Making Instagram Work For Your Brand
For many small businesses and solopreneurs, especially those in the business to business sector, finding value in or leveraging Instagram can be difficult. It’s been a challenge for me as well. Over the past 6 months in my quest to figure out how to crack Instagram for myself (all part of walking the talk), I’ve learned a few things.
What To Post
Like Pinterest, Instagram is a visual based platform. The big difference between the two social media sites – curation vs original content. While much of the content I see posted are memes, quotes and other assorted images pulled from other places, Instagram’s Community Guidelines clearly state:
“As always, you own the content you post on Instagram. Remember to post authentic content, and don’t post anything you’ve copied or collected from the Internet that you don’t have the right to post.”
To use Instagram you need to be taking and posting your own images. I’ve posted before I don’t generally take many pictures (though I am getting better – to a fault. I was recently scolded for taking pictures in the grocery store) and then there’s the issue of what to even post. If your business isn’t visual, what then? No pictures means no post. This was one of my issues until I started rethinking how I approached Instagram.
My shift in how I approached Instagram – more personal than business – helped. Finding images was easier. Anything which makes me laugh is worth posting. A ‘saga’ has even started to emerge based on the antics of my daughter’s little men:
Being primarily personal has helped build a following and highlight my brand’s personality (and it’s more fun), but hasn’t done wonders for driving traffic. I decided to experiment with adding images from my blog posts.
I now have a mix of content – business for the traffic, personal for the fun and, well consistent content – and all original.
Driving Engagement, Interaction and Web Traffic
Getting engagement matters, but only to a point. How you interact with those engaging on your content matters more. It’s where the relationships are built. Getting engagement on Instagram is about getting your images seen. The platform is a cross between feed driven (seeing the posts from profiles you follow) and search driven (looking for new content).
Building a following helps, but like Twitter, having your image show in a feed can be a challenge. A great image when seen, will get the viewer to stop. Adding the good description will help get the engagement. The right use of hashtags will get your image will get it found and assuming your image is perfect and a great description, you should get your engagement. It can be overwhelming to excel enough at each point. My advice – stop trying!
You may get the most engagement from the perfect image posted at the perfect time but in the end it’s not about how much engagement you get but how you interact with it that matters. You don’t need the perfect post. That quest, at some point, ultimately ends with frustration (been there).
Here’s my approach:
Images: Keep it simple. I see something – I post it. I may even specifically look for something. What I don’t do is stress over the image’s colors or how it might look when posted. The perfect image may be the route to the most engagement but requires quite a bit of work. Stop over thinking and aiming for the ideal. Post what makes you take notice, smile or laugh. Besides, if the image was good enough to have caught your eye, chances are pretty good it will catch someone else’s and you may just be seen as more genuine to your followers.
As for the comment about specifically looking for something – when you do find something that connects with your audience, put the effort into finding similar content.
Stress less over what the ‘experts’ tell you is best. Social will be less like work if you just post and more likely you’ll do it consistently. Have fun with it.
Descriptions: Keep it short. Aside from blog images where I can simply cut and paste the text and I’m after ‘readers’, I try to keep the wording to a minimum. It’s a visual platform. I want to make you take notice and get a glimpse at who I am and my brand’s personality. Short, sweet and simple.
Hashtags: Use them to your heart’s content. Here is one time more is
better. Engagement rises as the number of hashtags increase. Hashtags are the default search method. Seems the optimal number is 11 or more. My personal rule of thumb – just make sure all of them are relevant to your image. Can’t think of more than one or two? Try this:
- Grab your phone
- Open Instagram
- Search for the one hashtag you plan to use
- Open a few images and check out the hashtags used.
And if you can’t come up with 11 – just post it! You’ll notice most of my content has far short of 11. Again, diminishing ROI. Too much time and stress for me.
Interaction is the key to social. I don’t care how many people like you. They need to connect with you. What you do with the likes is what truly matters and there is a way to do it on Instagram.
Hats off to my friend Debra Jason, author of Millionaire Marketing On A Shoestring Budget, does a better job in this area than anyone I know. She does it using a tactic she borrows from her LinkedIn experience. Not only does she reply to everyone who comments, doing so in a way to foster conversation (HINT!!), she takes the time to add a simple comment thanking even those who liked her post. A simple thank you goes a long way towards building relationships and support.
Here’s the real challenge. Converting social into web traffic requires links (though someone could see your business name and search it). The only place working links will appear on Instagram is in your bio. Not only do you need images and descriptions which get seen and earn engagement, your content needs to be compelling enough to get the viewer back to your profile and clicking the link. It may seem like you’re asking a lot but Mike Allton points out in his article for The Social Media Hat Instagram followers are devoted and will take that time!
One area I ‘break’ with most experts is on use of links within image descriptions. The prevailing wisdom is the lack of value links provide (by not being live) makes it pointless to include them. Including them can be seen, like using hashtags in LinkedIn posts – those don’t work either – as ignorant
So why do I include links in my descriptions?
In a word, opportunity. Adding a link within your post description may not result in traffic, but more do equate to more opportunity, even if they’re not active links.
- Remember and manually enter: Cut and paste isn’t possible in Instagram posts (on your smartphone) but shortened links are easy to remember and manually enter into your mobile browser. Mike Allton spoke to the dedication of Instagram devotees in his recent If they’re willing to track back to your bio, hit the link to your homepage and then find the content, they’re every bit as likely to type a short link directly into their browser.
- Desktop use. Instagram may be a mobile-based platform but you can still access profiles from your desktop. You cannot post, edit or comment on posts via your browser but you can log into your account. That enables you to view your feed and search for content. For those using this method, albeit a very small minority, cut and paste is quick and easy. Viewing feeds also allows them to be pinned from Instagram. While the preference would be pinning directly from your site (leveraging Rich Pins), any link in the description, will carry over to Pinterest. It may still not be a working link, but there is another opportunity to cut and paste.
Some third-party Instagram web viewers like Websta have enabled active links. If you were smart enough to include a link within your description and I view you image on Websta….. a simple click will take me to your website.
- Working Links:
Links aren’t clickable when using the OEM app BUT they are with the Instwogram Android app. This makes it extremely beneficial for those of us using this application (I originally came across it when researching a method for posting to multiple Instagram accounts) and following you. If you’re including links, you make it far more likely (than even the most devoted follower) to click-through.
Adding a link within your content may not look as clean and could show ‘ignorance’ as to how Instagram works, but for me, what others see as ignorance I see as a potential opportunity.
One point to note here. Instagram’s predominant mobile bias means unlike the rest of the big social media sites, clicking a link within an Instagram bio will attribute the link as direct and not from Instagram in Google Analytics. To accurately identify the traffic you will need to use tracking links in your bio. The same holds true for links within the body of you post.
Hootsuite users can follow the details laid out by Mike is his above-referenced post or by using Google’s URL Builder.
The Bottom Line