With over 300 million users (70% outside the US), Instagram is fast becoming a top social media platform that small businesses cannot afford to ignore. Here are my top tips to boost your following and increase engagement on Instagram.
Recent research has found that images with faces attract 35% more likes than those without on Instagram. So focusing on people shots is a good way to introduce the people behind your business and get extra exposure for your brand and business.
Like other social media platforms, Instagram is a great way to present your brand less formally than your website or through more traditional communication channels. Share photographs of what goes on behind the scenes - including all the members of your team and even the office dog!
If you can tell a story through your images, that's even better; these images show the personality behind your brand and encourage an emotional connection, an important element in creating brand fans.
Posting original content regularly is important, but you can increase your Instagram activity by paying attention to what your followers are posting. Like and share images posted by your followers, especially any that mention your products or services.
This "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" approach will encourage your followers to share similar photos with you. And it also helps to present your business from a new angle. Always credit the person that posted the image by tagging them in your caption.
Hashtags and the text you use with your Instagram image are as important as the image itself. Hashtags help people connect with people and to find topics and brands that they're interested in. Researching relevant and popular hashtags that will appeal to your target audience is essential. Tools such as Iconosquare or FindGram are useful and they also offer access to key metrics to help you track what works and what doesn't.
Creating a branded hashtag is a sensible strategy. Encourage your followers to use it; it will increase engagement and improve your visibility on Instagram in one fell swoop. Generic hashtags, such as #shoes or #design, don't work because there are simply too many other images with the same hashtag. Instead, try to find something unique that relates specifically to your business.
Don't be tempted to use too many hashtags; it gets messy and smacks of desperation. It's best to concentrate on two or three hashtags that are absolutely relevant.
Calls to action work as well on Instagram as they do in the rest of your marketing. Try asking your followers what they think about an image; it's a great way to start a two-way conversation.
If you've done your hashtag homework, you will have discovered users that have a large Instagram following; they may well be key influencers that are relevant to your business and worth connecting with. Engage with them and start to build a relationship.
Consistency is everything. A flurry of activity followed by weeks of nothing posted will not foster a loyal following. Decide how many posts you can commit to per week and stick to it. It will also encourage you to be more discerning about what you post - quality is always preferable to quantity - and your followers will appreciate it.