Instagram has grown from a small hipster photography app to a juggernaut in the social media sphere. After being acquired by Facebook, the photo-sharing app stepped into the big leagues with a $1 billion valuation in the 2012 deal. Instagram is one of the few social media channels that doesn’t conform to a content feed algorithm (Tumblr also follows this), allowing brands to publish content that will absolutely garner organic impressions—if only we could accurately track engagement rates as a % of impressions rather than as a % of followers. Maybe one day.
As the filtered-photo behemoth continues to grow, it is quickly becoming savvier with advertisers. In March 2015, Instagram announced the addition of carousel ads that function similarly to Facebook’s multi-product ads.
So how do you enter this community as a brand and build a devoted following of your own? Let’s hit the books.
Since we’re discussing a social channel, it should come as no surprise that hashtags are kind of a big deal. That being said, the number that you will use on Instagram far exceeds what is generally acceptable on other social channels. On Twitter you might only use one or two within a tweet, while on Facebook you should use none because they are absolutely useless at this point. When you’re diving into Instagram, you need to make a splash in as many communities as you can, while remaining relevant. Hashtags are the doors to these various communities, whether it’s #thatsdarling or #handinframe – you’re targeting a specific style of content. The name of the game is “hashtag everything."
You want a good mix of popular and niche hashtags to gather engagement. Be sure the image you’re posting fits into the hashtags you are using or, at the least, your feed should fit the hashtags you’re using. You don’t want to jump into #handinframe and have a picture of interior design… that isn’t going to get you much interaction.
Simplify the process and create a copy template in your smartphone’s note app—this way you can switch out your copy and a few hashtags without having to rewrite everything over and over. You also can add in a space between your copy and your hashtag block for a cleaner looking post. In order to put a blank line in your copy, you have to type it into a separate app, copy, and then paste it back into Instagram—otherwise it will truncate the blank line to save space on user’s feeds. (Keep in mind that ending your copy in an emoji will also truncate the blank line, so be sure to include those at the start of your post or in the middle of the copy when applicable).
Filters on Filters
A brand should always be guided by brand guidelines—that’s a well-known fact. This holds true for the content you’re producing on Instagram. Your brand’s feed should look and feel cohesive. How do you accomplish this? Filters. Regardless of the image you’re using, develop your brand’s “filter guidelines.” These guidelines will establish a style and aesthetic for your photos that helps to define your brand’s point-of-view (POV). You can opt to simply use the filters available on Instagram, or you can spice things up with a more robust photo-editing app.
My go-to is without a doubt VSCO Cam. The editing capabilities on this app are incredible, and the filter options are simply stunning. I tend to lean towards a smoky, modern look with my photos; the HB1 and HB2 filters are perfect for this. Not to mention the app’s interface is beautiful; take a peek at the app with this spotlight video:
Real Estate—Use What You’ve Got
There are a number of places on your post and profile that you can leverage to maximize your branding without bleeding it into your content. Branded content on Instagram is a huge faux pas, and not well received by the community. They want authentic, original, and tasteful images. Generally acceptable places to insert your brand besides your profile picture and account handle are the profile description—which is the ONLY place you can include a clickable link to a website—and the location tab on each post. This last one is a great spot to give a shout out to the link in your profile or to give credit for a regrammed post (in addition to tagging the original owner in the copy and image). See the highlighted spots below:
Emojis and Making Friends
Most brands have a stigma attached to using emojis because they seem too juvenile. Normally, I would echo these sentiments, but in the case of Instagram, it’s a vital piece of how users communicate on the channel. When engaging with people, don’t be afraid to throw in a “thumbs up” or “heart” emoji. Often times, this can be a simple enough way to show appreciation for someone’s post or comment. I caution most brands (with the exception of Denny’s and Totino’s that have a very juvenile brand voice) to exercise restraint with using these. Pepper them in when appropriate, but don’t overdue it.
Lastly, BE RESPONSIVE. Fostering a community is the same on any channel—show appreciation for people who give positive feedback, and tend to those that express frustrations. Engaging with people either on your own feed or through other users’ feeds is the number-one way to grow a community on Instagram. Make friends. Whether it’s home décor enthusiasts, fashionistas, or foodies—there is a community already growing for just about any brand.
Have a favorite photo-editing app, or Instagram account? Share them with us @HZDG!