Let's be real: Hoping for that one Instagram post that blows up your follower count and propels you into social media superstardom isn't much of a strategy, is it?
That said, those who consistently score likes, comments, and engagement with their posts aren't doing so by accident. So, by understanding the ins and outs of Instagram's most popular types of posts, you can fine-tune your own Instagram content strategy.
Whether your goal is getting Instagram followers or simply driving more eyeballs to your social content, keep the following tips in the back of your mind. These are fair game regardless of the current size of your following.
1. Find your voice
Many brands' Instagram efforts fail simply because they can't find their voice. They copy what everyone else is doing. Their messages and captions don't come across as human or organic; they feel sterile and forced.
Show your followers that there's a unique person behind each post. Doing so not only gives your brand a sense of personality but also encourages more activity in the comments section.
For example, fashion brands like Black Milk Clothing drive engagement with playful and lighthearted captions to connect with their followers; and even something as simple as throwing in some emojis can help boost your interactions:
On a similar note, humor is a good way to encourage followers and set yourself apart from brands that throw out sales pitch after sales pitch at their fans. Dollar Beard Club is an awesome example of a social feed that thrives on funny posts:
It doesn't matter whom you're targeting: Post captions and content that have personality are better poised to garner engagement—likes and shares.
2. User-generated content and regrams
Often, the best content on Instagram isn't the stuff you're creating yourself. If you have followers who are willing to give you a shout-out or who are already fans of your brand, it's in your best interest to leverage them sooner rather than later.
The popularity of user-generated content (UGS) is apparent on Instagram, where users are sharing product photos regularly. Meanwhile, user-generated photos result in increased brand engagement and conversion rates compared with typical product photos.
Why? For starters, brands can show off their followers, and do so without seeming overly promotional. Check out how Yeti takes its seemingly ordinary product and uses a UGC photo to display it in a real-world setting:
Definitely a step up from a boring product page, right?
Tagging follower photos and boosting regrams not only shows off your followers and products but also signals that you're a brand that's listening to its fans rather than tuning them out. Even brands as big as Express thrive on UGC:
If you get enough love from your followers, you can exclusively use UGC to fill your feed. That's exactly what Airbnb does to sell itself via positive customer stories:
The key takeaway here? Don't let your satisfied customers go to waste. If someone's willing to sing your praises, chances are there are other followers more than willing to do the same.
3. Don't forget your hashtags
There's no reason why you shouldn't be harnessing the power of hashtags in your Instagram strategy.
Sure, massive brands like Gucci or Nike might get away with a tagless post and still drive millions of followers. But consider how hashtags can double engagement on a post.
There is no one-size-fits-all strategy to using hashtags, although using a combination of branded and community tags is likely your best bet. For example, Swatch uses its #MySwatch tag to curate user-generated photos and promote its products:
The takeaway here? Use hashtags in some way, shape, or form. There's no magic number as to how many to use, but don't go overboard. As long as they don't overload your caption and they are relevant to your followers, you're probably fine.
4. Craft exclusive content
Considering the number of social platforms out there, sometimes the best way to get the attention of your current and potential followers alike is via exclusive content.
The most popular types of exclusive content on Instagram are contests and giveaways. Providing a concrete reason for followers to get involved with your feed, such content is a good way to provide incentive for engagement and a long-term following.
Running a successful giveaway on Instagram requires legwork, but there are tons of brands out there that make it look easy. Birchbox regularly runs contests and giveaways to keep followers on their toes and to encourage regrams:
Here's some more food for thought: If you're running exclusive deals via your site or email campaigns, why not do the same on Instagram?
Using Instagram-exclusive discount codes and deal campaigns, you can essentially track your performance on the platform to see whether your followers are down with your deals. Here's a good example a deal-oriented post from Modcloth:
Simply put, frequent deals and giveaways have the potential to drive engagement and increase your follower count simultaneously.
5. Be bold
This piece of advice may seem like a no-brainer, but it bears stating: Your Instagram content needs to stand out from the crowd, especially as the platform speeds toward one billion users and feeds are becoming more crowded with competition.
Color schemes and artsy content go hand in hand with what Instagram users are looking. If your feed feels a bit lifeless, take some inspiration from brands like Milly that thrive on colorful content:
It's not all necessarily about color, though. Check out how Adobe's feed sports bold, awe-inspiring photos that make its followers' jaws drop:
You don't need to be a master photographer or design genius to make your photos pop. Simply make sure there's some flavor in your feed's imagery. Anything that has the potential to be eye candy to your followers is a plus.
6. Publish some conversational content
If you want something from your followers, sometimes you just plain have to ask.
Though you shouldn't go begging for likes, you should regularly ask your followers questions for the sake of engagement. Doing so presents you as someone who's listening versus posting picture after picture just for the sake of it.
The best part about conversational captions? They don't take long to craft. Check out how Forever21 garners love in the comment section through a simple query:
Next time you're stuck on what to post next, consider a question to pose to your followers. It's really that simple.
7. Don't forget about video
Video's current takeover of the content world applies to Instagram just as it does to every major marketing platform.
Although YouTube and Facebook are primed for long-form educational video content, Instagram has emerged as the sort of spiritual successor for shorter, Vine-style videos. For example, meme videos are the bread and butter of Buzzfeed's Instagram presence:
The barrier to entry with video content is arguably lower than ever; so spice up your feed, and don't be afraid to play the role of director.
Are you creating content with viral potential?
Although these tips won't guarantee that you'll "break the Internet" overnight, marketers can certainly learn a thing or two from the Instagram content that garners the most "likes" and shares.
Setting yourself up for success on Instagram is all about feeding your followers a variety of content versus sticking to the same type of post over and over.
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