Instagram is the fastest growing social network at the moment with over 1 Billion monthly active users. This rate of growth has surpassed other leading platforms; such as Snapchat and Facebook. With no sign of slowing down, Instagram continues to grow at a tremendous pace since being acquired by Facebook in 2012, when it had just 40 million.
As the platform continues to roll out new business-specific features, there’s perhaps no better time than now to build your Instagram presence. Having an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the platform is crucial to be able to utilise it to the best of its ability. We intend to inform and educate you on new roll out features, potential future features, top apps for 2019, how to increase your following, attract loyal followers and convert these into customers.
As the old saying goes ‘in order to look forward we have to look back,' so let’s take a look over Instagram's biggest transformations. We have seen many changes to Instagram over the years including the major change of the Instagram feed from chronological order in March 2016. Instagram changed the feed to show users the photos they thought they would want to see rather than the most recently posted, using an algorithm to organise posts instead of displaying them in chronological order. The change was initiated to help users keep up with the volume of photos shared to their feeds every day. Users have spent time experimenting and testing out different strategies to try and crack the algorithm as it has become harder to get noticed and increase following and engagement. Various strategies include posting at specific times of the day. For example in the morning when people are commuting to work, or in the evening when people tend to relax and pick up their phones. There are many different strategies, some of which we will touch upon later.
This month we have seen the roll out of “close friends,” a list that you can curate yourself that enables you to send stories to just your close friends rather than to all users at once. This allows users to create a more unique experience tailored to a specific audience.
At the end of last year Instagram announced the implementation of the voice messaging feature to direct messages. Such features give a more personal experience to the user and help build relationships. As digital marketing strategies continue to move more and more to improve personalisation, it’s clear Instagram are well ahead in their marketing strategies.
As well as these features we also saw the scroll side to side test which Instagram claimed was launched by accident. The roll out which didn’t last long, saw a major backlash, with many users complaining about the change. Users were unhappy with the change of the scrolling feed from vertical to horizontal. Users previously have behaved in the same way, not adapting to the initial change, but eventually coming round to embrace it. This emphasises the power the platform has, users being hesitant to accept the initial changes the platform makes but eventually adapting to them.
Artificial Intelligence will continue to develop and shape the future of Technology, we have already and will continue to see Instagram being influenced by this. For example, Instagram now uses AI to describe photos for users with visual impairments, this is a positive way to increase diversity and the first steps to creating a more accessible Instagram. Businesses will continue to look out for new ways to drive value and implement AI into their business’s. We can expect more AI features to be integrated into the Instagram platform which could include features such as speech recognition and virtual agents.
With Instagram being the most used social network at the moment, it is crucial for businesses to understand best practices and keep up to date with trends and marketing strategies. It is becoming increasingly more difficult as the platform grows to retain and grow followers. The key is to gain loyal, customer converting followers. Below are some tips to growing and gaining quality followers.
Complete Instagram Profile
When a user clicks onto your Instagram profile, they will decide in seconds whether or not to follow you. Within this crucial few seconds you have a big impression to make. So what makes a strong first impression?
The first rule is to make sure that you have a complete profile. Utilising the bio is important, but often overlooked, it is here that you make clear to the user who you are as a business. Keep it short and punchy, nobody wants to read an overload of text. You want to leave an impression with the viewer so make sure you think about this carefully. Take a look at other successful Instagram accounts in your niche and determine what they are writing within their bio and any call to actions they are including. A good tip is to include a blog link within your bio whenever you are posting about a blog you have written, this is a great way to drive traffic to your blog.
Always have an email linked to your Instagram, some people prefer to use this as means of communication rather than direct message. Emailing can be more of a personalised way of communicating and can be seen as a more professional impression.
A link in your bio to your business is extremely crucial when trying to convert customers. If you are using software such as Google Analytics you can assess where traffic is coming from through this link. This is particularly useful when trying to determine who your audience is, allowing you to create more user specific content. Brands can target a niche demographic and create advertisements based around this feedback.
Utilising Instagram stories and highlights is another way to increase engagement and retain followers. Creating interesting content for this feature allows users to interact and gain a “live-view” feel. This creates a more personal experience. Just like your grid, Instagram stories should be cohesive with your brand imagery and voice. Again, stories allow you to include hashtags or locations which in turn increase your reach. Instagram stories are under-utilised which means that use of them gives you stronger visibility.
Using Instagram to grow your business? it’s important to build up an audience that is engaged and loyal to your brand. So how can we ensure these followers engage with your posts, and in turn grow your business? Content is key, strong posts and consistency. Think about the aesthetic of your feed. Is there a variation in imagery? Depending on the subject, think about compositions. For example, a fashion brand using the same model pose doesn’t make for an aesthetically pleasing feed. An example of a strong feed would include various positions, some up close detail shots and interesting backgrounds that align to the brand. If we take a look at content creator Madelynn Furlong on Instagram she features brown and cream hues throughout her feed but switches up her compositions and includes a mixture of architecture and detail shots. Flashes of colour are featured sporadically but still keep the flow of the feed. Her photography is varied but her theme is consistent. Leaving the viewer excited to see what content she will post next.
The flow of your feed is crucial, having a theme throughout will really retain a strong brand presence. This should be something that is well thought out. Play around with various filters to determine what aligns to your business, make it clear and keep it consistent. People are more likely to be influenced by a feed that is visually strong and consistent. It almost gives a sense of confidence to the user and enables them to put their trust in you.
An example of an account that uses a strong filter is lifestyle influencer Nathaniel James he uses a mixture of white and cream tones against dark brown and black tones which creates a luxury and dramatic feel.
A great app we recommend is VSCO, popular amongst many users and has a vast library of filters.
There is also the option to mix your feed up with a variation of video and carousel images (uploading more than one image to a post) this encourages engagement. This variation in content theme keeps things balanced and interesting.
In December 2017 Instagram rolled out one of its most successful updates and allowed users to follow hashtags. This allowed popular posts to appear in users feeds, which in turn gave the ability to strengthen content by analysing powerful posts. If you have a clear and strong understanding of your customer you can get an idea of the type posts they are engaging with, with this information you can then analyse the type of hashtags they are using and implement them into your own posts to maximise your own visibility.
There are no set rules with hashtags, the key is to experiment and test what works for you. There are mixed opinions over whether you should you use the full maximum of 30 hashtags or only a select few. We would recommend looking at specific relevant hashtags rather than the generic ones. The hashtags that are used less common and more niche allow you to gain more visibility and tend to include more quality content. Remember we want to target the quality followers from a specific niche.
There are simple ways to test the hashtag strategy, there are many different apps that can do this for you. A popular hashtag generator programme is the Influencer Marketing Hub . The programme works by allowing you to upload your potential content and then it will generate associated keywords. You then have the ability to select the keywords you feel are most relevant, the app then generates associated hashtags. You can also see the figure against each hashtag to understand how popular each one is.
You can also conduct your own research, this could be in the form of a spreadsheet. Testing various hashtags as well as number of hashtags over a period of time against your posts can enable you to gain a clear understanding of exactly what is working and what is not.
Call To Actions
This is key to converting customers. It’s not enough to just show product, a great initiative is directing visitors to do something such as “click the link.” There are a few ways in which this can be achieved; directing a user via a feed post to a link in the bio, directing users to stories, encouraging followers to tag other users and also like and share posts. These are all ways in which you can influence a user to interact with your profile.
When creating CTA’s its important to use active language such as words or phrases such as “buy now,” “click on,” “subscribe to,” which help persuade the audience to do so.
CTA’s can be used within stories also, this is why creating a highlight is important because they stay at the top of your feed indefinitely. Other users who do not see the story within its expiry of 24 hours still have a chance to click on the highlight at a later date, thus creating more opportunity for exposure.
With all of this in mind, understanding some of the best apps that can support Instagram is a great way to improve your marketing strategy. For those who don’t have a lot of time to use Instagram during the day, or only at certain times there are certain apps that can assist in making the process easier. Apps such as Iconosquare allow you to schedule all your posts ahead of time including tags and hashtags. This also allows you to see how your posts will be laid out and make any amendments you feel will benefit your profile.
As well as scheduling, Iconosquare has built-in insights so that you can see which posts are working, analyse statistics such as engagement rate, hashtag performance and much more. This information can influence future decisions and allow you to strengthen your strategy.
IGTV was launched in June last year, it is a standalone vertical video application which allows you to record video of up to 10 minutes in length. For popular or verified users they can record up to 60 minutes of recording time. IGTV allows you to create a channel, thus integrating a Youtube style format into the Instagram platform.
This is a great way for users to post content without any interruptions, therefore allowing for a longer message to reach the customer. Although this is not yet utilised to its full potential, a lot of consumer internet traffic comes from video therefore it is a great feature to use. Now is a good opportunity to take ownership of this sector within Instagram before it becomes over used.
As the Instagram platform grows, so will its features. We can expect more changes to come therefore it is important to stay in the know. The team at Vast are always staying up to date with the latest changes and trends so that we can represent clients to the best of our ability.
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Published by: Vast Digital in Uncategorised