Today marks the 8-week anniversary of our Sticksnleaves Instagram account. In that time, I’ve posted 64 times and have gained 464 followers. This means that, on average, the Sticksnleaves account has gained 7.25 followers per post and 8.29 followers per day. It also means that I’ve posted an average of 1.14 posts per day.
Now, by no means do I profess to be an Instagram expert after only 8 weeks of managing my company’s Instagram account. I do, however, believe that I’ve learned several valuable lessons from from doing so—lessons I wish I’d known 8 weeks ago. I also believe that some or all of these lessons can and will be valuable to others who find themselves staring at the new Instagram page they just created for their company, wondering exactly how they’ll tackle yet another social media platform.
Before we move on, though, I want to address one of the questions you’re probably thinking right now: “Is Instagram really necessary for my business?”
The answer, of course, is a resounding YES. And let me tell you why.
Instagram is one of the fastest growing social media platforms. Although it’s only been around since 2010, it’s gained over 300 million users since then. Studies show that Instagram’s users are overwhelmingly young, educated, interested in shopping, and tend to check Instagram at least daily. They are also much more open to brand interactions and are more likely to engage with content.1 Need I say more?
Yet, even though it’s a necessary and important platform to add to your company’s social media portfolio, I’ve found that being active on Instagram isn’t easy. On Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, it’s almost effortless to generate content by posting a link, sharing an article, or retweeting a tweet. But on Instagram, generating content is much more involved because you’ll have to generate an image AND a caption for EVERY post.
Also, social media management platforms, like Hootsuite, aren’t actually able to post instantaneously to Instagram like they can with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. With Hootsuite, it’s possible to compose posts and schedule them, but the person in charge of the Instagram account (me, in this case) will still need to login to Instagram and post each time. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s still less seamless than using Hootsuite to post for the other social media networks.
All of that being said, let’s jump into the lessons I’ve learned thus far about Instagram.
1. Stay dedicated
As I mentioned, generating content for Instagram is a little more difficult to do than it is for the other social media networks. Therefore, it’s much easier to slack off. But don’t do this! Every day you fail to post is a day you could’ve used to gain more followers, and more followers means more exposure for your company. In order to stay on track, I highly recommend using a social media management platform, like Hootsuite. This way, you can block off a couple hours every week during which you can compose and schedule all of your posts for that week. When a post’s scheduled time arrives, Hootsuite will send a notification to your phone and will guide you into the Instagram account. Follow the prompts, hit post, and BAM—you’re done! Now you can sit back and watch the likes and new followers roll in.
2. #Hashtags, #Hashtags, and more #Hashtags
Hashtags will be your main source of exposure and new followers, so it’s important to use them strategically and generously. You should first consider which hashtags are most appropriate to your business and will most likely attract your target market. For example, Sticksnleaves is a technology development firm, and we primarily work with startups. Therefore, I hashtag things like #webdesign and #startuplife. I found even more great, popular hashtags by doing some simple Google searches, such as: “hashtags for technology firms,” “hashtags for startups,” etc.
It’s also a good idea to vary the hashtags you’re using every now and then. Instagram users tend to “troll” certain hashtags, so your Instagram account will probably reach a point when certain hashtags are no longer as effective for gaining followers. For example, consider what would happen over time if I hashtagged #startuplife on every single post. I would guess that there are a number of Instagram users who keep up with that hashtag regularly. Once I reach all of those users and get them to follow the Sticksnleaves account, the hashtag is no longer nearly as effective at gaining new users. For this reason, it’s wise to switch out some of your “go to” hashtags occasionally.
Finally, and most importantly, Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags on each post. Take advantage of this! I usually dump 20-30 great hashtags after each caption, and this has seemed to get me a lot of exposure.
3. “Like” other posts that use your main hashtags
Instagram shouldn’t just be a “one way street.” In other words, rather than just posting and waiting for users to like your posts and follow your account, you should also be an active Instagram user! In my opinion, the best way to do this is to click on each of the hashtags you’re using and go on a “liking spree” of the posts that use that hashtag. This allows you to interact with accounts in your target market and will potentially cause the accounts whose photos you’re liking to follow your account.
4. Learn from other Instagram profiles in your industry
I’ve already admitted that I’m not an Instagram expert, so I’ve basically had to learn along the way. By far, one of the best sources of learning has been from other successful Instagram accounts (AKA: accounts with thousands of followers) in Sticksnleaves’ industry (the technology development industry). So, I greatly recommend that you find a few successful accounts in your industry, observe what hashtags they’re using, how often they’re posting, and what types of content they’re posting, and then modify your Instagram strategy accordingly.
5. Take advantage of Geotagging
Geotagging is the process of assigning a geotag—a geographic location—to an image. This is an option you should definitely utilize on every Instagram post. Just like some Instagram users regularly troll hashtags, other Instagram users regularly troll geotags. So, for example, if you geotagged “Indianapolis” on one of your posts, someone who’s trolling that geotag and sees your post might like your post and follow your account. Overall, geotagging is just another way to gain as much exposure as possible.
6. Tag strategic accounts
In addition to hashtagging, it’s also possible and effective to @tag accounts so that they’ll see your post. For example, if you post an image that features a certain product, you could tag that company in your caption and potentially gain an extra like and/or follower. Being followed by a prevalent account in your industry could, potentially, be a valuable asset in the future.
7. Post as frequently as possible
When I first started the Sticksnleaves Instagram account, I assumed that posting once per day would be the most effective cadence. Posting more than once per day, I assumed, would be counterproductive because it might annoy some of my followers and cause them to unfollow my account. However, I’ve found this assumption to be false. Even if I might lose a few followers due to the frequency of my posting, the additional followers I gain from posting more than once per day greatly outweighs this loss. In general, I’ve found that the more I post, the more followers I gain. Therefore, I try to post around 2-3 times per day, and I would post even more frequently if I had more time to generate content.
8. Be consistent
Not only is it important to be consistent with the cadence at which you post, but it’s also important to be consistent with the content you post. Before starting an Instagram account, you should make a game plan: determine your goals, your target audience, and decide which types of posts will accomplish your goals and appeal to your audience. Once you start posting, stick to this plan. Your followers chose to follow you for a reason, so they might be tempted to hit the “unfollow” button if your content starts to deviate from the content that initially prompted them to follow you.
9. Hit that follow button
In order to gain a solid base of loyal followers initially, it’s usually effective to follow a bunch of accounts in hopes that they’ll follow you back. Usually, I find accounts to follow by scrolling through the accounts that have liked my previous posts and by following accounts that use my main hashtags. This way, I’m following users that likely fall into my target market, and I’m able to increase my followership when some of these accounts follow me back.
10. Post at strategic times
As you begin posting, experiment with different times of the day and pay close attention to which times of the day have a tendency to receive the most likes. For the Sticksnleaves account, I’ve found that posting anytime after 7 pm is the most effective. However, this may only be true for the technology industry, so it’s important to take the time to figure this out for your own industry.
Hopefully these suggestions have been insightful and that you’ll be able to use them to quickly gain followers for your company’s Instagram account. But, like with everything, you will most likely learn the most through trial and error, like I did. Therefore, although I would recommended keeping my advice in mind as you start your company’s Instagram account, I would still argue that the most important part of running a successful Instagram account is to be adaptable. If something’s not working, ditch it and try something else until you find something that does work well. After all, a failure is not a true failure if you learn from it. Good luck!