Keep reading to learn about BeautyMatter’s essential Instagram best practices.
INSTAGRAM: THE LIFESTYLE GALLERY
Purchased by Facebook in 2012, Instagram has quickly ascended to become the leading visual-first platform on social, with 200 million daily (and 700 million monthly) active users. This new ownership has not only meant an expansion of Instagram’s native services (including new filters, video and image ratios, as well as Instagram Story and Instagram Live), but also a push towards an algorithmic, paid media-favoring stream.
Additionally, there is a shift in user demographics as compared to Facebook, as a higher percentage of teens are on the platform compared to adults:[/vc_column_text]
According to the American Press Institute: “Some 28% of online adults use Instagram, [which] continues to be popular with non-whites and young adults. 55% of online adults ages 18-29 use Instagram, as do 47% of African Americans and 38% of Hispanics. Additionally, online women continue to be more likely than online men to be Instagram users (31% vs. 24%).”
Here’s how brands can best utilize its latest features. Keep in mind that brands are now at the mercy of Instagram’s new algorithm, which is less transparent than Facebook’s but still favors paid above all else:
START PAYING TO PLAY
Instagram’s new algorithmic model means that posts are no longer being displayed chronologically in fan’s feeds. Using Facebook’s thinking, Instagram is weighing “highly engaged” and “relevant” content more heavily, but this also equates to Instagram pushing brands to put money behind posts in order to boost visibility and engagement (the relationship between the two being symbiotic).
Although Instagram’s algorithm isn’t as extreme as Facebook’s, brands have been seeing their engagement and community growth rates go down as a result. The best way to combat this is through regularly boosting content (starting with 1-2 posts per week), especially content that already generates top engagements from fans.
There is no minimum spend required.
EXPERIMENT WITH NATIVE CONTENT & NEWS FEATURES
Instagram now allows you to natively upload a variety of visual assets and types:
- Images (Individually, or up to 10 at a time in swipeable “Carousels.” Images typically gain more hearts, while Videos get more comments. Filters can be applied both on images uploaded to Instagram, as well as taken with the native camera. You can tag other accounts in images.)
- Video (Individual files with a max length of 60 seconds, can also populate its own Carousel, or be mixed with still images. They are measured in “views” in addition to Hearts and comments, which is counted after 3 seconds.)
- Boomerang (Instagram’s version of looping videos, shot with its own app or natively within Instagram Stories.)
- Hyperlapse (Instagram’s time-lapse app, shot on its own app.)
- Instagram Stories (Instagram’s competitor to Snapchat.* You can upload a mix of still images, 10-second-long videos, and Boomerangs into a single “Story” which disappears after 24 hours. You can also upload from the last 24 hours on your camera roll into your Story. You can access views for 24 hours only. On business accounts with over 10,000 followers, you are also able to “swipe up” and deep link to an external page.)**
- Instagram Live (Instagram’s own livestreaming feature. Followers get notified once you go live, and you can save and reshare the livestream on your own Instagram Story and page once it’s over. Similar to Facebook Live, Instagram Live is currently a content sandbox, with different brands achieving varying types of success.)
- Emojis (They are now hashtaggable and searchable, which can aid with discovery.)
Instead of hard-linking directly to different platforms, brands should capitalize on all these different native creative expressions.
You can also archive posts on Instagram instead of deletion. This process is reversible.
*Instagram Stories is becoming preferable for brands, as unlike Snapchat, brands can see their total followers and can compare views to that base number. Snapchat was not initially developed to be brand-friendly, and they continue to take a more media- and less brand-focused approach.
**Instagram’s platform analytics do not track URL clicks, so the link used in “swipe up” must be from a trackable shortener (e.g., goo.gl or bit.ly).
JUDGE VISUAL BY “THUMBSTOPPING” POWER
Instagram is unique in that even though it has desktop viewing capabilities, you can only properly use it on mobile. When fans scroll through their feeds, you have at most 3 seconds to grab followers’ attention and invoke the primary social action, the double-tapped “Heart.” The emphasis of the post, then, should be on the visuals, not as much on the copy (which in and of itself should be succinct).
TAKE THE GRID INTO ACCOUNT
When opening an Instagram account, fans are immediately shown the first 6 images in a grid, so the last 6 images you post will be the make-or-break content that influences whether a fan decides to follow or not. Therefore, aesthetic consistency and curation is key, and content shouldn’t just be “thrown up” onto the platform for the sake of posting.
HASHTAGS: SUCCESSFUL IN SMALL DOSES
Hashtags continue to be a key driver of discovery and engagement, albeit at a reduced scale due to the algorithm. However, a core best practice continues to be hashtagging top trending words either in the copy, or underneath in the first comment as a group. (Additionally, you can also hashtag Emojis now, as they are searchable within Instagram.) It’s important not to overload hashtags in the original copy, as it comes off as “spammy” and unprofessional.
YOU ONLY LINK IN BIO ONCE
The only clickable link space on an Instagram profile is in the “website” section of the biography section. Instagram has no plans to make links clickable in the copy section, in an attempt to control spam. Therefore, common Instagram parlance is to end copy with “link in bio.”
TREAT INSTAGRAM STORIES LIKE AN AUTHENTIC PLAYGROUND
Although seen as copying Snapchat’s IP, Instagram Stories have now reached 200 million daily active users, and are seen as far more brand-friendly as they attract far higher viewership numbers than Snaps do. (It is much harder for brands to build a following natively on Snapchat than it is on Instagram, after all, due to how Snapchat is essentially designed.)
Since Stories delete after 24 hours, they’re a great method for more authentic, less strictly polished branded storytelling. You can offer behind-the-scenes looks, preview new products and partnerships, or even offer it to influencers for takeovers. Overall, it’s a sandbox for showing a less curated, personalized side of the brand, filled with fun filters, hashtags, drawing, and stickers.
One key benefit of Instagram Stories over Snapchat is its ability to tag other users’ profiles. Snapchat currently doesn’t offer clickable tags or hashtags on its Snaps.
You can view how many users have seen your story by swiping up per snap, and Instagram Analytics also offers in-platform insights.
WHERE INFLUENCERS (AND UGC!) THRIVE
Instagram is a haven for influencers, and where the majority of sponsored content takes place on social. Depending on the campaign you’re running, and where the influencer’s numbers are strongest, you should have Instagram be the centerpiece, and ensure that the influencer links to the post you sponsored. Additionally, ensure that a “no-deletion” clause is in their contract, ensuring they won’t delete the sponsored content after a period of time. All copy must have #ad or #spon to comply with FCC regulations.
You should also “regram” their content onto your brand page, but rather than using a regram app, which adds an unflattering bar across the bottom of the image, it’s more aesthetically pleasing to screencap the image itself, while paying credit to the influencer in the caption.
For User Generated Content (UGC) that you want to feature on your brand page, the standard practice is to comment on the user’s image to drive them to Direct Message (DM); you then ask for permission to use their image (with credit given) in legal-approved language. Once the fan answers YES, you then can repost the image onto your page.
COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT STILL COUNTS
67% of consumers have used social media to get a customer service response from a brand, and ignored comments or inbox messages can lead to increased consumer dissatisfaction. However, good customer service on social, naturally, can lead to conversion into brand advocacy, so brands need to spend dedicated time on Instagram reacting and responding to all feedback from fans.
On Instagram, you can “Heart” individual comments, in addition to responding to fans in non-threaded comments and Direct Messages (fans can reply directly to your Instagram Story, or send you messages regardless if they follow you or not). You can only reply with text.
Furthermore, brands diving into Instagram’s hashtags and “Search and Explore” page and communicating with fans (also known as “fishing”) is not frowned on. It’s one of the best ways to build your community, by finding fans already using brand-related /relevant hashtags and engaging with them. Users are more likely to follow a brand’s page after a brand has made an authentic engagement with them.
INSTAGRAM PURGES “FAKE” ACCOUNTS, AFFECTING AUDIENCE SIZE
In a manner similar to its parent company, although not nearly as frequently, Instagram will also go on mass deletions of fake accounts. This often can lead to decreases in brand pages’ total followers.
WHAT DOES SUCCESS LOOK LIKE?
It depends on a brand’s goals, as well as whether or not the post was boosted, but Instagram’s primary success metrics are:
- Impressions (Total number of how many users saw your posts; this number is higher when boosted)
- Engagement Rate (How many users engaged with your post divided by how many users saw it)
- Total Post Engagements (How many Hearts and comments your post received, again higher when post is boosted)
- Followers (How many people follow the page overall, with a demographic, age, and location breakdown)
- Video Views (How many users watched your video, includes fan drop-off and completion rate)
- Story Views (How many people watched your Stories, but this data disappears after 24 hours)
All analytics can be accessed through third-party apps or easily in-platform on mobile, and exported via CSV. You can pull up to 3 months at a time, but can pull longer from third-party apps like Iconosquare.
HOW DO I VERIFY MY PAGE?
Verification on Instagram can be an unexpected headache, as they claim they are no longer taking requests for verification badges. However, it may help to know someone at the platform, or if you are willing to spend money on native advertising.
HOW DO I SCHEDULE MY CONTENT?
Right now, you cannot schedule Instagram content ahead of time within the app, but you can through third-party apps like Hootsuite or Later. You are unable to schedule Instagram Stories ahead of time.