One of the most important aspects of branding in today’s social media-driven environment is creating a brand culture and then using that culture to engage with your customers. One of the simplest and most effective ways to accomplish this is with Instagram. With over 300 million monthly users (and counting), Instagram has surpassed Twitter in number of users and has significantly higher engagement rates.

The important thing to remember, and we’ll discuss this more below, is that Instagram works best when you can create a brand image that people enjoy and want to follow as opposed to using sales pitchy and conversion driven messages. The trick is to appeal to your customers without selling to them.

 

Setting Up Your Account

Creating your Instagram bio is a fairly simple affair, and there are a few things you can do to make it effective. First, it’s important to have a consistent and recognizable name and profile image. All of your interactions and posts on Instagram will be accompanied by these two elements, and the key is to stay recognizable.

Be sure to put a clickable link in your bio. This is the one place on Instagram that you can link to someplace else, so take advantage of it and give your followers the opportunity to click through to your website or landing page. Also, make sure to keep your bio lighthearted and fun. No salesman stuff here. You’re not going to create a conversion with it, so make sure it says something that helps your potential followers know who you are and what you do, and take this opportunity to show your brand’s personality.

 

Avoid Hard Selling To The Social Culture of Instagram

Instagram is about creating a vibe for your brand and interacting with your followers. The most important thing here is establishing the relationship. The social nature of Instagram works to target the more intangible aspects of online marketing. Buyer loyalty, brand equity, and lifetime user value are paramount. The associations of your brand and the community are just as important as your products or service offering. Make your customers come to you, not the other way around!

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American Apparel is one example of a company that does a great job using patterns and color to create eye-catching posts.

 

Use Creative, Professional-Looking Photos

Once again, Instagram is a social marketplace that can direct traffic that can eventually turn into sales. The way to do that is to post photos that are unique, attention grabbing, and show your brand’s personality. Make sure to avoid posting any photos that are blurry or oddly cropped, which can be tricky, as Instagram posts are confined to a 612×612 pixel square. To keep photos sharp, use Photoshop (or a similar photo editing tool) to crop photos to a 1024×1024 square, and then upload. If the square is too confining for you, there are apps available such as InstaSize and Squaready that allow you to keep photos in their rectangular dimensions.

Keep in mind that it’s important to stand out. Users will be scrolling through dozens, even hundreds of photos in any given viewing, and the available editing tools are a great way to keep your photos from just being scrolled over. For example, according to one study by TrackMaven, the Mayfair filter attracts the most interactions per 1,000 followers, on average. Also, lighter, brighter images attract 24% more likes than darker images. You can also play with colors and patterns to help your posts stand out. Photos with one dominant color can often be more eye-catching and engaging than those with many, for example.

Include Hashtags to Widen Your Discoverability

To be engaging, you must first be found, and hashtags are a great way to accomplish that. Users will often search for hashtagged photos when they are after a certain subject or mood. These hashtags can also increase the shelf life of your posts.

When creating a post, brainstorm keywords and phrases relevant to your brand. Think about what’s trending and popular at the moment and try to incorporate elements of those things. You can also create your own hashtag, unique to your brand, and encourage users to use that hashtag when they purchase or consume your product or service. That will allow you to find your customers and repost and interact with them. Followers will then visit your feed more often to see if they can find photos of themselves or their friends. Be careful about using too many hashtags, though. Any more than 5 and you’ll start to look a bit salesy.

 

Post Consistently, But Not Too Much

To be effective, you’ll want to stay engaged and be producing a steady amount of content, but you don’t want to drive your followers away by overloading their feeds. The most successful companies post around 4-6 times each week, and actively reply to and interact with their followers. Don’t make it a one way street! Use your captions to ask your followers questions like “New shirts now available! Which one is your favorite?” This opens the floor for engagement, and you may even learn something about your product that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

You can also use scheduling apps to save you some time on Instagram. Apps like Schedugram and Latergram will allow you to queue posts when you have the time, and you can then schedule their release as you please.

 

Most Importantly, Have Fun!

The best way to resonate with the audience Instagram provides is to stay lighthearted and have fun with it. Done right, Instagram can be a great (and free) way to increase customer engagement, grow your following, and ultimately, grow your customer base.

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