Just like any other social network out there, there are some best practices and right ways to use it and in this part of the series, we will focus on how to effectively use Instagram to make the most out of this platform.
1Make Hashtags Work for You
The purpose of being on social media is to reach your audience and build a following and just like Twitter, using Hashtags on Instagram can have a huge impact on your growth.
They can help you get a dozen to hundreds of likes as the Instagram search engine is more powerful and by using hashtags your photos reach a large audience by Instagram users who can find your pictures without having to follow you.
So which hashtags should you use?
There are two ways you can go about it, the first is to add popular hashtags to your photos, and the second way is to tag your photos with branded and relevant hashtags related to your picture. Lucky for you, there are tools out there which you can use to find popular as well as relevant hashtags.
I was running a campaign for WorldCup 2014 and was able to scale it by incorporating relevant hashtags which I found through Webstagram.
I searched for Football and was able to pull a list of additional hashtags that were popular in this niche.
How are brands using Hashtags?
Nike and Lululemon are my favorite ones as I love sports and both of these brands have created a Hasthag which, to me, is very realistic and focuses on the personality of their consumers.
As discussed earlier hashtags can help you get additional engagement and likes, however, it is very important to find the right balance between using the popular hashtags and relevant hashtags for your product or service.
What you can do is make a list of 10-15 popular hashtags related to your product, around 5 related to your brand and business category and mix it up with location specific hashtags and general hashtags popular in the community.
Prepare a list of Hashtags in Evernote or Word file, the prep work comes in handy as you can save a ton of time, especially during special events and holidays you can just grab those hashtags from your file and tag them with your photos.
While many will argue about using a limited number of Hashtags to keep it clean and make it easy for users to read the description, however, there is a direct correlation between hashtags and likes.
It is totally up to you if you want to go for higher engagement or just aesthetics. Note: You can only use up to 30 Hashtags per post.
2Play with Filters
Filters are the reason why Instagram grew so popular so fast, and it was the reason why everyone started using the app.
They gave a unique sense of beauty to the photos and turns out the Instagram community responds to photos with filters and these are something you should be playing with as it can have an impact on your metrics.
You can find the popular Instagram Filters on Populargram but as they say the reality on ground can be different, so make sure you check out IconoSquare to find out which filters are loved by your audience as it can be different for different audiences.
Consider this custom graph which correlates filter usage to engagement from your own Instagram account:
Check out this Interesting Infographic about Instagram Filter and what is says about you.
3Timing is Everything
If you are posting on social media, your goal is to reach the most of your audience and the best way is to post when most of your audience is online.
If you are posting a photo to Instagram at 2am after doing your chores, putting your kids to sleep and kissing your better half good night, you really aren’t shooting for the stars because, no one will see your post as the lifespan of an Instagram photo to get potential engagement is 3-4 hours before it is pushed down on the feed.
Instagram is very different from Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn where the networks can be accessed through web, Instagram being a mobile app has a different audience as well as user stats.
There has been studies which shows that people use Instagram in the morning and then in evening on their way home from work mostly.
SumAll.com conducted a platform-specific research which suggested optimal time for publishing post on each social network. According to the research 5-6pm is the best time to post on Instagram.
Simply measured conducted a similar study to find the best time to post on Instagram and found that 5:00-6:00 pm is when most of the users are online with Wednesday being the best day for engagement.
If you are active on Instagram then considering sharing your photos during this time and see if you see any spike in engagement but don’t take it as a thumb rule.
It might be possible that the audience you want to target is active at night and not in the evening, in that case there are certain Instagram tools which can help you schedule your post in advance and tools which provide complete analytics of your Instagram activity.
4Become a Pro with Tools & Apps
Instagram is itself a very powerful app with a limited photo-editing features, this is where third-party apps and tools come in to enhance your Instagram experience.
Below are a list of tools, services and apps which you can use for each particular purpose:
1. Building a Following:
If you want to build your following, you need to engage with your audience.
Using Populagram you can find the popular hashtags, filters and people which you can follow to stay on top of Instagram community.
I would also suggest using Webstagram through which you can find best hashtags for your posts and people for your sponsored posts.
2. Account Management & Scheduling:
Instagram doesn’t have a scheduling feature like Facebook, but there are services, which helps you post at the right time for maximum engagement and building a following.
Instagram doesn’t allow you to repost somebody’s content, but there are iPhone apps which you can use for reposting your favorite pics from brands and people you are following.
Regram and Repost are widely used apps for reposting, they add a watermark on the image to give attribution to the original owner, as best practice you can @mention them to let you know you are using sharing their image.
If you are using Instagram for a while, it’s time to see how well you are doing it and gauge the results. There are two popular analytics services which you can use to see Instagram analytics
a) Iconosquare – It is a free and extremely deep analytics services which gives a lot of data about your account such as growth charts, engagement rates, best times to post, and so much more.
b) Totems – It is more of an enterprise suite, built for brands who want superior reporting. Totems covers all the bases for Instagram stats, including an analytics dashboard, hashtag monitoring, and a social CRM.
5. Photo Editing:
Instagram has amazing filters but at times you wish you had more options to play around with your photos and to add that magical touch. Here are some of the apps you can use:
a) Instaframe: Create photo collages, can be used for showcasing products from different angles and combining them together as they works well in Instagram.
b) Squareready: It turns rectangle photos into squares without having to crop, which is very handy for pictures you’ve taken from your mobile or digital cameras.
c) Picfx: If you love Instagram Filters, you’ll love these even more as there are over 100 filters and effects to play around with.
d) Camera+: All-in-one photography and editing app.
e) Canva: Need I say more? Canva offers beautiful tyography and filters which can cover all your Instagram needs. Check out these Social Media Hacks to learn how you can upload Canva photos from your Desktop to Instagram.
I hope the series was an exciting read for you and will help you get started with Instagram marketing. Make sure you set out with a strategy and engage with the community and treat Instagram as a visual platform and not as an advertising board.