Precursor: I’m not a social media strategist. I’m a marketing strategist who, among other things, can help professionals determine which social media platform is best for their needs - Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Then I can help curate content that speaks both on my client’s behalf but also solicits authentic engagement from a target audience.
Lot of marketing jargon in that last sentence. But it’s important to differentiate that a social media strategist is more likely, for example, to help you accumulate that audience of 10k within 3 months on Instagram. And to even do that you’ll likely need to engage in a paid advertising campaign to push your ads - on any platform.
So keep in mind, that while these social platforms were in fact built on the premise of free access for sharing personal and business content, the promise to investors and shareholders was and remains revenue growth. Enter business platforms and added features that come with a price - like access to the audience you’ve either organically grown already, or now need but must pay to get and grow. Hence paid advertising. And valuable paid advertising.
So I do the research to make sure that while the algorithms are consistently evolving, shifting and morphing to help shape and build the advertising and paid platform, you can keep up without having to pay.
The results are not the same as paid, but the basics are a must.
At this point, if you have a basic business profile, you’re probably interested in not losing more followers, or you’d like to get another hundred or two in the next few months and perhaps hit 1000+.
But how do you do that.
Instagram has a few guidelines.
Enter Alex Tooby. Her light hearted but strategic Instagram verified account like Men + Coffee has over 400k followers and she’s taught social media management for 3 years. Via her job as a social media strategist who generates income from selling tools like workshops, she claims to have reached $1 million in revenue. And she’s Canadian so we believe her.
The content below has been transcribed by me while listening to her work via Youtube. The transcription is not exactly word for word, but pretty close. Please keep in mind this is her advice, not mine. Though I do endorse her work as I’ve found it relevant and valuable. I’m not getting paid to write this :)
Understanding the Insta Algorithm and 3 Ways to Get it on Your Side
First of all, lower engagement is being experienced across the board for everyone. It’s not just you. The kind of engagement that one could get a year or two ago is just no longer.
So what’s the secret: the longer you or any user are on the app, the more money Instagram makes. Longer use = more opportunity for Instagram to show advertisements. And Instagram rewards more engaging content by showing that content to more people, more frequently.
So - how can you create content that keeps people on the app longer? This is really the way of the platform. Really.
Also, if you haven’t gathered this so far, Instagram first shows you the content that it thinks you’ll like the most. This is based on what you like, who you DM, where you comment, etc. This is likely obvious. But you can use this feature to increase your own engagement.
Action Tip #1
Discover what content your ideal audience already likes.
(This means you need to be following the people who you’ve defined as your ideal audience).
Do some market research.
Go to your notifications tab and hit the “Following” tab in the upper left hand corner. See screenshot.
This space in the Instagram app will tell you what the people you’re following like (which may also introduce you to cool, interesting and new content).
What do you see pop up the most? Paintings? Graphics? Loud colors? Black and whites? Posts with text? Faces or selfies?
Look for recurring themes. These themes can tell you a lot about what your ideal audience engages with most and inform your decision next time you post.
Action Tip #2
Use more video.
A video keeps people on the app longer. And longer engagement means Instagram will show your work more.
Action Tip #3
Write longer captions.
Again, longer time to read = longer time spent on app.
Instagram prioritizes information relevancy not by the content itself, but by when that content is posted.
The newness of a post is not based on the last time you posted, but the last time the user was active on the app.
If you post at 8 am and your audience comes online at 11am Instagram will show posts to users that were most recently made at say 10:45 am or 10:50 am. Yours post from 8 am will get pushed further back.
That means posting multiple times a day is not the answer. Determining when your audience is online, is.
If you have a business profile, you can go to your profile and hit the three stacked lines in the upper right and corner.
Click on “Insights”.
Hit “Audience” and you’ll see the times your audience is online most frequently.
Alternatively, you can use a third party app called WhenToPost. (I’ve downloaded this and it’s Instagram approved. And Alex reminds us that whenever you use a third party app you should see the Instagram logo front and center. This format will indicate you’re not giving your login info to a spammer.)
This WhentoPost tool can give you up to the minute indicators of when to post or not. You’ll also see 3 best times to post per day and other days of the week. (I’ve been using this but haven’t found any major difference, but will give it a few more weeks for testing). If you don’t have instagram insights on a business profile this tool can be helpful, Alex says. If you do have a business profile with insights, this tool can help you cross reference.
No matter how many accounts you follow, you should see your ‘best friends’ posts, first. This is based on again, your previous actions and the actions between another account with mutual engagement back and forth.
If you like images a lot on an particular account and that person is not liking back, the relationship is not considered strong.
The strength of an Instagram relationship can be built when you engage more with your ideal target market and encourage them to engage back. One way to do this is by ‘giving a little Instagram love.’ Go into your following list and begin participating in the various accounts of the people who are following you.
You’re basically opening up the lines of communication. Also, it tells Instagram the relationship exists. A CTA (call to action) can also help encourage relationship building by asking your followers to respond to something.
That content above is from Alex’s first session of her Insta Education series.
That said, I will allow that some of the above tactics are time consuming. This process takes work and commitment and consistency. You must know you ideal target market and you must have content that resonates with this group. I’ve made money off Instagram simply by attracting a client from out of state with whom I now work on a monthly basis. But I do have a strategy, I do use it consistently and I know who my target audience is. And I engage with them. And yeah, it’s a lot of work.