If your small business has a following on Instagram, you need to understand how the algorithm governing its feed has changed recently.
Items used to appear reverse chronologically in your followers’ feeds, so if your followers checked their Instagram accounts shortly after you posted something, your photo would appear at the top of their feeds. That has changed recently.
Instagram, as you probably know, is owned by Facebook and the Instagram feed algorithm has been reworked to parallel how items appear in the Facebook News Feed.
Items that generate more Instagram user interest get priority placement. These are the items that Instagram believes will be of more interest to its users. This paves the way for more profitable advertising in the Instagram feed.
However this ultimately plays out, it shines a very bright spotlight on the importance of engaging your followers on Instagram.
You need to do everything you can to prove to the new algorithm that — darn it — people like you!
With that goal in mind, let’s look at five strategies that will help you engage your followers and gain new (engaged) ones.
1. Capitalize on the special interests of your customers.
What are your customers passionate about? Find a “hook” to build your Instagram marketing around. Create a hashtag. Use other general hashtags related to your topic of choice so you can branch out to new people.
Diversity has been a mainstay of American culture for a generation and the Internet has allowed us to push diversity further than ever before. This is great for marketers because it creates all kinds of “micro-niches” to explore with highly engaged audiences. Find these niches and use Instagram to develop them.
Hint: Sometimes you can discover these micro-niches by looking at the long-tail keywords that perform best for you.
2. Feature your employees and community.
Let people know that you hire locally and support the local economy. Have your employees post to your business Instagram account showing activities that take place in the local community. They can tag their location and use relevant hashtags.
Also, encourage your employees to post about your business from their personal accounts. When your employees post, they bring in their social network following, so you can greatly increase the size of your digital marketing footprint with zero cost.
3. Post a discount code via Instagram.
Create a custom graphic or just have an employee hold up one of those handwritten signs with a discount code and offer details.
If you do this on a regular basis, you can get your customer tuned into what you’re doing and they’ll regularly check your Instagram feed to see if you’ve posted any discounts recently.
4. Get your customers to post using a hashtag you’ve created.
If there is any “lifestyle” angle to your business, create a contest where people post pictures of your products being used in their lives. This can also be adapted to the B2B environment in many cases. Pick one random winner each month for a discount, special recognition, or a prize. Just remind your customers to include your hashtag in their posts so you can keep track of their postings.
As with encouraging your employees to post, when you get your customers involved, you can also get their social network followers involved.
5. Let your followers know that some of your special offers are ONLY communicated via Instagram.
As with any social media marketing, you need to establish your presence. If you have an existing audience on other social networks, or an engaged list of email contacts, let them know what you’re doing on Instagram and encourage them to follow you.
If you have something that’s exclusive to your Instagram channel, it will entice more people to follow you there.
Post on a regular basis. Post special offers on a schedule so people know to check you out.
Show up for your audience.
Take some time to review the engagement you’ve received on your existing posts. Post more of what your followers are most interested in.
Then, look for ways to build on that interest through creative ideas and collaboration with your staff and customers.
The better suited your content is for your audience, the more likely it is to appear at the top of your users’ feeds.
Want more Instagram tips? Visit the Constant Contact Instagram 101 page.
About the Author: Susan Solovic is THE Small Business Expert. Sign up for Susan’s Success Tips Newsletter and get your free copy of “Smart Marketing Strategies for Small Biz” ebook.