Instagram is one of the biggest and busiest social media platforms. Of the over one billion monthly active users worldwide, 80% follow brands—making the platform very attractive to marketers.
In talking about Instagram or researching it, you may have come across the topic of the algorithm. The algorithm is a set of rules that specify the order in which a group of data is presented, and Instagram is notorious for switching it up. It can be a lot of work to stay up to date with the latest Instagram algorithm updates, and while we would love to share growth hacks that will get your business in front of thousands, there are tried and true engagement best practices that will help you build, retain and engage your audience for the long haul.
1. Post Consistently
Consistency is key! Serendipity recommends posting once a day or at least four times per week. This updates your feed regularly with new, valuable, and ideally, engaging content. It also demonstrates to your followers that you are a reliable brand.
Along with posting consistently throughout the week, it is important to select the best times to post. If you have a Business or Creator account, review your Insights. Select the Audience tab and check out your followers’ Instagram habits. Your Audience Insights display your followers’ gender, age and most active times on the app, broken down by time and day of the week.
2. Tell Your Brand’s Story
If you haven’t read Donald Miller’s book Story Brand, go do that! Story Brand will help you create a clear message that you can use across all of your marketing platforms in order to build a robust sales funnel. A brand story is a cohesive narrative that encompasses the facts and feelings that are created by your brand. Despite Instagram being a visually heavy app, don’t simply show off your brand; tell your brand’s story for an emotional reaction. That emotional reaction generates loyalty and is important.
3. Have A Consistent Aesthetic
Our marketers at Serendipity have seen it all: really cohesive feeds that utilize the company’s branded colors and fonts; feeds that are a modge podge of memes, oddly filtered photos and branded material; and feeds that are blank slates. With any company or organization, it’s important to have a visually cohesive feed. Instagram is a visual app, and as explained in point two, telling the story is important, but having the correct visuals is equally as important.
4. Do Hashtag Research
If you want your posts to be seen by a larger audience and open you up to more engagement, this step is crucial. Selecting the right hashtags for your posts can mean the difference of being seen by hundreds of people and thousands of people. You will want to use a mix of industry specific hashtags and trending hashtags that have between 10k and 500k posts utilizing them; this indicates that the hashtags are being used, so you will have visibility, but the hashtags aren’t so big that your posts will be buried by competing content. It’s also important to use various sets of hashtags to mix things up. If you use the same set of hashtags over and over again, you run the risk that they will turn stale and your content may be shadow banned (blocked).
5. Use Call To Actions
One half of engagement is interacting with your audience and the other half is your audience interacting with you. The most direct way to encourage your audience’s engagement is by using a call to action. In a post, this can look like “comment below what you’re doing this weekend in emojis,” or “tag your road trip buddies below.” Both of these fun call to actions encourage the audience’s interaction and the latter even has the potential to expand your audience.
6. Repost User-Generated Content
User-generated content is huge for marketers! It means that your brand has developed fans who want to talk about your business or product to their own audiences. As a ‘thank you,’ you can repost their original content to your own feed. Not only can this encourage other audience members to create their own original content around your product, but this also reduces your marketing costs.
7. Invest Time and Effort In a Video Strategy
Instagram introduced the Reels feature in August 2020, and ever since they have prioritized Reel creation in the Instagram algorithm. What this means is that on average you can reach more of your audience with a Reel than a standard picture post. Reels are not the only video option you should consider—Instagram offers a whole suite of video options, including stories, lives and IGTV. Your video strategy could manifest itself into a video-based Instagram story each day, three Reels per week, and one live per week that could later be turned into an IGTV post.
8. Utilize SEO
Creating an SEO strategy for your Instagram profile is becoming increasingly important. Similar to how Google reads your website to find the meta description and keywords, Instagram reads your bio—this in turn, helps you rank in keyword searches. For example, your account name should ideally reflect your business’ name or your industry. For example, if your business is a Grand Rapids, Michigan-based coffee shop, you would ideally want to put “Grand Rapids Coffee Shop” or “Grand Rapids Cafe” as your account name so that when someone searches “Grand Rapids coffee” your business will come up in the search results regardless of your account’s handle. The key here is to brainstorm what keywords people will search on Instagram and then place those words within your bio.
9. Employ Instagram Stories
We’ve already briefly touched on Instagram stories in the video strategy point seven, but stories are not just video-based. Stories allow you to use a mix of photos and videos, while integrating features such as polls, questions and quizzes to engage your followers. Using stories can make your brand more authentic and approachable and can fill in the downtime between standard feed posts.
10. Engage With Your Audience
Lastly, it’s important to take time out of your day to engage the old-fashioned way with those you are following and those who follow you by liking, commenting and sharing. Liking is one of the simplest ways to say, “I like what you have created.” Commenting takes interaction a step further with the addition of your two cents on a subject, a compliment, or a question for clarification. Sharing someone else’s on your Instagram story or reposting on your feed is huge! This action not only says, “I like this,” but also “I think this provides value.”