Instagram’s growth in popularity has been astonishing. In a world on social media lockdown from powerhouses like Facebook and Twitter, Instagram, a relative unknown just a few years ago, has exploded in user growth and activity, and now sits as one of the most used platforms around, especially for younger demographics. With more than 400 million active users, and a connection to the all-important younger generation, it’s no wonder why so many marketers are pouring time and effort into beefing up their Instagram presence.
Unfortunately, most of them are fizzling out.
The truth is, it takes a heavy time investment and hard work to be successful on Instagram, and without these seven essentials, your campaign is practically sunk:
1. Niche focus. The first thing you’ll need is a niche focus. Who are you trying to target? What are you going to provide them? It’s not enough to merely have a branded presence for your company; you need a “claim to fame.” What can you provide your key demographics that they aren’t getting anywhere else? This is a big strategic question, but it’s one you need to answer, and as specifically as possible, before you go any further with your campaign. Once you start building momentum and popularity, you can “zoom out” with more general topics, but to build that initial relevance, you need to maximize user interest by honing in on a niche.
2. Personality. Don’t just post photos randomly. If you want to be successful on Instagram, your users need to see you as one of their peers, and that means showcasing a human element. They need to see the personality of your brand, evident in the voice you use throughout your posts. This brand voice needs to be consistent and unique to you, but at the same time it needs to sound believably human. This can be tricky to pull off, especially if you’ve got multiple people managing one account, so set some firm standards for your brand voice early on and avoid deviating from those standards.
3. Consistency. Instagram success depends on your follower retention, and the only way you’re going to keep your followers around is by giving them what they want — consistently. If you post infrequently, or at unpredictable intervals, eventually even the most interested followers are going to lose interest. Similarly, if you post photos relating to too many different areas, or if your voice changes from one day to the next, users are going to be confused. It’s fine to make gradual adjustments to your strategy as you learn more about your demographics and come up with new ways of distinguishing yourself, but strive for consistency wherever you can.
4. Engagement. Too many social media marketers forget the “social” part of their job description. Instead, they focus on social media platforms as megaphones for their brands, serving only as a one-sided message delivery vehicle. People are on Instagram to engage with one another, and engagement is a two-way street. If you want to be respected, appreciated, or popularized, you have to engage with your followers on an individual level. That means getting involved in discussions, commenting on posts, and of course responding to their comments and questions. Don’t think too much about it — just stay active, engaged, and plugged into your community!
5. Use of trends. Trending hashtags are one of your biggest shortcuts to growth on Instagram — but be careful! If you use a trend incorrectly or seem like you’re trying to exploit the system, you’ll lose respect and your efforts could backfire. Do your research and wait to find trends that are genuinely relevant to your brand. Include hashtags that are accurate (or amusing) for your photos regularly, but also be careful not to overstuff your posts with hashtags. Trend use on Instagram is a delicate balancing act, so it may take you a while to find the perfect rhythm of visibility and integrity.
6. Utility. On some level, your posts need to be useful for your target audience. How they’re useful is up to you; they could be insights into your business, tips or ideas on how to use your products, entertaining or amusing things, or just beautiful things that make your followers feel strong emotions. The bottom line here is to avoid posting things just for the sake of posting things. Only provide material that you think has a genuine value for your followers.
7. Scalability. Finally, you need a strategy with the capacity to scale. You’ll have no trouble attracting your first few dozen Instagram followers, but how do you get from there to hundreds? And from hundreds to thousands? Different levels of popularity require different tactics and higher levels of effort to be successful; following the same strategy indefinitely will eventually lead you to become stagnant. Have a plan for how you’re going to advance and change your strategy, including the incorporation of user feedback, and be prepared for heavier investment if you want to see bigger returns.
If you diligently adhere to these seven Instagram fundamentals, you’re practically guaranteed some level of success. Since Instagram is a free platform, even a modest boost in brand visibility and reputation is enough to justify your investment, and if you can balloon your following into the thousands, you can start reaping major rewards of both customer acquisition and retention. Remain patient, adhere to the fundamentals, and eventually you’ll be able to nurture your profile into a flourishing community.