Each social media platform has its own unique opportunities for digital marketing, and Instagram is no different. So, if you’re looking to promote your business organically, you have to know how to make the most of it. Like any social media platform there are best practices you should adhere to and some practices that you should avoid.
I speak to many small business owners and most of them run an Instagram account. However, many of them find it difficult to maintain and only do it because they think their customers expect it. I have even heard it described as a necessary evil. This guide is designed exactly for those people. By following the best practices below, you will boost your followers, increase your engagement and strengthen your brand.
The first thing I would recommend doing is downloading the Instagram desktop app. Instagram really is a mobile platform and you can only upload new posts from your mobile device. However, I find the desktop app very useful for researching your posts and hashtags.
1. Research your posts
Like any of your marketing efforts, you will get better results if you apply some research. First of all, start with your own feed. Analyse your own posts to see which ones have given you the best engagement. At a glance, you can see how many likes and comments you have got just by scrolling down your feed. But, as long as your account is a business account, you will notice a ‘View Insights’ link under each post. Clicking this link will give you more in-depth analytics on your post’s performance, crucially how many people viewed your profile. Just as you should identify your best performing posts, you should also identify your worst performing posts. You can then ascertain what has worked for you in the past and what hasn’t.
The next thing to research is what your top competitors are doing and what is working for them. Pick three or four of your competitors and take a good look at their profiles. By looking down their Instagram feed, you can see what type of content is getting the most engagement. Ask yourself if they are doing things differently to you or better than you. If they are doing things differently and getting better engagement, then analyse what it is that they are doing better.
2. Create a monthly posting strategy
It’s really important to have a strategy in place to determine what you are going to post and when. Often, I see Instagram feeds that have a little flurry of posts, but then don’t post anything for another month. Clearly, they have found some spare time and decided to have a catch up on Instagram. Presumably also deciding what the content will be at the same time.
Try creating a content calendar to help you decide what you are going to post and when to post it. At the start of the month (or whenever you find time to spend on Instagram), plan all your posts in one go. You can choose your images and write your captions and hashtags all in advance. Of course, you can be more spontaneous as the month progresses adding or changing posts as you go. But having the posts ready to go makes it much less of a chore.
3. Categorise your posts
When you’re planning your monthly strategy, try to categorise your post types and spread them out evenly throughout the month. For example, your feed shouldn’t be comprised entirely of branded promotional posts.
Ask yourself what your audience want to see and build a relationship with them by giving them an even mix. Try to include inspirational or informative content or give insights into your company without directly trying to sell something.
4. Align with your brand tone of voice
You’ve already asked yourself what your audience want to see but is it what they expect from your brand? Ask yourself if each and every post aligns to your core values? Or does it convey your visual branding profile?
The tone of voice that you use in your social media posts tells your audience who you are and what you stand for so it’s important to be consistent. Try writing a visual guideline for your Instagram posts.
5. Use high quality imagery
Ok, this one’s really important! Instagram is all about great visual content and that’s what your audience will expect. Not only that, but poor-quality imagery will reflect on your products, your service or your organisation.
The better the quality of your images the more likely you will be to encourage engagement with your audience. In-phone image editors these days are pretty good, and you can have a lot of control over your images. However, try not to get too caught up with gimmicky filters and try not to push the levels too far.
Personally, I prefer to edit my images on my desktop with professional image editing software such as Adobe Photoshop. If you have access to such software, then I would recommend doing the same. Firstly, you will have far more control over your image adjustments. And viewing it on a big screen allows you spot details that you might not see on your smartphone screen.
Instagram has primarily been designed as a mobile platform. You can do lots of things on Instagram via a browser on your desktop, except for creating new posts. Therefore, if you use your desktop to edit your images, then you will need to send them to your phone. This can be done easily by emailing them to yourself or using a file transfer service like Dropbox.
The cameras on smartphones are pretty decent these days. But if you have access to a professional digital camera then I would recommend using it to capture your images. I could go into detail about improving your photography, but that’s a blog title that we haven’t written yet. There are plenty of blog posts and tutorials online that will be able to help you in the meantime.
Image format is something you should also consider. Traditionally, Instagram would only allow you to upload square images, but now you can also upload landscape and portrait images. Personally, I think that on Instagram, square images have the most impact. The maximum width that Instagram will allow your images to be is 1080 so if you’re making your image square, make it 1080 x 1080 pixels at 72dpi.
6. Plan the right frequency of posts
We’ve already talked about planning your posts but be sure not to overdo it. In the past, I’ve asked clients why they post so much content. The reason is that they feel they need to maintain a permanent presence on people’s social media feeds. However, I very much favour a ‘quality over quantity’ strategy.
Nothing is more likely to make users scroll up through your posts than seeing lots of samey, low-quality images. Or even worse, you run the risk of them hitting the ‘unfollow’ link.
Perhaps you want to post several images of the same event? Instead of creating a single post for each image, upload all the images in the same post. Instagram will allow you to add up to 10 images which it will add to a carousel. This is much better than flooding people’s Instagram feed with multiple similar images.
7. Writing your captions
When it comes to writing your captions, Instagram will allow you to write up to 2,200 characters. However, remember that Instagram is very much a visual platform and you’ll get more engagement if you keep it short. Your message will likely truncate anyway, unless it is really short, but the optimum length is 140-150 characters (including spaces).
I recommend typing your message in a word editor such as Microsoft Word. Firstly, it will highlight any typos or incorrect grammar, which is really important. Secondly it will allow you to check your character length. In Microsoft Word, highlight your text and hit Ctrl+Shift+G to bring up a word and character counter.
8. Research Hashtags
Hashtags are really important in Instagram, but like character length, don’t overdo them. So often you’ll see posts with a crazy amount of hashtags. Instagram will allow you to add up to 30 hashtags but adding this many looks spammy and a little needy. Opinions vary on how many are ideal, but personally I would use between 3 and 5 well-chosen hashtags.
It’s important to research hashtags before you use them. The easiest way is to search for them in Instagram. Look to see how many people are using a hashtag and what sort of imagery you are in competition with.
Ideally you will find a popular hashtag that people are likely to search for. But not so popular that your image will be way down the list in a matter of minutes. Equally you do not want to use hashtags that no-one will search for.
9. Tag People + Locations
If possible, and only where relevant, try and tag people and locations in your posts. These might be business associates, clients, suppliers, staff or followers. By tagging them you add a new level to your audience as your post will be seen by their followers.
Tagging your business location will open you up to being found in more searches. And if you have a local customer base, then tagging your location will create a connection with your potential customers.
If people take the time to comment on your posts, then be sure to respond in a timely fashion. If people see that they’ll get a response by interacting with your brand, then they are more likely to engage.
So be sure to thank people for their positive comments or answer any questions that they might ask. Even if the comment is a negative one, be sure to respond in a professional and courteous way. And offer to talk with them separately to resolve their issue – away from Instagram.
We want to hear from you
I hope you have found these tips helpful and that you now have the confidence to improve your Instagram feed. If you have found it useful then we’d love to hear from you. If you’ve increased your followers or engagement from what you’ve read on this page, then why not leave a comment.
I could of course go into a lot more detail on any of the points above. Or I could, of course, go into detail about your conversion strategy. The points above are based on building your organic following but remember that there are paid strategies that we can employ to boost your engagement and convert more of your followers into customers. So if you would like to take your Instagram marketing to the next level then contact us today.