As we head into 2020, we’ve seen Instagram go from just another social networking platform to a branding powerhouse. Over 200 million users visit at least one business account daily. Needless to say, if your business isn’t on Instagram, you’re missing out on tons of sales opportunities.
That said, the playing field is much more competitive than ever before. Every algorithm update presents an array of challenges for new brands. On search and social alike, you used to be able to sneeze and get followers, but with so many other brands and influencers vying for attention, businesses have to sprint to keep up or pay to play with social media ads.
Is organic still worth it?
Knowing all this, is it still possible to successfully promote your business organically, or for free? While organic reach is more challenging, done right, it’s still the best way to attract more engaged followers and loyal customers. In this post, we’ll show you how to do exactly that with 5 handy tips and tricks.
1. Post consistently
One of the easiest ways to increase your engagement on Instagram is to post consistently. How frequently you post depends on your business type, but posting on a consistent basis is important because it gives your followers something to look forward to. And, with so many competitors vying for your traffic, you don’t want your followers to forget about you and go elsewhere.
When should you post?
As a business, you should get a good sense of when your followers are most active. If you have an Instagram Business account, you can use Instagram Insights, Instagram’s free analytics tool, to measure three major metrics:
- Activity (i.e. weekly impressions, interactions, and reach)
- Content (i.e. post, story, and promotion performance)
- Audience (i.e. user demographics, such as age, gender, location, and time online)
Posting time will depend on what works best for your business, but if you don’t have that data yet, here are the best times to post in general:
- Wednesday, 11 am
- Friday, 10-11 am
- Tuesday-Friday, 10 am-3pm (for consistent engagement)
2. Post Instagram Stories regularly
Instagram Stories now reach over 500 million daily active users and that number is on the rise. What’s more, a third of the most viewed stories come from businesses.
Stories present more engagement opportunities for your brand than in-feed posts because:
- You don’t have to compete with algorithm updates for your story to show up at the top–stories populate the top of Instagram automatically.
- Stories allow you to experiment with more diverse content or features (e.g. video, filters, Boomerang, Superzoom, polls, stickers, hashtags, etc.)
TIP: Upload more video stories
Currently, 51 percent of brands of all sizes use video stories to promote their products. Try to incorporate more videos into your own story lineup. Videos tend to perform better than photos because they showcase your authenticity as a brand and generally give rise to higher retention rates.
How to make the most out of Stories for your business
Here are just a few Instagram Story features you can use to boost your traffic for free:
- “Swipe-Up.” If you have a verified business account and have at least 10,000 followers, you can use the “swipe-up” feature to link your stories directly to your product or website.
- Highlighted stories. For Instagram stories you want to save beyond the 24-hour limit, you can add them to the highlights section of your profile. Highlights is a great section to post your most important brand categories, such as IGTV, new products, Q&A, and more.
- Shoppable Stories. You can also use Instagram Stories to add sticker tags to products if you have a business account and it’s connected to a Facebook catalog.
- Use Instagram Live, Boomerang, Superzoom, filters, polls, stickers, hashtags, or Insta’s new Create feature. Make your audience connect with you by personalizing your brand message with Instagram’s most popular story features. Personally, our favorite way to engage with our audience is through polls. Polls are a great way to get feedback from your audience about the types of content they would like to see.
3. Engage with your followers
The most effective and authentic way to increase your organic reach is to actively engage with your followers. Leave comments on their posts, start a conversation in your post captions or direct messages, and repost user-generated content. Building a community and a conversation around your brand will establish trust between you and your customers.
TIP: Focus on 1,000 true fans
Don’t buy followers and likes just to boost your numbers. Chances are, most of those followers are fake or bots, and may result in your account being suspended. Remember, quality is always better than quantity. You want to build a following of customers who are real, loyal, and genuinely enthusiastic your brand.
Start by building a following of 1,000 true fans who love your content and will buy or promote your products at any given time. Your true fans will spread the word to their family and friends, and family and friends will tell their family and friends–all at no cost to you. The secret to marketing is getting others to do your marketing for you through word-of-mouth.
4. Optimize your Instagram profile for SEO
A key component of organic marketing strategy is search engine optimization (SEO). Put simply, SEO is a set of strategies–such as keyword research, link-building, and content creation–you can use to rank higher on an online platform and get people to find you.
While SEO usually applies to Google, Bing, and other search engines, you can use it for social as well. Here are some top Instagram SEO hacks you can start doing right now:
Use keywords in your profile name and bio
If you want people to find your business on Instagram, you’ll have to use the right keywords so that anyone searching for your niche will find you. For example, if you’re CrossFit fitness instructor, you’ll want to use all three terms in your bio, so that anyone who’s into CrossFit, fitness, or looking for a trainer can find you.
You can also leverage your unique selling points, such as whether you’re vegan, cruelty-free, or offer free shipping in your bio to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
Use popular–and less popular–hashtags
Obviously, hashtags are the primary way to discover new content on social media. However, one of the biggest mistakes you can make to increase your following is defaulting to popular, broad hashtags. Of course, as a business, it’s important to be tuned into industry trends, but if you’re always posting with trending hashtags, your content might get lost pretty quickly on Instagram’s Discover page among other competitors.
Instead, try researching and incorporating small or medium-sized hashtags. Why?
- Less competition. You have a much better chance of getting and staying on the Discover page.
- More community. Smaller hashtags sometimes contain communities devoted to a specific niche. If you can tap into those communities and engage with them, you’re well on your way to growing your following.
5. Partner with micro-influencers
As your business grows, you might want to start reaching out to influencers to sponsor or mention your product or service. By partnering with social media users who have a sizeable following, are highly trusted, and who position themselves as the authority on your particular niche, you can gain more exposure to your brand.
Start researching, engaging with, and reaching out to micro-influencers. When you’re a business just starting out, micro-influencers are great because, though they have a smaller following, they tend to engage more with their audiences, so you have a better chance of getting a response from them.
Grow Your Instagram Following
The point is, building a successful organic Instagram strategy requires time, dedication, and patience. People want to see authenticity, engagement, transparency, and compelling content from the brands they follow.
Everything we’ve summed up in this blog post can be summed up in two words: customer first. When you’re running a business, you should always keep the customer in mind, and your social media strategy should reflect that thinking as well. Listen to your audience and post content that people want to see.
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