As of July 2017, 25 million businesses had Instagram accounts. Ranging from sole-traders to multinationals, the businesses of Insta are a varied bunch – yet they’re all rubbing shoulders and jostling for attention from the same customer base. So if you’re new to the crowd, how do you stand out? Read on to find a few tips for sustainable ways to attract real-person followers and ditch the bots.
1. Know your audience
Monster trucks or eyebrows on fleek? Coffee and a book or consoles and beer? Hard-working professional or partying in their downtime? Whatever your niche, you need to know your audience in order to appeal to them and gather more useful followers. It’s worth remembering that although Instagram has an astonishing array of types and talents among its 800 million users, the segment of your market that’s on Insta may not be the same as the one you find on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or visiting your bricks-and-mortar store. Instagram users tend to be younger, more visually oriented (rather than looking for text-heavy articles) and highly connected (posting from their smartphones at all hours) but that’s only a generalisation – in some industries, the profile may be very different.
2. Post better pictures
You don’t have to be – or hire – a professional photographer to be an Insta-star, but you do need to post attractive, good quality pictures. Here are a few simple tips you can implement today, even if you’re shooting product photos in the office using your phone:
- Crop and edit shots especially for Instagram – make sure everything you want to show fits in that little square as your phone or camera will have different defaults.
- Reuse existing high quality shots, e.g. from a professional photoshoot.
- Improve the lighting in your photo space, even if that means nicking all the desk lamps in the office. Lighting is key to a great shot.
- Take advantage of natural light if possible. Can you take a white sheet outside or show your product on the grass to change it up?
- Take lots of pictures. Don’t just hope you’ll get it first time – use burst mode if you need to, but take at least a dozen shots each time.
3. Don’t forget to #tag everything
There’s no point complaining people haven’t found, followed and liked your Instagram profile and posts if you haven’t made them easy to find. Use relevant hashtags on each post. Don’t go overboard though – a maximum of 5 is plenty.
4. Cross pollinate from your other social media accounts
If you’ve got a great Twitter following and your Facebook page is buzzing, see if you can entice those followers over to Instagram. Don’t be afraid to post a few links between your accounts – it’ll help people remember that you’ve got different platforms. You can also share screenshots of your Instagram back to Twitter or Facebook, particularly if you’re showing fan photos or highlighting a follower response to one of your challenges.
5. Launch your own challenge
This is trickier, but if you can think of something fun, witty and relevant to your industry then it can be an ongoing hit, driving click-throughs and increasing followers. Do you want to start a #joyfulJanuary to banish winter doldrums, have a #ChristmasinJuly challenge to get your followers thinking ahead, or perhaps have a weekly #funFriday giveaway…the options are truly endless.
6. Don’t forget your own #uniquehashtag
Track responses to your challenges, offers and more by giving them unique hash tags. This is essential if you’re going to select a winner or send out offer codes to participants as otherwise you won’t know who has entered!
7. Follow key #hashtags
You can now follow hashtags on Instagram, which makes keeping track of responses to your challenges simple and also lets you keep tabs on the competition. You should be keeping an eye on what’s trending generally, but much of it won’t be relevant to your business niche and it’s easy to get lost in the crowd when everyone’s talking about the same topic. Instead, focus on what’s hot in your world – a new trade event, a shift in seasons, new tech, new products, new regulations…
8. Give people what they want
From a sneak-peek at your newest product to a great discount code, the more value you cram into the content you offer the more followers you’ll gain and the more they’ll respond to your posts, challenges, and sales lures. Instagram stories only last 24 hours, making them a great vehicle for limited-time offers. Creating this sort of exclusive Insta content also gives your followers the feeling of being inside the circle and an important part of your club.
9. Interact with your followers
It’s surprising how many businesses still haven’t understood that social media has a compulsory social element. You don’t have to ‘like’ every image that uses one of your hashtags or follow back everyone who follows you, but you should be liking, commenting on and following something. It’s also important to talk down as well as up – you’ll get a lot more credit from your ordinary followers for talking to them than for shouting, jumping and waving (metaphorically speaking) to try to get the attention of an industry bigwig or influencer.