Welcome to Part 4 of Kahn Media’s KM 101 series, where we provide easy-to-understand information and guidelines for businesses that want to pivot to a “digital-first” model or enhance their online marketing efforts. Click on the links below to read our other KM 101 articles.

Instagram is a wildly popular social media platform with more than one billion users worldwide. With such a large audience, businesses know they should be on Instagram, but they often don’t know how to do so effectively. People don’t want to just see a picture of your product or be told what your company does. They want to see what your product can do. They want to see how you’re going to help them. And, even if your ultimate goal is sales, sometimes you just need to provide an escape and a way to connect with other like-minded people. 

Businesses often complain that “our engagement is poor” and “content is hard to make.” As with most things in life, you get out what you put in. If you want better engagement and higher quality content, then you need to put in the work. In Part 2 of KM 101, we recommend being authentic, leveraging User Generated Content (UGC) and focusing on your community as ways to create compelling social media content.

We’re going to dive in deeper and show you how to apply these tips on Instagram. We’ll look at tools you need to be successful as well as how and when to use them. 

3 Keys to Success on Instagram

1. Post Consistently
Posting on a regular basis is key to maintaining your current audience as well as gaining new fans. Among Instagram users, 3 out of 5 people log in at least once a day and, on average, they spend 53 minutes per day browsing. If your content isn’t on Instagram consistently, then people won’t see your brand, products or services.

2. Post Quality Content 
Before posting content, ask yourself, “Is this something my audience wants to see?” Your content must be relevant to your audience and, whenever possible, make use of high-resolution photos and video. Most fans want honest, authentic content, not over-produced, brand-heavy advertising. Draw them in with imagery and messages that provide value. Position your brand or company as an honest voice and as an expert within your field.

3. Use Engaging Features
Instagram offers several features that are designed to increase engagement, including Stories, IGTV, IG Live and Carousels. Continue posting in your regular feed on a consistent basis and using high-quality content, and add these other tools to your Instagram toolkit.

Using Instagram Stories
Instagram Stories are the best way to make connections with new followers and keep engaging with loyal ones. Every day, 500 million people use Instagram Stories, and 1 in 4 Millennials and Gen Z-ers look for Stories on the products and services they want to buy. Furthermore, 33% of the most-viewed Instagram Stories are from the businesses. If you’re not using Stories, then you’re missing out.

Instagram Stories are easy to make, and they can be created in batches and saved for posting later or on a consistent schedule. The following features in Instagram Stories will help you connect with your audience and provide valuable insight into their interest and needs.

  • Polls: This feature gives users an opportunity to engage with your content as well as provide valuable information about a choice they would make. Unlike a political poll, an Instagram poll should be a light-hearted and fun way to connect with your fans.
  • Questions: This feature allows users to ask you questions, which must be answered as a Story post. This provides a perfect opportunity to be authentic and give fans a behind-the-scenes look at your brand.
  • Sliders: This feature is one of the quickest ways to get engagement and can be used in various ways to get users to interact with an image, video or animated GIF.
  • Quizzes: This is the best way to find out how much users know about your brand or product. Quizzes should be fun and entertaining, and they can provide insight into what kind of content you should create or curate.
  • Countdown: Countdowns are fun for everyone, and they provide free promotion when they are shared to users’ Stories. A countdown can also give you an idea of what a video’s premiere or an event’s turnout may look like.

We recommend using at least one feature in every Instagram Story, and using more than one per Story is even better. Other features that can be easily added to your Story to boost engagement and ranking include: Challenge, GIF, Hashtag (#), Mention (@), Music, Location, Time and Weather.

Using IGTV
In the U.S., 90% of internet users between the ages of 18-44 watch videos on YouTube. And it is projected that, by 2022, video watching will comprise 82% of all consumer internet traffic. To accommodate longer-form video in addition to its short, 1-minute-or-less videos, Instagram has introduced IGTV, which allows users to watch videos up to 60 minutes long. And because IGTV is a new feature that Instagram wants to promote, its use gets a favorable ranking in Instagram’s algorithms.

To create longer form video content, you don’t necessarily need a professional studio or expensive equipment. Users are more accepting of raw content than ever before. To get the most out of IGTV, we’ve outlined useful tips for this new Instagram feature.

6 Tips for Using IGTV

  1. Action: Make the first 3 seconds count by starting with a clip of action if possible.
  2. Thumbnails: Upload custom-made thumbnails to make your videos pop off the page and draw your audience in. 
  3. Playlist: Create a playlist within your IGTV posting to establish a series people can follow and look forward to.
  4. Preview: Preview the IGTV post on your feed and share it in Stories, which now allows for the first 15 seconds of an IGTV video to play as part of your Story post. 
  5. Hashtags: Post up to 30 hashtags in the description of your IGTV video or in the comment section of your IGTV post within 60 seconds of posting (have your hashtags prewritten in your notes to make this an easy copy-and-paste), but don’t post hashtags in your caption or else they won’t be searchable.
  6. Clickable Links: Some users have the ability to add clickable links to the description of their IGTV post, so use this feature if it’s available to you. 

Using Instagram Live
Like IGTV, Instagram Live is one of the newer features that helps your account rank higher in the algorithm as well as connect with your followers. Live should be organic and conversational with a clear topic or reason for your audience to join. Live also notifies all of your followers to join your stream and puts your feed at the front of their Stories. 

4 Tips For Using Instagram Live

  1. Plan: Announce the specific date/time you’ll be going live in advance on your Story, and tell followers what they can expect.
  2. Connection: Ensure you have a good connection before going live and put your phone on Do Not Disturb to ensure there aren’t any disruptions during your live stream.
  3. Patience: Give your audience time to join. As you wait, ask for engagement by telling them to confirm they can hear you by sending a thumbs-up or pressing the heart. 
  4. Engagement: Respond to comments, waves and likes either verbally on the live stream or by simply responding to them in the comments. 

Using Carousels
A carousel offers the ability to post up to 10 images or videos together. A carousel post ranks higher in the algorithm than a single image. It also provides followers with a second opportunity to engage with a post if they scrolled past it previously by displaying the second image in your photo set, presenting it as a different post.  

3 Tips for Using Carousels

  1. Images: Post multiple images as a gallery. Using different angles of the same subject, with both close-up and wide shots, provides depth and context to your post. 
  2. Video: Posting multiple videos together can be used in a variety of ways, such as a series of step-by-step “how-to” videos or comparisons of similar actions. 
  3. Images and Video: You can also combine photos and videos together in a carousel. Like the gallery, this is an additional way to show more depth to your post. 

Putting It All Together
Ultimately, Instagram is about connecting with your community. All of the tools we covered, are just that, tools. And just as a hammer isn’t the right tool for every job, neither is any particular Instagram tool right for every type of content or situation. Create a plan, allow time for experimentation and learning, and keep track of what works and what doesn’t. Don’t let fear of making mistakes or failing prevent you from taking advantage of Instagram’s full toolkit. With some effort, practice and persistence, before you know it you’ll be an expert at creating compelling content and building a thriving community using Instagram Posts, Stories, IGTV, IG Live and Carousels.

Need help? Kahn Media manages a network of Instagram channels with more than 1 million followers, and we run the Instagram, Facebook and other social media channels for dozens of clients. We can help you create content, engage with fans and improve your brand’s image. Email us at Help@KahnMedia.com.