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Instagram, what is it good for? Well, when you work in a visual market, quite a lot. However, making the most of this social media platform isn’t as simple as popping some pictures on your grid and hoping for the best. It’s about building and engaging with your community. How? Let’s start with the basics….

What is Instagram anyway?

A social media channel where people post pictures of cats and what they’ve eaten for lunch, mostly. It’s also a platform for all things visual, where you can share pictures and videos with your followers. You can get personal and business accounts, make sure yours is a business account so you can take advantage of analytics and paid advertising features. 

There are three sections of Instagram…

The Grid

This is your gallery. This is where you hang the pictures that you want people to browse. Keep it beautiful, keep it clean. Some of the best grids have themes that run through them, they’re well planned out and considered. 

Stories  

If the grid is your gallery then stories can be your workshop. It’s where you can play around a little more. Images and videos only live here for 24 hours (unless you add them as a highlight to your profile) so you can afford to be a bit more devil may care with what your posting.

IGTV 

A relatively new feature from Instagram, this allows you to post videos longer than a minute. You can add a clip to your grid to draw people to the longer video. (Note, as this is a new feature Instagram are super keen for people to use it, so they’re pushing these posts higher in people’s feeds. So use it!) 

What shall I post?

This is a hard one to nail down definitely in one article. However, start by thinking about what you want to achieve and which section of Instagram you’re going to post to. Depending on whether you are working from a business account or a personal one, the same type of content generates the most engagement (in most cases). 

Some of the most liked posts on Instagram are dogs. No seriously, they get crazy engagement. If you’ve got a dog, use it and if you’re a business, invite dog owners to your restaurant, bar or shop and watch your likes climb up!

If you’re posting to the grid then make sure the photos and videos are as beautiful as they can be. Add good descriptions of what people are seeing. New artwork? Explain why you like it, why you’ve chosen it. Who is it by? Make sure you’ve tagged all the relevant people (seriously, don’t forget to do that as people go crazy on Instagram if you don’t give them credit) and make use of hashtags (more detail on these in a bit).

If you’re posting to stories then you really can post whatever you like, but for your business consider using them for the behind the scenes stuff. Maybe some new equipment in action, or a video of new mouldings being unwrapped? As with the grid, you can tag other Instagram users here, you can also use hashtags, add music, images and gifs. People tend to be a little more humourous with their stories, it might not be right for your business but try to relax the tone here at least a little.

If you’re going on IGTV (and you should) think of longer video content you can share. Perhaps a demonstration of how a dish is made, or a behind the scenes of a new menu. You can still use hashtags and tag users here to maximise visibility and engagement. 

Promoting your Instagram Channel – Great Content is Only the Start

So, you start producing beautiful content for Instagram. Your grid looks amazing, your stories are engaging and your IGTV channel is packed with great videos – but nobody is responding to it. You’re basically pushing it out to nobody, what do you do? Well, a few things…

Use Hashtags

A hashtag on Instagram is THE most important tool to categorise content, make it searchable and add it to the public feed (plus people can follow hashtags they like in their feed without following the account – which means they can become a powerful tool for you.) If your posts are very engaging they will appear in the top nine images when someone searches for a hashtag.

So, when adding to the grid make sure you use hashtags that make sense to that image and your business. #Bristolfood #Bristoldrink etc. Try to also include hashtags that are more niche so you are more likely to appear in the top nine for example; #foodanddrinkphotography #Bristolwhiskybar. 

You can use hashtags on stories too but limit it to one or two and these are less likely to appear in the top nine. Treat IGTV is like the grid.

Engage with Relevant Accounts

Instagram isn’t just about going “here’s my stuff, like it” you’ve also got to engage with your audience and community. So, go and follow accounts you like or accounts that make sense to your business; suppliers, artists, local businesses etc and then engage with their content. Go like a picture they’ve posted and comment on it –  in turn, people will then start to be aware of you and engage with yours.. 

Respond to your Community

As your community starts to grow so will your engagement, make sure you don’t ignore them. If someone comments on your picture then make sure you respond. This will increase engagement in the long run. If it’s something negative (and this is rarer for business accounts on Instagram than it is for personal ones) then deal with it by taking it offline, ask then to DM (Direct Message) their email so you can handle it appropriately. Do not start a fight on social media, there’s very rarely a good outcome from it.   

Follow Relevant Hashtags

As mentioned above, people can follow hashtags and so can you. They often throw out some great content that you can learn from and engage with- so do. Maybe there’s one local to you? Or one for your niche? Perhaps your customers are using one which you can keep an eye on?

How Do I Manage all of this?

This seems like a lot of work, and in truth, it is when you’ve got a lot of other things to do. However, with a little planning, it doesn’t have to be a complete nightmare to handle. 

  • Try to post at least three images to your grid a week. Our phones are pretty handy these days and can take some beautiful shots. The new iPhones are insanely good. 
  • Post to stories as often as you want, as you get into it you’ll get more used to doing it. 
  • Do an IGTV video once a month. You can do this on your phone again, it doesn’t have to be a blockbuster, just make sure it’s useful, informative or interesting. 
  • Manage your community twice a day, don’t chain yourself to your phone. Look at Instagram once in the morning and once in the evening to respond and engage with your community.
  • Or, just get someone else to do it. You will most likely still have to provide photos and videos, nobody will be able to take it completely off your hands, but Instagram isn’t for everyone.