By Aditi Tandon
Focus on how to Be Social, not on how to Do Social.
– Jay Baer, Internet pioneer, entrepreneur, and NYT best-selling author
Instagram is Free. Let’s take a moment to let that sink in. It is an absolutely fabulous platform offering us free tools, on a platter, to meaningfully connect with our tribe – engage with, inform, sell to, buy from, share resources & enjoy.
There is a winning recipe to make Instagram work for your brand.
Your Instagram account will grow proportionate to the time and strategy that you invest in it.
With a staggering 66% increase in business accounts within just the latter half of 2017, Instagram is by far the fastest growing social media platform. It boasts a younger user base & high organic engagement versus other platforms (58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook). So if you’re not already on Instagram, then the only question is why?
New to Instagram? Read our post Get, Set, Do – Smart Tips for Instagram
If your business, service or brand is on Instagram, here’s some good news on size, traffic and user interaction!
By the end of 2017, Instagram revealed it has a 25 million registered business accounts on the platform, vast majority of which are small businesses. Other key stats according to Instagram:
- 80% of accounts on Instagram follow a business
- 200 million Instagrammers actively visit the profile of a business every day
- 75% of Instagrammers take action after being inspired by a post, like visiting a website, searching, shopping or telling a friend.
- Two-thirds of profile visits to businesses come from people who aren’t following that business.
But size doesn’t necessarily equate success!
For most small business owners and solopreneurs, Instagram success is more elusive than ever. With constant changes in their algorithms, unexplainable spikes and declines in engagement and the frequent need for fresh, quality content, entrepreneurs are often left scratching their heads on a definitive Instagram strategy & struggle to keep pace.
A social media presence in today’s digital age is validation & social proof, but there are no shortcuts or overnight solutions to gaining followers & customers. The important first step is asking yourself what you hope to achieve on Instagram? Is it to raise brand awareness, generate leads, keep in touch with your community? Do you want to add more followers, acquire new audience for your offerings, drive sales ( online or in-store), become an influencer or a combination of these?
Follow along as we step up our game by refining our strategies along some key metrics. Simple tweaks that lead up to big gains.
If you’re still on the fence on switching to a business profile from a personal one, this handy Infographic can help you further decide. The key advantages of a business profile are extensive analytics in terms of demographics, location & source of traffic on your audience, insights on specific posts, an ability to promote your posts and (once you reach 10k followers), the option to add links to Instagram Stories.
If you already have a Facebook sales channel, then you can be eligible for selling directly on Instagram too, with Instagram Product Tags. Understanding your analytics can stop the guessing game and help you modify your strategy, in terms of voice, choice of time, hashtags etc.
Simply swipe up to access insights on specific posts. In the example below, 28% of this post reach was to new accounts and 11 new impressions came from hashtags.
Frequently overlooked, Instagram bios are often a casualty- as their business evolves, most accounts don’t update theirs much. Evaluate & update your bio periodically to focus on your USP or the next big thing. A good practice is to have an attention grabbing headline which clearly states who you are and what you do, a call to action and your hashtag if you own one.
Jenns Trends not only uses emojis to stylize her bio, it’s also infused with her authentic, fun, brand personality.
The bio is also the only place for most accounts where Instagram allows you to share a link. Ensure that you update your link frequently depending on the current post and context (to a website, event registrations, blog or sign up to a newsletter).
If you want to discover & monitor exactly how many people are clicking over to your website from your Instagram bio, use a link shortener to continuously track traffic leads.
Maroon Oak’s hashtag #WomeninCareers is part of our bio along with a customized bitlink.
If your business is local, so should your strategy be.
Geotagging allows you to be more granular in targeting your audience. If you have a brick & mortar location, open to customers, geotagging enables both you and your customers to tag your location. It also helps you appear in local search results. Posts with location have 79% more engagement than those without.
A quick search on New York (make sure the places category is selected) yielded the results in Image 1. When I selected from that list, I could view the top posts that had the New York geotag (Image 2). I took it a step further and added New York Entrepreneur ( Image 3). See, how with choosing locations combined with other words, you can discover or be discovered.
Simultaneously, research & include local hashtags ( #iheartCITY, #visitSTATE, #igersCITY etc) or micro local tags ( #STATEshore, #NorthernSTATE). Follow the accounts of other local businesses, organizations, co-working spaces, teams, clubs and Chamber of Commerce. Interact with their followers and also, for inspiration, pay attention to the local hashtags they might use. Over time, local hashtags work great for making connections with your local communities.
Engagement & Followers
Despite high engagements, 70% of Instagram posts go unseen. There is no shortcut to boost reach – genuine engagement and followers take time, effort and consistency. To grow engagement, you have to actually engage- value engage.
Get to know your following. Test different approaches until your audience tells you what they like best.
Utilize every opportunity to tag users. The more people you connect to, mention, and are mentioned by, the wider your net of awareness. When you tag people and brands in posts, its likely they’ll follow you back. Their influence might rub off on you and get your content featured in the Discover tab for people who follow those brands.
On average, posts that include another user handle in the caption net 56% more engagement. Here’s an example of simple collaboration highlighted with multiple tags by Babes in Business NJ.
Ever tried cross promoting? Lead your audience from another Social media, say Facebook, to your Instagram account with a simple “More details can be found in our Instagram.”
Also read An Entrepreneurs Guide to Facebook Pages
In order for the relevant audience to discover you, check out similar accounts (or competition) and see who is commenting/engaging on their posts and in turn engage with them. Considering that you use the hashtags that your target customer is using, click on those hashtags and engage with the search result accounts on a daily basis. Eg: If you were a wedding photographer, then one of the hashtags you use could be #bridetobe. Click on it and engage with the resultant accounts- your customers.
Also keep an eye on the Influencers & potential collaborators in your niche. Their audience is your audience too.
Another tip- If you’ve recently had a great experience at a place (restaurant, store, museum, movie) and posted about it, search up using the location hashtag on who else has eaten there and then engage with them by leaving a comment. Chances are, this shared interest will make them check you out and lead to a follow.
Jennifer Puno of Instagram Analytics tool PeopleMap.co calls great, authentic, contextual comments the best for growing your engagement. As per her experience, taking the time to write really great comments can get you a 40% follow back.
Instagram engagement Pods aim to beat algorithm changes by groups of people joining forces. Typically these are private groups of upto 15 accounts that simultaneously comment and like each others daily posts by messaging the group as soon as a post is up. This high initial engagement ensures that the posts stay longer in news feeds by getting a bump in the first hour of posting.
To form one, identify (typically through word of mouth or Facebook Groups), join or create one with like minded individuals (by messaging people in your niche) and work around the algorithm, one like at a time. Just remember, joining one is a commitment, wherein each time a Pod member uploads a new posts and sends a DM to the group, you have to make the time to engage with meaningful comments. Have clarity on a Pod’s rules before locking in your time and energy- do members post once daily or 4 times etc?
Shadowban & Algorithms
Because there is no formal definition or acknowledgement by Instagram that one could find, it’s simply when your images stop appearing in the hashtags that you have used. Reasons include spammy behaviors like using the same hashtags and captions, buying followers, not complying with Instagram’s terms by using bots or external software and sometimes for no apparent clear reason. For more on this, read Alex Tooby’s detailed post .
Enough has been written & speculated on the Instagram algorithm updates, but know that if you’re creating amazing content & engaging with people, your account will be fine.
Algorithms are fickle, businesses pivot their direction on a dime. To stay ahead of the game, why not create your own algorithm? Embrace a methodology that withstands? Appreciate your 60 second club– people who comment and like in the first minute of a new post & consistently expand your postings to include Stories , Lives, Highlights, Contests and every new offering by Instagram from the get go. Engage with value and create a bank of consistent, quality content that you are proud of, no matter when you look back.
With increasing focus on the rate of engagement on an account, versus the follower count, micro influencers ( with about 500 to 10,000 followers) are gaining traction because of their close relationships to their tight, loyal, hyper-targeted communities. Whether you aspire to be one, or already have enough following to qualify as one, you can authenticate your account at Fohr Card, a great “badge” to have for potential influencer collaborations. Also ensure that you definitely add your city and contact email to your profile, as well as location tags in order for companies to discover you as a local influencer.
Whether it’s sourcing and delivering content, managing communities and comments, insights and ad management, Instagram offers a list of partner companies you can work with to maximize productivity & speed up your efforts. With their latest integration with Hootsuite, business accounts can now schedule to Instagram, keep track of customers, competitors, industry hashtags, and photos tagged to locations—all in one place. Instagram sponsored ads are the next step in visibility and its a good idea to evaluate a few businesses success results and methodology before you take the plunge.
Instagram is not just media. It’s social & often navigated best through trial & error. While you implement what’s been suggested to you, keep in mind that it’s not the only way. Smart businesses don’t take chances. They monitor, learn, implement, iterate and restart the loop again.
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Look out for Part II coming next week: Grow your Instagram Brand with Winning Content and sign up for our newsletter( link below) for more updates on winning at entrepreneurship and careers.
Note: While the information above is believed to be accurate and recent, readers are advised to do their own fact finding before making any decisions. Maroon Oak does not endorse or recommend any specific learning institution, nor has the Company been compensated in any way for listing the names above.
By Aditi Tandon
A Designer and Entrepreneur, Aditi graduated from a top design school and subsequently started her own design and merchandising business. Co-founder at Maroon Oak, she has over 17 years of business experience with Two Dotts, her design consulting company and an Etsy store which serves as an outlet for her gifts and patented product designs.
A mother to a teen and a tween, she enjoys running, dancing and raising her newest baby, a Bichon named Miltie.