Want to get more from your marketing efforts?
Improving your Instagram content and boosting engagement can be as simple as adding a few tactics and tools to your marketing routine.
In this article you'll discover nine tips and tools to improve your Instagram marketing.
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#1: Tailor Images to Your Audience
On your Instagram account, post the kinds of photos that your audience is already sharing and liking. For example, take a picture that shows the inside of your office, the team heading out to lunch or you holding up your favorite afternoon snack.
MaybellineAU took a cue from the fashion bloggers dominating Instagram with their facial close-ups and instructional pictures. In this post the brand shows one aspect of a woman's makeup routine: defining the eyebrows.
The style and focus on the eyebrow in this photo contributed to a 2.4x increase in sales of Maybelline's Brow Drama mascara.
#2: Enhance Your Photos
You'll get the most out of every photo you share if they are the best they can be. Here are some quick and easy ways to improve even the most basic photo.
Make use of an app like VSCO Cam (available for iOS and Android) to brighten and enhance your photos. The app offers editing tools and preset filters to make your photos more visually appealing and interesting.
Although Instagram now supports non-square photos, the square shape still performs best. When you use the tool InstaSize (available for iOS and Android), you can choose a photo and scale it exactly how you want within the square shape. The app adds a white or colored border around the edges of your photo so that it keeps its original shape in the square box.
#3: Use Text Overlays on Images
Sharing generic content that doesn't connect to your brand is a missed opportunity on Instagram. Many marketers opt for generic content because their product or service isn't inherently visual. How many photos can you really share of your team sitting around a conference table? Not many.
Instead, create messages, graphics and designs that tell users something valuable. This could be a quote connected to your brand, or an announcement about a new product, contest or sale.
For example, the Huffington Post Instagram account uses graphics to share a quote from a story or to start a conversation. In this example, the graphic asks an engaging question and promotes a hashtag. The question started a long conversation in the comments and led to broader use of the hashtag.
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There's no need to reinvent the wheel with every graphic either. Consistency wins on Instagram. Keep your template and change the text or background to share a new graphic each week.
#4: Tell a Story With the Caption
Yes, Instagram is a photo-sharing app, but writing is also a key component to your success. The most engaging brands on Instagram use microblogging to tell a story in the caption. As a result, they see stronger engagement and create deeper connections with their audience. This leads to more sharing, commenting and loyalty.
Hey, Sweet Pea writes long stories that are like personal letters to their audience. In fact, they use them to tease what users can expect from attending their classes. Then they plug the classes in the caption and with a link in their profile.
Use an app like Hemingway to help you improve your caption writing. This tool marks adverbs, passive voice, overly long sentences and more. Paste your text in the editor to make sure that your writing is active and easy to read before you hit publish.
#5: Leverage Trending Hashtags
Make your brand known and your voice heard in the top (and relevant) Instagram conversations of the day. With the right hashtag and location tags, you can extend the reach of your content and brand.
Instagram's Search and Explore feature shows you the trending hashtags of the day. Also look at related hashtags to make sure that you're choosing the most widely used variation before you post.
In this post, fashion brand Madewell wanted to connect with people who are interested in travel. Instead of using a product photo, they showed a beautiful destination where their followers might aspire to wear their products.
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They also used hashtags popular with travelers on Instagram. By adding the hashtag #mytinyatlas (used by anyone posting travel photos, made popular by the publication Tiny Atlas Quarterly), they widened their reach to half a million Instagrammers who were using the same hashtag with their travel photos or searching for some travel inspiration.
#6: Post User-Generated Content
At the end of the day, many marketers would prefer to share their own products all the time, hoping that a link or a picture will inspire a new person to click or purchase. But inspiring this action takes some work.
A proven way to inspire action is to show your product in the wild, and Instagram is the perfect place to do this.
Use an app like Regram (available for iOS) to reshare a customer's photo of your product. Better yet, create your own hashtag and invite fans to tag your brand in their posts. You'll get not only some great content to share, but also referral marketing when they share their pictures with your network. Incentivize the sharing with a contest or coupon code.
Carpeting company FLOR shows off their products in real life by reposting content shared by customers. Their products' colorful patterns allow for creative personal expression. The company rewards that creativity by broadcasting user content on their Instagram account, along with the user tag and often the hashtag #MyFLor.
#7: Add a Trackable Link to Your Profile
Instagram limits the options for adding links. In fact, there is just one place where you can add a live link: your profile description. The trend on Instagram is to use the caption to point people to that link.
It's important to use this link strategically. Reference the link when you post a photo and tell users where it will go and why they should click.
Mashable changes their link when they post new photos to Instagram. In addition to mentioning the link, Mashable also tells users what they can see at the link, giving them a reason to click.
Use Bitly or Google’s URL Shortener to create your own shortened link, and then add it to your Instagram profile description. To track click-throughs with Google Analytics, add your UTM parameters using Google URL Builder. You can then see how changing your content and your call to action impacts your click-through rate.
#8: Schedule Posts at Optimal Times
Getting serious about Instagram means making the most of opportunities to connect with your audience. Plan your posts in advance and schedule each one at a time when your audience is most engaged. When you post consistently and at optimal times, you'll see a greater return from each post.
There are a number of tools that can make that easier. For example, Viraltag allows you to manage all of your content in one place, edit your photos and prepare your captions. You can also schedule your posts at a specific time or automate your sharing.
Latergramme is another great option for Instagram scheduling. An Instagram-centric platform, Latergramme also allows you to upload photos from your desktop and schedule posts to Instagram.
Following Instagram's rules, any scheduling tool will require you to approve postings at the scheduled time by clicking a notification on your phone. But being able to plan and execute the majority of your posts in advance will help you seize opportunities at key moments.
#9: Interact With Your Audience
We know interaction is key to a healthy social media strategy. But on Instagram, it's particularly important because people increasingly look for information there.
The platform is most popular with young people, as the majority of users are younger than 30. Young people and teens in particular ask questions and look for answers on Instagram.
For example, a non-profit book festival for teens in Texas found that answering questions directly on Instagram was the best way to interact with their target audience: teens.
LoveSurf, an ecommerce site and brick-and-mortar store in California, uses Instagram to share information with their customers. If customers want to know what products are in stock and what hours the store is open, they look to Instagram for answers.
You don't want to miss a moment to engage with a potential customer, so check Instagram consistently or use a free tool like Iconosquare to monitor comments and engage directly.
Iconosquare displays the most recent comments on your posts and allows you to reply straight from your desktop.
Despite conventional thinking, it's not all about brand-building. You can see a real impact on your business when you put the right plan in place. Be thoughtful and strategic to maximize the time and resources you spend on the platform.
What do you think? What else are you doing on Instagram to drive business results? Please share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.
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