Our Instagram handbook is an essential toolkit of strategies and examples curated from some of the smartest brands on Instagram. From crafting the perfect post, to growing your audience on the platform this brief guide has you covered.
Tell your brand's story
Your audience is continuously being exposed to social media content and advertisements from different brands. With all of the noise taking place on social media, it’s crucial that your brand stands out.
To do this, it’s important to start by telling your brand’s story through your content and messaging.
When crafting your Instagram content, aim to be human. Write your captions with a personable tone. Share images that spark emotion and give your brand character. Give your audience an inside look into what makes your brand unique and an opportunity to “meet” your team. Your audience wants to CONNECT with your brand, they want to connect with you.
Show, don’t tell
It’s easy to TELL your audience why they should invest in your product or service, but it’s more impactful to SHOW them.
To do this, highlight your products and services in everyday situations to show your audience how it can add value to their life.
Hashtags are a great way to reach new audiences, hone in on niche markets, and specify certain topics or categories for your content. You find hashtags by going to the magnifying glass icon on the bottom menu and typing keywords related to your niche.
Once you gather a list of hashtags related to your niche, you can start adding them to your captions or comment section. The placement won’t affect your reach:
If you want your caption to look clean, add hashtags to the comment section.
If you want to emphasize the hashtags you use, add them to the caption.
When it comes to numbers, use as many relevant hashtags as possible, and seek balance when it comes to the size of the hashtag. Unless you have hundreds of thousands of followers, stick to hashtags with less than a million posts. In general, the fewer posts a hashtag has, the easier it is to show up on the explore page for it.
Involve your audience
User-generated content helps you create a community.
Since users participate in the content, they are more likely to engage and share it with others.
You can do this by starting a giveaway where they have to tag your brand, creating challenges that people can participate in by using a specific hashtag, or by sharing your audience’s favorites tips related to your niche.
Optimize your profile
When users end up on your profile, they should be able to quickly and easily understand who you are, what you do, and why they should follow you. Your Instagram handle and bio are two of the most important factors in developing this initial relationship:
Your Instagram handle should be professional and concise and should accurately represent your brand.
Your Instagram bio should summarize your brand and what you offer in one sentence or a bulleted list.
Lastly, be sure to include a CTA in your profile in the form of a URL that links out to a sales resource such as your website, product list, or Calendly page.
Instagram Live allows you to broadcast live video in real-time to your audience. Many brands use Instagram Live to promote new products or services, hold Q&A sessions, host interviews, and more.
Utilizing Instagram Live allows your followers to engage with you in real time and can help them to connect with your brand on a deeper level. They can ask questions or leave comments for you to respond to in real-time so it feels like a more human interaction.
Following the Instagram Live, you can either delete the recording or save it onto your profile for future followers to watch.
Ask simple questions
Simple, yet thought-provoking questions are a great way to encourage your audience to engage with your brand on Instagram.
When utilizing Instagram Stories, you can utilize the story tools to spark responses from your audience.
The question box allows you to ask a question and then prompt all of your followers to answer the question within the box. The answers appear in your notification tab so you can gather the data or respond to the questions.
The poll tool allows you to ask a question then provide two answers for your audience to choose from. They are prompted to select an answer then the percentage results appear in real time on your story slide.
Questions allow your audience to engage while feeling like they are part of your brand.
Collaborate with others
You can collaborate with companies and influencers through shout outs, guest posts, or social media takeovers. Collaboration on Instagram allows your brand to tap into the audiences of other brands in order to grow your own community and vise versa.
There are many ways to leverage a collaborative relationship on the platform with other brands, influencers, thought-leaders, and more. For example, if you own a marketing agency then collaborating with a thought-leader in the marketing space could be extremely beneficial for your brand. You could host an Instagram Live where you ask them questions or ask them to guest-write a post for you to share on your Instagram feed.
Another example is a social media takeover. For example, if you own a fitness brand then collaborating with a fitness influencer could benefit you. You could allow the influencer to have access to your Instagram account for a day and there they could post Instagram stories, engage with your audience, answer questions, or post content to your feed.
Leveraging your social media community is a great way to grow your audience and build upon your reputation as a brand.
Share valuable, educational content
One of the best ways to position your brand as an authority in your industry is through sharing valuable, educational content to your audience.
The best way to do this is to identify a pain point or a challenge that your audience may be facing in relation to your brand. For example, if you are a marketing agency, determine a pain point your audience may be facing such as struggling to generate leads. Once you determine the pain point, create a post or a series of posts to provide value to your audience surrounding this pain point.
Help your audience solve a problem, understand a new concept, or provoke new ways of thinking. Keep it simple, educational, and engaging and they will continue to come back for more.
Follow the seasons
Adding seasonal or festive elements to your Instagram content can be a great way to humanize your brand and add more personality to your feed.
Mix your brand’s visual identity with elements, colors, or images that are related to a season or event. A football team can add a beard to its mascot in Movember, a bakery can create Valentine’s day video recipes in February, and a social media agency can add a green, red, and white color to their Instagram posts during Christmas.
It’s okay to have a little fun and show your audience you aren’t strictly business.
Engage with your audience
Engaging with your audience builds brand loyalty .When your audience engages with your brand in the form of a question or comment, they want to be engaged with in return.
Instagram is a bi-directional channel. As part of your Instagram management routine, take the time to answer questions, engage with comments, or respond to feedback from your community. A little of this can go a long way.
Write purposeful captions
While Instagram is an image-heavy platform, the captions play a huge part in the storytelling.
The image may be what catches your audience’s eye, but the caption is where you can provide value, tell your story, and encourage them to take action on your profile. Your captions should be well-written using proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. They should be easy-to-digest and formatted in a way that’s easy-to-read.
Depending on the purpose of the post, the caption is where you will prompt the audience to think about something, leave a response, or take an action such as visiting your website or booking a call with you.
Build a calendar with relevant events
A content calendar allows anyone who leverages content inside your brand to keep track of the content that’s coming and the one that has been tried in the past. By knowing these, you will be able to adjust your strategy if necessary, measure results, and align the actions from other departments with future posts.
A content calendar isn’t limited to what your brand does. You can also add global events that your brand can participate in:
Annual holidays such as Valentine’s Day.
Worldwide events such as Earth Day or the Super Bowl.
Niche events such as the launch of a new show.
Think about how your company can add to the conversation. Doing this allows you to tap into an active audience that doesn’t know about you.
Show people using your products
People connect and get attracted to humans. Even if you sell a product, try to capture it with lifestyle shots or through the eyes of another person. Publishing photos of real people helps to indirectly advertise your product and bond with your audience.
Keep it imperfect
Instagram stories disappear after 24 hours. Because of this, you can share what is happening in real-time. Think of stories as a place to connect with your audience more authentically without worrying about the perfect frame, angle, or quality. Due to the generous number of gifs, typefaces, music, stickers, and polls, you will be able to create content without ever leaving the app.
Once your brand hits 10.000 followers or more, you can use stories to drive Instagram users to places outside of Instagram such as your website, YouTube channel, or newsletter. While those with 10.000 followers can’t do this, you can create an IGTV video and add a link in the description. Unlike links added to your feed, Instagram users will be able to click these.
Highlight evergreen content
Instagram Story Highlights allow you to keep stories alive for longer than 24 hours.
Use this feature to elements of high importance for Instagram users that do not frequently change. What you feature depends on your brand’s goals and values. However, some use cases can be leveraged by most brands.
For example, you can use this feature to showcase a video of your team presenting themselves and sharing their favorite books or movies. Besides showing the human side of your brand, it adds a layer of authenticity. You could also create a frequently asked questions section so that your sales team can spend less time solving them.
Last but not least, you could share an award, certification, or event that provides credibility to what your brand does.