Instagram is no longer just a social scene for trendy teenagers. Since it was acquired by Facebook in 2012, the already popular app has skyrocketed on an international scale. In fact, when Instagram was first bought by Facebook, it had 30 million users and no advertisers. Now, Instagram has over 800 million monthly users and over 1 million advertisers.
Instagram is quickly becoming one of the most popular social media platforms for businesses of all industries, which means marketing strategies can no longer afford to ignore it. From local pizza shops to law firms, businesses are turning to Instagram to connect with customers through creative photos, fun Q&As and giveaways. And because gaining followers and traffic is the name of the game, some brands have opted to use bot-generated activity to create the illusion of more followers. Through these third-party apps, businesses have been able to gain “fake” followers and receive fake comments and likes. However, accounts who use this phony software have been experiencing certain consequences.
Implementing third-party apps to generate unauthentic activity violates Instagram’s community guidelines, which is why it is taking steps to remove these fake followers through machine learning. Any accounts believed to be using the phony software will be instructed to change their passwords, or else they will be suspended or shut down.
Due to this recent activity, combined with the fact that 80 percent of users follow at least one business page, it is more important than ever to know how to build organic followers for your Instagram. Here are a few tips to help you boost your business on the platform.
1. Know Your Tools
Your Instagram feed is the original concept for Instagram. There, you can post photos or videos along with captions, tags, geolocations, and hashtags. These posts will stay on your Instagram account indefinitely, so it is a great place to post evergreen content. Use it to post relevant and interesting content about your brand or industry, including photos or videos of your products, pictures of your staff or workplace, and anything else that will help followers get to know your business on a more personal level. Be sure to share a variety of high-quality content that your followers will find interesting and informative.
Instagram Stories is a relatively new addition to Instagram that is similar to Snapchat. There, you can post photos or short videos that will only exist on your account for 24-hours. Instagram Stories allow you to get creative by adding gifs, tags, hashtags, and geolocations to the images or videos. Use this feature to post information such as temporary sales, polls, behind-the-scenes videos of your office, or photos of the office pets. You can even use this platform to go live and talk to fans or followers.
IGTV, the newest addition to Instagram released in June 2018, allows you to post videos that last up to an hour. This is a big jump from its previous video capabilities that would only allow for minute-long videos. Another interesting feature of this platform is that it is optimized for mobile devices, so you can view the videos vertically in full screen.
2. Fill Out Your Profile
This may seem obvious, but if you want to build brand recognition, you need to have your profile filled out and updated regularly. Use the bio to tell your followers (and future followers) a little about your business and set your profile picture as your official company logo. Make sure your profile picture is consistent across all social media channels to avoid confusion. When choosing your handle, make sure it is something easily searchable and contains some form of your company’s name.
SEO tip: Unfortunately, Instagram’s link-sharing capabilities are not quite developed for posts yet, however, you can still include a link to your company’s website in the bio. Instagram can indirectly help boost your SEO in other ways as well.
3. Engage with Your Followers
Unless you already have thousands of followers, it is important to spend time trying to gain new ones. Search for people and other businesses relevant to your industry and follow them or reciprocate by following someone back. People will appreciate your support and be more likely to return the favor. Also, don’t forget to engage with your audience through likes and comments as well. When scrolling through your feed, take the time to share a thoughtful comment on someone’s photo, and whenever possible, tag people and places in your posts. Engagement efforts for Instagram are more crucial than for Twitter or Facebook because the engagement rate is higher on Instagram than on any other social media platform.
Tip: Try following hashtags relevant to your industry and comment / like photos with that hashtag to gain even more exposure. For instance, if you are a clothing brand, you can comment on people’s #outfitoftheday and compliment their clothing choice. However, be careful to never sound desperate for followers. Avoid saying things like, “Follow me!” or even, “Check out my account!” It’s all about being nice and getting noticed in an organic, credible way.
4. Share Quality Photos Using Editing Apps
Instagram comes with its own filters and editing capabilities, but those can only go so far. Many of the filters make photos look over-corrected and even grainy. However, there are dozens of great apps you can add to your phone or computer to help you enhance your photos into high-quality content. Try VSCOcam for basic photo editing like brightness or filters, or use apps like Over to add text to your photos.
5. Use Hashtags Productively
Hashtags can be a great way to help new customers find your brand. However, if done incorrectly, they can be distracting and appear unprofessional. People have conflicting opinions on how to best incorporate hashtags, and best practices vary depending on the social media channel. In general, keep hashtags to a minimum and only use ones relevant to your content when posting. If you are not sure what hashtags to use, you can use a tool like Influencer Marketing Hub’s Hashtag Generator to get some ideas. If you have an idea for a hashtag but aren’t sure if it exists, you can try searching for it within Instagram. If it doesn’t exist, or it doesn’t have many posts associated with it, you may want to try a different, more popular one to increase exposure.
6. Mind Your Timing and Frequency
Another subject of debate among social media marketers is how often and when to post on Instagram. This will depend on your business, but B2C brands should typically post more often than B2B brands. Try not to over post or share content at the same time each day. Mix it up by sometimes sharing in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon and try to post at least once a week. There is no one right answer regarding timing and frequency as long as you are sharing quality content.
Tip: Make sure the content on your Instagram isn’t identical to the content shared on your other social media channels. If you want to use the same photo, try switching up the caption to avoid redundancy.
7. Track Your Stats
Just like you would keep up with your PPC and SEO analytics, you can track your Instagram stats within the app if you are registered as a business account. This will help you better understand who your customers are, where they are coming from, and how you can connect with them more. You can also track your stats using a social media analytics tool.
Instagram can be a fun and useful tool for connecting with your target audience, and when used properly, the platform can help boost sales and build brand recognition. Start 2019 off the right way by getting your Instagram account on track. If you need help with any of your social media marketing or advertising, don’t hesitate to contact us today.