If you're wondering why Instagram has been dubbed the “king of social engagement” check this out - top brands are seeing a per-follower interaction rate 10 times higher than Facebook, and 100 times higher than Twitter.
And that's why Instagram is becoming a compelling new social network for brands looking to find potential new customers. As a small business, it's a platform you simply cannot ignore.
1. Publicise your Instagram account
Unless you announce it publicly people might not know that you’re there. Advertise your presence on your existing social media networks and consider boosting posts with paid advertising so they are seen.
Link your Instagram account to your website, your email signature and include Instagram photos in e-newsletters and blog posts.
2. Find the best time to post
When is your audience online? If your audience is stay at home mums the times they use Instagram may well differ from full-time city workers. If you work internationally consider times that work well or multiple markets.
Observe when your posts are getting the most likes then use scheduling tools like Hootsuite to pre-prepare posts that are automatically sent out at particular times.
3. Create high quality content and post consistently
Make sure you know the kind of content that appeals to your audience, and then pick a frequency of posting and stick to it.
4. Use hashtags and captions wisely
Hashtags and captions are your best friends on Instagram. However be weary of overdoing it and confusing your message. Find and use popular hashtags when they’re relevant or create your own.
Don’t use hashtag gimmicks such as #followme as this is unlikely to result in meaningful likes or interactions that will lead to conversions.
With Instagram, your photo captions are what really helps sell your photos to gain new followers. However people don’t want to wade through a heap of text. It should be short and sweet and encourage engagement e.g. through asking questions or tagging users.
5. Hold an Instagram contest
There are many ways to run an Instagram contest. One is for users to like your account and share a selfie of them using your product.
Contests help achieve a couple of things: Firstly there is an incentive for new people to follow you because of what they could win, secondly it showcases your product and brand, and thirdly it exposes new people to your product through them seeing photos of friends using the product in their Instagram feed.
6. Respond to comments
Instagram is all about relationships and authenticity so when someone takes the time to leave a comment make sure you reply. Also follow back the people who follow you and comment on their posts for maximum impact.
7. Use video
You might not be aware but you can upload to videos to Instagram also. The key is to keep them to less than a minute though.
8. Crowdsource images
Every now and then let your customer base do your work for you and put out a call for photos of your product. You will be surprised at the creativity of your followers and they will be delighted to get to interact with you and have their moment of fame.
9. Create a theme/story for your photos
Create a sense of drama and adventure by inspiring people with photos with stories or themes behind them. Think of what words you want to be associated with e.g. cultural, chic, bubbly, sporty etc and use these as inspiration.
Or check out the following accounts for some good examples of Instagrammers who are rocking themes and stories in their photos: Studio DIY, Wonderforest and Jessica Safko.
10. Do your research
There are two things you should research. Firstly you should research what your audience likes. Secondly you should research the competitors in your industry and niche: What are they doing well? What are they doing not so well? What frequency are they posting? How do they engage with audience? See if you can steal some ideas, or better yet figure out the missing gap and come up with a plan to fill the void.