First impressions count—not just in real life, but also on the social media stage.
Can you remember a time you Googled a service, which led you to an Instagram page that really turned you off? It might have been something as simple as the color or the layout, or maybe it just didn’t appear relevant. Or maybe the company had so few followers you thought their service or product must not be very good.
From the very first moment someone looks at your company’s Instagram feed, an image of your business will be forever cemented into their mind.
Instagram is a crucial opportunity to build a loyal audience that grows your business. Over 500 million people browse the app every day, making it one of the most engaged audiences around. In this climate, you simply can’t afford not to take your Instagram presence seriously.
Whether you have an Instagram account with a million followers or you just created a new profile today, you need to be smart about your Instagram strategy. Here’s how to make the most of the photo-sharing juggernaut.
1. Hashtags matter.
The goal of Instagram for business is twofold: to engage your current audience and grow your following.
To do that, you obviously need to post interesting and engaging photos. But hashtagging is an equally important, and often underused, component of your posting strategy. A good hashtag makes it incredibly easy for likely customers to find your brand.
According to Websta, the top five hashtags are: #ootd, #instacool, #bestoftheday, #foodporn, and #gym. Using these popular hashtags might net you additional likes and engagement, but they may have nothing to do with your brand, and therefore may not lead to increased long-term engagement and, ultimately, sales.
Hashtagging alone isn’t enough—you also need to pinpoint the most relevant hashtags.
This means doing appropriate research to find hashtags that relate to your brand and are popular on Instagram. Say you’re the founder at a women’s clothing company. You can use Websta to search the hashtag #WomensFashion and find related hashtags and their popularity. You’ll want to try this with various keywords to describe your brand and products, building out your list as you go. Keep in mind that the popular words change over time, so keep revisiting. You can also
Remember: Instagram allows for a maximum of 30 hashtags per post, so take advantage.
2. Engage with your audience.
To generate a following, you need to start engaging with other users.
Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, for example, grew his family wine business from $3 million to $60 million in just 6 years by aggressively interacting with potential customers on social media. The only way to win on social media is to be social. It doesn’t matter how many followers you have if you can’t build a community of like-minded people to engage with.
So go on your company Instagram account and start liking things.
Entrepreneur Neil Patel found that for every 100 likes on random photos of other users he didn’t follow, he generated 21.7 liked on his photos and 6.1 more followers—and he didn’t even have to follow people back for this to work. But Patel recommends commenting on other Instagram posts as an even better way to get followers because people like way more than they comment—575 likes versus 81 comments per second—meaning comments stand out more. If you take the time to comment on someone else’s profile, that person is more likely to come back to yours, and 401% more likely to follow you.
You can also search for and follow people who are using popular hashtags like #followme and #likeforlike—many will follow you back.
The results are tangible—the more you engage with customers, the more you’ll get back.
3. Timing is everything.
Even with perfect content and the right hashtags, posting a photo at the wrong time can render it useless.
Research shows that 2 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST are the best times to post if you want maximum engagement; the worst times are 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Latergramme founder Matt Smith points to 5 p.m. as the ideal time to post because there are many engaged users on the platform and fewer people posting at that time. And studies show Wednesday is the best day of the week.
You should also analyze what has and has not worked for your company in the past. The social media analytics service IconoSquare can provide a detailed analysis of your posting history and engagement, including highlighting the best times of the day and days of the week to post.
If your budget is tight, you can get great insight from Instagram Analytics for Business accounts for free under the Followers section.
Because timing is so important, it may be worth using a social media scheduling tool to automatically publish your posts when your audience is the most engaged.
4. Use the right filters.
A really good Instagram post comes down to the details.
Instagram users respond better to certain photo filters over others, so think carefully when you choose one. According to Fortune, Mayfair is the most favorably-received filter. Other favorites are Clarendon, Juno, Lark, Hefe, Ludwig, and #nofilter.
But more important than the general Instagram community’s favorite filters are the preferred filters of your audience. When you’re analyzing your engagement, you should look at what filters were used on your most popular posts—and use those filters moving forward.
Listening to your Instagram audience is a key component to gaining followers and a long-lasting social media presence. In today’s digital world, your company simply can’t afford less than a stellar Instagram strategy. When you engage with your customers in a smart way, you can build the brand of your dreams.