In part 1 of our “up your Instagram game” series, we talked about building an impactful brand presence. Now it’s time to dig a little deeper, touching on some of the keys to growing your brand on social media. With the right strategy in place, your followers will be a highly concentrated group that’s very likely to engage with your content.

There are 4 core components to building a successful Instagram strategy.

  1. Follower Targeting
  2. Hashtag Optimization
  3. Peak Post Time Scheduling
  4. Consistency

1. Follower targeting:
This one takes some time along with a bit of trial and error, but don’t let that discourage you. Doing this step right will yield a foundation of followers that are highly likely to be interested in your brand and content. The basic premise is simple, find competitor brands, similar brands, and brands with similar personalities to yours. Click the following number on their profile, and run down the list following each user. That sounds like a whoooole lot of work…and you’d be right, it is! But we’re playing a long game here. This step is all about building a ground swell of passionate followers.

2. Hashtag Optimization
Unlike Facebook and to some extent Twitter, hashtags work really well on Instagram. Posts with at least one Instagram hashtag average 12% more engagement than posts without a hashtag. We’re talking the difference between a post with great engagement and a post with hardly any engagement at all sometimes. Posts with hashtags are 55% more likely to be shared. The cheap tip is to tell y’all to slap the hashtags #vsco and #vscocam onto your post. Just those two tags alone will give your content a boost in likes. But the key to building a hashtag strategy is to identify ones that are both popular AND relevant to the type of content you’re posting. Here’s a few quick run through to consider when identifying the right hashtags for you:

1. Is it popular? When searching hashtags on Instagram, it will tell you how many people are using each tag related to the term you search. In general the key here is to pick hashtags that a popular, but not the most popular…let’s say somewhere between 100k uses and 700k uses. This will ensure people are seeking out the tag, but increases the chances that your content won’t just get lost in the flood of posts using the tag.
2. Is it contextually relevant? Context on Instagram is usually based on a few variables. Location based hashtags always make sense, as well as product or subject matter tags. But context can get tricky on Instagram as there is likely an entire sub category of popular tags relevant to your post. For example, if you’re posting a cool shot of Lake Michigan, you might hashtag #grandhaven, #lakemichigan and #lighthouse. Those are the obvious basics to use. But once you dig deeper, hashtags such as #adventuretillwedie, #chasinglight, or even #exploretocreate might make sense. It takes a bit of trial and error to find your perfect mix of hashtags, but selecting approximately 20 hashtags to add onto each post will bring a tremendous increase in engagement, reach, and awareness.

3. Peak Post Time Scheduling
If the first two items on the Instagram strategy list seem daunting, fear not as this one is much easier to get going on today. First things first, you’ll need to make sure you’ve made your account “Instagram for Business” ready. You can find that option in settings. Once enabled, you’ll notice a new icon up in the top right of your homepage. Click into it and a wealth (by Instagram standards) of profile information will be unlocked. Specifically, we’re looking for peak times when you’re followers are on Instagram interacting with content. You can sort this info by day, and quickly you’ll start to notice patterns in optimal times to post content to maximize impact.

4. Consistency
This last point is certainly not as strategic, but it’s maybe the most important. Save the best for last right? You might be nailing all the points listed above, but the single most important piece of advice to remember is that you need to be posting all that great content on a REGULAR BASIS (I repeat) REGULAR basis to truly kill it on Instagram. Let’s not get crazy. This doesn’t mean you need to post 7 days a week, multiple times per day. I’d argue that 3-4 times a week is the sweet spot. It’s just enough to keep your followers interested and coming back for more.

So that’s it! Easy right? Instagram is an amazing platform for visual brands to develop a community of passionate followers.  There’s no question that developing a targeted large scale account takes time, but the payoff is worth it.