(originally published on Stacy Kleber Design’s blog)
By Sacha Cohen
What’s that you say, you don’t think your business needs to be on Instagram? If you’re an actuary, doctor, or mortician, you could be right. For everyone else, listen up. Instagram has more than 500 million active monthly users who have shared more than 40 billion photos in just over six years! And now that Facebook owns Instagram, for better or worse, growth continues to skyrocket.
So why should you care? An engaged and active audience on Instagram could mean more leads for your business, boosted sales, better brand recognition, new partnership opportunities, and meaningful connections worldwide. In fact, according to Instagram Advertiser statistics, 60 percent of IG users say that they learn about a product or service on the platform and 75 percent take an action, such as visiting a website, after looking at an Instagram advertising post.
Instagram, and any social media platform for that matter, is an extension of your brand. It’s a way to build long-lasting customer and client relationships, and to tell your company’s story through images. As with any communications or marketing channel, you should be consistent with content and visual identity. If your brand identity is casual, fun, and inspirational, your IG account should reflect that. A good example is Play-Doh. Few brands scream fun and creative quite like this one, and its IG feed cleverly reflects its quirky and fun-filled personality.
If your brand is more corporate and conservative, well, don’t go posting photos from that crazy company happy hour or beer pong tournament. Take the time to think about how to tell your organization’s story visually and try to adhere to a [reasonably] consistent visual narrative if possible.
Photos are Everything
I cannot stress this enough: Your photos need to be awesome. Why? Because Instagram is a visually driven channel where the quality of your images can make or break you. Nothing will turn off followers faster than out-of-focus, poorly composed photos or way off-brand images. But you have some options for how to make great photos happen. Either you can work with a pro, learn how to take amazing photos on your own, or leverage stock photography that doesn’t suck.
Want to DIY? Here are some basic Instagram photo tips from the Digital Photography School:
- Take pictures in lighting that is soft when can see detail in the highlights and the shadows, and if you can, shoot during the “golden hour”—the first and last hour of daylight.
- Shoot from unusual angles. Shoot down. Shoot from below. Shoot with objects in the foreground to blur out.
- Create depth by using lines, repetition, and space with foregrounds and backgrounds.
- Follow the rules of thirds by keeping the horizon and other strong lines on the grid lines. Instagram lets you keep grid lines on when you shoot to make this effortless.
- Get close up (3-6 inches), especially with small objects, so you really capture their detail.
Engage, Engage, Engage
It’s called social media for a reason. Follow other like-minded people and brands that inspire you, comment and like other users’ posts, have a conversation, and repost amazing content once in a while. Take the time to get to know your audience and fans, build meaningful relationships, and perhaps consider whether a dedicated influencer strategy might be right for your business.
Hashtags on Instagram can have a big impact on your levels of engagement and reach. Here are a few basic guidelines to help you get started:
- Be specific, relevant and observant. For example, a photograph of your favorite veggie burger might not only include #vegetarian but also #forksoverknives #beyondmeat #vegansofig and #eeeats
- What tags are others, particularly your target audience, competitors and influencers, using? By adding those tags, your photos will be easier to find in search and you’ll be able to reach and connect with more like-minded users.
- Numbers are allowed in hashtags. But spaces and special characters, like $ or %, won’t work.
- You can use up to 30 tags on a post. If you include more than 30 tags on a single photo/video, your comment won’t post.
- Want to find out what hashtags are hot on Instagram? Check out Webstagram. Popular tags right now are #love, #beautiful and #food. The site also lists top Instagrammers. From #ManCrushMonday to #WednesdayWisdom, there’s even a site that includes top hashtags for each day of the week.
For a deep dive into all things hashtag-related, check out this handy guide from Later.
In Instagram, as in life, timing is everything. Generally speaking you’ll want to post during times when your audience is online and not focused on something else like work. Good times to post include before work, during lunch time and in the evenings. I have personally found that around 9 pm EST works well for my company, but when you post will depend on your audience and what time zone you’re in. Experiment to find out what times work best for you and then stick to a consistent publishing schedule.