How to Craft an A+ Instagram Strategy

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Social Summer School is in session, and we’re breaking down how to craft an Instagram strategy that will keep your followers coming back for more. Instagram updates with new features and tools almost weekly so strategically managing a content calendar can certainly feel overwhelming. Yet, ask any Imagineer and they’ll probably tell you that their No. 1 app to work with is Instagram because there are endless opportunities to encourage engagement. In this lesson, we’ll cover the basics for a stellar strategy.

First Impressions Matter

Just like with people, on Instagram first impressions can either help you gain a friend (or follower, in this case) or lose the opportunity to connect. That first impression comes from your Top Nine, or the first nine photos in your account’s feed. Think of these nine squares as a puzzle that requires both strategy and an eye for aesthetics to execute well.

From a high-level perspective, make sure the images in your Top Nine have a cohesive flow and branded aesthetic. This doesn’t mean you have to use the same filter or editing tools for every image, but you do want to make sure the viewer's eye travels across the photos in a way that makes sense.

You should also consider the content within each frame. A good rule of thumb to follow is the 80/20 rule: 80% of your posts should be lifestyle, user-generated and organic photos, and 20% should be promotional content. It’s always advantageous to use mixed media too: Switch it up between still photos, GIFs, cinemagraphs, videos and branded graphics to keep your content diverse and creative.

HINT: When placing the pieces of your puzzle, apps like Preview will help you visualize how your content will look in your feed.  

Quality Over Quantity

One of the most common Instagram blunders is posting too much content or irrelevant content. People will unfollow you the moment your posts begin to feel like spam.

Frequency and timing are so important when planning content. We recommend posting to Instagram 5-7 times per week but always err for quality over quantity. If you feel like you have too much to post, Instagram Stories are a great way to supplement your Instagram feed with in-the-moment content. We recommend using Instagram Stories daily but still keeping in mind to tie it together with relevant messaging and cohesive images or graphics.

It’s also important to consider the time of day that your followers are most active. You can get this information from the “Insights” section of your Instagram settings. Insights will show you what days of the week are best to post and even what time of day users are most active. Factoring in this data to your overall strategy will help you draft an effective content calendar and cadence.

Be Social — Engage with Your Community!

Community management is an important piece of the Instagram pie. Whether your goal is to build community and establish brand awareness or drive sales and provide customer service, fostering your online audience is essential to your success.

Managing your online community deserves a whole sub-strategy to ensure your followers feel valued. Users love to engage with brands online through direct messages, comments, likes and shares. A general rule of thumb is to respond to direct messages and comments within 24 hours. If you get the same questions often, start a log of canned responses that you can use as a template to answer those FAQs.

Go one step further and visit your branded hashtags to see who’s posting about your brand. Engage with those posts or repost them to your feed to show your love for your network of online ambassadors.

Vocabulary Word: UGC (n.) - User generated content; content posted by your online community that you should repost to give them the spotlight!

How to Stand Out

Once you’ve mastered the what and when of your Instagram strategy, you’ll want to learn how to really stand out from your competitors. Scroll-stopping captions, strategic hashtags and using location tags are three ways you can take advantage of Instagram’s algorithm.

When crafting your captions, think about your brand voice and write your messaging in line with your brand persona. Captions should be short and catchy. Boost your caption with your branded hashtag and any relevant, popular tags that would apply to your post.

Taking advantage of national days and hashtag holidays is a great way to join in on a conversation that’s trending. If you’re trying to catch the eye of a particular geographic demographic, use the appropriate location tag.

A Winning Strategy: If you’ve taken your Instagram to the next level, you might even make it to the Explore page, which is a great way to reach a new audience!

Tools for Success

We’ve found a few features, tools and tactics within Instagram that help us maximize our engagement. Here’s your homework: Put these tips and tricks to the test on your business profile.

Use Stickers

The various stickers features in the “Stories” section of the app are ah-mazing for fostering your community and encouraging engagement. Poll your audience for a “This or That,” start a countdown to your big sale, or use the slider sticker to get those reactions from your community.

Ask Questions in Your Caption

If want to learn more about your community’s interests and opinions, simply ask them a question and direct their response to the comments section below. A giveaway with instructions to comment, like and share a post is another great way to boost your engagement and expand your reach.

Try a Boomerang

Another helpful tool within the “Stories” section is Boomerangs. These are short videos that play backward and forward in a loop. This type of content is a simple way to use moving elements without the pressure of producing a full-blown video.

Save Your Favorite Posts

Organizing UGC may be daunting if people tag your brand frequently (it’s a good problem to have!). Use the “Save” bookmark located at the bottom right of a post to store UGC to add to your content strategy down the road.

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And there’s the bell! Thanks for joining us for Instagram Strategy 101! We hope these fundamentals help lay the groundwork for your successful social strategy. After you’ve implemented these best practices, be sure to circle back and analyze your results. Take note of what worked best or what didn’t perform as well and adjust your content strategy accordingly. If you have any questions, the Imagineers would love to help! Fill out our contact form to let us know how we can support your social media marketing.

Story By: Sophie Duncan