3 essential steps to make your business shine on Instagram

Instagram is now the fastest-growing social media platform, so it’s more important than ever to up your presence and build your audience. Haymarket Network’s lifestyle writer Zoe Birdsall reveals how

There are now 800 million users on Instagram (up from 600 million last December). That’s more than 25 million active business profiles and two million advertisers. User engagement with brands on the platform is 10 times higher than Facebook, 54 times higher than Pinterest and 84 times higher than Twitter. Brands are spending more on Instagram than any other platform right now – Instagram made over $4.2 billion in mobile ads revenue last year.

So if you haven't given Instagram a clearly defined role in your brand's visual content strategy, it could be time to think again. (And if you're not sure where to start, don't worry, we can help.) Here are our top tips.

Use hashtags

A #hashtag is a symbol that is used on social media for labeling content. It helps others who are interested in a certain topic, quickly find similar content. They are crucial to building your business’ presence on Instagram, just a single hashtag can improve your post visibility by 13%.

  • Use at least six in every post
  • If you don’t want to include hashtags in your caption, group them together and put them in your comments. They will be just as effective here
  • Don’t over-complicate or try to be too creative, the more unusual hashtags are not searched for very often
  • Search for trending hashtags that relate to your business and include them in your post
  • Use the new ‘follow hashtag’ follow any relevant hashtags to your brand. You can see what other people are posting about, stay up to date and build your audience by seeking out people that would be interested in your business

Make the most of Insta Stories

Instagram Stories is feature that lets users share videos and images for just 24 hours – a bit like an integrated Snapchat. You’ll find them in small circles at the top of your homepage. They don’t appear in your grid or homepage feed, but over 400 million use Instagram Stories every day, and one third of the most-viewed Stories come from businesses.

  • Engage with your followers – Stories are a great way to do this. Instagram has added lots of bonus features like polling stickers and question buttons, where your followers can ask you anything and you can publically answer them. These are great at getting real-time feedback
  • Get creative – have some fun, share a mix of photos and videos to bring your stories to life. There are lots of features to use – from fonts and colours of text and drawing tools to gifs, stickers and music. Try a boomerang or adding an effect to your video. Play around with effects. People that enjoy your Stories will keep coming back for more of the same
  • Stories don’t need to be as polished as the images and videos you post to your feed. Feed posts are there forever (theoretically, until another platform takes over and Instagram is merely another Myspace). Spend less time worrying about Stories looking perfect and more time making more of them.
  • Stories are timely. Use this to your advantage – for example you can talk about events happening, sales/promotions and get involved in a trending conversation
  • Technically, Stories disappear after 24 hours. But if you’ve made a really great Story, you can now ‘highlight it’ and save it to an area at the top of your grid. Make the most of this feature, save a great event you put on or a frequently asked questions session you made Stories about

Create high-quality content for your grid

Remember, great content less often is better than a barrage of poor content.

  • Consistency is key, make a style and stick to it (think filters, themes, borders, brightness, black and white or colour)
  • Your feed is your business’s portfolio, and should reflect who you are not just what you do. Two in three business profile visits are from non-followers, so make sure someone looking at your page can get an immediate feel for your company’s culture and personality as soon as they look at your grid
  • Plan your content. There are a lot of good Instagram layout apps that will preview the effect of new content on your feed. Make sure it fits before posting and that your feed is cohesive
  • Remember, it’s quality over quantity. New algorithms mean posts aren’t shown chronologically anymore – a great image that has had lots of likes and engagement will show up on other feeds better than an average image that not many people like
  • Understand your target audience and what they want on Instagram.
  • Take inspiration from what other accounts are doing, Instagram is all about being visually creative. What works for one brand could work for you too. That doesn’t mean copy their style, it’s important to be unique and true to your brand. But if the coffee shop you love posts a great Friday poll, perhaps you could do something similar?

We’ve taken a leaf out of our own book, with a conscious effort to make our own Instagram feed a shining example – and we’ve got everyone involved. As it’s important to us to capture the atmosphere of the agency, and the personalities of the people who work here, we decided to show the interests of our team and what we are working on, rather than just another cup of coffee or office cake sale. Following a new schedule, the team take it in turns to takeover the feed (which sounds scarier than it is, and is highly recommended – being organised is only going to make your social media life easier). It’s important to make a style that is your own - as we mentioned in the tips above - and our other rule is to have fun with it. If you’re enjoying posting content, you’re more likely to put effort into it and remember to post. We now hold monthly competitions as to whose post gets the most likes - cue hashtagging.

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