Welcome back to our Deep Dive series on optimizing your brand across social media platforms. Today we turn our attention to Instagram.
As one of the most cost-effective social media platforms, Instagram is a powerful tool for your brand—it’s home to around one billion users worldwide, a majority of whom are within a marketing-friendly age demographic (under 34 years old). Check out our tips for helping your brand rise to the top of your audience’s “Explore” page.
Cracking the Instagram Algorithm
At first glance, the Instagram algorithm can feel like an impossible code to crack. But while it’s true that the algorithm’s demands make SEO for Instagram different from SEO for Google, that doesn’t mean it can’t be mastered. You just need to make some adjustments in your strategy.
Whereas traditional SEO is all about strategically placed keywords, Instagram’s SEO is much more reliant on hashtags. Instagram users can search hashtags to find content relevant to their interests—and when they do, Instagram’s algorithm starts showing them more content with those same hashtags. Although using hashtags may feel annoying or even unprofessional, it’s a win for your brand—the algorithm’s emphasis on hashtags all but guarantees you’re reaching people who really want your services. You can even create your own brand-specific hashtag and encourage your audience to use it to drive even more traffic to your business.
Research shows that Instagram posts with 11 or more hashtags get the most engagement; however, some brands are hesitant to overuse hashtags in their posts for fear of taking up valuable character real estate, or creating an eyesore for their readers. A quick workaround is to add your hashtags in a comment on your post, rather than in the post itself.
In our post on optimizing your brand on Facebook, we mentioned that how often you post depends on the size of your audience, and that sometimes, less is more. But when it comes to posting frequency for Instagram, less isn’t more—more is more. Instagram’s algorithm gives high priority to recent posts, so the less frequently you post, the less likely your audience is to even see your posts—let alone interact with them.
Additionally, Instagram’s algorithm doesn’t punish accounts for posting too frequently—however, the algorithm also values diversity in an account’s posts, so make sure you’re taking advantage of all the different types of posts Instagram offers. (More on that later!)
Not only does high engagement help your audience form an emotional connection with your brand—it’s a positive feedback loop that drives your brand’s optimization on Instagram. The platform’s algorithm values posts with high engagement, so the more you can get your audience to interact with your posts, the more people will see them. Here are a few ideas to drive engagement on Instagram:
- Post captions with a call to action to engage in the comments. You can ask them to answer a question, offer an opinion, or even to simply post an emoji.
- Encourage your audience to tag your Instagram business account in their own photos, and repost a few to show how much you appreciate them. This is easiest for product-based industries, where a user can share a photo of themselves using your brand’s product, but it works for certain service industries as well—particularly restaurants!
- Run promotions and giveaways that reward engagement with your posts. Let your audience know they’ll be entered into a drawing for a free product or service if they take certain actions on a post—sharing the post to their stories, liking and saving the post, or tagging two friends in the comments.
Anatomy of Your Instagram Business Profile
Traditional Instagram accounts only allow 150 characters for a bio. Luckily, business accounts have a few extra features that allow you to give your audience all the essential information while still having some wiggle room. You can add:
- Contact information for your business
- Your brand’s category or industry
- Customizable action buttons—for instance, “Book A Call” or “View Shop”
Like regular users, Instagram business profiles also have room for a single link. We recommend using a service such as Linktree so you can direct your audience to multiple sites; however, you could also simply link to your website’s home page.
When you go to write your bio, keep things snappy and to-the-point. Consider including emojis or a branded hashtag for a personal touch. Even better, entice new visitors by letting them know what’s in it for them if they follow you. Will they get regular advice borne of your life experience? Tips and tricks based on your expertise? Or even simply engaging content that will make them smile? If you can let potential followers know what to expect from your account, they’ll be more likely to make things official.
Posting on Instagram
Instagram has come a long way since its origins as a platform for exclusively single images. Nowadays, it offers a variety of posting options that will entertain your audience and drive engagement with your brand.
The idea of posting something, only for it to disappear 24 hours later, seems counterproductive at first. But the Instagram Story is a brilliant marketing tool. Nobody enjoys the sense of missing out, so that 24-hour time limit is a great psychological motivator for your audience to check your account frequently. On a practical level, the Stories function comes with a host of benefits:
- Engagement tools, such as polls, questions, and sliding scales, create a fun and conversational dynamic that foster interaction between your audience and your brand.
- When a client tags your business account in their Story, you can easily share it to your own. This makes the client feel valued, and serves as social proof that other people are enjoying your brand.
- The coveted “swipe up” feature makes it easy for your audience to make a monetary investment in your brand. (Note that to score access to this feature, you’ll either need to hit 10,000 followers or to have your account verified.)
If you want to keep certain Stories around longer than 24 hours, you can save them as highlights on your main page. This also gives the viewer yet another way to scroll through your content and get to know you and your brand
It’s a myth that videos perform better than still images on Instagram—but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them! Instagram provides three different video options for different purposes:
- Feed videos (the standard video option to post on your grid) are limited to 60 seconds in length, so they’re best suited for quick announcements or general content.
- Instagram TV (IGTV) is a feature that allows you to post videos up to an hour in length. Use them for interviews, in-depth educational content, or live event recordings.
- Reels are Instagram’s answer to pop culture phenom TikTok—micro-length videos that repeat on a loop. They allow your brand to get in on the marketing power of TikTok trends—without actually having to make a TikTok account.
The gold standard of Instagram posts is a single photo—but you don’t have to limit yourself to that! Creating a diverse grid of images and videos will keep your audience engaged and give you a leg up on the algorithm.
- Carousel posts allow you to post up to 10 images at a time—a feature that’s massively helpful in diversifying your grid.
- Branded images are perfect for the Instagram landscape. Use your brand’s specific colors, fonts, and logos to make your brand instantly recognizable to your audience—and distinguishable from your competitors. (Need some help nailing down your brand’s visual details? Check out our logo design services.)
- Adding your Instagram grid to your homepage adds an aesthetically pleasing and dynamic aspect to your website without you having to lift a finger.
Make Your Brand Stand Out
Instagram is a social media marketer’s dream—its visual medium makes it ideal for creating brand recognition, while its highly interactive features drive audience engagement. Although its algorithm’s quirks can take some getting used to, dedicating your time to optimizing your brand on Instagram is well worth it. This is a platform where you can really tap into your creativity to showcase your unique brand, all while connecting with a marketing-friendly audience.
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