As of April, Instagram has reached 700 million monthly active users (200 million of which are daily active ones) - that's a lot of consumer potential! Instagram is an essential tool for small business owners, as 75 percent of users will take action if a post inspires them and 70 percent of users follow at least one business on the app. However, it's not enough to just be on Instagram. You need to create unique, interesting content that cultivates engagement in the form of likes, comments, shares and followers. If you find your page lacking in engagement, here are seven ways to help you improve.
1. Hashtags are key.
Hashtags are one of the most important aspects of Instagram - they're how you find potential customers who aren't following you (yet!). Studies show that posts containing hashtags see an average rise in engagement of almost 13 percent. With the right hashtags, you can expand your reach as well as find relevant conversations in your industry. In these conversations, you can contribute and see what your consumer base is looking for and what they like to see. If you haven't already, you should create a unique hashtag for your business and cross-promote it by including it in the profile bios of your social media channels. When you add hashtags to your posts, always use this hashtag, but remember to be creative with other hashtags you use. Find trending hashtags for your posts with various tools and experiment with them. For example, if you're a baker, "#baking" will only get you so far.
2. Create interesting content.
The content you post needs to be high quality and unique. It should inspire users to take action, whether it be through engagement on the post or going to your website to make a purchase. For example, if you own a coffee shop, don't just post a picture of a plain cup of coffee. Tell a story with the product! If you're not sure what type of content people like, check out competitors or larger brands in your industry to see what gets the most engagement. You can consider hiring a photographer or videographer to help create higher quality content, but don't negate the potential of your smartphone. You also don't want to drown your followers' feeds by posting too much. Posting once a day, or every other day, around the same time is a good place to start. Remember: Quality is much more important than quantity.
3. Engage with others.
Another way to increase engagement is to engage yourself. Instead of just posting and closing the app, like and comment on photos from your followers - especially if you've been mentioned or tagged in them! Explore the hashtags and your industry's Instagram universe by liking and commenting on non-follower posts as well. If you like their content enough, follow them! When they see the notification, they'll likely check out your page and potentially like, comment and follow back.
4. Initiate the conversation/engagement.
As a small business owner, it's up to you to successfully reach out to your consumer base. Having a call-to-action on your posts tells your followers - and potential followers - exactly what you need from them. You can do this through the caption or by having the text on the posts themselves. For example, if you're in retail, post a slideshow of various products, and in the caption, encourage followers to comment their favorite product. You can also post images that followers will relate to, which will make them more likely to like, comment and share your posts. If you want to have a conversation, you must begin the conversation.
5. Promote yourself.
A simple and effective way to increase your Instagram following and engagement is by promoting your page through other social channels. Share your page through whatever other social channels your small business is on (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp, Pinterest, etc.). Encourage your followers there to follow you on Instagram as well as engage in conversation on your posts.
6. Feature other people.
Spotlighting customers, followers or even non-followers can increase your engagement. When you tag them in the post or caption, they'll get a notification and check out your page. They'll be thankful that you liked their content enough to share it and will possibly like or comment on the post, which their followers will see (which in turn, leads to higher reach for your page). You can also do this by holding a contest or giveaway. Contests could be something as simple as posting a funny picture, asking followers to come up with the funniest caption and then editing the caption later to include the winning comment (make sure you tag the user for credit). You can also host a giveaway on certain products, a store gift card or store discount code if users engage on the post (via likes, comments, following your page, tagging their friends or sharing your post on their own social pages). Later, you can feature the winner or winners in a separate post.
7. Sponsor your posts.
If the organic methods for engagement aren't working as well as or as quickly as you'd like, you can pay for an ad on Instagram. Ads will be shown to users who are interested in your small business's industry but aren't following you. You can promote your post from the app itself or through ad creation, Power Editor or the ads API. Ads will show you how they're directly affecting your page and business, which is an advantage over organic methods. However, if you're a new small business, you might not have the funding to take out an ad. Make sure you align your advertising with your marketing strategy and finances to ensure you can take out an ad at an appropriate time length.
Instagram is a powerful tool for small business owners. In fact, 60 percent of Instagram users discover new products from the app itself. The customer potential is vast with 200 million daily active users who crave inspiring and original content. By using the right methods, you can expand your brand's reach and engagement.