A cursory look at any Instagram engagement statistics will make you seriously consider this platform for your business.
Instagram’s 300 million active monthly users “like” around 2.5 billion photos and videos per day, making Instagram the undisputed King of Engagement. In fact the average post on Instagram has (as of Q1 2015) an interaction rate of 4.80, dwarfing Twitter’s 0.25 and Facebook’s 0.72.
Such high engagement has been credited to the fact photos are not language-specific (so Instagram campaigns can be rolled out globally with little need for translation); Instagram’s double-tap feature, which allows users to “like” a series of images very quickly; and, since younger people are more likely to be more active on the newer and more popular social media networks, the relatively young age of the average Instagram user (due to their parents being on, for example, Facebook!).
But, even so, it’s not always easy to see how Instagram can be used by businesses – the platform’s fairly limited functionalities may seem to place restrictions on the type of marketing campaigns it can accommodate.
The trick is to work with the platform, to take advantage of what it offers without pre-deciding how your campaign will look. Instagram actively encourages businesses to do just that with its Instagram for Business blog, which is well worth checking out.
That said, we’ve come up with three of our own essential things to keep in mind to ensure your campaign makes the most of everything that the King of Engagement has to offer.
Branding vs marketing
When it comes to Instagram, a crucial distinction to bear in mind is the difference between branding and marketing. In short, marketing lets consumers know what you do; branding tells them who you are.
In practice this means striking a good balance between fun, interesting, or socially-conscious pictures, and more explicitly business-oriented images.
The former, though not directly associated with your business’s activities, reveal your business’s personality – what you like, what you don’t, what you care about, and what you stand for. The latter can be used to promote deals and offers, let consumers know about your business’s latest developments, and generally plug your product/service.
If you flood your users’ feeds with branding pictures, you’re unlikely to see any significant financial results – it’s perceived as being too “salesy”. On the other hand, if you only post marketing images, then users are likely to get bored, irritated, and eventually unfollow you – they become immune to the “try hard to be cool or fun or relevant” images.
There’s no perfect method or formula to getting this balance right, so it’s best to monitor which posts your followers are interacting with and which they’re not, and tailor your campaign accordingly. It’s all in the name of continuous improvement and delivering content that your audience wants (i.e. that which they interact with the most)!
Hashtags Done Right
Since most social networks allow and promote the use of hashtags, they offer a fantastic way of linking your social media activities across multiple platforms, and even allow content published on one to be seen on another.
Companies understand that they are one of the easiest ways to search on Instagram (in fact a failure to use them renders content virtually private), so there tends to be more hashtags on Instagram than any other platform.
The biggest mistakes marketers make when using hashtags are using too many and making them too generic.
As a general rule, you should aim to use no more than five hashtags per post. Overloading posts with too many hashtags tends to dilute their impact and gives an impression of desperation and neediness – not good!
And you should keep hashtags fairly unique. For example, as this post is being written, 883,658,128 pictures on Instagram have been published alongside #love. So a #love post is likely to get buried pretty quickly.
For smaller organizations, it’s better to use hashtags that relate to things of local or topical interest. Larger organizations should try to create their own.
Nike uses its unique hashtag #justdoit incredibly successfully. Although bear in mind that this unique hashtag is also their world renowned tag line too…so think carefully about how your approach your own hashtag brainstorming!
Deciding how often to post is another tricky Instagram balancing act. You want to hold your audience’s attention, but you don’t want to make them feel spammed or, conversely, underwhelmed by the lack of activity!
However, research suggests that you can get away with more than you may think.
Union Metrics carried out research on 55 brands over a period of several months. On average, the brands posted 1.5 times a day. But surprisingly there was no correlation between high frequency posting and low engagement or increased negative responses.
That said, it’s worth remembering that the research was carried out on real brands with something to lose, which means that none were over-posting to a ridiculous degree; since all the brands were posting in a fairly sensible way, there’s no evidence that suggests you can post four, five, or six times a day and not lose followers.
Here are brands who understand Instagram engagement:
Republic of Tea
Republic of Tea’s Instagram account looks the part and delivers the goods. The account balances attractive pictures of Republic of Tea products with team shots and interesting posts, and keeps their audience engaged by asking them questions about their own tea preferences.
These questions are delivered in a simple, aesthetically-pleasing way, with the question actually being part of the image. This means that followers don’t miss the text, and stirs up some great online conversations.
Saint Heron, a music, culture, and arts blog, thrives on web-traffic. And one of the ways the company gets readers interested is with a neat Instagram campaign.
The company runs a textbook example of a themed Instagram account, and ties posts together with color choices, and plenty of interesting and intriguing photographs. And it’s working: with 20.5k followers, people love Saint Heron. We don’t disagree.
Visit New Orleans
Visit New Orleans, a tourist bureau, manage to keep their Instagram feed full of loads of high-quality, original content by asking people to upload their own photographs. This collaborative approach ensures that people stay engaged and interested in the account. And Visit New Orleans’ approach to Instagram means that their all of their content is organic – since so many people want to get involved, they simply cherry-pick the best photos and post them. A User Generated Content strategy at is finest!
Tracee Ellis Ross
We love unpredictable celebrities, and Tracee Ellis Ross, star of Black-ish, is just that. (But in a good way.) Many celebrities are able to use their status to make the most of Instagram’s high engagement levels – with followers pleased to just see snaps of their favorite celebs, no matter how much or how little creativity went into the post.
However Tracee Ellis Ross’s account is full of zany, left-field posts that give followers a real sense of the actor’s personality. Smiley and optimistic, Tracee’s account brightens days and showcases her passion, talent, and flare. Other celebrities: take note!
These four folks are just a few of who we consider the best businesses to follow on Instagram.
Are you using Instagram for your business? We’d love to hear your top tips on how create a great campaign and how to get followers engaging. Let us know your thoughts below.