Over the past year, I've been going all in on Instagram. I've talked to experts and sought out advice on how to turn this channel into a primary means of engaging my audience, versus just an afterthought place to post fun photos from my adventures.
I interviewed a fellow entrepreneur who uses his Instagram to attract new clients, talked to an influencer about how to create a consistent brand and feed, and even went straight to the source and spoke to the Instagram Small Business team to get their best tips. Along the way, I learned which apps can help create more dynamic Instagram content, and picked up some props and tools to help make my photos more interesting.
But as I gear up to take the stage at Social Media Marketing World in February, I realized I'll be surrounded by top social-media marketers who may have even more expertise to share. I reached out to ask some of them to share their lesser-known tips for maximizing engagement and ROI on Instagram, and I learned a few tricks that even I hadn't heard before. Here's what they had to say.
1. "Instagram video is an amazing tool to get more attention to your posts. Not only will you get likes and comments, but you'll also get views, a new metric, which will add more power to your account. Making videos is very easy if you follow my simple hack below, and anyone posting images can easily start making video. First, Get Videorama or Videoshop for your mobile device. Second, take your image and remove the text and save as a JPG. Then, add both images into Videorama, where the version without text is first and then the version with text. Lastly, add a fade transition in between them, and maybe some music. Voila! You now have a 10-second video version of your image where the viewer must watch for at least five seconds to get the full message of the image." -- Owen Video, The VideoSpot
2. "You can add up to ten hashtags and a location to your Instagram story. Minimize the sizes of both, so nobody sees it but Instagram still counts them. This little hack will bring you up to 1,000 new viewers for each story, and works best for videos." -- Alex Khan, Germany's most followed social-media coach
3. "Instagram story polls are an easy and fun way to increase engagement. People love to vote on just about anything at all, and sometimes the responses surprise you!" -- Alisa Meredith, content marketing manager, Tailwind
4. "When using stories on Instagram, always try to include text, so people can follow the story without the sound on (as that's how most people view stories). The more people are watching and engaging with your stories, the more likely the Instagram algorithm is to show your posts in the main feed to them." - Andrew and Pete, authors of Content Mavericks
5. "A trick that I recently picked up from my team's Insta-unicorn is that if you think an Instagram story moves too fast, you can pause the story by placing a finger on the screen, and let go to proceed. You can also tap the left side of the screen to go back one slide. #WishIKnewSooner." -- Carmen Shirley Collins, social-media lead, talent brand, Cisco
6. "A great way to use Instagram stories is to allow takeovers of your account. You could get in touch with loyal customers and ask them to act as brand ambassadors by doing a 24- takeover of your Instagram account so they can show how they use your product. This is a really fun way to create content and get your audience involved." -- Bryan Kramer, CEO of H2H Companies and PureMatter
7. "Match content together that has a common element: topic, composition, element and/or people. An example could be stand-up paddleboarding in the summer and skiing in the winter with the same friend. It doesn't have to have all the common parts you see here -- topic (sport), composition (selfie and lake), people (her and I) -- but it does help tie it all together. It's a good way to use content again or to post something you didn't originally use but now has relevance with the current photo. It's a more interesting and relevant way to do a #tbt picture, and more original." -- Fi Birch, founder and chief digital strategist, Pro Athlete Online
8. "To find really targeted audiences on Instagram, search for hashtags related to your industry. It could be an event or a hobby or an interest. For example, if you're a local retail clothing store, you could look for regional fashion show events. Find these hashtags, then follow them and like or comment on the posts shared with that hashtag. You show up in those users' notifications, getting on their radar, and potentially gaining them as a new follower. You can grow steadily and strategically with this method." -- Jenn Herman, founder of Jenn's Trends
9. "Do some actual research into the hashtags you consistently use. Click through to them, explore the top nine posts, browse the most recent uses of the hashtag and (most importantly!) join in on the conversation. As the owner of a company who trains on Facebook advertising, I was recently using #Facebookad on most of my posts. Upon further exploration, I discovered this hashtag was particularly filled with spam. Not something I'd want to rank for! Instead, the hashtags #Facebookpixel or #CustomAudience bring up a more targeted type of user on Instagram, and the quality of the conversations and community was exponentially better. It takes time to filter through and implement, but the results are worth the effort." --Amanda Bond, owner of The Ad Strategist
10. "Add your custom hashtag to your Instagram story link to have it searchable for users. When users watch your story, they'll be able to click your custom hashtag (or the hashtag you use) to see other posts using the same hashtag. Using your own custom hashtag to get users to see -- and possibly engage with -- your other branded content is next-level. Since this is a good way to entice new users to follow your brand on Instagram, be sure you pick stunning visuals for this hack to ensure you're really putting your best foot forward." -- Brooke B. Sellas, founder & CEO, B Squared Media
11. "When you advertise on Instagram, use the Facebook ads interface rather than your phone. You will have much more control over the keywords, the targeting, and the type of optimization you choose for the ad." -- Andrea Vahl, Co-author of Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies
Content quality and consistency
12. "As a brand on Instagram, there are lots of times where we are looking for original imagery, and it's costly and time-consuming to produce. But there is no shortage of good imagery on Instagram. Tack is a tool for Instagram that provides a facility for brands to identify great images and reach out to ask for permission to post through a comment. This tool saves a lot of time and money and gives a brand great user-generated authentic content." -- Ian Cleary, founder of RazorSocial, co-founder of OutreachPlus
13. "Instagram is starting to become saturated and creating more content isn't helping. Also, with the algorithm, the more your audience engages with your specific content, the more of it they will see. Therefore, it is best to create less content, but better content. When each of your posts is relevant and appealing, your audience will be more engaged and less likely to scroll past, thereby keeping your content higher in their feeds." -- Jenn Herman, founder of Jenn's Trends