Did you know the average attention span today is only eight seconds? When it comes to social media, that means you have less than ten seconds to convince users your brand is professional, interesting, and follow-worthy. Of course, if you’re new to the social media game (or you’re just not sure what your social media strategy even is), this little fact can seem pretty intimidating!
So how do you create a brand that has the sort of first impression that makes users want to follow you and eventually convert those followers to customers? Today we’re sharing some best practices you should include in your Instagram strategy. By implementing these, you will be creating the professional, yet relatable content users will love and engage with. Let’s dive on in!
Consider this: 200 million Instagram users visit at least one business profile daily1, 11% of U.S. social media users actually SHOP on Instagram2, and 37% of American adults use Instagram3. So you should definitely be on Instagram, right? Well, not necessarily. While it can feel a little bit like FOMO to not be on every social media platform, not every brand is a good fit for every platform. In fact, being on the wrong platform can actually HURT your business more than help it.
For help in determining whether or not you should be on Instagram and where your target market is most likely to be hanging out, we've written a blog post! Click here to read which types of brands should be using each platform!
So, if Instagram IS a good fit, where do you start? First, setting up your profile as a “business” profile, not a "personal" profile, as this grants you access to analytics on how your posts are performing, which posts are the most popular, and when your followers are typically online. This sort of insight is invaluable in helping you post more of the content your followers want to see when they want to see it.
Once you’ve created your account, it’s time to tell everyone who you are and what you do! And the most important place to do this is with your profile photo, bio, and "Highlights". All of these elements should work together a way that quickly shares what followers can expect to find on your profile. But how exactly do you pull together all these elements in a cohesive way?
First, your profile photo should either be your company logo or, if you’re an individual or influencer, a photo of you that clearly shows your face. Remember, the Instagram profile photo is very small, so don’t upload anything too small or busy as it most likely won’t be recognizable at that scale.
Second, create a bio that is short and clearly describes what you do. If you can add a little personality or charm, even better as it helps users relate to you. Here are some great examples we’ve seen from other businesses and influencers:
Third, if you are planning on doing Instagram Highlights (which we will discuss further down), consider also making custom Highlight “cover photos” that match your brand's aesthetic. This can go a long way in bringing together all of your branding elements in a way that makes your Instagram profile look cohesive, interesting, and follow-worthy. Here are some examples we love:
If your bio is the front door to your Instagram home, your content is the entryway: just like you want your entry way to be as cute as the doormat and wreath on your front door, your content needs to continue the trend of what you’ve already hinted at in your bio. There’s nothing better than a user clicking that “follow” button, just like when a house guest craves the grand tour after stepping through your front door.
How you actually make a beautiful entryway is by curating your content, or in other words: brainstorm, create and schedule it out in advance. By curating your content, you're not only making sure it all works together, it also means you don’t have to worry about coming up with what to say or post on the fly!
While you should be curating, don’t just post pretty stuff. Make sure you also include content that is authentic to you and your personality and that serves your customer. For example, if you sell handmade jewelry, don’t just post photos of your jewelry. If you love to travel, your customers might also find it helpful to know how you pack your jewelry for vacation, so it doesn’t get lost or destroyed. Or maybe share content about how to clean your jewelry and store it so that your customers feel like they’ve invested in a piece that will last them a lifetime. Don’t be afraid to inject some personality into your brand, but make sure it is relevant!
Followers want to see the relevant and relatable aspects of your brand and life, but they don’t need the full diary. If you stray too far from what they signed up for, they might not enjoy your content, and they will stop engaging or unfollow you. So give your followers the content they signed up for, make it authentic to you, and keep it relevant.
Just like you don’t want to have the same thing for dinner every day (we all love pizza, but after day five, we’re all wishing for some salad), users like to see a bit of variety in their feeds while they’re scrolling. While curating your content, some fun content ideas to consider include videos, photo carousels, or GIFs.
Fun fact: if you’re considering introducing video into your content rotation, how-to tutorials are the most popular form of Instagram video content!4 Plus, did you know approximately 70% of Instagram users watch video content in the form of Stories on a daily basis.5 Need we say more?
We would argue that the most significant contributor to follower growth and engagement rates is consistency. With the Instagram algorithm constantly changing, the only thing you can control is how often you post and what you post. And while the rules of the game may always be changing, the algorithm will always favor content that is consistent and high quality. The more you post, the more there is to see. And the better your content, the more your followers will want to interact with it.
Hashtags may seem unimportant (or too complicated), but they can actually play a HUGE role in your growth strategy. However, just like the content you publish, your hashtags should be highly relevant and serve to bring quality, useful content to potential followers.
For example, if you share travel photography, choose hashtags that relate to the destinations you visit, but stay away from both the overly-used hashtags (like #picoftheday, #travel, or #photographer). More importantly stay away from tagging irrelevant hashtags (don’t add #travelphotography if you’re a jewelry designer). Users now have the ability to report content that isn’t relevant to a hashtag, so make sure your content is something a user would actually expect to find while scrolling through posts using that hashtag.
Of course, the next question is how many hashtags should you be using? And while you can use anywhere from 0 - 30 hashtags per post, it’s been shown that posts with nine to 12 hashtags received more engagement than posts with any other number of hashtags.6
Geotagging is perhaps the most underrated feature on Instagram, but it plays a huge role in increasing engagement! Consider this stat: posts tagged with a location see 79% higher engagement than posts not tagged with a location.7 I think this statistic pretty much speaks for itself, so we’ll leave it with “geotag your posts!” and move on to the next best practice.
Since stories only stay on your profile for 24 hours, it may be tempting to think it’s useless. However, that couldn’t be more wrong! Partially because Instagram has now introduced “Highlights” (where you can permanently save your stories right under your bio), and partially because of these statistics:
Now if curating your content AND publishing stories seems overwhelming, it doesn’t need to be: stories can be something as simple as highlighting the features of your latest product, giving a weekly review of what services or items you have in stock, or doing a story takeover (check out this blog post to find out more about takeovers). They can also act as a behind the scenes or “sneak peek” to the operations of your business. The best part is, these stories can be saved as “Highlights” right at the top of your profile, so new customers can find all your best products as soon as they land on your profile!
When setting up your profile, make sure you fill out your website, blog, or shop’s URL in the profile link. This is a completely free way to drive traffic to your website or advertise your blog or shop, so take advantage! This is especially important, because Instagram doesn't allow you to have an active link in the captions of your posts. To keep your link always updated to your content, you can either do so manually, or by using free resources like Linkin.bio or Linktree, which create a clickable version of your profile for your followers.
Having a link in bio goes a long way in building credibility with your users, as the link gives them another opportunity to interact with and discover more about your brand. Make sure you don’t leave the URL out when setting up your profile!
And finally, perhaps the most important thing you should be doing on Instagram is actually engaging and interacting with your audience! Respond to comments, comment on other pages, and follow other hashtags and users! Not only does this make sure you are showing up in users’ notifications and feeds, keeping you on the top of their mind, it also helps to build genuine relationships that can turn a simple “like” into a follower and a follower into a loyal customer.
At the end of the day, Instagram is a place for brands, companies, and influencers to show up, share great content, and help their following as best they can. By following these steps, and by being consistent and authentic, you’ll be able to create relationships that will go beyond the scroll and will make your Instagram profile a place for your followers to feel connected, interested in, and loyal to what you have to offer them.