In my previous article, I shared how to increase engagement and visibility leveraging the power of Boost Groups. Today, after receiving lots of feedback from clients, readers and my social media community, I am sharing with you six tips to help optimize our Instagram presence, and ensure we make the most of our opportunities on the platform:
1. Write Engaging Content
To achieve this we have to document our day. What do I mean by this? Well, we have to switch our mindset from “How do I engage people?” “I can’t think of anything to post” or “I don’t have anything to say;” to “Let me share what happened today at work” or “I am going to post a selfie with this client/prospect/co-worker or with my favorite snack/drink.”
Think about this. Instagram is the human face of our business. Instagram is not the place to be advertising products and services, not explicitly at least. So with Instagram’s latest algorithm change, our best call is to connect and engage with our audience on a personal level. This could be considered the number one priority when it comes to Instagram best practices.
Moreover, we can take the extra mile to engage with our followers by asking questions in our captions that people will be eager to answer. A good way to do it is using polls in our Stories to get people to cast their vote. We could also do giveaways and hold contests to get followers excited. Also asking them to tag their friends to increase our brand awareness.
Here are some questions we can ask ourselves to help us create content:
- “Has someone in the office had a birthday?” We could post a photo or video of them blowing out the candles with a birthday wish in the caption.
- “Have any of my clients achieved a milestone?” We could send a pic of a virtual gift, a funny GIF, flowers or anything they like and tag them with a nice caption.
- “Did a big deal go through?” Let’s celebrate it with our audience by sharing the big news!
- “Positive feedback from our clients” We could take a client selfie, or all of us having a celebratory lunch.
- “Does our staff work hard?” We could post a group picture and tag everyone in the caption to highlight who they are and what they do.
2. Visual Composition and Consistency Remains Key
Instagram is a visual channel, which means it is extremely important to consider the composition of our images, and our visual consistency when posting. For this reason, it is a must to have a clear visual strategy “to stand out”. So much so, that the quality of our content in addition to the frequency of our posting dynamics is key to boost our Instagram performance.
In order to achieve this, we need to first find out our niche’s image composition best practices. We have to do some research! Looking into hashtags feeds will help a great deal. Then, we need to examine which types of layouts and formats work best within our target audience.
Always remembering that we need to have a consistent theme: using the same visual style for content to stand out, seeking a consistency in colors, filters, and text overlays. Good examples are Oreo’s and Letasobierajski’s Instagram presence—their visuals have a clear style that can easily be identified, which helps them stand out in user feeds.
3. Effective Hashtag Use
There is no doubt now that the power of the hashtag is real. And for those skeptics out there, Instagram’s new algorithm made it very clear. While Instagram continues to accept only a maximum of 30 hashtags per post, the first reason why we should leverage the power of the hashtag in Instagram is this. We can follow specific hashtags, along with profiles. This means we can now keep tabs on relevant conversations by using hashtags alone. Which helps us maximize our reach, visibility and as a consequence, it also helps us increase our engagement.
What does this mean for marketers and businesses?
The ability to follow hashtags adds a whole new element to our strategy. Now, we have another way to reach and engage with new audiences by using targeted hashtags. This is also another way to expand our brand messaging by promoting our branded tags.
For example, while Instagram doesn’t (yet) show a listing of how many people are following a specific hashtag, it does show 1) the amount of posts using that specific hashtag; and 2) the list of hashtags each Instagram user follows. We can find this info listed on everyone’s profile, under the ‘Following’ tab.
So lets get to business, here are 5 best practices to improve our hashtag ROI:
To Increase Reach we can:
- check out the individuals we want to attract, going through their profiles and compiling a listing of relevant hashtags those users are following. Ideally, we will find some consistent tags among our target audience.
- check the list of hashtags our role models and mentors follow and find a consistent denominator between our business practice and theirs.
- follow specific hashtags that are in alignment with our business goals, values and services/products. Engage with the audience following the same hashtag in an effort to make meaningful relationships to support each other’s content.
- search for influencers in our field and check their list of hashtags, find out what works for them and leverage that. There is no need to reinvent the wheel here, just pay close attention to those who are ahead of us to learn from their practices.
- encourage our audience to follow our branded hashtags, which could prove particularly valuable for events, helping improve coverage and participation.
Worth noting too:
In order to increase our overall SEO, we need to make sure we use the same branded hashtags across platforms to help crawls align our content to specific search terms and keywords.
To help further optimize our hashtag strategy, Instagram also highlights related tags within its search options, along with usage volume.
The other consideration is, where we use our tags. There is a lot of back and forth on this topic, but the reality is that there is nothing conclusive on this. Which means that in terms of how many hashtags we should write on each publication, research suggests that 10 to 11 tags per post is the optimal number for maximizing reach. But again, there’s nothing definitive. So in my experience, our best bet is to research the hashtags being used by our target audience (not just the most popular ones) and then, test them within our own posts.
Instagram Stories has also grown at a rapid pace, doubling its audience from 150 million daily users in January last year, to 300 million in November – and far out-pacing the growth of Snapchat (178 million DAU), from which the function was essentially copied.
The latest Instagram update allowed Stories to become “Stories Archive” and “Highlights.” These new functions enable users to keep their Stories content indefinitely, and display them in a new section on their profile, maximizing their use.
The best use of this new tool is using “Highlights” to showcase specific Stories posts from events, related to products, highlighting customers, etc. Remembering, of course, to save the visual into our device, so it can be used on other platforms. Additionally, Instagram also added the ability to cross-post Instagram Stories to Facebook Stories and Messenger Day, as they now have been merged.
Facebook Stories and Messenger Day haven't proven as popular as Instagram Stories, but still, the increased exposure potential – appearing in a prime area, right at the top of people’s Facebook and Messenger apps – is definitely worth considering. Especially when we are showcasing new products/services or brand awareness through events.
5. Use Instagram Live
Added in late 2016, Instagram’s live feature has slowly evolved, and more new innovations and options have been added to make it more appealing. One of the more recent developments has been the addition of their ‘Live guests’ option, which enables us to go live with someone else – with a specific notification in the top line listing when this happens. Similar to what happens in Facebook lives.
That added exposure provides one best Instagram practice. It gives us new promotional opportunities, while the ability to have guests on our live-stream can also help ease the broadcasting process, making it less intimidating, and enabling us to add more context - be it through conducting an interview, a Q and A session, a product party, etc.
For instance, Q and A sessions, in particular, could be an interesting option for brands, due to its ‘Live Requests’ launched in November, enabling viewers to ask to join in on a stream. This is also a good feature for Network Marketing businesses, coaches and small business because it allows them to have small live events for giveaways, launches and special promotions.
Nevertheless, there are, of course, risks with live-streaming – it’s live, so our editorial capacity is limited. But given the prominent listing of Instagram Live broadcasts - both in user feeds and within Explore (where there’s a dedicated ‘Top Live’ Story pinned to the top of the page) – it’s a significant opportunity for exposure. Plus, when it is done on a computer, it is easier to have someone assisting us with comments while we talk live.
6. Integration of Direct Messages
This one’s a little more complex, but the numbers don’t lie. More people are interacting through direct messages – in messaging apps more broadly, but also on Instagram itself. According to Instagram, more than 375 million people now use Instagram DMs each month - almost half of their entire user base. The increased focus on DMs has lead to Instagram adding a range of new DM–specific tools, including their photo remix tools, the ability to share Stories via DM and - importantly for brands – and the capacity to include links in DMs.
This gives us the competitive advantage of connecting with our audience on a more personal level. For example, when someone follows us, we have the capability to send them an automotive DM thanking them for connecting and sharing with them information about our brand/services/products. Such as the link to our latest article in our blog, or a promotional campaign, or an effort we are sponsoring. But then again, this has to be done with a personal touch, not a salesy approach.
With these six best Instagram practices we will be able to direct more leads to our website, provide better customer support, improve our online reputation, and even convert followers into customers. But I want to hear from you now. Let me know if you have any other strategy to engage your community in Instagram.