— May 9, 2018
I love Instagram. It’s one of the only platforms you can still get engagement without paying for advertising. This is true whether your account has a couple of followers or thousands. A study by Forrester determined that Instagram has a 58 times higher engagement rate than Facebook.
Thanks to its high engagement, Instagram is an ideal platform to build a following. However, the competition is tough! I recommend brands to post at least a couple of times a day, every day, but there are brands out there posting five times a day or more.
To stay competitive, you have to be on top of the latest social media strategies and keep up with the platform’s fast-paced schedule. In this post, we’ll go over paid and free best practices to stay ahead of the competition and increase your audience. Let’s get started!
Choose a Style
In this section, we’ll go over the tips to create a beautiful feed to gain followers once they become aware of your account.
How would you like your feed to look like? Is it dark or colorful? Vintage or natural? It’s important to determine a style and stick to it, to create a cohesive look and feel. This is the first step to determine what types of filters you’ll be using in all your photos.
If you don’t know where to start, explore some of your favorite or top brand accounts and analyze their feed. See some examples below:
@dark has a very monochromatic feed with blacks and grays, featuring technology. Coach, on the other hand, has a feed that is predominantly brown, featuring mainly their products.
Those two accounts have really predominant styles, but what about a more subtle style? See how Miu Miu adds a subtle vintage look to their feed below:
1. Create a cohesive look and feel with theme and colors.
Once you have a style in mind, think about a color palette to go with it. For instance, you may want to get a dark look and feel, but your feed doesn’t only have to be black. Pick about five colors that you can repeatedly use in your photos to get the effect or style you are looking for.
For instance, if you see Ferrari’s feed, you’ll find a repetition of blues, yellows, and reds:
Taking a closer look, you can see all blue themed pictures have been placed to the left, yellow in the middle, and red to the red. This was not an accident, but a deliberate decision. Even if you feature products with different colors, you can control the filter and backgrounds to achieve a specific look and stick to a color palette.
2. Create a grid layout.
Grid layouts determine how your posts will be organized to create a cohesive look and feel. There are many different layouts to choose from, depending on the look and types of posts you’re looking to publish. See some grid layout examples below:
- White borders. Posts have white borders to the side.
- Vertical or horizontal lines. Quotes or other types of recurrent posts are published creating a horizontal or vertical line.
- Posts have to be put together to create a unified image.
See examples of brands using different layouts below:
Chanel makes great use of white borders in their posts:
Versace also uses white borders, but in a more unconventional manner …
@anderson._paak uses a puzzle layout to keep his followers guessing.
I had to scroll a bit to find the actual image. The ones toward the top were just videos with darker tones of orange.
The key to having an appealing look and feel is consistency. Whichever layouts, colors, or filters you use, make sure they are applied to all posts to create a cohesive look.
3. Post consistently, at the right times.
As I mentioned before, Instagram is a fast-paced platform. Post at least a couple of times every day to achieve the best results. I’d recommend testing different times to discover which of them performs the best. To start, I like to publish in the morning, in the afternoon, and at night.
Studies show that the best days to post are Mondays and Thursdays (not that you shouldn’t post on other days), usually on off-work hours:
- 8-9 a.m.
- 2 a.m.
- 5 p.m.
To achieve consistency, get a scheduling tool like Hootsuite or Onlypult. Thanks to an update early this year, now brands can schedule posts to Instagram.
4. Engage with others.
Reciprocity works wonderfully on Instagram. If you follow, like, or comment on other accounts, chances are those users will do the same for you. These types of activities are essential to gain awareness and followers organically. There are bots that can do this manual work for you, but you’ll risk getting flagged by Instagram for breaking the rules.
Thus, the best way to go about it is to reserve a number of hours in the day or week to do this type of activity. There is a good strategy for doing these activities that was laid out by Gary Vaynerchuk. It’s called the $ 1.80 strategy. It translates to leaving your personal 2 cents on the top 9 trending Instagram posts for 10 different hashtags that are relevant to your brand or business every single day.
First, you have to find the right hashtags for your business. I like to select a mix of hashtags with different levels of engagement. The reason behind this is that hashtags with higher engagement will be tougher to rank for. Then, I go through the posts, leaving meaningful comments—don’t leave comments that just look like spam.
5. Promote User Generated content or UGC.
There is no better way to gain awareness than to have your own followers spreading the word for you. It will validate your account, provide it credibility, and multiply the reach you would be able to get using your efforts alone.
There are many ways to encourage your users to generate content and promote it. Start by stating in your bio that users tagging your brand get a chance to get featured. From time to time, do the same on your posts’ captions, explaining how users can get a shout out. Finally, once you get users tagging your account, feature them on your feed.
6. Use influencers.
Building an audience organically is great and necessary, but those activities can’t replace the added exposure a paid Instagram influencer can get you. There are three steps to creating a successful influencer campaign strategy:
- Create the concept—caption, images, videos.
- Find the influencers.
- Create a smart campaign schedule.
I like to use a tool called BrandSnob to find influencers. I simply create a campaign concept, and influencers reach out to me with their bid.
I’d recommend choosing at least a couple of influencers at a time to run parallel campaigns. Having the campaigns running simultaneously creates a nice all-over effect, where users see you everywhere.
Now, over to you. What has been your experience with growing your Instagram? Have you tried any of the tactics in this post? Comment below!