In the age of social media, a barrage of images, texts, and ads constantly bombard us as soon as your mobile app opens on your phone. A recent study by mobileinsurance.com has revealed that the average person spends 90 minutes a day on their phone. If you are an entrepreneur, small business owner, or someone who is balling on a limited budget, starting to grow your brand’s online presence can be overwhelming. With the internet being accessible to the majority of our population everyone is trying to “make it” or “fake it until you make it”. We have seen brands blow up overnight due to the right marketing and PR, as well as internet celebrities becoming the new major influencers in our modern society, all thanks to social media. Younger generations are ditching traditional ways of marketing and are coming up with free ways to push their products & brands on social media. Here are a few unconventional tips for growing your business or brand using Instagram.
What do I post?
Content is king on Instagram and the more rich imagery and creative pictures you can post the better. Posting at least once a day if possible will favor you in Instagram’s eyes. The algorithm is designed to give accounts that post often significantly more exposure and impressions on their platform, as opposed to accounts that post once a month for example. Conveying emotion through your pictures and letting users digest the entirety of your brand through a single picture is a powerful thing. Being consistent with your posts is crucial for defining a cohesive brand image on Instagram. If you post images of product shots try to use a similar camera angle for every picture on your feed.
You can also use color themes that carry through multiple posts to string your pictures together so that they complement each other when they appear next to each other on your Instagram page. Think of your Instagram page feed as a story, where each post is a different chapter. Most of the Instagram pages you will see with large amounts of followers do a great job at keeping their imagery cohesive and people recognize that whether consciously or subconsciously. See picture below for example.
When do I post?
There are many different strategies online that will tell you what day of the week and what time each day will cause the most engagement on your posts. In the long run, the best times to post depend mostly on your audience and their behavior habits. For instance, if your followers are mostly high school students, posting at 2 pm may not be the best time because most of your followers will be in class. Posting at 4 pm may be ideal as kids hop on the bus for their ride home, or noon when everyone stares at their phones during lunch hour. A large majority of people check their phones first thing in the morning so many accounts tend to post before people head to work. The same goes for after work as Instagram users check their accounts on the train or on their commute home. Feel free to experiment and document your findings on what works best for you. Once you get into a rhythm of posting you should be able to notice some trends on what times and days led to the highest engagement.
I have a great product but no advertising budget. What do I do?
So you have put your blood, sweat, and tears into a product or service and want people to discover it, Instagram can be the perfect place to unleash the beast.
When someone buys one of your products and posts it on their profile they may tag you in the picture or use your branded hashtag, this is known as user-generated content. If you repost that picture it shows your followers how happy your customer was and will make them realize that they felt connected enough with your brand to show it off on their account. Sometimes a natural picture taken from a smartphone or selfie can be refreshing and more real as compared to the studio shots you took that were heavily edited in Photoshop. This organic feel and look can trigger people to identify and buy into your brand compared to the overly edited posts that can look like ads.
Chicago based streetwear brand, Cryptic Apparel, finds that user-generated content often outperforms their own pictures that were shot professionally in the studio. Users tend to enjoy seeing the average person’s take on the brand, which can show how people incorporate the brands’ shirts and hats into their outfits. It also shows a sense of community and shows people that the brand is trying to connect on a personal level with their followers.
A user-generated picture used by @CrypticApparel
Using the Power of the Influencer
In the world of Instagram, the term “influencer” means that you have over 10k followers. If you have under 10k followers but still get high engagement on posts and have a loyal following of active users, you may be deemed as a “micro influencer”. The voice of the influencer is defiantly heard on Instagram. People tend to take advice from influencers to heart on Instagram whether it’s coming from a professional athlete, your favorite actor on Netflix, or the hottest new rapper. Sending these people your product to promote on their Instagram pages can be a game changer. If you send one of your handmade bracelets to a fashion blogger celebrity and she takes a picture with it and gives you a shout out you may see a swarm of new followers immediately after. Forming relationships with influencers can be tricky as many can be too well known to work with smaller brands.
Paying to play is also common with influencer marketing as you pay the desired person money to endorse your brand or product. If you are a smaller brand who will have a hard time getting Kanye West to reply to your DM’s, try going for several micro influencer accounts. Selecting 5 – 10 people who have a following of 5k or more may be more willing to work with you (compared to bigger influencers) if they think you have a cool brand or product. If they want you to pay them make sure to inquire about how many people see their Instagram story, their account demographics, and an estimate of how many likes and comments those dollars will get you when they post your content.
Hopefully, these simple DIY Instagram tips will help you grow your following in noticeable ways. Always remember the odds are stacked against you for overnight success, so being patient, persistent, and experiment with different strategies is completely ok and normal. As long as you are doing what you love your followers don’t matter, but having some bragging rights never hurts!