How to Win with Instagram

3 minute read

With over 200 million users every month, Instagram has rapidly grown from a quirky app into a massive social network. If this photo-sharing site’s immense popularity and inherently social nature haven’t yet convinced you that it should be a key part of your brand’s marketing plan, the fact that Facebook paid a whopping $1 billion for it last year should.

Leveraged correctly, this intuitive, mobile-friendly platform is one of the best ways to build brand recognition and loyalty online. Getting started is easy, but sustaining long-term engagement takes planning and persistence. So how can your company find success on Instagram?

Tell Your Brand Story – and Be Compelling!

You’ve heard the adage, “every picture tells a story.” Nothing proves this better than Instagram, which is quickly becoming theplatform for visual storytelling. About 70% of users log in at least once a day, which means every photo, caption and hashtag you post on is an opportunity to share your brand’s unique story and personality. Ask yourself not only what sets your brand apart, but also what are its core values? Keep in mind, images are some of the most shareable content on the Web, evoking emotion in a way text and hyperlinks never will. Be generic at your own risk.

Plan Before You Post

When selecting photos to post, work from a strategy. Some brands feature product-related images, others strive to convey the brand lifestyle in their posts instead. Regardless of your strategy, your images should always be interesting, with artistic compositions and/or filters. Remember that above all, Instagram is a creative platform, where expectations for originality and authenticity run high. Boring photos don’t get shared, they get shunned.

Think Themes

Create themes to hook followers and help them remember and connect with your brand, including hashtags when possible. A great way to coordinate themes and make them searchable, hashtags should be relevant but also catchy and easy to remember. For example, Kate Spade NY shares images that feature a bold pop of color using the hashtag #popofcolor. Other companies have created interesting artwork out of packaging that prominently displays their logo design. Be creative, but keep themes and hashtags relevant to your brand values.

Post Regularly

There’s no sense in creating any social media account for your business unless you plan on posting at least every other day, and Instagram is no exception. However, content for the sake of content is never a good idea. Develop a realistic publishing plan that strikes a balance between post quality and timing. Consider posting pictures of events, employees and behind-the-scenes photos of your daily operations. Think out of the box. This is your opportunity to show your creative side, so loosen up and open up.

Involve (and Thank) Your Audience

Users need reasons to like or share your photos, so give them those reasons! Include engagement mechanisms like hashtags, sponsor contests, ask questions, thank users, and reward early influencers with shout-outs. Ask followers for feedback, listen to what they say, thank them and respond promptly and appropriately. Encourage sharing across other social media in any way you can. The more your Instagram images, captions and hashtags are shared across other networks, the greater the SEO benefits.

Monitor and Adjust your Strategy

To maximize engagement, you’ll need to test different types of content and adjust your Instagram strategy accordingly. One of the best things about social media is it allows consumers to share their brand experiences, adding to your narrative while providing you with valuable customer feedback. It’s especially important to assess what images your community responds best to (e.g., lifestyle, behind-the-scenes, product-focused, etc.) so you can optimize your presence.

If you keep in mind these best practices, you’ll be well on your way to winning with Instagram. Founder and President John Williams, (LinkedIn) is a leading logo design expert who literally wrote the book on brand standards for companies like Hewlett-Packard and Mitsubishi. An entrepreneur and former owner of award-winning studio Logic Design, John served as's branding columnist for over 5 years.