If you follow me on social media, you know that last week, I asked all of you to share what your pain points are with social media and digital marketing. Topics ranged from SEO best practices to analytics to Instagram engagement and everything in between.

I heard from many of you (thank you!), and Instagram engagement was a hot topic. I know that this can be frustrating – especially when there constantly seems to be new features and algorithm changes.  In order for your business Instagram account to grow & flourish, you have to focus on what your customer wants to see. So today, I’m here to give you 5 Instagram trends and engagement tips to help give you the Instagram that your customer wants.

The Instagram Your Customers Really Want

Let’s start with 2 Instagram Trends:

  1. Engagement in Stories

    Engagement on Instagram feed posts has been slowly, but steadily declining for years. You can chalk this up to a variety of factors, but I believe that one big reason is that users have stopped mindlessly scrolling.

    So, what do you do to make sure that customers are still seeing your brand, products, or services? Head to Instagram stories! First off, they’re top of mind – so anytime someone opens the app, they’ll see the latest stories from those they follow. (Fun fact: did you know that over 400 million people view Instagram stories each day?!)

    You don’t want to miss this amazing opportunity for your business; but, how do you optimize your stories for engagement? By using stickers, shopping options, hashtags, and location tags!

    There are *so* many stickers that invite your customers to directly engage with you. You can ask questions and host polls, use the countdown sticker to build anticipation before a big announcement, and quizzes to create a fun contest! If you’re an e-commerce company, you can even make your Instagram stories shoppable by using the product sticker. Including hashtags and location tag stickers allow your story to be seen by more people, beyond your followers. You may also want to consider creating branded stickers/GIFs, too (some of my favorites are the ones by Emily Ley & Cultivate).

    There’s no doubt that Instagram Story Stickers play a big role in creating engagement as they provide a fun, creative, and personal way for brands to interact with customers. I can’t wait to see what stickers Instagram comes up with next!

  2. Authenticity

    This is considered a “trend,” but I think it’s here to stay. The days of perfectly curated feeds, overly edited photos, and bots are O.V.E.R. Customers want to have a genuine and authentic connection with the brands that they follow. You’ll see that many large brands will even have their social media managers sign each comment or response with their initials. This is because customers want to connect with your brand on a personal level. Think of a time when you’re at a restaurant, hotel, or store and you get exceptional, personal customer service. Now, duplicate that in your Instagram strategy.

    This is not only a trend for brands directly, but it’s also being mirrored in influencer marketing. Influencers are being transparent about sponsored and ad posts. And, in order for someone to purchase a product based on their recommendation, they also have to build that personal relationship with their followers. Iconosquare pointed out two great examples of this with Jenna Kutcher and Dave Coast. For instance, Jenna Kutcher shares about body positivity, finances, and her and her husband’s personal struggles with infertility. Another influencer, Dave Coast, shares stories/posts of his empty product bottles to show that he truly does use and re-purchase the products that he promotes.

    Whether it is your brand, or you’re using influencer marketing, by focusing on authenticity and building trust, you will create a community around your brand that will turn your followers into customers.

Alright…now let’s move on to 3 Instagram Engagement Tips:

  1. Create unique content.

    Instagram has repeatedly said that the only way to lift your content’s feed ranking is to produce great content. Think about this on a personal level – if a brand or person you’re following isn’t posting content that resonates with you, what do you do? You click that unfollow button. Your customers should always, always, always be your main focus for your content. Obviously, don’t post things that you don’t like or that aren’t on brand; however, you should always be posting content that is relevant and captivating for your customers. If you’re finding that you’re posting just because you feel that you have to post, it probably isn’t quality content. This is similar in concept to people-friendly writing for SEOyour customers should be your focus, not the platform.

    But, customers also want unique content. Your brand needs to stand out! There’s a lot of content to compete with – whether that’s from influencers, other brands, and businesses, or even from your customers’ friends and family. To make sure you’re grabbing your customers’ attention, you need to create unique, varied content. What are some of the ways that you can do this? Share more people in your posts, such as yourself, your employees, and even your customers as spokespeople. You can also start using more videos and even trying new forms of content, such as cinemagraphs. If you’ve recently plateaued in engagement, consider these tips and try something different in your posts.

  2. Strategic, Long-Tail Hashtags

    You must start being more strategic with the hashtags that you use. On Instagram, you get up to 30 hashtags per post – use them wisely. You need to start using long-tail, specific hashtags on your posts, as these more accurately reflect the content of your post. Say you’re posting a picture of a flower on Instagram. You could use #flower, which has 76.7 million posts, or you could use #pinkpeony which has 27.4 thousand posts. This is a simple example, but you get the idea.

    The more specific (or long-tail) hashtag has fewer associated posts, which means your content is more likely to be discovered liked, or commented on. New posts are being added to the flower hashtag every minute (probably even every second), so your post is going to get pushed down the page very quickly. However, posts are being added to #pinkpeony less frequently, which means your post is staying closer to the top of the page and allowing more time for your content to be found. You can still use more general hashtags on your post for discoverability, but to maximize this, mix them in with your long-tail hashtags and try to stick to an 80:20 ratio on your post.

  3. Engage!

    I’ve said this before, but it still rings true – to increase your engagement, your brand has to actually engage! Engagement feeds engagement. You may be thinking, “But I respond to comments!” Well, engagement expands far beyond just the comments you get on your posts. Ideally, you want to get as much engagement as possible within the first hour that you post because a lot of immediate engagement means that the algorithm recognizes that your post is something that is likely to be interesting to a lot of your followers, causing the post to appear higher up in more of your followers feeds. So, you should engage before and after your post to drive others to engage with your brand’s post.

    You can do this by engaging directly with your followers on their own feeds. Pop over to their page and leave a nice comment or two. You can also drive this by engaging with similar accounts in your industry every day. Instagram gives you a page of recommended content, so that’s a great place to start finding accounts to engage with. You can also find accounts to engage with by using keywords and hashtags in the search bar. Use specific keywords and hashtags related to your niche to find relevant accounts. The last way to find accounts to engage with: is with your competitors. That’s right head over to a competitor’s profile and click on “Followers.” Check out the accounts that are following your competitor and head to their stories or feed to engage with them.

Whew, that was a long post! You get a gold star if you make it this far! ⭐️ I hope that you find these tips useful in guiding you to better Instagram engagement. Have you implemented these trends or tips into your brand’s Instagram strategy? Did you notice a difference in your engagement?

Maybe it’s overwhelming and you’re not sure where to start. Schedule a strategy session and let’s take your brand to the next level on Instagram!

Now what are you waiting for?! See you on the ‘Gram.

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