Over the last three years, Instagram has evolved from a place to post photos of your food to a powerful driver of business for some of the biggest brands in the world. Adoption among internet users and businesses has exploded and, unlike on most other social networks, people tend to fill their Instagram feeds with brand content. In fact, according to Forrester, Instagram has the highest engagement rates between brands and customers compared to other major social networks.
A social network where people actually want businesses to get involved sounds like a dream come true, but don’t take that openness for granted. Your fans expect you to treat Instagram just like they would: filling your feed with beautiful images, commenting on the photos of others, and generally being engaging.
If you’re not sure how to engage your audience beyond likes and comments, we’ve gathered a handful of other methods to really make an impression on Instagram.
1. Use influencers
If you’re looking to increase your visibility, consider reaching out to other influential Instagram users and accounts. These days, social media influencers are like modern-day celebrities. Collaborating with influencers will help increase your reach, brand awareness, and show people that you’re paying attention to trends.
One of the more important aspects of successfully partnering with influencers is choosing people that are the right fit for your brand. Keeping in mind who your audience is, you want to find influencers who have more than just a big following; you want to find the influencers who have the right following. The best influencers for your Instagram marketing strategy will be the people who resonate with your target audience and drive engagement amongst that community.
Reaching a large community is only valuable if you’re also able to create solid engagement. Look beyond follower numbers and hone in on influencers who drive a huge amount of interactions. Partnering with those who are already creating high engagement means that you will be able to be part of a conversation, instead of trying to take one over or start your own from scratch.
2. Use Regramming
One of the most powerful ways to engage your Instagram followers is to turn to them for user-generated content. Regramming—the practice of posting a photo from someone else’s Instagram account to your own, along with appropriate credit—is one of the easiest and most effective means of engaging your audience. The photo’s creator gets a personal shout-out from a brand and increased exposure through their network. As a brand, you prove to your audience that you’re paying attention to them, and are willing to share their content.
If one of your favorite brands likes your photo enough to actually share it on their feed, that’s something most people will get excited about. It creates a sort of mutually beneficial relationship, and can turn a casual fan into an ambassador for your brand. Plus, it helps you fill your feed with great photos while saving you the time it would take to go out and shoot them yourself.
Seeing these Regrammed photos will likely prompt your other fans to start sharing more, ideally creating a cycle of available user generated content (UGC) for you to use. But how do you encourage fans to share their photos with you in the first place?
Some tips for attracting UGC on Instagram include:
- Having a compelling branded hashtag that encourages user contributions
- Organizing a photo contest through Instagram
- Staying on top of your tagged images
- Encouraging photo submissions during branded live events
3. Use your captions to prompt discussion
Far too many brands treat the Instagram caption as an afterthought. Yes, Instagram is a visual social network and the photos matter most, but your caption is valuable real estate that you can use to prompt further engagement.
A good caption, believe it or not, probably won’t be just a few words. The best Instagrammers in the world tend to tell a story, ask a question or use fun hashtags or emojis. Spending time carefully crafting the perfect caption will bring your image to life and help your followers relate to you and your content.
Find a consistent voice. Make your life easier by coming up with some soft guidelines, such as adding a date or timestamp, or posting fitting lyrics. Are you a storyteller who writes a paragraph or do you like to use share prompts that encourage your followers to do the talking? Finding your personal voice is important and will help you when dealing with writer’s block in the future.
There is a lot going on in this photo.. I usually aim for simplicity in pictures but I love how this really tells a story of what it was like to be there. (if I could only figure out a way to describe the smell you would get the full picture) I shot this in Kanyakumari India in 2012 . We were on this kinda exploratory surf mission for Surfer Magazine looking for waves all across the southern tip of the country. The beach was always full of activity a truly vibrant and colorful scene, tons of people were worshipping and getting ready for the day's work. Fisherman laying out nets and prepping boats, families getting food and water and last but not least.. the beach was always the public restroom. Let's just say it wasn't uncommon to see something odd floating by you in the water. # The waves were really good this morning so we surfed. It was normal for a few people to stop and watch as they surfed… But this time the entire village seemed to gather. Every time someone would do an air fists would get raised and people would hoot and holler, It was a really good excuse to take a step back and shoot a frame that really captured everything that was going on. It was this short experience for me that I knew I may never see again. When I saw it in the archives it reminded me why I love photography. @craig__anderson @_warrensmith_ @surfer_magazine @dillonperillo_
4. Participate in your comment threads
Monitoring what your followers are saying about the photos you post, both positive and negative is a big part of engaging your audience. Thank people for kind comments, or for tagging their friends. Actually respond to comments where people ask you questions about the photo, or about your business.
By taking the time to acknowledge them, you prove that you care about what they have to say. It doesn’t take long, but responding to comments, questions, and concerns that pop up in your Instagram feeds also creates strong brand loyalty and shows that there is a real person behind the images.
5. Run contests and campaigns
Hosting a contest can build some serious excitement around your business or brand. Instagram actually makes it pretty easy to run quick contests that will build your following and increase engagement. The only limitations are your own creativity. Think about what you’re trying to get out of a contest and then consider your options.
Here are a few different types of contests you might want to consider:
Like contests are one of the easiest to host. These simply ask users to like your photos in order to enter a contest for a prize of your choosing.
Comment contests ask followers to do slightly more work, by commenting on your photo in order to enter the contest. These contests are often framed as “tell us why you want to win this prize” or “tag three of your friends.” Asking your followers to comment or tag other Instagram users will provide you with awesome feedback as well as direct new traffic to your business’s Instagram account.
Regram contests ask those users who want to enter your contest to Regram an image, tagging your business or branded account. This way, an image of your choosing will be shared with not only your followers, but the followers of your followers. #followerception.
Photo challenge contests are a really popular type of Instagram contest. They tell users who want to enter to post one of their own photos on their personal accounts, using specific hashtags. This past summer, men’s underwear company MyPakage held an Instagram contest asking their followers to share photos using the hashtag #permissiontoplay. They explained that they were granting permissions “… to get out of class, permission to complete life goals, permission to leave your daily routine… Permission To Play.” Soon, the contest gained speed as followers (new and old) shared photos of “getting out there and being awesome.” Even after the contest ended, Instagram users have continued to use the hashtag, which has garnered over 7,200 posts.
Engage your audience on Instagram by using Hootsuite to schedule posts, monitor mentions, run contests, and more.