Instagram isn’t just for food porn and wanderlust-inspiring videos; it’s for brands that want to engage with their audiences. That’s because Instagram is one of the top performing social media platforms for engagement! And since more than one billion people use Instagram every month—with 200 million of those users viewing an Instagram Business account every day—you have a huge opportunity to connect with customers through this free medium. Whether you’re new to Instagram marketing or want to freshen up on your skills, use these top tips to run an even more successful Instagram for Business account in 2020.
1. Switch to a Business Profile
This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you’re a business on Instagram, make a bonafide Instagram for Business profile! Instagram wants you to do this because it makes it easier to promote your page, run ads, and help users find your content. Your Instagram for Business account also connects to your Facebook Business page so you can easily share content from Instagram to Facebook, and cycle customers from one social profile to another.
If you need to start an Instagram for Business account from scratch, get on it ASAP! In 2020, it’s estimated that over 75% of all businesses will use this platform. You’ll need to join the party if you want to compete for customers, clients, and patients.
Once you convert or set up your Instagram for Business account, optimize your profile. There are some tricks here since you’re limited by character count. To get the most exposure, create a different name and username. For instance, our username is @wittykittydigital, but when you click on our profile you’ll see Content Marketing Social Media as our name. That’s because this helps people who search for content and social media marketing find us easier. This strategy is akin to not putting all your keywords in one basket. You should also test the keywords and hashtags you use in your profile often. Forget full sentences, bullet points work just fine.
2. Create a Content Calendar
Instagram marketing is most effective when you have a strategy. That involves a content calendar, or editorial calendar. When you create a content calendar, you plot out an entire year’s worth of content ideas. This includes content buckets—or the categories your business posts about—to reach your entire audience and keep your content fresh. Creating a content calendar also helps prevent burnout, since you can reference it for ideas when you don’t know what to post. Also, experiment with the types of content you post. Right now, people prefer How-To tutorial videos. Try creating some of those to see how they do for performance and engagement.
3. Keep Your Posting Cadence Up
Have you ever visited a business’s social media profile and been turned off by its sporadic posting? One post from two years ago and two from last week never looks good. We always say, do social media marketing right, or don’t do it at all! We’ve seen Instagram for Business profiles do best when they post three to five times per week, so that’s something to strive for.
That being said, this is the best advice we can give any business when it comes to Instagram strategy: don’t bite off more than you can chew. Determine if you need to bring in help or hire an agency to achieve your social media marketing goals. Come up with an annual budget to see what’s possible. Use tips and tricks to stick to a posting schedule. Use a social media scheduling platform to automate your posting too so it doesn’t fall by the wayside.
If you find you’re not quite ready to hire a social media marketing agency, that’s okay too. It’s better to be honest with yourself and jump in head first when you truly feel prepared than waste time and money before you get there.
4. Improve your Images and Videos With a Photoshoot, Editing, and Design
Instagram is all about posting high quality, original visuals and videos. Make yours 100% likable and shareable! Here’s how:
Plan a Photoshoot to Reduce Stock Photo Use
We always recommend using original images instead of stock, as stock comes off as disingenuous and stale. Getting enough original, high-quality images often requires a social media photoshoot. It’s best to reference your content calendar when planning a photoshoot. Then, create an entire shot list of the photos and videos you need. It’s vastly easier, cheaper, and quicker to get a photoshoot done when you plan this way. Just make sure you snap a variety of shots including those that look good with text or graphic overlay.
Use Free Editing Software
So many free or super cheap tools exist to turn even the most novice designers into Instagram photo editing pros. Canva is one of them. You can use this tool for free to add text and a designed flare to your posts. There are even animated templates for Stories or more interesting posts.
Leverage User-Generated Images
People love to be featured by their favorite brands. Just make sure you @tag the user profile you showcase a photo from. Leverage photos from influencers, brands, and followers or ideal customers to get engagement and cross traffic from their followers. Just make sure you create a post that flatters and highlights the user and not you. You never want to make anyone feel used by your brand for your own gain.
5. Utilize Stories and IGTV In Addition to Posts
The Stories feature of Instagram shouldn’t be ignored—over half a billion users use Instagram Stories each day—and 30 percent of the most viewed Stories come from business profiles. While these Stories disappear after 24 hours, they offer your audience something limited, fun, and fresh. They also allow you to dynamically animate your content with stickers, gifs, and more which increases video performance over 80% of the time.
We love Stories because unlike organic posts, you can apply direct shopping links to convert views into sales (as long as you have 10,000 followers or more)! Stories also allow you to drive traffic to your website and Instagram for Business profile by teasing content. Plus, Stories for Instagram for Business accounts have more than an 85% completion rate—compared to the general Instagram newsfeed where content flies by at the speed of light as users swipe. When you post a Story, people will most likely see it.
If you don’t like putting effort into something that disappears, you have options! You can preserve your Stories, you can in your Highlights on your profile. Curate a set of highlights that group content by type—like products and services, company news, user-generated content, and more.
As far as IGTV goes, this is Instagram’s YouTube, allowing businesses to post videos up to an hour in length. You can promote these from your Stories and include snippets on your profile. We mentioned above that How-To Tutorials are the most popular video content on Instagram right now. Since IGTV allows for longer videos, use this facet of Instagram to pilot this type of video and improve your views, shares, likes, engagement, and following.
Altogether, posts, Stories, and IGTV videos work together to reach your audience and new followers where they hang out—without overloading their feeds. These tactics also give you the ability to diversify the type of content you post; long and short-form, animated and static, and video or photo. Most businesses post at least two Stories per week. We suggest you start there and mix in three to five regular posts per week and one IGTV video per month. Keep mixing it up until you find the right balance and cadence for your following.
6. Diversify Your Hashtags and Make Each One Relevant
Hashtags are your way out of obscurity and into a wide variety of interest groups and newsfeeds. However, choosing your hashtags shouldn’t be a guessing game. Every hashtag you use should be relevant to your business. There are a few ways to hashtag like a champ:
Use Instagram’s Search Bar and Pick a Variety of Niche and Mass Hashtags
To get started on your hashtag search, start typing hashtags into the search bar of Instagram. It might seem enticing to only pick hashtags that have millions of mentions, but unless you have thousands of followers and likes, you won’t rank for those super popular hashtags. Instead, use a mix of hashtags within your league and reach.
For instance, #contentmarketing has more competition than #contentmarketingtips. To definitively find out if you have the potential to rank for any hashtag, click on the hashtag and view profiles that rank. If you have a similar amount of followers and likes per post, you have a great chance of appearing for those hashtags. That’s why mixing in low and high use hashtags is important, so new followers have a higher chance of finding you.
See What Your Competition is Up To
A great way to come up with hashtags is to spy on the competition and see what they use. While you always want to switch up which hashtags you use per post, seeing what your competition uses may inspire a viral campaign idea or help you create content to outrank them. This isn’t shady practice. Everyone does it.
Create Branded Hashtags
Branded hashtags are a great way to increase engagement and visibility on Instagram. We recently posted about an REI campaign that used the branded hashtag, #optoutside, to generate engagement and user-generated content. Doing so increases engagement with your brand and raises awareness. Every time a user posts with your hashtag, their entire following will see and hopefully visit your profile. The bottom line: if you have an established brand or run an email or ad campaign, consider creating your own hashtag people can use on their posts.
7. Cross Promote and Use Ego-Bait
Every brand has another it puts on a pedestal. For instance, if you own a sustainable business or law practice, you may strive to appear in a prominent publication or on the shelves of a large retailer. If you create a post that strokes the ego of these larger businesses—ones that have an engaged following that overlaps with your target audience—and tag them in it, you may be able to get some traffic and engagement from their brand and their followings. Doing so will help increase the trust and credibility for your company as well as your exposure on Instagram.
8. Increase Your Organic Reach with Instagram Ads
We’ve said it once and we’ll say it a million times more: social media marketing and digital marketing is becoming a pay-to-play world. In short, you need to invest in ads to bolster the visibility of your content. Instagram ads are crucial for your organic visibility. Instagram ads are projected to earn over $12 million in ad revenue in 2020. Before you launch a campaign, especially if you’re just starting an Instagram for Business account, curate at least 30 posts. That way, your profile will look legit before you drive traffic to it and your website.
9. Strive to be Featured Prominently on the Explore Tab
More than half of all Instagram users visit the Explore tab in Instagram every month. This curated list of content is tailored to a user’s specific interests and search patterns—not who they follow. It’s Instagram’s version of a very personalized newsfeed, and it’s a fantastic place for you to connect naturally and non-invasively with new followers.
You can’t buy your way onto the Explore Tab. However, you can produce organic content that increases your likelihood of appearing here. Use relevant and diverse hashtags, harness your social listening data, and continue to build your following and engagement to show Instagram your profile is worthy of a user’s attention and appearing on the Explore tab.
10. Try Influencer Marketing
Instagram is the most popular Influencer Marketing platform; businesses spend almost 70% of their influence marketing budgets on this channel. To find the right influencers, look for those who have overlap with your demographic and target audience. And don’t discount the little guy! Micro influencers (those with hundreds to low thousands of followers) compared to macro influencers (the Kim Kardashians of the world) often bring a passionate and loyal audience. That means the credibility is there to promote your product.
Influencer marketing also is pretty affordable—starting at a reasonable threshold per post. On average, businesses spend $100 to just over $2,000 per post, up to $3,200 per video, and $50 to $750 on Stories. If the juice is worth the squeeze and you have the budget, try forming relationships with influencers and see where that takes you. You’ll immediately tap into their engaged audiences and garner the trust you need to make sales.
11. Don’t Waste Your Time Coming Up With 30 Hashtags Per Post
Back in 2018, we would have told you hashtags are like lottery tickets and you should use every single one of them to increase your odds of winning. Not anymore. While you’re allowed to use 30 hashtags in your posts, we haven’t seen significant data that encourages using this many hashtags. In fact, using too many hashtags is distracting and spammy. We suggest picking 3-10 hashtags per post and varying those from niche to mass tags (those with search volume in the hundreds to millions). Always use different hashtags in each post too to stay relevant.
12. Stay on Your Toes
Like SEO and other digital marketing tactics, Instagram’s algorithm and best practices constantly change. That means, businesses like yours should stay alert for updates and user-preference shifts in order to get the most out of your Instagram marketing.
For instance, in April 2019, the platform began piloting its no-like policy. On certain accounts (possibly all accounts eventually), likes are now hidden. Why would Instagram do such a thing? Because Instagram is the most popular traditional social media platform among American teenagers. It’s also the most detrimental to their mental wellbeing and self esteem. Because Instagram is supposed to deliver a positive experience, it’s adapting to serve its customer. And that means your business needs to evolve with its rules.
If—and it’s a big if—Instagram does remove likes from the front end of all posts (you will be able to see your likes and engagement in your Instagram Insights), you may need to change your strategy. In fact, this could be a good thing since it will put brands on an even playing field (as meets the eye), and allow you to experiment with different types of content.
Instagram is a wonderful tool for businesses to connect with and engage customers, clients, and patients. Use these tips for 2020 to increase your ROI on this platform. And of course, get in touch if you need help finding your ideal Instagram strategy.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in January 2018. It’s been fully updated to include the most recent stats, facts, and tips so you can slay your Instagram for Business marketing.