Instagram is a fun, versatile, visual-centric social media platform. And one thing above all others makes it unique among the big players in the social media game: it was specifically designed and built specifically for mobile devices from the ground up. With more and more people accessing the Internet from mobile devices, Instagram has become very popular. Other platforms like Facebook and Twitter have developed mobile apps as well, of course. But you can tell the networks themselves were originally designed for desktop browsers. Maybe you’ve already realized this and are considering, or maybe even started, using Instagram marketing. But how can you be really effective on Instagram? How can you best use the platform to grow your business? Here are 10 Instagram tips to improve your reach:
Understanding a bit about the algorithm
Before we get into the tips, we’ll give you a little information about Instagram’s Algorithm, because most of the tips have a lot to do with it. When you open your Instagram app, you see a feed with posts from the accounts you follow mixed in with some ads. You might think that the posts are simply ordered chronologically, with the newest ones at the top. And things actually were that simple once upon a time. But now Instagram, like almost every social media platform out there, uses an algorithm to sort posts. If you have noticed that some of your friends tend to show up in your feed very frequently and others very rarely, it might not just be how often they post. It might actually be that the algorithm prefers some of your friends’ posts over others and shows them first. The exact algorithm isn’t fully known outside the developer’s community, but users and social media marketers have figured out quite a bit. What all this means is that your Instagram posts and ads have to not only please your audience and followers, but the algorithm has to like them too. These tips can help.
1. Timing, timing, timing.
We’re pretty sure that you’ve heard that for a lot of things it’s all about location, location, location. On Instagram, the main issue you have to deal with is timing. There are analytical tools you can use with your Instagram business account that can tell you which days and times your followers are more active in. You absolutely need to take this into account. While the algorithm takes into account other factors, newer posts will still tend to appear before older ones. If your followers are more active in the early afternoon and you post something at 9 AM, it could be buried under literally thousands of other content by the time your audience is on the platform. You have to post when your target is online. Fortunately, there are tools that can let you create your posts at your convenience and schedule them to be published when you need them to.
2. Remember where you are
Each social media platform is unique in its own way. And while it is possible to cross-publish the same content on different media (for example, making the same post on Instagram and Twitter) and the app even has convenient buttons that let you simultaneously publish your post to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, your posts will tend to do a lot better when they are designed for each platform.
On Instagram, this means taking a few things into account. First, Instagram’s main interface is designed for 1:1 aspect ratio posts. For those who don’t remember how proportions work, that means that pictures and videos on the main feed should be square. But most still and video cameras shoot in either 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratios. So if you have to factor that into the composition of your shoot. Otherwise you will end up choosing between cropping out something important or letterboxing, which doesn’t look as good.
And then there’s the caption. A lot of people just write a couple of sentences. Maybe they’re used to posting on Twitter or other short-form social media platforms and just don’t realize Instagram is different. Here captions can be up to 2,200 characters long. That’s almost as long as nine tweets! And people are actually reacting better to longer posts on Instagram. For the past three years it’s been the posts longer than 1,000 characters that have been getting the most engagements.
3. Authenticity is key
No matter the platform you’re using, the key to success is authenticity. Be yourself. Keep it real. Don’t let your brand become just another faceless company. Let people know where you stand on the important issues and follow through with it. Share your successes, by all means. But also share your challenges and issues. Let them have a glimpse of how you operate: from how-tos to behind-the-scenes takes from making your posts or using your product or service. And make sure to engage back. If someone asks a question, answer it. If someone comments on a post, acknowledge them, thank them or interact with them in any way. Building this kind of relationships can greatly increase your reach on Instagram. And it’s been shown that Instagram’s algorithm prefers posts that get a lot of interactions in a short time. So the more you and your followers engage with your post, the more the post will attract the algorithm.
4. Tell stories
Stories have become a major feature on many social media platforms. These are short-form videos that are available typically for just 24 hours. Instagram really likes stories. When you open the app, they appear at the very top of the screen; above your regular feed. This feature has become very popular. You won’t be placing your regular ads here due to the extremely short duration. But it is a great place for the type of short how-to and behind-the-scene videos we mentioned in the previous tips.
5. Mix up your content
An Instagram post requires some kind of medium. Initially it was for photos only, but the ability to post videos has been around for a while now. And while video is becoming increasingly popular using video is, generally speaking, a great strategy for your business, digging a little beneath the surface reveals some interesting information. It turns out that still images get much more “likes” than videos… but videos get a lot more comments. While it’s not clear if the algorithm values likes over comments or the other way around, or if each kind of interaction has the same value, it’s logical to try and get as many of each as possible, just to have all your bases covered, if nothing else. So, post images to try and get more likes and videos to boost your comments.
6. Host contests
Contests with calls to action are a great way to create more engagements on Instagram. A call to action is something that you ask people to do to have a chance at the prize. If, for example, you own a pizza business, you could host a contest to win a family-size pie and your call to action could be “Name your favorite pizza topping ingredient and tag two friends who you could share a pizza with”. Hosting contests like these regularly can really push your brand forward. So figure out just how much you can afford to spend on the prizes and go for it.
7. Have some fun!
Instagram posts don’t always have to be formal, planned out ads. There’s also room for funny memes, famous quotes, jokes and other informal content you can put out just for fun. Just make sure this contents still represents the real you and your values. Remember that authenticity is the key.
8. Create content people can save
Another way you can get more people to follow you is to create content that people want to save for later viewing. There was a time when an Instagram post could consist of only a single image or video. But that’s not the case anymore. Now a single post can contain up to 10 images and/or videos. This lets you create things like tips, step-by-step guides on any number of things, recipes, mini-catalogs, lists and other content that people may find enjoyable or even helpful. If you publish enough saveable content regularly, more people will want to follow your brand.
9. Publish regularly
This is a basic strategy where a lot of brands fail. Instagram is a pretty fast-paced platform and content you post loses relevance quickly as it’s buried under thousands of new posts. If you want to reach more people on Instagram, you need to publish regularly. It’s best to publish every day. However, while it’s generally agreed you have to post daily, there’s no universal guide to how many posts a day you need. Some of the most successful brands on Instagram really throw themselves into it, with over 50 posts every day. Other equally successful brands post only a handful of times a day. You have to find what that “sweet spot” is for you. But once you’ve chosen a posting frequency, stick to it. You won’t have much successes if you sometimes make 20 posts a day and others only two. Try to be regular.
10. User-generated content
One of the most successful strategies and trends that has been emerging on social media in recent years is user-generated content. Encourage your users to send you pictures and videos that show them enjoying your products: wearing the clothes you design, enjoying a meal at your restaurant (with biosafety precautions, of course), showing the perfect cake they decorated following your how-to, etc. You can even encourage them to send in honest reviews about what they like about your product and where it can be improved. This can show that you care about and value what they have to say. And this user-generated content is more well-remembered and trusted by other users, who will then like and identify with your brand better.
Wrapping it up…
Although Instagram isn’t exactly new. It was launched on iOS in 2010 and for Android in 2012. For a 10-year-old social media platform, it’s still running strong with millions of people using it every day. It’s still an excellent choice for growing your business and a lot of what we mentioned in these 10 Instagram tips to improve your reach can help you even if you’re using a free account. Business accounts have even more powerful tools. And all these tips can help you get more followers organically. By having users like your posts, share them with their friends, some of which will also follow you, and again and again, always expanding the circle. And growing like this is a great feeling and makes the connection even stronger. So whether you’ve already created an Instagram account or not, consider the platform, keep these tips and mind, have some fun and watch your reach increase.