How to Bring Your 2018 Instagram Game to the Next Level
LAST UPDATED: TOPIC: Social Media
For any business targeting the 18-34 age demographic, having an Instagram presence is a must. 2018 has been a transformative year for the photo sharing app and it can be hard to keep up with all the new bells and whistles it has to offer. Even the most Instagram-avid social media managers can get set in their ways and repeat the same strategy for each campaign; their tried-and-tested conveyor belt formulas garnering familiar results to meet clients’ expectations. And with changes with Instagram’s algorithm earlier this year, nurturing user engagement is now more crucial than ever in order to get your content centre stage on Instagram feeds.
Although the new algorithm hasn’t entirely reverted back to a chronological feed, Instagram is giving priority to new posts again. The key is knowing when your audience is most active and posting content that’s relevant to them in a timely manner. In order to ensure that your posts feature prominently on peoples’ feeds, audience engagement is vital, so knowing what content your followers will like and interact with is critical. But as we all know, that’s much easier said than done. There are no shortcuts in understanding your audience, so posting more video content or posting more Instagram Stories etc. won’t necessarily bump you up in the queue. This all depends on your followers’ Insta-habits. The better you get to know your audience, the more rewarding your Instagram efforts will be.
Another notable change is the restricting of the API. To break it down, API is short for application program interface and in a nutshell is how Instagram communicates with third party apps. So if you or your business have third party software or apps installed for the purposes of automating follows or post likes, analysing followers, or reposting content for example, these will be far more restricted (if not impossible) under the new API restrictions.
With all that in mind, now is the time to bring your Instagram game to the next level. Whether it’s brand awareness, lead generation or sales you’re looking for, here’s what I’d recommend to get you started:
1. Make Conversions as Easy as Possible
Conversions happen best when there’s minimal effort involved. Having your customers jump through multiple hoops in order to access your product significantly increases drop-off rates in the sales funnel. If you’re a retailer, Instagram has rolled out its Shoppable Posts feature, and boy is this one good. Gone are the workarounds of adding links in bio and Instagram Stories, just tag your products as you would do a person in a post and your customers will have a streamlined, native shopping experience without ever having to leave Instagram. Result! Have a look at Instagram’s guidelines on how to implement these types of posts.
For those who work in publishing, content and creative industries, if you’re not using it already, linkin.bio is your new best friend. Although it’s been around for a while, and initially catered to the e-commerce sector, this tool is an excellent way to make that Instagram bio work for you. Used by publishing titans such as Vogue, Rolling Stone Magazine and The Wall Street Journal, linkin.bio gives you a personalised URL that brings your followers to a customisable tiled landing page that showcases a portfolio of your content. No more updating your bio every time you have a new story or feature.
2. Get on IGTV
- Instagram launched its standalone platform IGTV in June of this year, and allows users to post video content up to 60 minutes long directly to their followers. Access to IGTV can be done either through Instagram or by downloading it as a standalone app. Although there’s no monetisation of content just yet (amidst the cyclone of rumours), a good idea is to create your channel and finetune your IGTV presence so that you’re unstoppable by the time monetisation is inevitably introduced.A few pointers:
- Be on the straight and narrow: Forget all notions that landscape video is best, for the purposes IGTV it’s all about vertical video.
- Keep it on the HD: High quality video is a must, leave the phone-made movies for Instagram Stories. Always bear in mind when filming that the finished product has to be edited to a vertical resolution.
- Don’t be lazy: Resharing your Instagram Stories isn’t going to cut it for IGTV.
- Find yourself: Experiment with formats, schedules and video lengths that suit you and your brand.
- Tell a Better Instagram Story
Instagram Stories has introduced a myriad of new features this year that allows you to really show off your personality. Along with extending their range of fonts, stickers and adding gifs to Stories and being able to upload photos and videos in bulk, users can now share feed posts both by themselves and others directly into their Stories so no more annoying screenshots. By having them as stickers, you can be much more creative with your inspirations and recommendations.
In a similar vein, users can now share music from Spotify directly into their Stories. This is an amazing feature, especially for artists and those in the music industry as now you can share a sticker of a track, an album, or a playlist in your Story that bring your directly to Spotify. The feature we didn’t know we needed until now!
Use your Story Highlights to your advantage to showcase the different aspects of your business, products or services. Even better, create a consistent visual theme between them all – apps such as Canva are great for creating easily customisable Highlights covers complete with icons.
3. (Even More) Open Communication
A lot of companies hesitate at the suggestion of having an open conversation with their followers, as they feel it will make them too vulnerable to criticism and negative feedback. But the reason why consumers and marketers alike love social media, and Instagram in particular, is because it enables a two-way conversation between brand and buyer.
According to the 2018 Sprout Social Index, 51% of consumers use Instagram regularly, with more than half of those people (30%) liking or following a brand. In the same report, 21% of consumers said they were more likely to buy from brands they can reach on social media, the same amount saying that they would prefer contacting a brand’s social media profile over calling customer service.
As Instagram’s new algorithm prioritises posts from friends, family, and the accounts they engage with the most, you need to build up your trustworthiness with your followers. This applies both on a customer service level and on a content level. Instead of waiting for your next question or comment from a consumer, openly ask for feedback. Your customers will feel they are being listened to and are more likely to become an advocate for your brand. 2018 has definitely been the year of the Employee Ambassador, with more and more businesses having their employees share their work experiences through the company Instagram account. If your whole business is on board with your Instagram strategy, it will give your followers a real-life insight into who you are as a company and therefore increases your trust credentials.
Instagram has an abundance of features to help extend the lines of communication with your audience. Asides from comments under standard posts, what about hosting a live Q&A on IGTV or creating a slider poll on Instagram Stories? Yes, feedback can actually be fun!
User generated content (UGC) is another great cost-effective way to get followers involved in your brand, whether it’s customer reviews, sharing photos and videos of customers using your product/service or highlighting a great comment. The more relatable the content, the more humanised your business will be.
4. Time for a Spring Clean:
Looking at your profile and output from your followers’ perspective will help you to optimise your profile and activity. What brands/people do you follow on Instagram and why do you follow them? Having a killer Instagram presence doesn’t happen by accident, the most successful pages know what their followers want, are confident in who they are as a brand and aren’t afraid to try new things. National Geographic and Kim Kardashian are some of the most popular accounts on Instagram for audience engagement and they couldn’t be further apart from one another in terms of content.
Asides from optimising your username and profile picture, use that bio to your advantage. As of this year, usernames and hashtags can now be hyperlinked in your bio, giving you greater multi-channel visibility. Make sure any links in your bio lead to a mobile optimised destination, your followers will most likely be on a mobile device on Instagram. You’d be surprised on how many companies overlook this small but pivotal link. And as aforementioned, use that Stories Highlights real estate in your bio and include your IGTV profile to really maximise your profile potential.
Do you use the same hashtags for every post? Revisit your hashtags and make sure you switch it up and use relevant hashtags to your posts. Instagram’s algorithm looks unfavourably to those who use an umpteen number of hashtags that bear no relevance to their post and users can now block the hashtags that they find irritating.
Your captions hold the key to engagement, people tend to treat these as a quick afterthought and as a barrier to getting your post live. Have your captions become stale and monotonous? Take the time to really think about what it is you want your audience to do upon seeing your post – flaunt your brand’s personality with thoughtful, witty or interesting captions that inspire your follows to engage and to take action.
Combined with a well-structured content calendar and developing a deep understanding of your audience through Insights and analytics tools, you can elevate your Instagram account in no time. Take the time to assess your posts and promotions to identify your strong and weaker points and use those lessons to leverage your next campaign. Get creative and enterprise on all the features Instagram has to offer, it’s grown far beyond pictures with a pretty filter.
And don’t forget to:
- Stay on brand – don’t try to change your brand’s voice to suit a feature, make it work for you
- As with every good social media strategy, having a detailed and regimented content calendar is key – take the time to properly establish it.
- Post frequently but while also maintaining a high standard of quality (a tightrope walk, of course!), don’t just post for the sake of it.
- Combine audience feedback with your analytics to get the full picture of what’s going on.
- Every Instagram feature has its purpose, define the roles these have for you e.g. using Instagram Stories for flash sales and behind-the-scenes snippets.
- Perspective – always try to be in the head of your user when creating any campaign or piece of content.
Instagram doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon, before the end of the year they’ll be rolling out Recommended Posts along with a new suite of parenting tools to protect its younger users – at this rate, who knows what capabilities Instagram will have in 2019?
Although it can be near-impossible to stay up to date with every single social media trend, your followers will notice and appreciate your efforts. Not sure where to begin? Follow the accounts you wish to emulate and the hashtags relevant to your industry for inspiration, lay down a foundation for your strategy and get that content calendar in motion. You won’t regret it.