How to Engage your Audience with the Visual Power of Instagram

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People come to Instagram for visual inspiration and the simple design allows captivating visual storytelling. Here's how to best engage your audience and inspire them with the visual power of Instagram.

Instagram is a highly engaged community with more than 400 million active users. More than 40 billion photos have been shared – of which 75% are outside the US. Instagram sees 80 million_ photos uploaded every day and gets 3.5 billion Likes daily. The numbers are compelling. But even more compelling is the format and the possibilities for brands.

Before you embark on Instagram, find out more about your target audience. What kind of brands do they follow? What kind of images resonate with them? What kind of content are they looking for from a brand? Start with listening. The importance of listening in social media, and how to get it right.

Set up your brand on Instagram properly

This is important step one. Get your brand name right, and recognizable. It's important that your branding on Instagram is consistent with what you have on other social platforms. Make sure your profile pic is good quality and depicts your brand in the best way possible.

Write an interesting bio – that's what every one sees before they click to follow you. Make sure your proper brand name is in the bio. Your bio should be short and interesting, so people can see value and decide to follow you. Remember that your bio should resonate with the Instagram community.

Create and develop a following – an audience

Before we come to your Instagram content, you need to on an on-going basis reach out to a large following. Yes, you can only do that with great content, but you do need to work on this. Discoverability on Instagram is hashtag based. Use hashtags based on key words and phrases that are relevant to your brand story. Don't forget to research trending topics and hashtags regularly. Use them. Your hashtags should include specific tags as well as the wider topic tags. You can (and should) also develop unique hashtags just for your brand. You can also use the power of influencers and user generated content to expand your following and audience.

Post attractive, beautiful images and content that's interesting

This is the sure shot. Remember, again, that it's not about selling your product. Yes, your products will feature, but make sure they are done beautifully, cropped properly, and tagged with relevant hashtags. Creativity is key. Vary your product shots – using pro quality images, different types of angles, lighting etc. Images should be high-resolution and visually stunning.

Go beyond product to lifestyle. Intrigue is a great appeal factor. Show lifestyle images around your product that have wow value. Try unusual. Use life-inspired backgrounds, scenes, and models to add a scenario to your product so users can imagine "using the power of your visual" how great those photos would look like when shooting them with your camera, or transport them on to a sailing trip wearing your boat shoes. In marketing terms, by creating aura and stories around your products, using the culture and lifestyle that surround them, you’re strengthening your brand equity.

Don't forget to include special promotions and exclusives for your Instagram followers. Share inside stories, visually share your culture, your benefits and your moments of appeal. Promote events, promote other long form content on other social platforms using attractive visuals to guide your audience there.

Use the power of video: Instagram now has a 60 second video format. Video content is compelling and multi sensory. Make sure you have relevant, attractive, and entertaining video content for your account. The new long format on Instagram now makes it possible to make your video-told stories both beautiful and complete. Don't just resort to re-purposing your YouTube content. Create Instagram specific videos that appeal to the Instagrammers way of life.

The increased limit – now a full minute, definitely creates a whole new opportunity for brands. The 15 second limit was crisp, short, and brands needed to be quick in transmitting their message. It called for precise creativity. It also allowed for the 'insta' factor in instagram. Now with 60 seconds, brands have a lot more room to express themselves – hopefully, still, creatively.

The new limit allows for a wider range of content – from how-to demos, quick unboxings, sharing the 30 second or even a 60 second tv spot (careful, there), and more "live" coverage of events, launches, product demos etc.
Whether its a story in a single video, or a series of ads that lead to the next 'episode' you can tell a really interesting story in your ads. This is a far cry from the quick "Buy Me, Buy Me" product ad. This route takes a whole new road – a road that the consumer finds that he or she wants to take – and hopefully enjoy the journey. Because there is a reward – an interest generating, absorbing tale being told.

Read the details on the new Instagram video format here (and how to use it well):
Instagram's new video limit is now 60 seconds. How can brands benefit?

Encourage participation

Engagement on any social is about a dialog, about participation. Not selling. Instagram is a huge social culture, and selling, hard selling, just doesn't fit in to that culture. Write compelling captions that draw in your following to do something. To share your content. To become believers and ambassadors for your brand.  Today, any one with a decent smartphone has the power of a beautiful image in their hands. Use that power.

You must always respond to comments and queries – and as well, in particular to great image contributions to your brand by followers. You could run competitions, ask for user posts around your hashtags and about how they use your product – champion their stories. It's a lot about what your audience is looking form. You'll be better off when they participate, when you provide relevant content to their intent. Read how Consumer intent is key.

Track how you are doing. Measure and remodel

Which posts are doing well? What kind of images get the best engagement? Have you timed your posts right? Remember insights is key. Use a tool like Iconosquare.  It tells you your total number of likes received, your most liked photos ever, your average number of likes and comments per photo, your follower growth charts and more advanced analytics.

Not just for Instagram, but for any social media Customer Insights is your First Step in Digital Marketing. Be flexible here, because as you keep listening out for what your audience is looking for, the goal posts almost always move. Types of images that trend on Instagram often change quickly. Stay on trend.

When you have a plan, you'll need to focus on how to go forward – these are sign posts for along the way. 10 Digital Marketing Essentials to focus on in 2016.

Well, that's the gist of how to engage your audience. Remember, it's the visual power that makes Instagram an ever popular social platform. Use that power to your benefit.
And that's the basics. That's Digital Marketing Strategies 101.

See these Instagram case studies on creative for inspiration


This is one of the simplest guide posts on how to use Instagram as a brand. Loved the case studies cited.


Good tips here on how companies using social media can use this visual based platform - Instagram. Worth noting that the use of Instagram filters, like just about anything in the art of photography, is incredibly subjective. Second, there are no hard and fast rules. Sometimes, a filter works with an image you wouldn’t expect it to.


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