Recent studies indicate that there are more than 800 million active monthly Instagram users around the world and that at least 60 million photos go up on Instagram every day! And, on any given day, there are at least 1.6 billion likes recorded on the site.

These numbers are on the rise and considering the high internet penetration rates across the world, and also the fact that more businesses are using this social media site to widen their reach and to increase their sales, there is no denying that you and your business have to be on Instagram. Also noteworthy to mention is the fact that about 25 million of the active Instagram accounts are business profiles.

The big question, however, is this: how are you going to leverage the power of this social media site? And what do you need to do to engage your current followers and to attract new ones? What will make your profile a strong magnet to convert followers into leads and buyers?

Are you using the Instagram Business Account?

Instagram could have prompted you to try its business profile, but you might have brushed off the idea. We are here to tell you that you must make the switch now. First, it’s a business account, and your account will feel a lot more important. But, that is not all you get from making the switch – the Instagram business account makes marketing effortless in many ways.

Your followers get to click on your contacts as they would on the website, they can buy or view your website, they get redirected to your profile the instant they click the tab, but the best part is that it allows creation and publishing of ads. So, no more overreliance on Facebook!

The other sweet bit about the business account is the access to the Instagram Insights tool which gives you a peek into the performance of your page. You will be able to access the statistics on your posts’ reach, impressions, and you also get to track your performance, while gaining a deeper understanding of your audience.

Make use of real-time and authentic user-generated content

Stock photographs and the ones staged by others for promotional purposes appear great but, those do not portray your company in the right light. They may not be the perfect images in your gallery but if you want to attract more followers, try posting images in real time.

Of course, you could use filters as long as the images are authentic. At a time when competition is steep in all industries, you could be tempted to market your products using the surreal images on Pinterest but, your leads and prospects want to see authentic content – content that offers a glimpse of your company’s product offerings and culture. While you can brighten an image on your gallery, you should stick to authentic and unfiltered videos or live streams.

Still doubting the effectiveness of this strategy? Think about the last time you interacted with a company online – was the interaction human? Do you wish that the communication felt more relatable? Well, just like you, your followers are looking for that genuine human element.

In fact, it is a much-needed element in digital and social media marketing you will string along more followers and customers if you page feels human. Note that rigid or professional-looking content feels dispassionate and cold, and your customers will walk away from such companies. That also means that you should watch your brand’s voice – keep it professional but thoroughly human.

Create and Publish high-quality videos

As mentioned above, you need to publish 100 percent unfiltered videos, but that does not mean that you have the right to post blurry videos on your profile. If you are going live, you must use high-quality cameras and video recorders that will capture every moment in the best light. To make this possible, you should invest in the best equipment there is: you need to take 4K-quality videos and also make use of the features afforded by Instagram. We are talking about the locking focus and exposure, toggling (when on Do Not Disturb Mode), and you can also adjust the exposure.

While you are not able to create the videos daily or weekly, you should never compromise on the quality of your videos. While consistency is great, premium-quality content is exceptional. Great quality gets you a higher engagement than posting low-standard content all the time. You will also appreciate the fact that you have font options to videos and you can place text on videos – cool, isn’t it? Great videos have higher engagement than images, and so, you must make the most out of it.

Here are some of the things you could do to make the most out of Instagram videos:

• Show your followers things they are not likely to see on a daily

• Use pop-culture or relatable memes that are relevant to your audience

• Incorporate action-packed stunts, features, and sports

• Play around with animations and photo collages

• Tap into the emotions of your audience and post-heart-warming images.

Use the free Instagram tools

We all love freebies. But, despite the excitement of extras you don’t have to pay for, how often do you make use of the Instagram freebies? You should start.

On top of that list of Instagram tools, you don’t have to pay for is the Instagram Insights Tool. The Insights tool is essential because it tells you whether your strategies work or not, which ones work better than others, and how to adjust to meet the needs of your audience. You get to view the impressions you are making, the reach, engagement data, and organic performance, among others.

On top of it all, the insights tool gives a breakdown of your demographics so that you can uncover the age, location, gender, or active hours of your audience. You also get to control your narrative or make changes to your narrative early on because you also receive daily weekly and monthly stats.

The other free tools you might want to try include Layout, Iconosquare, HootSuite, SnapWidget, Snapseed, or HyperLapse, Buffer, PicFlow, etc.

Instagram Stories

This is a strategy that, if utilized well, will give you the best 24 hours of your life. Instagram stories work like Snapchat, and it gives you an opportunity to market yourself within 24 hours.

To make the best of it, create ephemeral content- this is short-lived content that has the highest effect if played well. Instagram stories are highly effective with studies showing that you are guaranteed at least one direct message reply for about 5 stories. The success that comes from ephemeral content comes from the fact that people want to know what is happening now and they are the least interested parties to look at old and stale stories.

Wondering what type of content you can market using Instagram stories: well, you could market your merchandise, give an inside look into your operations, market an event, broadcast How-To videos, run contents, or host a guest. To make the most out of it, be lively and create/ share high-quality content.

Use location tags and hashtags to drive your engagement

It feels good when your posts record higher reach with every post, but that should not be enough. You need to focus on content that drives engagement because engagement is the key to higher sales. Hashtags and locations tags make your posts discoverable and more shareable.

Now, creating location tags is simple, but that is not the hard part. The hard bit is creating hashtags that work for your brand, and you cannot use the hashtags. This means that you need to develop a hashtag strategy for Instagram. Note that by adding hashtags to your videos and Instagram stories, you increase your engagement, and that engagement can be as high as 13 percent if you use the right hashtag. To make this happen for you, incorporate your brand name into that hashtag. With the new feature that allows followers to follow hashtags, you must be smart about the use of hashtags, ensuring that they are appropriate for the content you are sharing.

You also need to incorporate hashtags into Instagram Stories by publishing hashtagged geo-locations and the subject of the story. You should also be aware of the fact that there are community and branded hashtags and you need to know how and when to use either.

Posts scheduling at the right time

Others may argue that there is no right or wrong time to post on Instagram, but as you can tell from your insights, there are specific peak times. So, work around that to make sure that your content doesn’t just reach a wide audience but also to ensure that you get the highest engagement rates for your content. Once you have identified the times that work best for you and the events or holidays you wish to make the most out of, find the scheduling tools. The most effective scheduling tools include Later, Buffer, Tailwind, Schedugram, Autogrammer, Sprout Social, and HubSpot. So, you have the right tool but, how do you go about scheduling posts?

• First, get admin access to your company’s business page on Facebook. Yes, we have to talk about Facebook because the Business pages of these two social media sites have been synchronized together and to automate the Instagram posts, you have to integrate both accounts.

• Switch to the Business profile if you have not – don’t worry, you can manage more than one account on one device. Just be careful when posting so that you don’t mix business with personal content/ business.

• Integrate your Instagram profile with the tool chosen above

• Create the first post on your account then compose the appropriate message to match the content you are sharing.

• Set the time and the date you want the post published. Preview the post to ensure that it looks rights, and Schedule the message.

Use influencers to drive engagement

Instagram might be the social media site that accounts for a high level of adultery in Canada and around the world, but this site makes money. Even if your strategies are working well, we are certain you wouldn’t mind an opportunity to earn a little more money, right? Well, that is where Instagram influencers come in. Influencers will broaden your reach, but that is not what it is all about.

While getting someone with millions of followers brings increases the number of followers, you need to focus on quality. For this to happen, you need to use influencers who market your brand by resembling your ordinary followers. They should be relatable, and above all else, their brand should be somewhat similar to yours. It is, therefore, advisable to reach out to micro-influencers rather than macro influencers – you need high engagement rates, right?

To get the most out of influencers don’t limit the use of influencers to Instagram. You also need to use Influencer marketing tools and, always measure the ROI from influencer marketing. Also, find a large pool of influencers to work with, find and work with more YouTube influencers, and stop building transactional relationships.

Create and Publish Useful Content rather than ads

While the length of posts on Instagram have a little effect on the engagement, you need to make sure that your content, short or long, offers useful and engaging content. You should not run ads all the time. In most cases, even when using influencers, curating excellent content rather than posting sponsored content is essential.

Tell a story with your posts

Do you want to build the largest audience that engages with your brand, an audience that contributes to your sales? Well, tell a story. Instagram is an influential site that attracts people from all walks of life.

To create that lasting impact you desire, you must use the platform to tell a visual story. You can share your stories through photos videos, and Instagram Stories, and as long as your stories are consistent, you will be on the path to a bigger audience. Stories create connections that ads cannot scratch. While at it, watch your brand’s voice. You should stay true to your voice and as mentioned above, reveal your authentic self.

Lastly, create your unique Instagram link and always track your metrics.

By Chakraborty

Dr Chakrabarty is the Chief Innovation Officer of IntuiComp TeraScience. Earlier she was Assistant Professor of Delhi University, a QS ranked university in India. Before that she has held research positions in IIT Mumbai, IIT Chennai and IISc Bangalore. She holds 2 patents and over 20 research publications in her name which are highly cited. Her area of research is in smart technologies, integrated devices and communications. She also has a penchant for blogging and is an editor of Business Fundas.