How to utilise Instagram for your business
Instagram grows daily, with ‘Instagram Influencers’ (yes that is now a job title!) becoming a very popular trend.
There are 1 BILLION active accounts every month and a massive 500 million of them are daily users! This is a platform that cannot be ignored!
Any business, however small, can grow a good audience on the platform, all it takes is a bit of leg work, research and time. Being able to gain exposure on an app that is completely FREE should be pretty high up on your to do list as a business owner.
I have spent the last month researching just how Instagram works so I can grow my audience organically. This is a slow and steady game and there is no quick fix.
I wanted to share my findings in a bid to help other business owners who may be feeling clueless about Instagram just as I was.
To make Instagram beneficial to your business you must spend some time working out what works best for your account. There is a lot to take into consideration when running your Instagram, unfortunately posting randomly with no or little captions as well as random use of hashtags will be a waste of your time.
To ensure you are maximising your reach on the platform first it is best to understand how it works.
The Dreaded Algorithm
Instagram’s algorithm wants to show its users what they are interested in, if they have their user’s attention for longer, they have a bigger market for their paid advertising, resulting in more money for Instagram.
The way in which they show each individual user what they are interested in is by continuously monitoring user's time used within the app. They monitor how long you spend on each post; do you click the read more option? They monitor which posts you like, comment on or share, and if you share a post to your story or send it direct to other users.
They can even monitor what you are talking about whilst viewing a post through your microphone!! This freaks me out!
This data is being collected and analysed continuously. So, you will need to make sure the content you are creating is what your desired audience wants to see.
Sure, you could cheat and pay for a massive following, but this has no foundation. Firstly, we saw a massive cull of fake accounts in the beginning of the year, you know the ones with 10,000’s of followers and they had no posts and followed no one. In 2019 Instagram knuckled down on these ‘bot’ accounts and shut them down. Fine for people that have grown their accounts organically but not for people that have used these to grow their followers.
Secondly, having paid followers are very unlikely to engage with your content, which means your content will be classed as unpopular which will actually have a negative impact on growing your account.
So, what happens when you upload your post and it joins the other 50 billion pictures and videos on Instagram?
Well Instagram will show it to a small percentage of your followers to gage its popularity. This post is not hidden from your other followers but as the platform is no longer in chronologic order it will be further down on the other followers’ new feeds, so far down they are unlikely to even see it. It just means it wasn’t classed as important to your other followers, and this is worked out by their individual time spent on the platform.
Once this is posted the time it takes for the post to receive any engagement will also play a part in its relevance. This indicates to Instagram that the post has quality content and that others will want to see it too. If the small percentage of the followers all engage with the post then Instagram will make it more visible to your other followers and then hopefully, they will also engage with it, and it continues like that.
How do we get seen by accounts that do not follow us? Hopefully accounts of potential clients or customers?
This is where hashtags and the explore pages come in. To get your posts onto the explore page should be your aim when using hashtags.
Depending on the size of your account will depend on what hashtags you should use.
When talking about the size of a hashtag, there is very small, small, medium or large. This size is measured by the amount of times the hashtag has been used.
For example, the hashtag #lashes has 24.3 MILLION posts. This will indicate that this hashtag is very popular, by the time you have uploaded a picture with this hashtag a million other users have done it too, even a second after yours and the post will keep moving down the page every time a new post is added. This means it is very unlikely your post will be seen by users searching this hashtag. This classed as a large hashtag.
A medium hashtag is one usually around 500,000 posts, These posts are popular so have a lot of engagement around them, but your post will not be on the top of the page for long.
Small hashtags are under 100,000. These tags are still viewed often but your post will have a longer time on the top of the page as the tag isn’t used as often. This is when your post is likely to be seen by a new account and hopefully engaged with.
So how do you find out what hashtags are too small or too big for your account? Trial and error. This will take some leg work but once you know your audience and the average number of tags used on the hash tag that will see you at the top of the page you will know what to use.
I have a pad just for hashtags. In here I write tags that are relevant to my account of all different sizes, starting from up to 10k, so really small, I feature regularly with these small tags, then tags that are relevant to my content but much higher in popularity.
It is advised to use a few tags from the small, medium and large groups because eventually your account will grow, and you will appear on the search pages of bigger tags. You will always appear on the small ones too so any extra engagements on your posts is a bonus.
Something you must consider, I know a lot of business owners, my self-included, saves a list of hashtags to their notes on their phone. Let’s face it writing out all the hashtags each time you post is long winded and sometimes you forget most of them. It is so much easier copying and pasting them.
Well as Instagram is knuckling down on bots and automated comments, using the same tags for every post can be seen as spam. Keeping a list saved on your notes is still a great time saver but it is advised to have a few lists to choose from. Each one should still contain tags from each size group, but they MUST be relevant to what you are posting. Having a few lists saved means you can rotate them accordingly.
Posting a picture of a hedgehog and tagging #beautysalon is pointless. Instead focus on finding tags that are related to yours niche, for example, I specialise in Classic Eyelash Extensions, therefore I use hash tags relating to this. This way I can grow a community as I engage and find new users.
A new feature on Instagram is being able to follow the hashtags. So now users that do not follow you but follow tags that you use are likely to have your posts in their newsfeed, this is a fab feature.
Going back to the search pages and seeing where you come up on the page is a good indicator of how that hashtag works for you. You can check straight after you have posted to see if you are on the hashtag search page, but the plan is to get so much engagement that Instagram will kept your post in the first 9 ‘Top Posts’ at the top of the page.
Don’t forget this will change as your account becomes less or more popular with your followers so weekly checks is advised.
You must consider what to post and when. Remember you want other users to spend more time viewing your posts over anyone else’s, even if it is just a split second.
Things to take into consideration
- The time of day you post
- The day of the week
- Your caption
The time of day is a massive factor when posting on Instagram. As the platform is a mobile only app it means people that are unable to access their phones during work hours will not be active. By the time they are your post may be too far down their news feed.
The best time to post is weekdays between 11am -1pm and between 7pm-9pm.
Wednesday has proved the most popular day of the week for users and Sunday the worse.
Of course, these can be completely different for your account so use your insights to see when your followers are online will give you a more detailed answer.
Using the caption option when posting.
Here you have the opportunity to ask for interaction from other users, draw them in with your story of the post, ask them questions and be relatable. Giving users something to comment back with boosts your posts engagement as well as helping to build relationships with other users.
You must reply to every single comment you get, this will show your account as being engaging. Even if the conversation has ended and there is nothing you can reply back just end the conversation with a heart.
Uploading a post with no caption means users can view it as they continue to scroll, they have no need to stop and then Instagram will see no time is being spend on your content, therefore marking it irrelevant.
This is where videos can be used to your advantage. When using a video over a picture your audience has to stay on your post for longer to see the video, this will work in your favour.
Having some sort of branding on your account will make your grid look more appealing to the eye. This doesn’t make any different to Instagram’s algorithm but if users find one of your posts on a search page then heads over to your account, they are more likely to spend more time there. Having a pattern on the grid was popular for 2018 with every other post being a quote or every two. This created a pattern down the page which caught user’s attention. This captured attention is precious time.
Engaging with your followers and being seen as active through your account will also make your rank higher. If you have followers that are also business owners then give them a like, better still a comment. Even if it is just an emoji this will hep build their account but also your own. As well as this, the followers you engage more with are the followers that get shown your content more, so it really is win win.
Use all the features
Instagram rewards accounts that use all of its features, these little up dates that bring extra fun are there to be used. Utilising these will make your account more visible and will add some fun to your content.
These can be found in the Insta Stories.
Creating stories makes it easier for our followers to consume our content without doing anything, not even scrolling the screen. The stories will play one after the other so the consumer simply have to watch.
The swipe up option.
This is a fantastic feature, unfortunately only users with followers over 10k have this but when you get there it will be a game changer. You can add a direct link to the stories post allowing its viewers to be re directed to your chosen landing page should they ’swipe up’ on the screen. If you have services or goods for sale this kind of traffic is priceless! The clothing industry is benefiting from this feature massively.
Asking your viewers to answer a question, the question can be anything you wish. This fun way of interacting is great for your engagement and for building relationships within your community.
Short videos, usually used in humour, are a great way of getting users staying on your posts for longer and making the laugh at the same time. Feel good factor is priceless.
This is one of the best features. When you go live all of your followers will get a notification to let them know you are live. This will keep your businesses name fresh in their minds as your name will pop up each time you go live.
I will be honest though, I get irritated by the live notifications, but I would be able to tell you who the notifications come from, proof that it is effective.
I hope this helps you see your Instagram in a way that can benefit your business growth. Have fun and get creative with your content.