The hype about social media is real: it doesn’t take long to find articles extolling the wonders of Instagram marketing as if simply making a page on the site will guarantee the success of your business.
But as you probably know — perhaps by firsthand experience — it’s not that simple.
Let’s be clear: Instagram is vital to the success of most businesses in today’s digital world. The Facebook-owned platform has been growing steadily since its launch in 2010, recently reaching over 1 billion monthly active users,
As far as importance goes, Instagram is the third-largest social media platform after YouTube (not counting WhatsApp and Facebook messenger as both are a drastically different type of platform).
Without a doubt, your business should be on Instagram. But you’re not going to go from zero to influencer insta-ntaneously. Building up your Instagram following takes time, effort, skill, and most importantly a good knowledge of where to invest your time and effort.
That’s why we got in touch with small businesses who are using Instagram to its fullest extent to learn what they think other small brands should focus on when using the platform.
Here are their Instagram tips, straight from the trenches:
1. Keep social media social by engaging with your followers
Remember that at heart social media is all about interacting with other people. If you’re trying to rack up likes, comments, and followers without engaging with any of them, then you’re not going to form the types of personal connections you need to be successful on social.
Riz from Chocolates & Chai wrote:
“I’ve found that Instagram is, at it’s (sic) core, still a “social” network (unlike Facebook or LinkedIn for example, which in practice have become more broadcast oriented) – meaningful engagements with your followers [are] key to growing your business’ (sic) Instagram page.
Actually…not just YOUR followers, check out the followers commenting on businesses and bloggers in a similar niche, and you’ll find there are plenty of people with comments that have gone un-responded (sic) to. Be the one to answer their questions (without being spammy, or asking for them to visit you in return!). Truly help them out, and watch them become some of your most engaged followers!”
Kim from Branch Insurance echoed the sentiment and added a great tip:
“Instagram uses comments to determine your relationship with a user. Even if their comment doesn’t make sense to reply to responding with emojis or a thank you will go a long way!”
Avinash from brandloom also had a unique piece of advice:
“Engage with the fans of your rival. If a client follows one of your rivals, their curiosity in your business is more than possible which makes winning them faster and allowing them to join you as well. It’s all about having them interested by the material you share from that stage on.”
2. Research and plan your content before posting
Successful businesses know that social media isn’t just about posting your dinner on the ‘gram or taking some pics when insta-piration (ok, we’ll stop) strikes. The key to knocking your social media marketing out of the park is carefully planning your posts to construct a brand story and researching what your audiences want and doesn’t want to see. Going one step further: you also need to know how to get that content in front of new prospects using business hashtag research.
Johnny from SocialCatfish writes:
“Small businesses may gain more followers with Instagram stories. First, research relevant hashtags with a broad search volume. Next, create an engaging story, preferably a video clip. Add the hashtag that you researched earlier to your Story and then click on the Your Story button. Keep track of the number of views you receive and follower growth. Test out different types of Stories and hashtags.”
Paul from MB Usable Security discusses the importance of researching the prime time to post on Instagram for your target demographic:
“Be purposeful about when you post. You want to post when your target audience is on Instagram and has time to go down the rabbit hole of your content. If you are targeting 27-year-olds, 2 pm is not a great time to post because they are probably just getting back to work after lunch. A good rule of thumb [is to] observe when your employees, friends, or family members of your target age check Instagram.”
3. Make it local with location tags
Even though so much of our modern lives are online, there’s still a place for location-based content. What’s more: targeting specific geographic locations can thin out the competition, giving you a better chance to stick out to the locals.
“Use location,” says Paul from MB Usable Security.
“Every post and story needs to have a city location attached to it now. It does not need to be your full address but your city or greater metro area.”
Johnathan from Trend 3 Media echoes the sentiment:
“Own your location on Instagram. Go into the search bar and type in your city and pull up all the top and most recent posts. You go in and comment back to the post with relevant information pertaining to their post, or ask them a question to create engagement. Geolocation is huge on Instagram and if Instagram picks up that most of your traffic is coming from one area, that is where it will push your organic reach.”
4. Everybody likes free stuff — reel them in with giveaways
Few things draw people in like the prospect of free, well…anything. Running a giveaway is a great way to grow brand awareness, grab people’s attention, and get them to follow you.
Kelly from Big Wick Candle used this strategy with great success:
“In just over 3 months after launch, we grew @bigwickygram on instagram (sic) from 0 followers to over 15,800 followers through strategic joint giveaways. I targeted large meme pages with decent engagement. Some obviously performed better than others, but overall, it worked out well.
Usually, it would cost anywhere between $150 to $450 to have a page with close to or more than 1 million followers post about Big Wick Candle and to tag us. If we thought a page owner was asking too much, we would try to negotiate and get the price down. Sometimes having to provide them with free product plus cash incentive.
One thing worth noting is that you should only pay half up front (sic), then the other half upon completion of the post and only after it has remained up on the page for 24 to 72 hours. We would have the page post the giveaway on a Friday, and we would go Live on our page and pick the winner in front of everyone. Transparency is key. The giveaway call to action was to follow @bigwickygram on instagram (sic) and to tag a friend in the post who loves candles. This strategy worked marvelously and we were able to successfully grow our page and gain new fans.”
Liz from Faveable also mentions the benefits of giveaways:
“An excellent way to grow your social media following as a small business is to offer giveaways! You can partner with popular influencers in your area on those. You’ll just want to make sure that following your small business is a requirement of the giveaway. It’s a great way to introduce new people to your business and to also grow your following. Giveaways also help you engage with your current followers, which is important. “
5. Post consistently
If you want to be successful, the bare minimum requirement is to show up. As far as Instagram goes, that means to be consistent with your posts — don’t leave your followers waiting months for your next post and then throw 30 new ones at them within one week. Plan out your content schedule and stay disciplined.
Daniella from Mashvisor underlined the importance of consistency:
“What has proven to work best for us is sharing something on Instagram each and every day, preferably a couple of times a day. What we started doing about a year ago is automatically share our blog posts on our Instagram account. Our blog is our main digital marketing tool, and we publish 2-3 new posts every day. We purchased a plugin, which automatically shares our posts on Instagram – as well as other social media outlets. As soon as we started doing this, the number of our Instagram followers increased tremendously, and we noticed a sizeable increase in the number of visitors to our website from Instagram.”
Avinash from brandloom seconded this:
“Instagram is a game of volume. The organization has not posted figures to confirm or deny it, but experience tells that it certainly supports accounts that post more frequently.”
6. Draw your audience in with video
Recent surveys show that video is one of the most popular forms of content on Instagram and leads to higher engagement, especially among millennials.
Johnathan from Trend 3 Media had some helpful advice about how to use video to your advantage:
“Create a mini-series of videos and post them on IGTV. If you own a restaurant, create a video of how to make a dish, or how to properly clean your kitchen. You can also create Top 10 list videos, tutorials and much more. These are rarely seen on IGTV and you would basically own your niche space on IGTV.”
Bringing it all together
At its heart, Instagram is a social platform, and rising to the top of the IG game is predicated on your ability to connect with real people. Engage your audience with content that’s local, eye-catching, and relevant to them, give out some enticing freebies, stay consistent with your post schedule, and you’ll be on your way to social media success.