Instagram can be a bit of a mystery for business owners. As a commenter on one of my recent articles wrote, “If you’re not a celebrity, it’s very hard to be famous on Instagram”. While this may be true, I’m betting you’re not looking to get famous; rather, you want to build a solid presence on the platform in order to engage and connect with your target market. This article will walk you through my top 10 tips for using Instagram to do just that. Don’t forget to leave your best tips in the comment section below!
Apart from your image, your hashtags are the most important element of your post. While captions help you tell the story behind your image, hashtags allow you to get your image (and caption) seen by those outside your current sphere of followers.
When users search for relevant industry-related hashtags, you want your posts to show up. If not, there’s a good chance your competitors’ posts will…increasing their influence and helping them grow their followers.
There are three main strategies you can use for choosing hashtags:
Use popular hashtags that have the best chance of getting searched for (e.g., #love, #tbt, etc.)
Use less popular hashtags yet highly-relevant hashtags. These may drive fewer users to your posts, but the ones who do find you will be more targeted.
Use hashtags commonly thought to attract new followers. Some of the most commonly used are #followme, #follow4follow and #follow.
Whichever strategy you use, try to use at least one hashtag on each post. Don’t worry about using too many hashtags; some research even suggests that engagement is highest on posts that have 11+ hashtags!
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2. Be part of the Instagram community
As with all social networking, Instagram works best when you use it to form relationships with other users. Using the platform isn’t about posting pictures in your own little vacuum; it’s about participating in and/or forming community around photos.
There are many ways to build and/or be part of a community on Instagram. Using hashtags (see #1 above) allows you to connect with users you may never otherwise have met. Liking and commenting on other people’s photos gets you engaged with the greater community (and often helps you grow your own followers as people reciprocate). Participating in Instagram campaigns intended to further a worthy cause can help you contribute to a greater good (#movember is a great example of a cause perfectly suited for a visual-centric platform like Instagram). Sharing images and videos from events can help your followers feel like they’re in on the action, and are a real part of your community.
3. Know the optimal posting frequency
You will read a lot of conflicting advice regarding how often to post to Instagram. Ultimately, only you can decide what works best with your audience. That said, there is some great research from Union Metrics that gives us a springboard on which to test our efforts.
According to their research, based on monitoring 55 brands on Instagram, they found that most brands post an average of 1.5 times per day. Perhaps most notably, however, they found that posting more often didn’t result in decreased engagement (as might be expected once a certain threshold is crossed). They write, “Our initial assumption about those high-frequency posters was that the more often a brand posts, the lower their engagement rates would be on the subsequent posts. But that does not seem to be true. So far, we haven’t seen any relationship between the amount of content a brand posts each day and the engagement rates those posts receive, and definitely not a negative one.”
In other words, don’t be afraid to push the envelope when it comes to your posting frequency. Start with once a day, and gradually try increasing the frequency. When you hit a point where engagement starts dropping, scale back a bit until you reach 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: “[T]o inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” Their Instagram posts support this statement nicely, offering up inspirational and heart-warming images. Rather than simply posting promotions and random shots of coffee, they use their images to further their mission and story.
5. Optimize your entire profile
It doesn’t take long to properly optimize your Instagram profile, 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 best practices for optimizing your profile are:
Make sure your images and description gel with your brand’s vibe (see #4)
Always include a link back to your website. You may want to create a landing page specifically for Instagram
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 company.
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.
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 search. So instead of using your bio to attract search traffic, use it to clearly articulate what your brand is about, and to entice users to click-through to your site.