Instagram is one of the leading social media platforms, with 1 billion active monthly users. The popularity of the platform, especially amongst younger audiences (over ⅔ of users are under 35), makes it an attractive outlet for publishers looking to extend their reach and promote their brand. Instagram is also a highly engaged platform with various opportunities to create content aimed at prompting user responses, which ultimately helps publishers connect with audiences and build loyalty🤩
Instagram is a beneficial addition to any publisher’s overall content strategy as there are countless ways to approach creating and posting content to achieve a variety of goals, whether that be building up hype for a new product, boosting brand visibility, or promoting content to new audiences. Presenting the opportunity to create new forms of content and showcase different elements of a brand, the platform opens the door for creativity and enables publishers to enhance their image.
Instagram is a predominantly visual platform, meaning posts are either in the form of photos or videos, which allows publishers to experiment with new kinds of content. Between posts, Instagram Stories, and Instagram TV, there are various ways to get creative by playing around with different content formats and aesthetics.
Given the visual nature of the platform, the type of content publishers choose to put out there can vary from the content typically posted on-site or to other platforms like Twitter. Instagram content is less focused on text and more concerned with getting a message across in a way that is easy, quick, and visually appealing for people to consume. Publishers can also use Instagram to present material with a slightly different focus than content on site. For example, publishers can showcase a more personal side of their brand by giving audiences a behind the scenes look with photos and videos, which can help foster more meaningful connections. At Disqus, we use our Instagram primarily for this purpose, highlighting everything from work outings to office dogs to birthday celebrations. Instagram can also be utilized to run contests and giveaways, which can increase engagement and reach. The versatility of Instagram makes it an ideal platform for all kinds of publishers and depending on your overall goals, you can adjust your content strategy to match your objectives.
Instagram is the second most engaged platform, (behind Facebook) which means that you can develop content aimed at prompting responses from users, giving audiences more opportunities to interact with your brand. There are three main areas on Instagram where you can produce and distribute content: traditional posts that appear on your feed, stories, and IGTV. Using a mix or all of these segments can help build your Instagram presence and further allow you to distinguish yourself from other profiles. Strategy varies depending on the channel you’re posting to and what you’re looking to achieve:
Traditional posts appear in your followers’ newsfeeds and on your profile. Unlike stories, they don’t disappear with time, so content that is valuable for your brand’s image or of a more timeless nature is suited well for this segment. Posts are accompanied by a caption that can have up to 2,200 characters, but only the first three lines of text will appear and users have to click “more” to see the rest, so be sure to put the most important information first. Adding hashtags to captions and tagging locations or others either in the post or involved with helping create it is a great strategy to increase visibility for your post and help more people discover your page. In fact, posts with hashtags gain 12.6% more engagement than posts without them. The same is true for location, as posts with a tagged location gain 79% more engagement than posts without it! Autohash is a useful tool for adding hashtags to your content--it scans photos and generates a list of relevant hashtags that you can include in your post. Hashtagify, another awesome tool that provides comprehensive information about a particular hashtag such as overall popularity, which countries use it the most, weekly trends, and more!
When users click on your profile, one of the first things they’ll see is your most recent posts. You want to make sure your feed looks organized and put together to establish credibility and trust. Using similar edits on photos and making sure that you’re images and videos are high quality (good resolution, not too dark, cropped appropriately) is a good way to show that you put thought and effort into your profile. Stay consistent! First impressions of your page are important for building a following, so don’t skip out on this part of the process. There’s a ton of different tools you can use for editing photos. Snapseed, Adobe Photoshop Express, and VSCO are top-of-the-line (and free!) applications for editing photos to post to your feed or story. Canva is another great editing tool, and can also be used to create graphics. It’s also a super easy and straightforward way to create content that is unique to your brand.
Stories are all the rage these days with 500 million accounts using them every day! It’s predicted that sharing through stories will surpass sharing through the actual Instagram feed by the end of 2019, so stories are definitely worth paying attention to! There are various features you can add to Instagram stories that make them an effective way to drive engagement and increase visibility. Features like polls, questions, chat, and quizzes are perfect for encouraging audience members to interact with your content. These features are easy to include and can be used to collect feedback, start conversations, or understand your audience better. Creating “live” stories allows you to speak more personally to audience members, and will notify followers when you first go live. Similar to traditional posts, adding locations and hashtags to stories can increase your reach. There’s a lot of ways to play around with visuals in stories. From GIFs to stickers to text options like font and color, there are countless opportunities to add personality and unique branding. Unfold and Adobe Spark Post are great tools for editing Instagram stories specifically, offering templates, fonts, and more.
While stories disappear after 24 hours, you can create “story highlights” that will live on your profile and allow users to click through old stories anytime. Highlights are useful so that you don’t lose the content you worked hard to create and share, and it gives audience members a quick way to jump back to older highlights that they might’ve missed initially. You can also separate highlights into different categories so that your profile appears more organized. For example, if you run a lifestyle site, your stories might be categorized into food, fashion, exercise, travel, etc.
Billboard’s Instagram account is the perfect example of how you can use stories and story highlights for engagement. Their highlights include celebrity takeovers, quizzes and more. The “this or that” highlight category is a series of posts in which they ask celebrities and popular influencers to choose between one of two things (for instance, In-N-Out or Shake Shack?). They post a video of the answer and include a poll for users to provide their own input too. This is a fun way not only to promote their brand and the artists they work with but also to allow their followers to be involved too!
IGTV aka “Instagram TV” is used more for long-form videos. Traditional Instagram posts cap videos at one minute, but IGTV videos can be up to an hour. ⏳ Publishers can use this feature in a variety of ways, both within the native Instagram app and as its own separate application. You can repost videos you’ve already created or develop new content exclusively for IGTV. One of the easiest and most personal ways to utilize IGTV is to host Q&As by using the question sticker from stories to compile audience questions and then recording yourself answering. If you want to get more involved, you could develop a weekly series, produce tutorials or how-to's, conduct interviews, etc. IGTV is also a powerful way to connect with your audience as videos offer a way for them to see and hear you, which helps them gain insight into your brand and works to reinforce trust. Magisto is an easy-to-use video editing app that can be used to make short IGTV videos or videos for your story and feed!
Michelle Tam, the creator of NomNomPaleo utilizes IGTV to demonstrate how she prepares certain recipes as well as behind the scenes moments from her life. The videos are short and sweet and create a sense of trust and familiarity with the brand.
Developing a posting strategy is always a good idea, but especially important for Instagram because there are so many different ways you can design campaigns and create content. For example, consider how often you want to post and what segments (feed, stories, IGTV) you want to use and when. Recurring themed posts (Throwback Thursday, Wisdom Wednesday, Q&A Friday) are a fun strategy to help you consistently produce content and give your audience a sense of familiarity and anticipation as they wait for your next post. Tools like Unum and Later allow you to schedule posts ahead of time and play around with the layout of your feed so you can see how posts will look on your profile once they go live.
Look at your Instagram strategy within the context of your overarching content strategy. What type of content do you produce on-site, and how will you support that content with Instagram? For example, if you post a new blog every Wednesday, maybe you’ll want to create a story teaser for Instagram to post the morning before the blog is published. Also, pay attention to what resonates well with your audience. Do you get more responses with stories that have engagement stickers or do more people tend to comment on feed posts? Instagram provides its own analytics tool, Instagram Insights, for business accounts to monitor engagement, followers, impressions, etc. There’s plenty of other analytics tools outside of the Instagram app, like Iconosquare, Squarelovin, and Social Insight that can help you better understand your audience, evaluate your posts and improve engagement.
In addition to reaching new audiences and increasing engagement, Instagram also serves as a source of referral traffic. A major component of Instagram strategy is figuring out how to redirect people who are viewing your content on Instagram to your website. If users are interested in you and take the initiative to view your site, you have a better chance of converting them from one time visitors into more loyal audience members 🙌. Rather than relying on outside parties like Google to drive traffic to your site, utilizing your own Instagram profile to build relationships with users and direct them to your page is a more reliable strategy. Whether you’re a personal blogger or a larger media outlet, there are various ways to do this:
Link in bio: Adding your website link to the bio of your Instagram profile is the simplest way to redirect followers. The bio is one of the first things a user sees when viewing your profile and it’s extremely easy to click on. You can reference the link in stories or feed posts (for example: check out the link in bio for more info!). If you are promoting something in particular (like a new article), you can also link to that specific page, giving you even more control over where you drive traffic.
Teasers: You can promote a new article, blog, product release, event, etc. through your story or a post using teasers. By giving users a sneak peek, you leave them wanting more. From here, you can encourage them to visit your site for more information. Not only is this a good way to direct traffic, but also useful for creating hype and getting people talking 🎉.
Partner with influencers: For larger publishers, partnering with influencers can be an effective way to reach new audiences and direct them to your site. Influencers are credible and trustworthy amongst their followers, so teaming up with someone boasting such a large following is a great opportunity to tap into a new pool of users who might be interested in what your site has to offer. Influencers can include your site link in stories or post captions to direct users to your webpage or your Instagram profile.
Direct messages: Prompt followers to send you direct messages with questions, feedback, suggestions, and ideas. From here, you can respond directly to inquiries and encourage users to check for answers or follow up on site. This approach kills two birds with one stone as you are not only directing traffic back to your page but also building a more personal relationship with audience members. This works especially well for small publishers with tighter-knit communities because you’re able to directly communicate with readers and handle the volume of messages received. 💬
Swipe up: Over the years, Instagram has developed new features to help publishers redirect users from their Instagram profiles to their websites. The “swipe up” feature for stories serves as a teaser to an article, blog post, product, etc. and presents a strong call to action that will bring viewers to your site. To add this feature to a story, you need to have a verified account or a business profile with more than 10,000 followers, so this works best for larger publishers. In story options, there’s a chain icon that will allow you to add whatever link you would like. Then, you can customize your call to action: “swipe up for the full article,” “swipe to shop,” “learn more,” etc.
For smaller publishers that don’t meet these requirements, you can still use stories in a similar manner to encourage viewers to visit your site. Instead of “swipe” calls to action, you can use text to say something like “visit our website for the full story” or “check the link in our bio for details”. You can play around with colors and fonts to make these calls to action stand out and have a similar referral effect as the swipe up feature. Also, don’t be discouraged by the feature threshold. When Instagram first released it, only those with 1 million followers had access to it, but the platform is slowly decreasing the requirements.
From traditional posts to stories to IGTV, there are countless opportunities to engage your audience and drive traffic back to your site using Instagram. The visual and creative nature of the platform gives you space to make it your own and provides the perfect opportunity to adapt your strategy to fit your goals. If you haven’t already, think about how Instagram might work for you and how you can adopt it into your content strategy!
How do you use Instagram? What strategies do you think are the most effective? Let us know in the comments below👇