1. Know how often to post
Brands need to be active in order to attract followers and boost engagement rates – but how active?
According to studies, the sweet spot is a consistent 1-2 posts a day. Knowing when the best time to post on Instagram is also critical especially when dealing with Instagram’s algorithmic timeline.
Recommended post times can vary wildly depending on which expert you listen to. With some advocating 8 AM – 9 AM or 2 PM – 5 PM for your first post to even 2 AM for your second, this inconsistency can create genuine confusion for content planners.
Instead, uncover your own followers’ Instagram habits by using the Insights feature of your Instagram Business account. This helps you identify when your followers are most active and allows you to schedule accordingly, ensuring your posts continue to appear at the top of their feeds.
2. Don’t preach, tell a story instead
Instagram is awash with mediocre brand messaging that forgets the social network is supposed to be a ‘visual inspiration platform’. You should captivate audiences through images and video, not simply preach marketing missives at them.
To increase engagement rates, become a storyteller instead, offering ‘micro-stories’ via your captions, videos, Instagram Stories and profile. Or try sharing user-generated content that resonates with your brand (see point 15).
3. Make your Instagram branding matter
Clarity, creativity and consistency are king for enterprises aiming to build brand awareness on Instagram. An erratic, haphazard approach just doesn’t work.
Try to focus on core areas like presenting your profile, creating style patterns that keep your images looking fresh, and mastering hashtag use (see point 8). You should also be interacting regularly with your followers to build up engagement and loyalty.
By roadmapping your processes and brand best practices for Instagram, you can present a positive and consistent brand to your target audience.
4. Explore the full range of Instagram video formats
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a video is worth 1.8 million. While Shakespeare lovers might vehemently disagree with such a stat, there is no challenging the efficacy and popularity of online video content. Instagram recognizes this and offers a suite of video options for marketers to deploy.
From Instagram Stories that can mash up videos and stills into a single ad (see point 16) to standalone 60-second videos ideal for long-form features, make sure you use the strengths of each video format.
For instance, consider Instagram Stories’ live video option for big reveals about new products or services or use a prerecorded ad to offer up authentic, behind-the-scenes stories to your followers to increase Instagram engagement.
5. Use Instagram video subtitles and closed captions
With video increasingly dominating the online space, audio has become a poor cousin with the majority of users preferring not to enable sound when viewing a video. It’s why subtitles have become so essential for marketers, enabling core messaging to be delivered on-screen alongside visuals.
Facebook research shows that captioning videos increases average video view times by 12%. Messaging effectiveness is also boosted massively, boasting a success rate of 82% compared to 18% with sound on and zero captions.
6. Take advantage of Instagram’s video ad formats
With 75% of Instagrammers stating that they take actions “like visiting sites, searching, or telling a friend” after being influenced by a post, mastering the platform’s range of advertisement formats is essential. While photo ads remain a stalwart of the platform, Instagram video formats are an increasingly invaluable tool for targeting a selected audience.
The platform offers three key video formats to create Instagram ads: single video ads offer the opportunity to create up to 60-second commercials, ‘carousels’ allow more message real estate by enabling followers to swipe across for additional images or videos, and Instagram Stories offers a vertical full-screen format where images and videos can be spliced together to create visually-arresting ads.
7. Give GIFs a chance
With research showing more people watch to the end of videos that are 15 seconds or less, learning how to create and how to post a GIF should be mandatory for marketing departments.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2017, the GIF format is more appealing than photos – GIFs are shared more than either JPEG or PNG formats – and are more cost and time effective than producing videos.
It’s also the medium that clearly inspired Instagram to create its own riff on the GIF – the Boomerang – which records a short sequence of stills before combining and then looping them backward and forward, ready for upload to Instagram.
8. Choose the right hashtags
Selecting the best hashtags for your Instagram posts can mean the difference between appearing as a top post or sinking to the bottom of the feed without a trace.
Make your hashtags too generic – think #christmas or #fashion – and your post will face competition from potentially millions of others. Instead, use a mix of trending and industry-specific hashtags to find the best hashtag to connect with your targeted followers.
The number of hashtags you deploy is also critical. While Instagram allows for up to 30, a mass of tags underneath your caption risks looking both untargeted and unprofessional. That’s why 91% of posts by top brands use seven or fewer hashtags to get many likes.
9. Use Instagram traffic to increase website traffic
Instagram traffic can help boost visits to your website with the platform allowing for a single clickable link in your bio. Maximize the potential of your link with special offers and promotions to encourage followers to click through. You should also combine strong calls to action with your URL in a text overlay on any images or videos (see point 20).
Don’t forget that all of Instagram’s ad formats offer a call-to-action button that followers can click on to take them to your website.
If you have partnered with an influencer (see point 12), work with them to promote your URL in their own content as well.
10. Use SEO to ‘win’ Instagram
Instagram and SEO might not seem like the most obvious of bedfellows – but creating an SEO strategy for your Instagram account is vital on the increasingly competitive platform.
The two key areas that affect SEO are your account handle and account name. The first is the ‘@’ name that you register with, which should clearly reflect the sector in which your business operates.
Remember, Instagram can identify the content of your posts. If it doesn’t fit with your handle, then expect your posts not to appear in the Explore section.