13 Rules for Instagram Success

Small businesses on Instagram often underestimate what it takes to succeed on this platform. It looks so easy. Post a product photo, add as many hashtags as you like and wait for the orders. But that’s not the way this platform works. You have three choices: hire a full-time social media strategist, rent an Instagram expert (like EVG), or follow this baker’s dozen of Instagram tips to improve your social media success.

1. Think Before You Leap.

Before you launch an Instagram business account, ask yourself why you’re doing it. How much time, resources and personnel are you willing to invest to succeed? Do you know what your audience wants? Have you defined your goals? How will you measure success? If you don’t know the answers, hit pause, do the research and get your strategy in place before you publish one more post.

2. Share Solutions, Not Products.

Too often, brands treat social media as a sales platform instead of a social space meant for conversations. Don’t spend all your time selling. Share your passions, ideals and goals. Successful brands find clever ways to keep the focus on the audience’s passions. Red Bull seldom shows their products in any form.

Pro Instagram Tip: Think 4-1-1 when you plan your content. That means 4 posts about shared interests, 1 post that sells and 1 post about the company but not the product.

3. Use An Editorial Calendar.

Create a plan and stick to it. You don’t want to be seen as a Johnny-One-Note by posting the same thing over and over. Mix it up. Tell stories. Reveal what inspires you and your audience. Talk about current events. Use visuals to communicate stats. Last-minute posts always end up sounding just like every other post.

4. Use Hashtags With Care.

Hashtags are more than a way to categorize content. They’re powerful tools to get your brand noticed in organic search and Instagram feeds. But use the right hashtags with the right posts. That means researching your options instead of relying on the same ones for every post (a practice which can earn you a penalty).

Pro Instagram Tip: More is NOT more for hashtags. Savvy brands, like Intel use few hashtags and by using them in the text, prove their validity. Newbies load their post down with 11 or more as afterthoughts.

5. Post Hashtags As A Comment.

If you want your posts to be coveted “Featured Posts” for a hashtag, you’re going to need lots of likes and comments. Start by putting your hashtags as the first comment rather than with the post. This trick might not work forever, but right now it is an effective tactic.

6. Post Like Clockwork.

How often you post is less important than consistency. So make it a hard and fast rule to post on the same days and at the same time every week. Smart brands measure engagement and figure out, based on hard data, when their audience is consuming content. They use that data to establish or adjust their timing and posting schedule.

7. Be Sociable.

You need to be part of the community. When you use a hashtag, you’re a member of the community. That means playing by the rules: comment on other posts. Complement their photo, make an observation about their text, share with others. By commenting on posts with many likes or comments, you’ll be more visible and you might gain a fan or three.

8. Respond To Comments.

If someone leaves a comment, answer them. Hey, it’s social media! No one wants to be that person talking to the group and being ignored. All it takes is a simple thank you.

Pro Instagram Tip: If the comment is a complaint, stay friendly; help them take it offline, and then resolve it as quickly as possible.

9. Measure What Matters.

Focus your energies on what really matters to you. You have defined goals, so focus on metrics that measure progress for those goals. No matter what you measure, set up a clear process and monitor your metrics on a regular basis.

10. Make Time.

We’re spending more time on social media. But for brands, enticing their audience to increase the amount of time they engage with the brand requires committing resources to it. Great content takes time. You can’t produce share-worthy posts at the last minute.

11. Research Is Priceless.

Assumptions are the mother of failure. Do your homework and take a close look at your competition. Which posts hit it out of the park for likes and comments. What common elements do featured posts for a coveted hashtag share? It’s not rocket science to find what’s working and emulate them.

12. Be Relevant.

Pundits like to point out our attention span is now shorter than a goldfish’s. And we all know, from personal experience, how many squirrels are waiting to distract us once we go online. So asking for your audience’s attention is a big deal. You need to be prepared to offer them value in return for their attention.

13. Don’t Be Afraid Of Creativity.

Have you seen Google’s Instagram or the Merriam-Webster account? You won’t find photos of motherboards, code or data algorithms. You will see Dooglers (dogs of Google employees), clever graphics that entertain, define and delight. If a search engine company and a dictionary can create great posts, you can too!

If you’re interested in getting your Instagram to the next level, EVG can help you with a strategy, content or analyzing your metrics. Give us a call and we’ll help you find your social groove.

This blog post can also be found on the CMA Blog.

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