The introduction of Instagram’s algorithm rewrote the rules of the platform and sparked outrage from influencers who deem the algorithm as creatively debilitating. Despite the outcries, Instagram hasn’t changed its stance on showing audiences what the platform thinks they want to see, rather than what has been most recently posted in the network.
While the algorithm forces content creators to work harder for engagement, users also have more platform touch-points to reach viewers in the forms of Instagram Live and Stories. There are approximately 800 million users engaging with Instagram every month (and 500 million daily), giving marketers the opportunity to connect with a robust (and fast growing) audience.
Over the past year the platform has become more sophisticated, and to keep up, so too must users. Gone are the days when brands and influencers could afford to simply throw content up on their feeds and hope something would stick. Organizations spanning various verticals, including Founding Farmersrestaurants, Taft, and Azazie, are tapping into Instagram’s newest features as a means of building deeper connections, growing their audiences and, of course, increasing their incomes.
Now, to truly leverage the vast reach and engagement potential of the platform, content creators must take more shrewd approaches.
While there is no magic formula to Instagram success, there are a few new and classic strategies that anyone or brand looking to up its Instagram game must implement. It’s time to get smarter with your Instagram marketing efforts and here are five hacks that deserve your attention:
1. Go Deeper with Instagram Stories
When you were new to Instagram, posting a photo and getting one comment was cause for celebration. However, as you’ve come to realize the benefits of this social platform, you’re looking for more.
This is where Instagram Stories comes into play. With this feature, you can share every moment from your day, all in slideshow format through both photos and videos.
It’s like Instagram marketing on steroids. You don’t have to worry as much about over-posting, in part because stories only stay up for 24 hours (although you still want to make sure it’s content that your audience wants to see, and that you don’t oversaturate). You can tell your story in a variety of ways: photos, videos, boomerangs, geo filters, stickers and/or emojis.
According to Dan Simons, co-owner of the most booked restaurant in the nation on Open Table,
“Insta-stories are a great way to give some real, authentic, behind the scenes looks into your business. At Founding Farmers for example, if we’re shaping bread in our bakery, getting a delivery from one of our partners, breaking down a whole fish, or making our ginger syrup at the bar – these are all things that our guests don’t usually see. We get great engagement when we go behind the scenes – and by doing this, we also get to showcase the people who work in the restaurant day in and day out – which is of huge value to us.”
Insta-stories is built so that you can tag other businesses and people easily, as long as they have an instagram account. In addition, business accounts with more than 10K followers can now link directly to products or services with the “swipe up to learn more” action. Thanks to Shopify, Instagram is also developing a way to sell directly without requiring users to ever leave the app to make a purchase. Although it’s still in test mode, it won’t be long before you can use this integration to sell directly to your target audience on Instagram.
This hack is sure to change marketing strategies in 2018.
2. Use Instagram Live
If an Instagram photo or story isn’t enough to get your point across, it may be time to experiment with Instagram Live.
With live video posted in real-time, there are many ways to use this feature to hack your way to Instagram success. Consider covering a live event, hosting a question and answer session, hosting a live show, or vlogging.
Many brands are still experimenting with Instagram Live, but the beauty of this feature is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Because the content is fleeting, it gives you the chance to pull back the curtain on your brand and highlight your voice and brand personality.
Take cues from brands, such as Cheerios, that have found a place in their marketing plan for Instagram Live.
For example, the company recently used this feature to introduce a new product that’s now available in stores nationwide. The video isn’t long or deeply involved, but it packs more punch than a standard post.
3. Interact Regularly with Your Followers
It’s social media, which means you need to be social with your followers. Instagram isn’t a post and run platform, but a post, connect, and converse. This includes responding to comments on your pictures, responding to direct messages via your stories, even using stories to answer questions directly, or interacting with your followers in other ways. Building your business capacity and systems to be live in real time on Instagram is an investment worth making.
Ecommerce bridal retailer, Azazie, recognizes that its customers are the heartbeat of its brand, and they are passionate about sharing their experiences and photographs with the entire Azazie community. When a customer makes the effort to engage with Instagram content, the Azazie team does not let it go unnoticed. For this company, every customer is an influencer, and every engagement matters.
Ted Chin’s eye.c Instagram page shows what it means to engage with followers. He doesn’t just post photos and move on. He takes the time to respond to as many comments as possible, which helps boost both the comment count and the number of likes.
If you’re new to Instagram, it will only take a few minutes to respond to every comment. It sounds trivial, but it’s one of the best ways to speed up the growth of your page. Your followers want to be part of your brand. Engaging through the comment section will help them feel included.
4. Opt For Quality Over Quantity
It goes without saying, perhaps, but on a social media platform built around pictures, image quality is paramount. It’s getting tougher to break through the Instagram noise and really resonate with audiences and brands have to prioritize quality. Uploading images that are off-brand, or inconsistent with your voice and tone can be jarring to your followers who can be very quick to unfollow you.
There is a lot of data available on what types of posts get the most engagement. For example, according to SproutSocial, photos with faces garner 38 percent more likes, and photos generate 36 percent more engagement than videos. Hopper HQ Instagram performance analysis indicates the Gingham filter attracts more likes and comments than any of the others, and Clarendon came in second.
If you’re wondering what a high quality Instagram photo looks like, check out National Geographic’s page. The photos tell a story, are within the brand’s niche, and are diverse enough to keep people coming back for more.
You don’t have to be a professional photographer to take “National Geographic-like” photos. All you need is a plan and some creativity. Snap as many photos as you can and then choose the best.
5. Choose Your Captions and Hashtags Wisely
As competition on Instagram continues to pick up, it’s more important than ever to use the consider how your captions and hashtags support your visual content.