With 800 million users as of last September, Instagram has become an essential channel for any brand that can milk its products or services for visual appeal. Instagram is a great platform to showcase both your organization’s shiniest, most-curated face and the silliness, authenticity, and human appeal that go into making those offerings. But, unless you’re already famous, it can be difficult to build up a strong following on Instagram—whose algorithm privileges engagement and relationships over simple chronology—while staying true to your brand’s mission and values.
We’ve been there, so take it from us—these 10 essential tips will give your Instagram following the boost you’re after.
- Don’t buy followers
We know, this one might seem counterintuitive, especially when you can buy 1,000 followers for roughly what you’d spend on coffee and a muffin. But the vast majority of paid followers are bots, which will boost the number on your profile without giving you the kind of organic engagement that Instagram’s algorithm is designed to amplify. And what non-paid followers you do have are likely to get suspicious when they see you have thousands of followers but only a few likes per post—and, even worse, disillusioned with the real things your company has to offer.
- Use hashtags in moderation
Hashtags are an essential part of Instagram marketing, because they’re the backbone of its search function. As such, hashtagging is a fantastic way to get your brand on the screens of people who may not even know your company exists. It’s important to use them selectively, though (three or four hashtags per post, maximum), and to lead into your captions with more eye-catching phrases and/or emoji; if you try casting yourself as appealing to too many people using that search function, you’ll end up looking desperate and unappealing to all of them
- Engage with your audience
When a satisfied customer comments on one of your photos, or a potential customer asks a question, make it clear that there’s a team of real people running your organization’s social-media presence! Reply when your audience talks to you, as quickly as possible, and they’re likely to walk away with an even more positive view of your brand.
- Embrace ephemerality
Instagram Stories (and their Live function!) might intimidating, but they can actually be a lower-pressure space than your regular feed. In general, the posts you make to stick around need to be as beautiful and meticulously-edited as they can be; nobody wants a profile stacked wall-to-wall with mediocre shots. Because Instagram Stories vanish after 24 hours, you can use them to get at a more authentic or humorous sensibility than your permanent profile can support. Plus, since live video isn’t saved the way it is on Facebook, you can establish a greater sense of intimacy with your audience (and maybe some click-inducing FOMO in the folks who didn’t tune in on time).
- Give it away
Giveaways and contests can be Instagram exclusives, or link up with a promotion you’re running across multiple social-media channels. Ask your followers to comment, like, or tag a friend in exchange for a place in the raffle to get an extra boost!
- Step up your photo editing game
You don’t need to be a professional photographer, or even a Photoshop wizard, to run a successful Instagram campaign. But you should be running your images through an editing app like VSCO, Priime, or Litely before they ever even touch Instagram. The editing tools available on Instagram itself aren’t especially powerful, and—more importantly—they don’t offer the same range of infinitely complex variety that Instagram can when used in conjunction with another editing app. Fine-tuning the way you edit photos helps give your brand a subtle visual signature, which in turn will help you stand out in the endlessly scrolling feed.
- Keep your captions snappy
That said, it won’t matter how recognizable your company’s visual style is if you don’t have great copy to caption those images. Vary your caption content in the same way you would your images—play around with emoji and hashtags, but don’t go overboard. Captions are the place to explain a photo, present a call to action, or crack a joke. They’re part of what makes Instagram ideal for presenting nuanced, multilayered brand identity.
- Invest in analytics
Likewise, it doesn’t matter how good your captions are, if you don’t know how your posts are performing! Tools like Instagram Insights can help you identify who your most loyal and engaged followers are, what times of day your posts perform best, what search terms are leading users to your account, and much more. You should be examining and A/B testing your social-media presence the same way you would a new landing page for your website, and Instagram is no exception.
- Spread your content net wide
Just like every member of your organization contributes to the experience customers ultimately have (or the product they receive), every single one of your coworkers has the potential to contribute visuals to your Instagram campaign. That doesn’t mean every one of those people should be posting to your account—quite the opposite. But maybe your audience would like to see that perfectly-arrayed sushi roll from the Research department’s last celebratory lunch, or the cartoon taped up in your coworker’s office.
- Make ‘em laugh!
Just because your photos are closely curated and highly edited, doesn’t mean they can’t be funny. Humor can be one of the best ways to boost engagement on any social-media platform, as long as it hews closely to your brand’s authentic voice (like this April Fool’s Day post from Siggi’s). Instagram can help you show off the more human and personable side of your brand—and what’s more human than laughter?
Having trouble figuring out your brand’s authentic voice for social media? Social Link’s virtual marketing department is here to help.