Instagram is the second most popular social network in North America after Facebook, its parent company’s namesake. This alone makes it impossible for marketers — and anyone else hoping to build an audience of loyal followers — to ignore.
Instagram isn’t just popular. Its powerful tools for building, cultivating, and engaging audiences make it an important asset for brands and individuals alike. In the right hands, these tools can supercharge even the humblest accounts’ metrics.
Do you have what it takes to make Instagram work for you?
Of course you do. We all do. But just how successful your personal or professional Instagram account becomes depends on how well you’re able to use its built-in tools. Read on to learn how to get started.
Create an Instagram Business Account
Instagram Business is rich with features and analytics that marketers need. If you’re serious about building your following and reaching new audiences here, it’s indispensable. If you already have a personal Instagram account, just switch it over to Business to retain your followers and content.
Optimize Your Account Description
Your Instagram account description is one of the first things potential followers notice about your presence on the platform. Make sure it’s brief, well-optimized, and accurate. The tag for the Instagram page for Paul Esterhuizen, a South African entrepreneur and philanthropist, is a good example of an effective “just the facts” description: “Paul Esterhuizen is a philanthropist and entrepreneur who has raised millions to fund education and opportunity in South Africa.”
Get in a Posting Rhythm
Practice makes perfect. Fresh content attracts and engages followers. Together, these two rules are the building blocks of another one: Post often. Not every waking minute, but often enough to keep your followers interested. Several times per week, at least.
Choose a Profile Photo That Represents You
Your Instagram profile pic doesn’t need to be a businesslike headshot or brand logo. It probably shouldn’t be either of those things, actually. But it should clearly and unambiguously say, “This is who I am and this is what I stand for.” Choose wisely.
Post Short Video Clips (Original and “Regrams”)
Well-composed still photos remain Instagram’s bread and butter, but videos convey much more information. Conundrum? Not at all. You just need to embrace the importance of both types of content and utilize each. Short video clips work better than long, meandering ones. Bonus points for “regrammed” videos originally posted by people you follow.
Avoid “Me, Me, Me”
A “regram” is worth five self-centered ‘grams. Seriously — it’s much better to amplify and share content from Instagram accounts that you find valuable than to post repetitive content that’s all about you. Plus, it’s more likely to get you noticed by influencers and others positioned to advance your interests.
Keep Your Captions Short and Sweet (But Don’t Forget to Tag the Right People)
An Instagram caption isn’t the place for a long essay, no matter how strongly you feel about the topic. Keep your captions brief and dense with information instead. But don’t forget to tag relevant Instagram handles to alert them about your post, especially if you want to thank or promote a particular individual or brand.
Don’t Overuse Hashtags
Hashtags are best used sparingly. They can help your followers make sense of your post and draw people following particular conversations who might not have seen your content otherwise. On the other hand, they have a “spammy” vibe. You don’t want to be known for hashtag overuse, that’s for sure.
Re-Share High-Quality Story Content From Your Followers
You’re never too important to share high-quality content from your followers’ stories. This is a great way to show that you’re engaged with your audience and attentive to their feedback. The more follower content you share, the more positive feedback loops you’ll create.
Go Live on a Schedule Once Every Two Weeks (And Throw in Some Unannounced IG Lives Too)
Instagram Live is one of Instagram’s secret audience-building weapons. Think of it as your own private streaming channel, available to your followers whenever you choose to reach them. Like all live programming, it helps to create demand for “appointment viewing” by scheduling recurring Instagram Live sessions. But going live as a “surprise” every once in a while keeps your audience on its toes and more engaged as a result.
Make Instagram Work for You
There’s more to Instagram’s story, so to speak. Mastering this immensely popular platform isn’t as easy as creating an account and snapping a pic or two.
This cheat sheet is a good start though. Implement its recommendations and you’ll find yourself on course to influence the conversation around yourself, your brand, and maybe even your industry. As you get more comfortable with Instagram, you’ll discover new and exciting ways to get even more out of the medium.
But that’s enough talk for now. It’s time to post.
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