Small businesses often underestimate what it takes to succeed on a social platform like Instagram. It looks so easy. Post a product photo, add hashtags, and your sales will soar. But that’s not the way it works. Then there’s the matter of keeping up with new trends and innovations. If you really want to succeed, you have three choices: hire a full-time social media strategist, rent an Instagram expert (like EVG), or follow this baker’s dozen of Instagram tips for more Instagram success.
1. Think before you leap.
Before you launch an Instagram business account, ask yourself why you’re doing it. Can you identify the audience you want to attract? Do you know the type of content your audience wants? Have you defined your goals? How will you measure success? If you don’t know the answers, hit pause, do your research, and get your strategy in place before you publish one more post.
2. Share solutions, not just products.
Brands have treated Instagram as a sales platform for so long, Instagram has added shopping features for businesses. But don’t take this as permission to spend all your time and posts on selling. Social media should be all about being social. Share your passions, ideas, and goals. Successful brands find clever ways to keep the focus on their audience’s passions. Red Bull seldom shows their products in any form. General Electric usually shows their products, but their copy focuses on the bigger picture and how they are helping the world..
3. Use an editorial calendar.
Create a plan and stick to it. You don’t want to be seen as a Johnny-One-Note by posting the same thing over and over. Mix it up. Tell stories. Focus on what inspires you and your audience. Talk about current events. Use visuals to communicate stats. Last-minute posts always end up sounding just like every other post.
Pro Instagram Tip: Think 4-1-1 when you plan your content calendar. That means you should be creating 4 posts about shared interests, 1 post focused on selling and 1 post about the company but not the product.
4. Use hashtags with care.
Hashtags are more than a way to categorize content. They’re a powerful tool to get your brand noticed in organic search and Instagram feeds to expand your audience. But to do that, you need to use the right hashtags with the right posts. That means doing your research instead of relying on a single set you use with every post (a practice that can earn you a penalty) or using every single one you think is relevant.
Pro Instagram Tip: More is NOT more when it comes to hashtags. Savvy brands, like Chewy use very few hashtags. When they do use one, they put it in the text to prove its validity. Newbies load their post down with 11 or more as afterthoughts.
5. Create a branded hashtag.
Raise brand awareness and help expand your audience by crafting a unique hashtag for your brand. When you see #ShareACoke, you think of Coca-Cola. Disney created #ShareYourEars and Lay’s asked followers to #DoUsAFlavor. When you get it right, your audience will use it, which introduces their followers to your brand.
6. Post like clockwork.
How often you post is less important than consistency. There are algorithms that’ll track when your audience is consuming your content, and gurus who pronounce one day is better than another. Smart brands measure their actual engagement and figure out, based on the hard data, when their audience is consuming content. They use that data to establish and/or adjust their timing and posting schedule.
7. Be sociable.
You need to be part of the community. When you use a hashtag, you’re a member of that community. So you need to play by the rules: comment on other posts. Don’t just use the hashtag and ignore other posts using the same hashtag. Take the time to compliment their photo, make an observation about their text, and share their post with others. By commenting on posts with many likes or comments, you’ll be more visible and you might gain a fan or three.
8. Make it a conversation instead of a lecture.
If someone leaves a comment, respond to them. Hey, it’s social media! No one wants to be that person talking to the group and ignoring the contributions of everyone else at the party. A simple thank you goes a long way. If you have thousands of followers and comments, it’s okay to stop responding after 24 hours. And even just liking the comment or responding with an emoji acknowledges your follower.
Pro Instagram Tip: If the comment is negative, stay friendly; help them take it offline, and then resolve it as quickly as possible. If the comment is a plea to visit their site or an ask for something unrelated, just ignore them.
9. Measure what matters.
Focus on what really matters to you. You have defined business goals for each social media account, so focus on measuring the KPIs that help you reach those goals. No matter what you choose to measure, you should set up a clear process and monitor your metrics on a regular basis.
Pro Instagram Tip: Instagram now gives users the choice of hiding the “Like” count in their feeds. Designed to reduce social pressure, it’s one way to change the interaction from a popularity contest to a more nuanced conversation.
10. Make Time.
We’re spending more time on social media. But for brands, enticing their audience to increase the amount of time they engage with the brand requires committing resources to it. Great content takes time. You can’t produce share-worthy posts at the last minute. Videos, multi-slide decks and Stories entice followers to spend more time with each post.
Pro Instagram Tip: If you’re an e-commerce brand, you should be taking advantage of the newest features such as the ability for followers to shop directly from a Story.
11. Be ready to adapt and adopt new features.
As Instagram continues to add new features, experiment with them to see which work best for your social media strategy. Live videos on Instagram are ephemeral. Once the video broadcast is over, it disappears. The feature is ideal for special announcements, introductions, or special product launches.
12. Stay relevant.
Pundits like to point out our attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish. And we all know, from personal experience, how many squirrels are waiting to distract us once we go online. So asking for your audience’s attention is a big deal. You need to be prepared to offer them value in return for their attention.
13. Don’t be afraid to be creative.
Have you seen Google’s Instagram? You won’t find photos of motherboards, data algorithms, or the secret to the top spot in organic search. You will see Dooglers (dogs of Google employees), clever graphics that entertain, define, and delight. Did you know a dictionary can be entertaining? The Merriam-Webster account delivers the word of the day in an engaging and visual manner that delights as much as it educates.
If a search engine company and a dictionary can create great posts, you can too! If you’re interested in getting your Instagram to the next level, EVG can devise a strategy, produce engaging content or dive into your metrics to help you understand them. Give us a call, and we’ll help you find your social groove.
Originally published in 2013, this Instagram tips article was updated on Jan 24, 2022.