In 2011, Instagram was still a burgeoning social network had fewer than 5 million users and was still largely untapped as a marketing channel for many small and big brands. Two years later, Instagram has over 80 million users, has been acquired by Facebook and 40% of the Interbrand 100 are now using the service for social media marketing.
It probably comes as no surprise that many of the top brands on Instagram are the same ones who are extremely active on other social channels, and were early adopters of the photo network. MTV, Starbucks, Burberry and Nike are the top 4 brands on Instagram, all with more than 300,000 followers and high engagement rates.
But, for those smaller businesses and brands just starting to use Instagram as a marketing channel, you may be left wondering how you can increase exposure of your brand’s Insatrgam account, gain followers and increase engagement rates. Here are 7 tips to help you get started on the path to Instagram success:
1. Use Hashtags Effectively
Hashtags can be an incredibly effective way to expose your content and account to a much wider audience than those who already follow you. The guidelines for using hashtags on Instagram follow many of the same principles as on Twitter. Read my post “12 Tips for Effective Twitter Hashtag Marketing” for a more in-depth look at how to best use hashtags to your marketing advantage.
You can use hashtags on your Instagram account in every post you make. Here are a few different ways you can use hashtags to help promote your business Instagram account:
Use hashtags in your username
One strategy is to include hashtags in your username or profile description. By placing a hashtag preceding your username, every single photo you post will automatically include that hashtag.
This enables any user interested in your pictures to easily find them with one single search and also eliminate the need of scrolling through all the pictures your user profile.
Add hashtags to your photo description
Add a name or a description to each one of your pictures, and include relevant and appropriate hashtags.
Example: “Our new 2012 #bicycle model. #SF #SanFrancisco”
The idea here is not to tag every single word, the most relevant and important.
In that vein, you should also think about where you took that picture and whether it’s relevant. Like in the above example, if you are a local bicycle shop, it probably makes sense to tag your photos with the location of the photo.
Comment on other photos with hashtags
If there is a hashtag you are regularly using on your business Instagram hashtag, it can be wise to spend time commenting on relevant photos from other Instagram users with your same hashtag. Make interesting, relevant and non-spammy comments and include hashtags where appropriate.
This will make it easier for users that are looking for pictures or people with these keywords to find what they are looking for.
Create or use a hashtag for an event
If you are attending a conference or event (or hosting one) a great way to gain additional exposure for your photos and Instagram account is by either creating or using an existing hashtag for that event.
For example, if you are Insgramming shots from the latest SMX search marketing conference, make sure you tag those photos with #smx2013.
Use hashtags to promote contests
Many brands use hashtags in order to promote their own contests and campaigns. Not only does this help your account gain more exposure to a wider audience, it also helps to engage your audience and drive user-generated content.
For example, Mission Bicycles in San Francisco (who made my list for 12 Brands to Follow on Instagram) recently ran a campaign on Instagram soliciting user photos with the hashtag #misssionbicyle and #20mission12. The winner of the contest had the opportunity to win a $100 gift card.
2. Engage with Your Community
This is a theme in social media marketing that applies to multiple channels and platforms, but engaging with your community is a great and almost instant way to increase your exposure, gain followers and gather important marketing insights.
Spend some time browsing Instagram to see what people not only in your industry are posting, but also what your customers and competitors are posting. See what photos they engage with, who they follow, and which photos they like and comment on.
Find people you consider might be your key demographic and start to engage with them. Like and comment on their photos. If they are interested in what you do (or what your company offers), they will be likely to engage back and follow your account.
3. Post Photos across Your Social Media Channels
There’s a reason Instagram has seen such a meteoric rise in the last two years. It turns out people LOVE visual social content, and there have been numerous studies showing photos are some of the best ways to engage your audience on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ Pinterest and many other social media platforms.
Sharing your Instagram shots across your other social media channels is not only a great way to expose the fact that your company also has an Instagram account they should follow, but can help boost engagement with the fans and followers you already have on those channels.
4. Aggregate/Curate Photos and Display Them on Your Website
Here at Postano, we’ve long espoused the benefits of integrating social media into your website, and incorporating user-generated content into your marketing strategy. Using Postano, you can easily accomplish both of these things. Postano gives you the ability to pull Instagram shots from both your own account and based on a hashtag and display the live feed on your website.
Displaying Instagram on your website is a great way to tie your social media efforts into part of a cohesive digital strategy, as well as promote your Instagram account and get more follows, likes and comments.
>>Read more about how to aggregate, embed and display Instagram photos on your website
5. Promote Your Instagram Handle
This seems fairly obvious, but a great way to get more exposure on your Instagram account is to make sure you are promoting the fact that you are on Instagram and what your handle is, so people can find you.
AddThis, a company that makes social plugins for brands and publishers, has an Instagram follow button for websites you can easily add in minutes. You can also write a blog post about your Instagram presence, tweet out the news, post to Facebook, create a pin on Pinterest and more to get out the news that your brand or company is now Instagramming away.
6. Participate in Community Events or Promotions
Contests and promotions are a great way to get people excited and talking about your business and/or brand. Plus, when done right, they can encourage word of mouth marketing, serve as a way to give back to your fans, followers and customers, as well as add followers, fans and brand advocates.
Contests also allow you to source great user-generated content, allowing your fans and followers to do the content creation for you.
>>For some specific examples, read about excellent user-generated campaigns in our post “8 Great Instagram Brand Campaigns” or find out more about the “5 Best Social Media Campaigns with User-Generated Content.”
7. Display Instagram Photos at Live Events
Social media has become an integrated and integral part of any big event – whether it’s an industry conference, music festival, wedding or football game. And, if you’ve visited our blog before, you’ve probably read about how social media displays for events can be a great way to energize the crowd, source user-generated content, and encourage people to and Instagram away.
While Instagram tends to be one of the go-to mobile social networks for engaging online while attending that rock show, conference panel or other event, there are few services out there (besides Postano) that allow you to aggregate content from Twitter and Instagram and display it as an attractive live feed – either on your website, or as a stand alone display.