy and monitoring which formats get the most engagement. Some popular post ideas include:
- User-submitted photos
- Behind-the-scenes photos of your workspace or employees
- Sneak peeks of new products
- Simple image quotes created using a tool like Canva
- Short product demos or tutorials
- Show your personal side with ‘Day in the life’ shots
- Holiday-themed images and videos
As you decide what to post, it’s also essential to consider which strategies are most likely to get your images liked and commented on.
There are a number of strategies that can help you get the highest levels of engagement:
- Human faces (preferably close up)
- Real customers using your products
- Light colours are preferable to dark colours in terms of getting likes
- Photos tend to outperform videos (but that doesn’t mean you should never use videos)
- Images with high background space get more engagement than those with low background space
We hope the 10 strategies have given you the impulse to start using Instagram as part of your marketing strategy or to increase your current investment in the platform. With over a third of all marketers now using it, it’s obvious that Instagram holds true value for businesses, regardless of size or industry.