It’s 2017. Our lives are more saturated with social media than ever –- as individuals and businesses looking to connect with an audience. With so many ways to influence and engage, where do you start? Sure, you can do the bare minimum and just make sure you have a profile on each network and a row of little icons somewhere on your web site. But what if you want to take things more seriously and embrace social networking as a part of your marketing strategy?
Instagram is a good place to start.
Boasting an impressive 500+ million users (June 2016), the Facebook-owned giant-in-its-own-right started as a smartphone app for sharing photos. While Facebook keeps adding features, photo sharing remains its central focus, an ever-expanding web of images connecting all kinds of people around the world.
With its expansive network of users, Instagram offers incredible marketing potential. I’ve seen dedicated individuals conjure for themselves an audience in the hundreds of thousands –- sometimes in mere weeks! While we can’t quantify what to expect, we can at least share the basics used by those who’ve amassed a social media empire from the ground up.
Be smart with hashtags.
Good use of hashtags is more than just chaining a bunch of related words at the end of each post. Instead, let’s parse the strategies that grow solid results:
- Use what’s known: Apply widely searched common words that will allow your image to be found by a wider audience. This allows to cast a bigger net, potentially capturing the attention of people who might not otherwise see your post.
- Be specific: Less common phrases that are more specific to your business will reach a narrower audience but increase the chances of viewers being part of your target market.
It’s generally best to use a combination of both popular and specific hashtags for maximum potential. You want to be careful not to overdo it, but there’s no limit to how many you can add! Working hashtags naturally into your captions will help you look more professional, while ten lines of nothing but hashtags might come across as a little desperate.
Write engaging captions.
Captions can make a big difference. You can get people to see your content with hashtags, but you increase the likelihood of engagement when you craft your captions carefully. A few tips:
- Be conversational: An already established brand has its own voice. Use yours when writing your captions, but remember that we’re on a social network interacting with real people. A conversational tone makes for a more engaging post, and can help turn views into followers.
- Format longer captions: When you have a lot to say, avoid overwhelming your audience with too much text by formatting your caption with line breaks. As a rule, long strings of content warrant line or paragraph breaks. Attention to readability is going to make you appear more professional. One more thing: Because you can’t add line breaks directly in the app, consider using your favorite smartphone note-taking tool to prepare your content. When you’re ready, copy and paste it into Instagram.
- Proofread before posting: Avoid publishing those pesky autocorrect typos by double-checking your caption and hashtags before you post. Trust us, it’s worth the extra effort.
Craft a consistent style.
The most successful brands on Instagram maintain a consistent style in photography and caption-writing. In some ways, this amounts to “branding” their Instagram presence. That topic could be an entire article in itself, but you’ll be off to a great start when you consider:
- Quality photography: When someone looks at your profile, the first thing they see is a grid of your most recent images. So either they’ll see a jumble of random photos or be pleasantly greeted by a gallery of carefully crafted content. When possible, forego hastily snapped photos in favor of well-framed and well-lit shots. Of course, a photographic style that works for one business may not be as suitable for another. The most important thing is to approach each post with care and consistency.
- Subject matters: Decide based on the nature of your business what kind of photos you’ll likely be sharing. Do you manufacture products? You’ll probably want to focus on beautiful product shots and lifestyle photos. Design for clients? Action shots of creative work happening in the studio could make sense. Whatever your business, knowing in advance what kinds of content to share helps further a congruent or thoughtful brand. There are always certain photos that may be better suited for your personal account.
Don’t be a brand that disappears! Sharing regularly looks better for your business and keeps your Instagram exposure consistent and relevant. To ensure consistency and regularity, some companies create an “editorial calendar” to maintain a schedule for posts. Aside from frequency, details may include times of day to optimize exposure. Finally, keep learning: companies such as Iconosquare provide great insight and analytics for added strategy.
Last–-but definitely not least–-interact with the people who’re following you.
If you follow all the suggestions above but don’t spend any time liking and commenting, you’re falling short. No need to go mindlessly liking photos for no reason; instead, look up hashtags you’ve used in your own posts, find content that relates to your business, and like or comment on photos that you genuinely appreciate. Follow other businesses you could see as potential partners. Engaging with others is key to successful Instagram marketing.
In sum, stick with it.
These are just a few tips to grow your presence, but ultimately stick to your vision. As long as you engage and be human, your time, discipline, and unique creativity will keep fueling the engine. If you post with conviction, people will take notice. And your loyal followers have a way to spread the word.