Instagram is an app powerhouse that appears to be taking the world of social media by storm.

In 2015 alone, Instagram’s user based sky rocketed to over 400 million users, proving that it has the power to get your brand noticed.

Is your business taking advantage of Instagram and its 400 million followers?

When Instagram first started critics were doubtful that it would take off. Facebook and Twitter were in their glory days and no one thought that people would be interested in simply sharing images with fancy filters.

These critics were soon silenced as the social app took off and quickly started developing a strong following. Then in 2012, Facebook was threatened enough by the app that it decided to acquire the company for  a hefty 1 billion dollar price tag.

After the sale of Instagram was made, the photo sharing platform hasn’t looked back and now the company has just introduced advertising and other opportunities to brands.

You can read more about making money from Instagram and advertising your brand on Instagram here and here. But if you really want to develop a strong following and build brand awareness using the social platform that is Instagram, then you have come to the right place.

In this article we are going to share with you some epically secret tried and true techniques that are going to help you to:

1. Increase levels of engagement on your website

2. Build brand awareness

3. Increase your return of investment (ROI)

Is it possible that Instagram could help you with these three important things?

The answer is definitely yes, just take a look at what the company Foundr was able to achieve.

In just 12 months, the digital entrepreneur magazine, Foundr used Instagram to gain 400,000 followers. From these followers around 30 percent converted to their email list and nearly 30,000 followers per month successfully completed any call to actions advertised on their images.

Just like Foundr, your business can also benefit from running an effective Instagram account. In fact, we have sourced five of the most interesting and valuable statistics from Instagram that you need to know before you begin your journey with Instagram:

1. Brand Engagement Ranks Highest on Instagram Compared to Other Social Networks

In an analysis of over 3 million user interactions between consumers and brands, it was found that Facebook and Twitter had an engagement rate of around 0.1 percent.

Instagram posts however, had an engagement rate of 4.21 percent, proving that fans are 58 times more engaged when looking at Instagram as they are compared to social media juggernauts Facebook and Twitter.

To see this in action, a campaign posted by Red Bull on Facebook received around 20,000 likes from 45 million followers, whereas on Instagram the same image was liked 70,000 times from just 2.2 million followers.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that your images won’t perform well on Facebook or Twitter, but it seems that when it comes to engagement, Instagram fans seem to be the ones paying the most attention.

This may be because it is easier for users to scroll through images rather than Facebook and Twitter where they are bombarded with a range of different content types.

2. 50 Percent of Comments Posted on Instagram Happen in Just Six Hours

It has been analysed that brands posting on Instagram receive the most comments within the first six hours of posting their image. After that time frame however, followers are less likely to comment on or like an image.

On average, it was found that top brands received 50 percent of their comments within the first six hours and 75 percent of their comments within the first 48 hours.

However, the study also found that high performing posts could go on to gain more comments and likes even 50 hours after they were posted.

This means that when it comes to posting on Instagram, quality is often better than quantity. It also means that posting during high traffic times of the day is going to yield better results than posting at low traffic times.

3. Mentions or Tags Receive 56 Percent More User Engagement

The average caption on Instagram is 138 characters long including hashtags, however brands that tagged or used @mentions were more likely to engage users and result in more followers.

Using @mentions on Instagram works similar to tagging users on Twitter or even Facebook, but on Instagram if you abuse the privilege it could lead to an account suspension or deactivation. Therefore, it is important to engage and use @mentions on Instagram appropriately.

Consider using them to reach out to loyal fans, industry experts or when quoting leaders in your field.

4. Adding a Location Results in 79 Percent Higher Engagement

Instagram allows you to tag the location that your photo was taken in, which gives users another opportunity to discover your content.

Research also found that posts tagged with a location received 79 percent higher engagement. This is likely due to the fact that many users tend to search images based on location.

The good news about this strategy is that many brands are yet to adopt this feature. It is estimated that out of 6,075 Instagram posts, only 307 had their location tagged.

With this tidbit of information, your brand could be a leader when it comes to location tagging and dominate in a particular region. This is particularly beneficial if you are a local run business that relies on attracting local customers.

5. Image Features and Colours Play a Role in Engagement

Here are the features from some of the highest performing Instagram posts. These statistics were collected across 8 million images.

  • Increased lightness and brightness generates 24 percent more likes than darker or shadowy images
  • Photos with lots of background space generate 29 percent more likes than those with less background space
  • Photos featuring blue as the dominant colour received 24 percent more likes than photos featuring red as the dominant colour
  • A single dominant colour generates 17 percent more likes than photos that contain multiple dominant colours
  • Images with a high texture level generate 79 percent more likes than images with a lower texture level
  • Images with low saturation generate 18 percent more likes than those with a higher saturation or stronger colours
  • Duck faced selfies (yes, that is a thing) generate a whopping 1112% more likes than traditional selfies

Of course, there is no ultimate recipe for success when it comes to what photos are going to perform the best, however these statistics paint an interesting guide on the types of photos may do well on the platform.

Understanding the key statistics from Instagram is crucial to crafting your marketing plan however, to take the hard work out of the process we have sourced some clever and tactical ways you can use Instagram to build your business.

These tactics have been used  by many companies with huge results and we are going to take you through four of the most epic ones around:

1. Strategic Partnerships – Both Unpaid and Paid

One of the biggest hurdles with starting out on Instagram is getting enough followers. In fact, most marketers will shy away from starting an Instagram account because they are uncertain of how to get a large number of followers in a short period of time without spending hours on the platform each day.

The good news is that there are a few ways you can develop a strong following quickly and easily by using strategic partnerships.

To do this, simply create a list of Instagram accounts that already reach out to your target audience. Once you have found similar accounts you have three choices of how to proceed:

a.) Start following your target audience back and liking their images. The more active you can be with your fans the more likely they are to respond and follow you back. Just make sure that before using this tactic that you have a decent number (around 10 or so) of images posted so that your users have something to resonate with and something to like.

b.) Reach out to your fellow brands and ask them for a “share for a share”.  This involves sharing your fellow brands content on your feed in exchange for them sharing your content on theirs. This allows both brands to reach a wider audience and get more exposure. To do this strategy effectively, reach out to complimenting rather than competing businesses.

c.) If you are struggling to find brands to promote your business for free, you may have to resort to a paid shout out which requires you to make a small investment in order to get featured on another Instagram account. This strategy can be highly effective if you are just starting out and are short on time. It also need not be too expensive. On average you should be able to receive some decent shout-outs for around $50-100 per week.

2. Convert Followers to Subscribers and Build Your Email List 

Email lists are a marketers best friend and is the best way to get your subscribers converting into paying customers. At present, Instagram doesn’t have a buy now feature like some other social media platforms, so getting your audience over to your webpage or landing page is the only chance you’ve got in order to make a return on your investment.

To further add road blocks to getting followers to your products, Instagram only allows you to have one link in the bio section of your account.

Even though the odds may sound slim, most Instagram followers are ready, willing and happy to click on your call to actions as long as your images are engaging and thought-provoking.

To get a high conversion rate on Instagram, the secret lies within your biography and making sure that your call to action is both memorable and enticing.

It is also important that the link you redirect your users to is packed with value and contains a lot of information relevant to your target audience.

A good example of this in action comes from Foundr, who wrote this in their bio:

“Young Entrepreneur Magazine: Digital Magazine for Entrepreneurs and Startup Founders. For Mobile & Tablet on Apple & Android. Get our FREE Instagram Marketing 101 Issue.”

This clever bio not only highlighted what the company was about, but also offered instant value to their potential customers. Once users clicked on the link, they were also taken to a page where not one, but two PDF’s were offered on the topic.

Then all users had to do to unlock the content was enter in their email address and poof, just like that they became part of the Foundr marketing and sales funnel.

From this strategy, Foundr were able to convert at least 30 percent of their followers over to their email list, helping to boost sales and profits.

3. Create Share Worthy Content Using Beautiful Imagery and Text

Remember, Instagram is popular because it is about creating. It is about creating beautiful moments in time of objects, people, places and things and in order for your content to be engaging and effective, it must adopt this philosophy.

This means that your content needs to be not only beautiful but it should also resonate with your audience and give them motivation to share and interact with your brand. This is really the key that is going to help you grow your brand on Instagram.

Creating content that is share worthy is definitely a science and an art all rolled into one, but we have studied some techniques that you may find helpful.

Firstly, from studying countless Instagram images that have performed well and not so well on the platform, it has been discovered that there are two main elements that make the most impact:

1. Imagery

2. Text

It seems obvious, but having a combination of imagery and text as well as just text and images on their own, seems to stir emotions and delivers a somewhat of a story to your audience. This helps your images to be more engaging and drives sharing and commenting.

When it comes to creating beautiful images, think about colours, compositions and the different filters you may want to use. Statistics show that the ‘Mayfair’ filter seems to perform the best in terms of engagement, but this will depend on the image itself and what your audience is drawn to.

When it comes to creating beautiful text, consider using bold and easy to read texts that are also aesthetically pleasing. You may also want to consider purchasing fonts or calligraphy from a service like Creative Market to help enhance the visual appeal.

If you want to really make an impact, consider also making your own image quotes where you combine text and images using your logo. This helps to not only build brand awareness but it may also result in an increase in shares and likes.

4. Build A Community of Engaged Followers Who Actually Like Your Brand

Sure, you can pay someone on Fiverr to generate a instant flow of followers, but if you really want your Instagram marketing strategy to pay off in the long run, you must go in search of fans who actually like your brand and are interested in what you have to offer.

In order to build a community that is responsive to your brand you must go deeper than just targeting the right audience. Of course, having the right audience helps but you must also integrate these three factors:

1. Posting when your users are most active 

Posting when your users are most active is something that may take a little trial and error to determine. Statistics show that Instagram users are most engaged on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s, however this may be different for your brand and your demographic.

Instagram is also not yet integrated with popular social media management tools like Hootsuite, so you may have to manually sign on to your account and post from there at different times in order to test things out.

Over time you will begin to determine the best times and days to post what type of content and this will help you to increase engagement, likes, followers, shares and comments.

2. Asking for engagement 

If you don’t ask, you’ll never know….and the same applies to social media. If you don’t ask your followers to share your images or click on your link in the bio it may never happen. Statistics have also proven that brands that ask their fans to follow, share or click are more likely to do so, especially if they have respect for the brand.

Building respect means that you don’t ask your fans every day to carry through an action and building respect also means that you work on rewarding your followers as well. However, if you introduce a call to action slowly over the course of a few weeks you may find it works to increase engagement.

You can also take this a step further by asking your fans to tag someone who may benefit from the post.

For example, Foundr posted an image that read “Tag Someone You Know Who Will Be Very Successful”. 

This image resulted in over 2,000 likes and even more comments in just 9 weeks, proving that when asked to do something, followers generally will respond.

3. Use appropriate hashtags

Hashtags are a great way for users to find your images and allows them the opportunity to resonate with your brand and what you stand for.

Hashtags are also a great way to get your company on the radar, especially if you take advantage of trending hashtags. An example of this is the hashtag #MotivationMonday which is continually a trending hashtag every Monday of the week.

By posting an appropriate image and using the hashtag, you can help reach a wider range of followers and help to increase the engagement and activity on your account.

The same goes for the always popular #TBT or “Throw Back Thursday” which is constantly a trending hashtag on Instagram every week.

When you start to learn these popular hashtags you can use them to your advantage and help increase your following and brand awareness. Of course, you must ensure that the hashtag and image is appropriate for your business and brand.

When you are first starting out especially, aim to include at least 5-7 hashtags in your comment section in order to get your posts circulating to your desired audience.

Now that you have been through ways to build your brand using Instagram, here is your 20 step-checklist or summary with getting started on Instagram:

  1. Get acquainted with the platform and learn how to use it
  2. Create a strong biography and include your company logo and landing page
  3. Share images of your business and products as well as fun images and quotes
  4. Experiment with sharing images, text and images with text
  5. Experiment with using different filters and colour schemes in your images
  6. Experiment with posting creative and emotive images that tell a story
  7. Cultivate a following by connecting your Facebook account, using relevant hashtags and liking others images
  8. Find your target audience by viewing similar accounts and brands on Instagram
  9. Follow your target audience members and comment, like and share their images
  10. Follow your followers back
  11. Reach out to complimentary brands and network for a “share for a share”
  12. Reach out to paid sources in order to advertise or share your content to a wider audience
  13. Post when your audience is most active by experimenting with different days and times
  14. Don’t be afraid to ask users to follow, share or tag a friend
  15. Network on Instagram by engaging, following and commenting back
  16. Optimise your profile and ensure that your bio includes something of value to your audience
  17. Reward followers using competitions, giveaways, shoutouts etc.
  18. Tag the location of your images for higher engagement
  19. Use industry appropriate and trending hashtags
  20. Use @mentions to drive engagement and tag specific followers

Instagram is a highly effective tool that your business should definitely be taking advantage of. Using the tools outlined above, you should now be well and truly on your way to creating an Instagram account that is going to help promote your brand and your vision.

If you have any questions or would like to chat with us about using Instagram as an effective form of social media marketing, feel free to contact us here.