As a Millennial, I can attest to the fact that most of my colleagues and peers “speak” social media like it’s a second language. After all, even though a lot of us can vaguely remember a time before pervasive social media use, the vast majority of us have spent most of our adult lives adapting and learning as new social networks have emerged.
That being said, just because social media has been a long-standing part of many people’s lives, it doesn’t mean that everyone inherently knows how to use it. In particular, many businesses I’ve worked with, and business owners I’ve spoken to over the years, seem baffled by the rise of mobile-specific apps like WhatsApp, Snapchat and Instagram.
While most business owners understand that social media offers a valuable opportunity for them to promote their brand, they don’t know how to leverage the power of popular social networks and turn their efforts into real ROI. In particular, if you’ve been struggling to understand how to use Instagram to find new customers, here’s how to show your audience how amazing your brand is and convey the value of the products and services you sell via this online channel.
Leverage your Instagram Stories
Instagram Stories are ephemeral, Snapchat-like content that disappear after 24 hours. I suggest using your Instagram Stories as a way to showcase “behind the scenes” information, which helps humanize your brand and gives your followers a feeling of exclusivity and connectedness.
One of my favourite Instagram accounts that rocks their Instagram Stories is the Baltimore-based restaurant The Local Oyster. Not only is their Timeline content fun and engaging, but they regularly update their Instagram Stories with fun videos, interesting behind-the-scenes sneak peeks of upcoming events and promotions, and lighthearted content that showcases how energetic and excited they are to be doing what they do.
Once you’ve gotten used to the idea of using your Instagram Stories, it’s time to start highlighting your favourite Stories by adding them as Highlights to your Instagram profile page. You can create as many Highlights as you want, but I recommend choosing four to five ‘high-level’ Highlights that focus on specific areas you want to promote, such as ‘Meet the Team,’ ‘New Arrivals,’ and a ‘Welcome’ message.
Test for success
Being successful in social media isn’t about how much you post. In fact, it’s often quite the opposite — followers are often turned off by excessive posting because it monopolizes what they see on their own Timelines. To develop your Instagram strategy, take a look at your Instagram analytics to determine which types of posts are resonating with your followers.
Then start by posting more frequently with one post per day. Over the next few weeks reduce posting to four times a week, then three and then two, until you have the data to support which posting habit earns you the highest levels of engagement from your followers.
Strive for consistency
One key component to Instagram success is creating a sense of consistency with the content you post. It doesn’t take a lot of work to develop a theme or an “aesthetic” for your account, and there are lots of great tools like Unum and Planoly that can help with this process.
Other easy tricks include using the same filter for every photo or creating “checkerboard” themes where you alternate image types or filters so your account depicts a visual pattern.
Be smart with hashtags
Hashtags can be your friend or your enemy — using them in every post is a great way to help new users find your content. But if you use the same ones too often, or if you use too many of them in your posts, you may sacrifice engagement and followers as a result.
The easiest way to develop a smart hashtag strategy is to lean on your analytics. Take a look at your posting habits and correlate which hashtags you used in your successful posts, so you can develop an understanding of which hashtags perform best with your followers over time.
Develop your own strategy
At the end of the day, each business is different, and groups of followers are different as well. There are plenty of ways to experiment with Instagram to grow your business and help your customers find you.
Best of all, it doesn’t cost a dime (other than your time) to experiment and learn how to be more strategic. All you need is to track your posts, keep an eye on your analytics and (most importantly) have fun while you do it.