Instagram is now recognised as a leading way to let people know about a business, charity, event, band or pretty much anything else. Instagram is owned by Facebook and is free to use although you can pay for advertising just as you can on Facebook. Indeed you can link the Instagram ads with Facebook ads if you wish.
In this post I would like to explain how you can use the free features to make Instagram a great way to let people know about you and your business etc. and I will leave paid advertising for another day. Keep in mind that you can add both photos and videos to Instagram.
Before you start looking for followers and trying to sell your wares here are some essential steps that you must take after opening your Instagram account. The same process though will work if you have had it for a while so please follow these steps.
Set up / check your Instagram profile
Make sure that your profile is completed and looks interesting to the people that you are trying to attract. Add your website correctly and test that the link works. Add a profile photo that is clear, especially when it appears small on phone apps, so do look for yourself and not assume that it will appear OK. It is easy to edit your profile at any time in the future to get it just the way you want it or to change to suit new circumstances.
There might be times when you want the web link to go to a specific page for example when you mention an offer or something else you can ask them to click the link in your profile to get there. At this time links in the post description or comments are not clickable.
Post Photos & Videos to Instagram
If this is a brand new account before you ask anyone to follow you make sure that you have added several photos. If your account has been inactive for a while start to add a photo or two each day to bring it back to life.
Make sure that you use hashtags # in the description. You can use up to 30 hashtags but make sure that they are relevant to your photo. You can increase this to 60 if you post another 30 as a comment. That’s rather a lot for most subjects! Do not use hashtags that are irrelevant in the hope of getting people to view your post as that will not make them want to follow you to be notified of future posts.
Before you add a hashtag that you have not used before do a search on Instagram to see how popular it is and see what other hashtags are being used on posts that display it. This will help you to see the best hashtags to use.
Finding Instagram Followers
Rule 1 is do not follow people just so that they will follow you back. Find people to follow that you are interested in but don’t go for numbers. It is more impressive if you follow 5 people and 1000 follow you!
Rule 2 is to make sure that your Instagram account is displayed on your website, and linked to your Facebook business page. It should also be on your business stationery, delivery vans, shop windows, restaurant menus and anywhere else that your customers are likely to see it.
To find followers, your own posts when linked with hashtags is the most long term and least time-consuming way of getting people to follow you. If your photos prove popular in the mainstream feeds and non-followers see them, like them, some of those people will follow you.
When people leave a comment, even if it is only a graphic such as a ‘thumbs up’ or smiley face, thank them for doing so and where appropriate to respond to the comment. As with any form of social media, engagement is key to growing a responsive audience.
You should search for photos that are going to be of interest to people that will be interested in you. Search for accounts that are similar in nature to what you do and comment on some of the posts. Also, search for hashtags being used that you will use and again comment on the post. Try and comment on new posts so that people coming in after you will see your comment rather than you being comment number 3000!
When you search Instagram, the results are usually divided into Popular Posts and then Latest Posts. I recommend concentrating on the latest ones that have been posted in the last few minutes along with a few of the popular ones. Getting in early is good and you are likely, based on my experience, to find more people follow you as a result plus many will visit your account and look at, ‘like’, your posts whether they follow or not.
What to Post on Instagram and How Often
If you really want to grow your Instagram account and build your brand and business, you should post at least once a day, ideally at different times. Photos and videos can either be posted singly as one post with multiple photos. If posting multiple photos make sure that you keep them to the same theme and therefore can use the hashtags that will apply to all of them.
You will find, depending on your time zone that certain times produce better results so do monitor how posts perform and you will discover the best times to publish your posts.
Here are some of the many subjects for photos and videos that you could post:
- Products you sell
- Products being manufactured
- Work you have completed – ideal for tradesmen
- Work in various stages from start to finish
- Displays in your shop
- Satisfied clients – with their permission!
- Behind the scenes – in the office, factory etc.
- You and your staff at work or doing something good for the community
- Special offer codes for your website – use an app such as Enhance on your phone to add text or use PowerPoint or similar to create text photos (save as jpeg files). With special offers, create urgency by setting a deadline and delete the post just before it expires. Create ‘buzz’ so that your followers will look for these occasional posts with an offer and will be ready to buy.
With each photo don’t forget to add the relevant hashtags.
Monitor your Instagram account
You can set push notifications in the Instagram app so that you are notified when people ‘like’ and comment on your photos. Do make sure that you set the notifications to ‘From Everyone’ rather than either ‘Off’ or ‘From People I follow’. This allows you see reactions and respond which really does help your business to build a relationship with customers past, present or future.
Do check you account regularly so that you can respond and build the rapport, which is really one of the main keys to success with any form of social media.
Going Live on Instagram and Stories
As you build a good following you can add photos and videos to Instagram Stories. These unlike general posts last only 24 hours. Instagram Live does what is says. You can broadcast live but unlike Facebook and Twitter, the broadcast is not saved, so it is literally a one off event. Both these methods are useful but I would advise you concentrate on regular posting until you get a good number of followers.
So to summarise
Post regularly appropriate photos
Use plenty of relevant hashtags
Search hashtags that you use and comment on the most recent posts and some of the popular ones which use those hashtags.
Respond to comments as soon as you can.
If you follow this advice and stick with it, you will see your Instagram followers and ‘likes’ grow. With time you will soon find the right type of photos, the times and quantity to post. You can follow me on Instagram here. Please do let me know how you get on by leaving a comment in the box below or use the contact form to get in touch.