As of July 2018, Instagram recorded that the platform has over 1 billion active users. Can you imagine how many potential customers or possible leads that you could create if you really took full advantage of the app? Over 25 million businesses are already utilizing Instagram to drive traffic to their website and convert customers, so if you are not present on Instagram or you aren’t using every aspect of it, you are letting your competitors win.
Don’t worry, it’s not too late! But there’s also no better time than now. Instagram is constantly updating its interface with new features, many of which can benefit marketers and businesses. And the best part of the app is that it doesn’t serve just one specific type of business. Whether you’re in e-commerce, a brick-and-mortar store, or a freelance company with many clients, your audience is on there ready to welcome you with open arms.
But where to start? Well right here with this step by step guide on how to set up and optimize your Instagram account to drive traffic right to your website!
Let’s start with the basics: there are two types of accounts you can have on Instagram, a personal account and a business account. While both may have their pros and cons, we would highly suggest you go with a business account and here’s why:
There’s certainly no “right” way to curate your profile, but here’s what we recommend:
One of the most useful tools of a business account is Instagram Analytics. This is the way you will optimize your post and increase engagement with your followers and it all boils down to finding the best time to post to reach the greatest amount of people.
Now, if you only recently switched to or opened a business account, it can take a while for the app to start generating data regarding your account. Also, Instagram will only show you analytics for the posts you created after opening a business account.
Instagram’s native analytics can be accessed right from the app, which makes collecting this data so much easier.
Diving into your analytics is more than finding the best time to post your latte art. Truly understanding them is key to developing a successful content strategy. So let’s discuss what exactly it is your analytics are telling you:
Try switching up your posting times and see what works best for each day, but make sure to keep track with an Excel spreadsheet. See what times are performing best and adjust your posting times to that.
After you’ve figured out when your audience engages most with your posts, we highly recommend scheduling your posts as it’ll save you a lot of time and headache.
We recommend you spend just a couple hours a week gathering content ideas, taking pictures, and scheduling the posts (captions included) for the rest of the week, so that you’re otherwise able to focus on other tasks for your business.
Even though Instagram is a visual app, creating an appealing feed is almost like a science. There are 2 parts (well probably more) that go into creating optimal content for your profile:
The first impression of your Instagram feed is in the first three rows of your grid, and its aesthetic is your chance to catch your viewer’s eye within a matter of seconds.
Scheduling your post is also beneficial in this arena because it allows you to see how cohesive your feed before you post them. Most scheduling tools will allow you to drag and drop images until you get the look you want.
2. Compelling captions: Your caption is just as much a representation of your brand as your Instagram feed is.
Similarly to your bio, your caption should have a clear call-to-action, contain emojis, use mentions and hashtags (no more than 3-4; limit of 30). You have up to 2200 characters, so there’s no excuse for single-emoji captions, but short and sweet seems to be the best way to go.
Social media is just that: social. It should be a conversation between you and potential customers so if it’s looking a bit one-sided, that’s definitely an area for improvement.
Start engaging with your community by liking or commenting on their photos that you like.
Ask questions in your captions and specifically say to respond directly in the comments or via Direct Message. Just like those calls to action you put on your website encouraging people to take a certain action, people need that same kick in the butt to engage on Instagram.
And respond to Every. Single. Message.
In 2016, Instagram replaced chronological feeds with an algorithm that gives priority to posts with higher engagement. Put simply, the more likes and comments your post receives, the higher it appears on your followers’ feeds and the better it performs. If you’re able to generate a good amount of engagement on your post in a short amount of time, that signals to Instagram that it is a high-quality, engaging post and therefore it will be made more visible.
Another great way to engage with your community is to employ user-generated content. People are far more trusting of UGC than paid advertising. In fact, people trust UGC 76% more than other types of media so that content is king.
But what is user-generated content? Essentially, it’s any type of content, whether that be a photo, video, tweet, whatever have you, that was created by another user. So any photo that someone has posted to Instagram and tagged your brand or used your brand’s hashtags (more on that later) is UGC.
So here’s how to take advantage of UGC:
Prospective followers want consistency. That doesn’t just mean frequency; it also means you should keep your post aesthetic constant. As much as you might want to post a dark and moody picture among your bright and colorful existing images, it will only confuse your followers and ruin the cohesiveness of your feed. Use similar filters, space out the subject matter so you don’t have two of the exact same type of post next to each other, and only post photos that go with the rest of your feed.
Your goal should be to post at least once a day to keep your brand top of mind. But if you are just starting off, that might be a little much for you and something you have to work up to. No worries, just find a schedule that works for you and STICK TO IT. If that means you’re posting once a week, fine (if that’s all you can manage), just make sure that it’s the same day and time every week.
Instagram optimizes the content of accounts that use all the features of the app so it is in your best interest to use as many as you can manage. Here are the biggest ones and how to employ them effectively:
I’d be doing you a great disservice if I didn’t tell you how advantageous using Instagram Live could be to your IG Strategy. Not nearly as many businesses have tapped into Instagram Live as Instagram Stories, but it’s yet another great way to promote your products. Now the thing with IG Live is that there are no “retakes” so while with Stories, you are able to post previously-recorded videos, that is not an option here. Maybe that’s intimidating to you but I say it’s the perfect opportunity to show your brand’s personality.
An essential part of a successful Instagram marketing strategy, Stories are a great way to help drive engagement, interact with customers and show products in action.
It’s just as important to maintain your image in these as it is throughout your feed as it’ll help increase brand awareness. Good branding is powerful: it communicates the unique essence of your brand and makes it easy for followers to recognize.
And we strongly recommend using your brand’s logo in your stories as it serves as yet another way to solidify your branding in the minds of your followers. Here are 5 of our favorite Instagram Stories editing apps and what they can be used for:
Unsure of where to start with your Stories? No worries, we’ve got you covered there too.
You know those little circles right above your feed? Those are your Story highlights and yet another great way to brand your account, so don’t miss out on that prime real estate. Here you can select the best parts of your stories (Instagram saves them all) and categorize them by what they entail. Plus, you can create cover photos that match the content and reinforce your brand. It’s yet another way to keep your Instagram profile consistent with your brand’s style and IG aesthetic.
No matter how big or small your company is, it’s important not to let your Instagram Stories just fall to the wayside.
If you’re not sure what an Instagram hashtag is, consider crawling out from under that rock you’re living under. It’s essentially a search function on social media in which you can enter a word or phrase, preceded by a pound sign (#) and discover content categorized by that topic or trend, all of which has been tagged with that particular hashtag.
This is yet another great opportunity to tap into your target audience, attract new followers and increase engagement.
Now, any possible word or phrase could be a hashtag but you don’t want to use just any old tag. For example, #dog is one of the most popular hashtags on Instagram and so yeah, those posts are going to get some likes but using it isn’t going to do much for your growth in the long-run. Instead of just using the most popular hashtags or #tagging #every #single #word (not a recommended strategy), develop a branded hashtag that your engaged community can get behind.
A branded hashtag is unique to your business and can be as simple as your company name, brand slogan, or the name of one of your most popular products or campaigns. Or maybe it has nothing to do with your brand name and more to do with the lifestyle you’re promoting to customers.
In a different vein, community hashtags can also increase your reach in a way that branded hashtags may not. They attract like-minded users around a particular topic. So while #dog has nearly 200 million posts attached to it, #dogsinclothes (if that’s something you’re into) has about 200k which is large but significantly less so using it could improve the searchability of your posts.
Just like with creating a posting schedule, finding an effective hashtag strategy can definitely be a process of trial and error, so see what works for you.
Erik J. Olson is the Founder & CEO of Array Digital—a marketing agency that enables its clients to achieve their dreams, fulfill their missions, and impact more lives with their services.