It’s confession time. I was a bit of a late-comer to Instagram.
Although I heartily recommended the platform to others, I just didn’t think I could make it work for my service-based business.
I couldn’t have been more wrong and only wish I had started Instagramming sooner.
With more than 400 million active users, brands are now routinely including Instagram in social media and content marketing strategies.
It turns out that any business can create an engaging Instagram presence. The key is understanding how to make the most out of your Instagram account.
Why Instagram Matters for Your Brand
As a social media platform dedicated to photographs and video, Instagram is the go-to visual content platform. Instagram’s user base is growing faster than social network usage in general in the U.S. with 26.9 million new users predicted to sign up by 2020 – almost double the user growth expected for Twitter, and far more than any other social platform.
The popularity of the platform shouldn’t come as a surprise when considering the growing importance of visual content in social media marketing and its contribution to reach, engagement, and sales.
Marketers report that visual assets are by far the most favored content with 74% sharing images, ahead of blogs (68%) and videos (60%).
However, like any social network, you can’t just post any old content and expect results. HubSpot reports that the brands that are getting the most out of Instagram are those that are focused on what and when they post.
More specifically, you need to create awesome content, targeted to your ideal customers, and posted at the right time.
How to Make the Most Out of Instagram for Your Business
Here are our top 14 ways to get take your Instagram presence to the next level.
#1 Plan your photos
Try to plan your photos in advance. Although you may post photos as inspiration moves you, don’t forget these basic social media photography principles.
Some key points include:
● Consider the background – Do you want a neutral background or will you make use of the existing setting?
● Consider color – Would a colored background work better for your photo? Could you layer your colors? Have you considered focusing on one color palette for your account or for a specific campaign to promote consistency? Would black and white create the mood you’re looking for?
● Experiment with texture – Can you incorporate props or backgrounds that provide textural interest?
Remember that images with a single dominant color are reported to generate 17% more Likes than images with multiple dominant colors.
Check out how Maybelline makes great use of color with a striking textural background.
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Make it last with gorgeous and perfect for spring shades of #superstay24 hour liquid lip color. 💕
● Use a setting that makes sense – Whether you’re creating a setting or taking advantage of existing surroundings, use a setting that makes sense and embrace it.
Califia Farms does a great job of using props and a setting that helps tell the story in this image.
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Celebrate the #FirstDayofFall with all the dairy-free, guilt-free pumpkin you can get.
#2 Take a great photo
The great news with Instagram and its filters is that you don’t need an expensive camera or any editing software. Use your smartphone or camera of choice and aim to take the best photo possible.
Consider the composition of the image and whether you’re aiming for perfect symmetry or off-center. How much (negative) space do you want to leave around the main subject?
Studies show that images with a high amount of negative space on Instagram generate 29% more Likes than those with minimal negative space.
The most important consideration is for overall balance within the frame. Try shooting from different angles and different distances from the subject.
When it comes to lighting, the easiest and most effective source of light is usually natural light. So choose a location and time of day that gives you the best lighting.
This image from No Your City takes advantage of angles and negative space to create a beautifully composed image.
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The Flatiron building could be my favorite. What’s yours? #NoYourCity (photo by @benlockss
#3 Shoot a square photo
Social Media Strategist Peg Fitzpatrick in this article from Social Media Examiner claims shooting square photos is a huge time-saver and a great method for composing better photos.
Most smartphones and digital cameras give you an option to shoot your image square, so you don’t have to crop later.
#4 Use filters and edit your work
Instagram has a variety of interesting built-in filters that can really bring your images to life.
If you like using Instagram filters, you can apply them using the MavSocial Mobile App, available on iOS and Android. In the app you can also crop and filter, adjust contrast, brightness, focus and saturation plus add text overlays.
#5 Feature photos of people
As a general rule of thumb you should feature a variety of different types of images on your Instagram account, including photographs of people.
And not just people, but people’s faces.
On Instagram, photos showing faces get 38% more Likes than photos without faces.
Starring in your own social media posts is completely optional and may or may not be appropriate depending on whether you are a key part of your brand.
Other options include featuring customers, employees, suppliers, partners and models.
One caveat is that you need to make sure you get proper permission to post a person’s image or face before doing so.
Charity Water makes its message even more powerful with images of people and close-ups of faces.
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People never remember what you do for yourself, only what you do for others. Photo: @jeremysnell
#6 Create posts based on words
I get it. Sometimes your business doesn’t always lend itself that easily to people or product images.
Solo entrepreneurs and service-based industries should create images that focus on people or subjects where possible, but there are other options, such as using words or quotes.
Quote-based posts can be created using free design programs like Canva and can feature your own quotes or famous quotes. You can also brand them with your logo or website, which is great exposure if your post is shared.
#7 Feature videos
Content Marketer Sarah Quinn recommends mixing up your posting strategy by including videos in addition to photos. She cites video as a “valuable tool” to engage fans, grow your following, and drive traffic.
Instagram’s editing features make videos super easy to create. Simply hold down the record button and pause when you want to shoot a different scene. You can also upload a pre-made video. Your video can be anywhere from 3 to 60 seconds long.
This Play-Doh video shows great use of Instagram’s record, pause, record feature.
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#FunFact – Snowmen don’t melt when they’re made out of Play-Doh compound.
#8 Hashtag it!
If you’re not using hashtags in your Instagram captions, start doing it now!
A recent study found that Instagram posts with 11 or more hashtags received nearly 80% interaction, compared to just 22% when using 10 hashtags and 41% when using only two.
Social media expert Jim Tobin encourages Instagrammers to find and leverage trending hashtags using Instagram’s Explore feature.
If the trending tags are relevant to your brand, then include them in timely posts.
#9 Use the location tag
Instagram allows you to tag your own location and search for users and posts based on location. This feature enables you to be incredibly targeted based on geographic area, which is great for geo-targeted advertising.
In fact, posts tagged with a location see 79% higher engagement than posts without a tagged location. You can tag a physical address, suburb or region, as well as suggested business names in the area, which is a great way to increase brand exposure.
#10 Drive Instagram users to your website
Instagram posts can be a great way to drive users into your marketing funnel via links to your website or targeted landing pages. The trick here is including the most relevant or up-to-date link in your bio.
While advertisers can add clickable links in carousel posts, URLs aren’t clickable in Instagram captions.
You can, however, feature a clickable link in your bio and direct users to it in your post. You may wish to direct users to a home page, recent article, sign-up page or lead magnet. You could even highlight a landing page specifically targeted to your Instagram fans.
It’s also a great idea to use a customized bit.ly link (or a link from another shortener), such as in the MavSocial application in your Instagram bio to save space and to better track traffic sources.
#11 Post when your fans are most active
Instagram business accounts have a built-in Insights feature that provides data on when users are engaging with your content. Use Insights to inform when you should post for the most engagement.
Generally speaking the best times to post on Instagram are Mondays and Thursdays between 3pm and 4pm in your target audience’s time zone.
This can be made simpler in the MavSocial App, which allows you to pre-schedule your Instagram content.
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#12 Post consistently
Social media expert Neil Patel says consistency is more important than frequency with Instagram and that posting to Instagram up to even 20 times a day doesn’t necessarily have a negative impact on engagement, unless you change your frequency, of course.
All in all, choose a posting frequency that you can reasonably sustain.
#13 Connect with like-minded businesses and influencers
One of the best ways to encourage engagement is to engage with other Instagram users and influencers.
You can easily find like-minded businesses by searching for relevant keywords and locations. Follow their accounts and engage in their posts.
Tag customers and key influencers in posts that may be relevant to them – this will also increase your reach and expose you to new audiences. Find influencers within your specific vertical and engage with their content.
Use high-profile brands and Instagrammers for inspiration for your own posts, captions, and hashtags.
#14 Use sponsored ads
Like Facebook, Instagram gives you the option to sponsor your posts to reach new or targeted audiences.
You can create a plain image, carousel, or short video ad and choose an audience based on gender, location, interests and current followers. You can also create an incredibly targeted audience using the same custom audience features that Facebook offers.