The use of Instagram, especially for businesses in South Africa, is on the rise. It is a visual way to connect with potential customers and employees whilst showcasing your businesses products and emphasizing your company’s culture.
Unless your company is already well known, you’re a celebrity, or you (unethically) buy your followers, you need to work hard at your company’s Instagram account to get it to work.
Fortunately, you can help your Instagram account gain traction by just doing a couple standard things. Creating a unique profile is important by posting beautifully crafted content and using well researched hashtags. This paired with some strong influencer mentions will see your Instagram follower numbers rise. Here’s a 10-point guide to getting started:
1) Create a profile.
To grow an Instagram following, you first need a profile.
Make sure that your username matches your business name exactly. If your business name is taken (which often happens) or is too long, then your next option is to do a variation of your business name. For example, The Get It Magazine is @getitmagnc on Instagram.
Then go on to choose a profile picture that will visually link your Instagram account to other social media accounts your company may have. The safest option would be your company logo.
Your bio is the next thing that needs to be done. Create something short that speaks directly to your brand and include a link back to your website. For example, the @northcoastcourier Instagram bio is “A behind the scenes look into the free weekly community newspaper serving the Dolphin Coast of KZN. www.northcoastcourier.co.za”
Once you have nailed down your username, bio and logo, make sure that your account is not private. You can do this by going to “Options” and switching off “Private Account.”
2) Get someone (or two) to man your account.
But two at the most. You don’t want to get too many people involved as you want to keep your tone of voice and imagery consistent. Look at commissioning someone experienced in using Instagram to ensure that all the features that you have available to you are optimally utilized. Be sure that their photography skills are also top notch if you require them to take the photos your company will be posting.
If your company is large and has a lot of people with a lot to say, it is best to put together a section in your corporate identity that outlines what guidelines your Instagram posts should adhere to.
Although Instagram posts no longer appear in strict chronological order, it is still important to consider the best time to post. Although the best time depends on your audience, it is best to aim for a time that falls out of office hours. Experimentation is key to see what times work best for your profile. Some companies have even found that arbitrary times like posting at 2am works well for them.
3) Centralize content sharing in your business.
I’m sure that there’s always something interesting happening in all departments of your business, so the best way to make sure you do not miss a good post opportunity would be to have a central photo sharing system.
This could be through having a designated Whatsapp group, or creating a folder on your company’s share drive specifically dedicated to content for your Instagram account. Try building up an archive of images for those dry spells when you don’t know what to post.
Just remember to always keep your target audience in mind as this will affect when and how often you post.
4) Make sure your captions are memorable.
One thing I can reiterate is that you should never absent-mindedly throw a caption together just to get a post out. “This is Jimmy in the office with a funny hat on. LOL” is just not going to cut it. The caption is almost as important as your visual. It needs to compliment your image or video, possibly even giving it more meaning. It will allow you to personally connect with your audience in an authentic way. The effort put into your captions will result in trust amongst your current followers and attract new ones.
A couple of ways to make your caption memorable, or get your audience to engage, would be to either ask questions, or have a subtle “call-to-action.” I’m sure you will agree with me when I say the “share if you agree <insert laughing face>” lines don’t work. However, prompting people to share their story in the comments, asking them to post a photo with a certain hashtag to stand a chance of being featured on your account, or getting people to “double tap to see the full picture” definitely works. Here’s an example of a Santa post that went viral in December 2015:
5) Use popular, relevant hashtags.
The hashtag is used on Instagram to link content shared by different users. If you use popular hashtags that frequently get searched, you stand a chance of your post reaching a wider audience than those who already follow your account. However, stay away from the #followforfollow kind and limit the number of hashtags you use in your caption to three. If you feel you need to add more, add them into the comments section of your post after you’ve published it.
When you open your Instagram, create your own hashtag that you will use on the majority of your posts for consistency and awareness. It could be your company name, or something your company strongly stands for. Once you have done this, start looking at including some more hashtags relevant to the post itself.
Finding relevant hashtags to your business requires a bit of research. You can do this by going to “Explore” in Instagram. Search a hashtag and it will give you suggestions of related hashtags and how many times that hashtag has been used. I searched “#digitalmarketing” and you can see the similar hashtags that came up as suggestions.
To further connect with your followers, try jump onto hashtag trends such as #MondayMotivation, #TeammateTuesday, #tbt (which is Throwback Thursday) or #fbf (which is Flashback Friday).
6) Get personal and interact.
Don’t be shy – do some scouting and find some accounts which relate to your company and who post interesting content. Give them a follow and engage with their content. By following their page and engaging, they are likely to have a look at your account and see if it would be worth following your account back. This is why your content is so important! This is the most organic way to grow your Instagram following.
Also get personal on your own account’s posts. If someone leaves a comment, reply as soon as you can. The best standard to stick to is to reply within 24hrs. Replying to a comment a week later makes your account look unprofessional.
7) Create a support base with users that are complimentary to your business.
After following some good quality accounts, it is worth investing time in creating strong relationships with them. It could be a random yet relevant page, or another business your company works with. Once you are on these terms, try organizing some co-promotion on each other’s accounts – but make it looks as natural as possible. There’s nothing worse than a post that looks like spam. Also, try limit how many you do. You don’t want to litter your account with co-promotion posts. I’ve included an example between The Get It Magazine @getitmagnc and the location of the August 2017 edition’s cover shoot, Umhlanga restaurant The Village Table @villagetable_umhlanga who cross-promoted based on the release of the August Edition of the Magazine:
8) Run a competition.
Running a competition is a great way to spike the engagement on your account and quickly gain a few more followers. All you need to do is publish a post promoting your competition and require engagement as a means of entering.
The competition could require your audience to follow your page, like the post and then comment on the post to enter. Another way of creating engagement is by asking people to enter with their own photos or videos on their personal accounts and then tag your account as well as use a unique hashtag. Here’s an example from @northcoastcourier who ran a #savethewaves competition during the 2017 Ballito Pro, Presented by Billabong:
9) Create your own Instagram stories, or start a live video.
Instagram stories and live videos are features Instagram have only recently introduced to their social media platform. It allows you to share content that is very current and raw – almost like a “behind-the-scenes” look at your company. After 24hrs your story disappears forever, or if you are streaming live, it disappears as soon as you end the video.
The rawness of it builds a sense of trust for your brand from followers. It is authentic and unscripted content from your business, which followers appreciate. Good scenarios of when to use these platforms are if you have a celebrity visiting your offices, or you want to celebrate one of your employee’s birthdays.
For example, you could also use Instagram stories to show the setting up of an event your company is hosting to try build the hype around it. An exclusive behind-the-scenes sneak peek always piques curiosity. Then if you have a keynote speaker at the event, go Instagram live for a snippet of their speech.
10) Make yourself discoverable.
Putting your social media links on your website is key to increasing your following. Just place a recognizable button on the bottom (or top) of your website that’s visible on any page a visitor may click through to. The button should link straight to your company’s Instagram. Here’s a couple of badge options you can consider putting on your website:
It could also be worth your while running a print advertisement that includes the mention of your Instagram account and encourage people to find and follow you.
Once your account is live and you are happy with the amount of content you have created, promote it across your other social media accounts, such as Facebook and Twitter. It’s likely that people who follow your other accounts will follow your Instagram account.
Following these guidelines doesn’t guarantee you 1,000 followers overnight (which isn’t impossible!) but it does give you a better chance of building a strong, quality following.
Have some additional tips you feel we might have overlooked? Share them with us in the comments.