Instagram is an…. Enigma to say the very least. With an incredibly intelligent algorithm that is constantly changing, learning, and adapting, many (including us) find it hard to stay on top of the method to its madness. The biggest thing we know is this: the engagement you receive on your posts is the biggest factor in determining how often your posts appear and how many people see them.
The goal of social media is always for as many people to see and interact with your content as much as possible to build your brand and increase your customer base. But how do you build an Instagram account to reach as many people as possible? What kind of content should you be posting, when should you be posting, what should it look like? How do you get people to want to build connections with you? There are so many boxes to check, and it’s such a hard pattern to figure out without practice. Throughout our experience and research, we have come up with a few tips that really help the success of your Instagram accounts and followings.
Consistency on Instagram
This is probably one of the most important strategies in terms of achieving Instagram success. Consistency in Instagram relates to a few things:
Instagram feed consistency
Instagram is a visual platform, and oftentimes, people use your Instagram feed as a snapshot of what to expect from you, whether it be in terms of products offered, foods served, services available, as well as the overall personality of your brand. Your feed is your brand’s aesthetic, and we all know that consistency is key to a great aesthetic. When you go to your profile and see all of the content you shared, you should be able to get an overall feel for your brand on the screen. It should flow nicely and present your content in a way that makes people think “Wow, they’ve got it together. I want to work with them.” For example, let’s say you’re in a new city on vacation and looking for a place to grab some breakfast. Of the options below, which one do you think you would end up visiting?
Probably the feed on the right, do you think? It presents the food they offer in a visually appealing way, gives a little human touch to their photos, has a consistent color aesthetic, and a variety of different and thoughtful photos. Instagram feed consistency is key to how appealing and successful your brand can be on the platform.
Instagram post frequency consistency
Instagram post frequency is important to building a following and a brand on Instagram. A study done by Union Metrics found that there is a correlation between post consistency and follower growth. The study also showed that multiple posts per day don’t hurt your engagement, which is a myth that had been floating around for a while. On average, brands typically post 1.5 times per day. Not only does posting consistently keep your followers engaged and meets their expectations that they have for following your account, but it also is important to consider in terms of beating the Instagram algorithm and continuing to grow your following.
Most brands typically post at least once per day. However, if your brand consistently posts every other day, or 5 days a week, as long as you maintain that consistency, your follower’s expectations will be met and you should be good to go. If you start noticing a decline in engagement with only posting 5 days a week, it is always worth a shot to try posting more to boost that engagement- but every account is different (part of the beauty and frustration of the Instagram algorithm).
Instagram post time consistency
There are so many graphics and blogs and studies out there in the digital marketing sphere highlighting the “best times to post on Instagram for engagement”. Those are such helpful guides when trying to figure out what time to post, but the root of determining your posting time is really based on your past engagement and the patterns of your follower base. Some brands do really well posting at 10 pm, some at 6 am. It depends a lot on where you are in the world, where your target audience is, and where your followers are. But if you can find that sweet spot of “I get the most engagement on my posts at 4 pm”, that is when you should be posting. It takes some trial and error, especially for brands just getting started, but Instagram analytics is extremely helpful for determining when your following is most active and engaged with you.
Instagram content consistency
While it is important to post a variety of content such as videos, images, reels, etc., you also want to maintain some level of consistency in your content. Make sure your captions all have the same tone, your content all has the same aesthetic (think: if most of your images are bright, light photos, posting an all navy blue graphic probably won’t align well with your brand and cause confusion to your followers), and you’re posting things that align with your brand or company. Instagram content consistency is all about appealing to your following and giving the people who follow you the content they expect to receive when they chose to follow your account.
This isn’t to say that you aren’t allowed to pivot your social media from one aesthetic to another, but if you choose to do that it is important to make it clear to your followers what they can expect to start seeing from your account. For example, if you are a bagel shop like the example above and recently decided to start serving breakfast smoothies, you should post to let your followers know that this is a new option – honestly, it would be best to post about it a few times, create some buzz leading up to it, and make sure your followers know that they can expect to start seeing photos of smoothies coming soon.
Share visually appealing content on Instagram
Instagram is a primarily visual platform; yes, captions matter and play a role in engagement on your posts. But, when you scroll through your feed, what makes you stop and read the caption? Typically it’s a great, appealing image that causes you to stop your scroll. Plan out the images you are posting with the intention to stop your follower’s scroll, along with fitting well into your grid and the typical content that you post.
Be engaging on Instagram
The thing about Instagram is that it is so easy for followers to mindlessly scroll, double-tap, and scroll again. But as I mentioned in the intro, engagement is essential for being successful on Instagram. Yes, likes count as engagement. But you also want people to comment on your posts, interact with your account, share your post with others, and save your posts. The more engagement you have outside of the double tap, the better.
On that note, if people are engaging with you: engage back. For example: let’s say you post a photo of a specialty bagel you’re offering for that week only. Someone comments on the photo and says “Delicious!” it would be easy to like the comment and move on, or even comment back “yum!” or “thank you!” But it’s even more engaging, and could lead to another comment if you respond with something along the lines of: “It sure is! Can we expect to see you in the store to get on this week? They won’t be around long!”. Responding this way helps you in a few ways:
- It boosts your engagement, not only by commenting back yourself but also leaving room for them to respond to your comment.
- It shows that behind the photos of bagels are real, alive human beings and adds personality to your brand.
- It helps you start a conversation and build a connection with that person, possibly encouraging a sale.
The Instagram algorithm has been shown to favor conversations outside of one-word comments and likes. Insta wants to see you using its platform to connect with people. And, outside of that, *people* have been shown to favor you trying to connect with them.
Be human on Instagram
Take a second to think about who you interact with on your various platforms: are you more likely to like, comment on, and share something that you know is coming from a real, live person? Someone who talks back? Someone who has a personality that you can see come to life on social media?
To do this, you need to be sure you’re adding voice and tone to your post. For example, if you’re sharing an image of your bagel of the day for your bagel shop, think about which of these captions sounds the most human:
- “Our bagel of the day is poppyseed. Come on down and get yours today!”
- “Is your stomach rumbling already this morning? You’re in luck because we just took our bagel of the day out of the oven, they’re hot and ready to go! Melt some butter on top, or make it into a breakfast sandwich – either will give you some much-needed energy to make it to lunchtime. We’re ready and waiting for you, let us know if we’ll see you soon!”
If this piques your interest, you’re probably most likely to double tap and comment on the post with the second caption. It sounds like a real-life person talking to you instead of a company, and it has some personality and emotion to it.
Please also take note that if customers do comment on the post, you should comment back! It boosts your engagement on your post, and it also helps you to look even more human by fostering a conversation with the people who engage with your content.
Show your life/your company’s life on Instagram
This ties into being human on social media. If you split your posts between selling your business/services with showing content including behind the scenes of your life or your company’s life, it will help people be able to build connections with you and see you as a real, live entity rather than just a robot behind a screen. It also helps to differentiate your business by giving insight into what kind of culture you foster. A good culture can give you a cutting edge against your competitors when it comes to clients choosing who to work with, as well as future employees choosing who to work for.
There are so many ways you can show insight into your life/your company’s life on Instagram. You can utilize stories, maybe have a different employee each week “take over” the account, and show insight into their day-to-day. You can make reels of behind the scenes of a project and then the final result. You can post photos of your employees, maybe do some kind of employee spotlight.
To continue with the bagel shop example, they could dedicate a post each week or every other week to sharing the employee’s favorite bagels and why they love them. A customer might make a connection with that employee, and be more likely to engage with that post and even come into the shop to make a connection with that employee because they feel like they already know them.
Create shareable content for Instagram users
Once again rounding everything back to engagement, people sharing your content with others counts as engagement and has a two-fold effect of showing your content to more people through the following of whoever shared it, as well as making that post more likely to show up in other feeds (your own followers and explore) because it has received more engagement.
To get people to share your content, you need to create content that people want to share. This content can be a variety of different things. For the bagel shop, it could be a really incredible photo of the bagel and a compelling caption like “This is the kind of bagel you can only get here. It’s almost too good to eat, right?” Or maybe it’s a special offer like: “Today only! Share this post to receive a free drink with your breakfast sandwich”! Another option would be a nice photo or a fun graphic showing your followers how to do something, like making the perfect breakfast sandwich. All of those are things that may compel your followers to share it with their followers, thus boosting reach, engagement, and possibly sales.
If you’re looking for tips on how to create shareable content, check out this blog for some ideas!
Use Instagram’s features
Though it has not been explicitly confirmed by Instagram (as they have with other algorithm ranking factors) that using all of Instagram’s features will boost your ranking in the algorithm, it is still beneficial for your brand and your business to capitalize on all of the opportunities Instagram provides for content creation.
Instagram Feed Posts – both photos and videos.
Instagram has specifically stated that video content is not favored over photos, however, it will always be beneficial to your business to offer your followers a variety of content. Some users may prefer and engage more with videos, and some with photos. Each medium lends different opportunities for content sharing and different ways to connect with your audience.
Stories are a great way for you to show behind the scenes and add a different level of personality to your brand, outside of maintaining your consistent feed. There are many opportunities to foster interaction with your following as well, such as utilizing polls and story quizzes to build engagement. It’s so easy for followers to tap on a response in your poll, or answer a question. The more those people interact easily with your stories, the more likely they are to see your posts in their feeds and interact with those as well.
Reels are instagram’s newest feature, piggybacking off of the piecemeal video concept originally brought to us by TikTok. These are another opportunity for you to add personality to your brand, along with creating shareable content (think: how to videos). Our bagel shop example could use this feature to show the start to finish process of making the bagel of the day.
TIP: Select your own cover image as opposed to using the one auto-generated by Instagram when you create the reel. This will ensure that your feed still maintains consistency when the reel shows up in your grid.
To do this, click on where it says “cover” on the screen you reach after creating your reel. From there, you can either move the slider to select a snapshot from the video or click on the “Add from camera roll” button at the bottom to select a pre made graphic or photo saved to your camera roll.
Use Instagram hashtags appropriately
A common misconception floating around is that hashtags don’t matter anymore- which is absolutely false. There does need to be some strategy behind them, hoever, as they affect where your post is shown and how the algorithm ranks it. Hashtagging is essentially marking the content with the keywords that you want to apply to it.
For example, if the bagel shop hashtags their post with #BagelShopCincinnati, it could show up for someone in Cincinnati searching for bagels on instagram.
The strategy behind hashtags can get tricky, but here are a few best practices for hashtaging your photos.
You’re allowed to have up to 30 hashtags in each comment, but that doesn’t mean that 30 hashtags are always necessary. Making your hashtags clear, concise, and relevant will increase the chance that they will actually boost your engagement.
Use relevant hashtags
On that note, be sure that your hashtags are relevant to the photo. If our bagel shop posts a photo of a bagel breakfast sandwich and hashtags #coffee, that’s not entirely relevant to the photo and can come across as spammy. Yeah, maybe the bagel shop serves coffee and you can drink coffee while you eat your bagel, but it’s not relevant to the photo or post itself.
Try to use a variety of hashtags
What we mean by this is that copying the same group of 20 hashtags and pasting them into the comments of each post isn’t a great strategy. Not only does it appear spammy, you can’t guarantee that all 20 of those hashtags directly apply to every single post.
Make sure your hashtags are ADA compliant
We have an entire blog post on the topic of ADA compliance for social media, but the key relevancy for this section of the post is to ensure that your hashtags on your post follow this compliance. This will make your content more accessible to all users, which in turn makes your brand more human. #ThisIsTheCorrectFormatForHashtagging, #thisisnot. I definitely recommend checking out the rest of the ADA compliance blog for tips to ensure you are meeting regulations in the other areas of your socials as well!
Use Instagram to build connections
Instagram is a wonderful tool to reach people outside of your direct network of customers. It can help you reach users across the world if you use it wisely. With engagement being a heavy ranking factor in terms of beating the algorithm, it is so important to use this platform to build sustainable connections with people who will continue to engage with you. The more people consistently engage, the more likely your posts are to have the capability reach the ends of the earth. Making connections on Instagram is also a great way to expand your direct network of customers and clients, as well as collaborators.
You can make connections by consistently liking, commenting, sharing, and generally interacting with people with whom you want to grow a network. This takes a little bit of social listening on your part- seeing where your customer base is, where your collaboration base can be, and figuring out what kind of content they’re interacting with to help you to produce similar content. Reach out to people in direct messages, respond to stories, comment on posts. People like being interacted with, and the more you do it- the better response you’ll get.
Utilize a landing page for your website in your Instagram Bio
What is the ultimate goal of marketing? To increase sales. And where are sales most likely to happen? Through your website. Thankfully, Instagram gives all users a place in their bio to list a website. However, linking directly to your homepage and calling it a day isn’t making it easy for your followers to convert- whether that conversion is a sale, a quote request form, or a phone call. It’s best practice to offer users a little bit of guidance down that “sales funnel”. The best way to do this is utilizing a landing page in your Instagram website link which directs users to various areas on your website that will be the most helpful to them, such as your portfolio, your quote request form, your blog, your special product sale, etc. This makes it so easy for people looking at your website from Instagram to be directed to the information that they are most likely to take action on. There are a couple different ways you can create a landing page:
Create a no-index landing page on your website
You can create a no-indexed landing page on your website specifically for instagram. This could look something like www.yourwebsite.com/instagram, or you can tailor the link specificall to your brand and voice. Definitely make sure it’s no-index, though, so it doesn’t affect anything in the SERP. On this landing page, you’ll link the various pages that you want to directly funnel users to convert on – your quote request form, latest blogs, etc.
Use a landing page app/website:
We currently use Linktree The free plan allows us to have unlimited links on our landing page. There is a variety of customization available to us as well to make sure the page is branded to our company.
Instagram, and social media in general, can be tough to manage and keep up with. But the rewards you can reap of the connections you make through these platforms and the number of people you can reach cannot be beaten. If you’re interested in upping your social media game, but don’t want to take on the task alone, reach out to our team! We have social media plans to help you manage your presence and increase your reach, we would love to work with you to help your business achieve success!