LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 19: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been processed using digital filters) An... [+] alternative view of a model looking at her instagram account during London Fashion Week Spring/Summer collections 2017 on September 19, 2016 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images)
With more than 600 million users a month, the once little and lowly Instagram platform has become a powerful networking engine. Particularly as visual media of every variety gains steam, Instagram gives entrepreneurs the power to grow and promote their brands more effectively than ever before.But how? This week I turned to Lisa Illman, @lisa_illman, the business development pro I last spoke to in October, 2015 to discussthe eight steps she developed for Instagram that doubled her own following and attracted new customers in 30 days, as follows:
1. Create a Clear Profile. Your Instagram profile is prime real estate , so be sure to take advantage of all the traffic going by. The three key areas to focus on are your photo, profile description and URL link.Instagram, of course, is an image-conscious social media site, so be sure your profile photo is a good one. “I personally prefer a photo of a person in social media avatars, unless you are a pet business,” Illman says. “If you are, an adorable kitten or puppy is crowd-pleasing. But if you do use your logo, be sure it matches the logo on your website and other social media platforms. For logos, consistency is key.”
Your profile description tells visitors who you are, what you’re about and most of all, what they can expect to see if they follow you. Keywords are a plus. If you are a motivational speaker, your headline might say something like “I love to inspire, motivate and teach professionals how to conquer their goals and live life to the fullest.” Be sure the description is managing the expectation of your target audience. If they don’t know what to expect from your posts, the chance of them following you decreases tremendously. For example, the description for a fitness instructor might state, “My posts are so motivating, you can’t help but want to work-out!”
2. Consider Using Canva to Create Images. Canva is a solo-entrepreneur’s dream come true, Illman says. It eliminates hours of fiddling and photo manipulation. It is simple to use and rich with features. Depending on the message you want to convey, you can create a newsfeed that pops with color, mesmerizes with hues or communicates a simple elegance.
The @Weddingdresslookbook boasts more than 850K followers (Image courtesy of WeddingBookLookbook)
Once you know the style you’d like to convey, use Canva to pick out the colors you’d like to use consistently for postings. These colors should reflect your brand. For Illman, as a business development consultant who focuses on sales and social media, she wanted a bold and eye catching color in her feed. So she chose a bright red as a theme for a series of memes that were in line with her business. Her first posts consisted of one meme and one photo of whatever I was doing that day.“What I love most about Canva is the easy color chart that guarantees you use the exact shade of ‘red’ every time. This is important for brand consistency—so take advantage of Canva’s color feature,” she says.
Once you have chosen Instagram as your size of photo, (Canva has the dimensions figured out) you will return to the work area and click on “background” in the left column, so the color chart is displayed. Click on the closest color to the one you want. Next, click the “plus” sign which causes a color wheel to appear. You can use the bar and color wheel to create the exact color you want.Once you choose your color, take note of its number, and either take a screen shot or write it down for your other images. You can do this for all colors, to ensure your brand images remain consistent over time.
3. Create a Style Pattern in Your Profile. Creating a style pattern in Instagram is fun and with the help of Canva, surprisingly easy. “My checkerboard images are getting insanely positive comments,” Illman says.Beyond color, there are many patterns you can play with in Instagram as well. For example, you can create a theme board of quotes on top of a checkerboard pattern. Then the next month you can offer tips with each post and use a different pattern. The key is to be true to your message and brand while interchanging the look to keep your images fresh over time.
4. Use Hashtags Like a Ninja. Hashtags are not an option if you want to get noticed on Instagram. For maximum impact, Illman recommends at least 11-15 for every post (the platform allows up to 30). For ideas, check out hashtagify.me. You can plug in one hashtag, and the tool will generate other popular associated tags. Another trick is to watch what successful Instagram Influencers and competitors in your industry are using and consider adopting the tags they’re using as well.
5. Use Live Stream and Video. Illman has been using live stream for business for more than a year. “I can’t recommend this Instagram feature enough,” she says. Video and live video accelerate the know, like and trust factors that compel potential clients to make an investment in you. Having your face, voice and message in front of so many people via the Internet is an incredible business blessing.
Live stream on Instagram does not save after you go live, which is both good and bad. You are not creating a history of content for your profession, yet this facet creates a sense of urgency in that people know that if they don’t hop on when you’re live, they’ll miss your message. Live video is authentic by its very nature. You can post on the fly very easily from your smart phone.
Instagram video is a wonderful tool for the short snippets of video you want to share with your audience, and in this case, the video will save itself in your profile newsfeed. You can even use Instagram video to enhance a style pattern by intermittently including video with images. Instagram video also has a filter feature that allows you to produce video in sepia, chrome or black and white, which adds additional versatility and fun.
6. Post Regularly. Regular posting on any social media site is a must. Instagram is a bit more time consuming in that it doesn’t allow third-party apps to post automatically. This is where an Instagram specialist can be beneficial. Posting at least three times a week is a good idea, Illman suggests, but if you are serious about being an Instagram influencer, daily posting is a must.
7. Interact with Others. Spending time commenting on posts within your community and on target client posts is very important. In Illman’s case, she schedules a certain number of hours a week for Instagram, with community interaction as one of the tasks. If you are new to Instagram, you might consider joining an Instagram pod that can help you build your following faster than going it alone. Illman started one for her Facebook Master’s Group and it has become a big hit.
8. Promote Your IG Profile. Promote your Instagram profile on your other social media sites and when you send out your newsletters and emails. If you are really determined to get your following up on Instagram, you can send direct messages on Facebook to your community with a link to your Instagram account. Instagram will also let you know which Facebook friends are on IG so you can start to follow them, which prompts them to follow you back. If you start following too many people who are not following you back, check out the Followers app. This app will show you which people aren’t following you back and allows you to unfollow as many as 60 per day.
Because Instagram is owned by the mega giant Facebook, we can expect to see many more features emerge in 2017. This is one of the factors that makes Instagram one of Illman’s top picks and recommendations for social media in 2017. This eight-step strategy should bring additional momentum to any small business for 2017 and beyond.