With more than 200 million worldwide users and a growing circle of influence in younger generations, Instagram has easily become one of the most important social media platforms around. While most entrepreneurs and online brand managers spend the majority of their time and attention on the “holy trinity” of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, the sheer size of Instagram’s core audience should be enough to persuade you to at least give the platform a shot.
Instagram is unique because it has no web-hosted version. Instead, all Instagram activities are performed directly through the mobile app. For some marketers, this may be a disadvantage; it means it might be harder to collaborate on a corporate account, and you’ll have to look sharp for real-time opportunities. But it also means you’ll have more direct, immediate engagements with your audience.
Keep in mind that the key to building your search ranks and web traffic with Instagram is building your level of influence. That means earning more followers, enticing more followers to engage, and making yourself known as a major force in the Instagram community. These five strategies can help you do just that:
This is a solid strategy for almost any social platform, but it’s especially important for Instagram. The definition of an “influencer” isn’t strict, but generally, influencers have large numbers of followers and are seen as leading authorities or popular personalities in a given space. For example, you might find a noteworthy food critic in your town, or an account for one of your city’s top athletes. Identifying these influencers is your first responsibility—you can generally do this by browsing through top posts and seeing who other members of your community are following. Once you’ve identified them, start making comments on their posts, and engage them in conversation whenever possible. Over time, you’ll build a relationship with a select few influencers, and they’ll start mentioning you as much as you mention them. Then, their audience will naturally start following you, and you’ll build up your own influence by proxy.
For brands, nothing attracts attention like an Instagram contest. There are a variety of different contest options available; for example, you could have a “like”-based contest that enters everyone who “likes” a given image into a drawing for a prize package. You could also have a hashtag-related contest that does the same thing for anyone who uses a specific hashtag during the promotional period. Whenever you start a contest, be sure to think through the structure carefully. You’ll only have one shot at it, so you’ll need to be sure your prize offering and contest rules are enough to generate significant buzz. If successful, your contest will get shared explosively, and you’ll earn thousands of new followers as a result.
When it comes to hashtags, the marketing world is divided. On Twitter and Facebook, a hashtag might earn you a slightly higher chance of getting seen by a stranger who doesn’t follow you, but including too many hashtags or including hashtags the wrong way could ruin someone’s impression of your brand. On Instagram, you don’t have to worry as much. Hashtags are extremely common, and they’re pretty much the only way to expose yourself to new audiences. Just be sure that you fully understand the implications of the hashtags you’ve chosen—a bit of preliminary research can save you a lot of headaches in the event you choose something with a double meaning or something you don’t fully understand.
This is an ideal strategy if SEO is one of your main priorities. Content is the core pillar in most SEO strategies, but because of Instagram’s nature, you can’t exactly syndicate your articles in the traditional way. Instead, you’ll have to actively work to ensure your audience can freely move between your blog and Instagram profile. Embed an Instagram feed in your blog, along with accompanying live updates, and mention your blog whenever you can in your Instagram posts. Make sure your followers know what you have to offer, and let those two platforms nourish each other.
One of the best ways to build a loyal audience, especially for local businesses, is to focus on your community. Get involved with local events like tradeshows or festivals, and take pictures in and around your city to show that you’re really involved. It’s a good excuse to use city-specific hashtags, which can be especially valuable in building an initial audience, and you’ll earn the loyalty of anyone who is passionate about your region. The more events you can get involved with, the better.
With these five recurring strategies in place, you should have no problem taking your Instagram account from virtually no influence to thousands of followers. It will take some time, and significant effort on your part, but once you’ve attained that level of influence, the other benefits of the strategy will naturally follow. Your followers will be more likely to travel to your site and spread the word about your brand, and because your social influence has ballooned, you’ll also start ranking higher in search engines. Just be sure to keep your strategy up, or you run the risk of losing those followers you worked so hard to get.