Post consistently, use hashtags, and respond to comments from your followers. When it comes to marketing on Instagram, you already have a handle on all of those basic best practices. But, what if you’re eager to go beyond those nuts and bolts and take your brand’s Instagram presence to the next level? Are there any lesser-known Instagram marketing tips that can help you continue to step up your Instagram game? Of course there are—and, fortunately for you, we’ve pulled together 15 of them right here. Put these to work, and you won’t just have a barren Instagram profile. Instead, you’ll leverage it to identify new customers, grow a devoted following, and elevate your brand. Instagram for Business 101 Grab our ebook Instagram for Business to take your Instagram game up a notch! Instagram Marketing Tips #1: Understand the Algorithm We know—the mention of yet another social media algorithm that you need to decode and decipher is enough to make you want to toss up your hands and walk away. However, if you want to see your Instagram efforts pay off, it’s imperative that you dedicate the time to understand the algorithm behind it all. Unfortunately, Instagram tends to keep the details about its algorithm pretty close to the vest, which makes it that much tougher to figure out exactly how you can maximize it. But, we know this much for sure: Chronological ordering is out. Users no longer see posts in their feed based on date. Instead, Instagram uses a complicated formula to analyze a bunch of different factors and figure out who your posts should show up for. So, what exactly does Instagram look at? There are reportedly seven different factors associated with the algorithm. Those are: Direct Sharing Engagement Profile Searches Relationships Relevancy Time of Post Time Spent Reading Post The Instagram algorithm takes all of these factors into account and then crunches the numbers to determine which users would be most interested in seeing your post pop up in their own feeds. If you’re interested in going beyond the smoke and mirrors and digging further into everything the algorithm involves, check out our comprehensive guide all about it. Instagram Marketing Tips #2: Create Your Posts on Desktop Of course, Instagram is largely used on mobile devices. Because of this, it seems strange to think that you’d want to do anything Instagram-related on your desktop. However, creating your images on your computer is an idea worth considering. Why? Well, first and foremost, creating images and editing photos on your computer can happen much faster than it would on your phone. And, given the size and the functionality, it’s often easier as well. Additionally, while there are plenty of great editing apps that work for mobile, working on your desktop will give you the option to use other image creation tools. If you haven’t tried it yet, using Sked Social’s (formerly Schedugram) Canva integration on your desktop is a great way to create custom quote images and graphics that will help set your feed apart from your competitors (it even gives you the perfect Instagram-sized template to work with!). If you haven’t used our Canva integration, follow the quick tutorial in this article which teaches you how to add inspirational quotes to your images. You could create a custom quote image or graphic using Canva (which even provides Instagram post templates!), for example. If you do plan to set your phone down and start creating images on your desktop, you’ll want to be aware of the image sizes you should use. Here are the dimensions you should stick with, according to Buffer: Square Image: 1080px in width by 1080px in height Vertical Image: 1080px in width by 1350px in height Horizontal Image: 1080px in width by 566px in height Instagram Marketing Tips #3: Schedule Your Content Does this scenario sound familiar? According to your content calendar, you should be publishing something to your Instagram account today. But, there’s only one big problem: You don’t have anything to post. This results in a mad dash to pull something together—something that oftentimes ends up being totally mediocre. Would you like to avoid that stressful time crunch? Of course you would. This is why using an Instagram scheduler like Sked Social that automatically publishes your content can be so helpful. Using a scheduling tool for your Instagram account helps you to abide by that social media golden rule: post consistently. “The best posting frequency for Instagram is the posting frequency that you can consistently maintain for the rest of your natural life,” explains Neil Patel about the importance of consistency in an article for Forbes. But, when you have so many tasks and duties on your plate, your social media content can easily get back-burnered or totally forgotten. That’s the beauty of using a scheduler—your content will be published, without you needing to squeeze it in on a day when you’re already overwhelmed and busy. Another great benefit of scheduling your social media posts? You’re more likely to stick to a strategy. When you’re able to sit down and map out posts for several weeks or even months, it’s easier to keep your eye on your overarching goal and message—as opposed to tossing up sporadic posts that may or may not fit together as well. Finally, it can save you time. It’s much easier and more efficient to create five additional Instagram posts when you’re already creating one—as opposed to needing to open up those apps, tools, and documents each time you edit a single image. Instagram Marketing Tips #4: Take Advantage of UGC (User-Generated Content) Even the most creative and forward-thinking brains on the planet can occasionally struggle with coming up with a catchy image and caption to post to Instagram. It happens. So, why not share (or, to use Instagram lingo, “regram”) posts that your followers are posting to their own accounts? It’s an effective method to not only repurpose some existing content that’s out there, but also to engage your audience—provided you give them credit and a shoutout for their own image. How can you find images that you might want to share or repost? Well, one method is to scroll through accounts of followers or influencers that post content that’s relevant to your own brand. However, an even more straightforward tactic is to create your own hashtag for your followers to use on related posts. The Everygirl, an online publication targeted towards Millennial women, is one brand that does this exceptionally well. For example, their hashtag #theeverygirltravels, provides them with a seemingly endless well of beautiful travel shots (there are over 58,000 posts with that hashtag!) that they then post to their own account—all while providing attribution to a follower who’s thrilled to be promoted to a larger audience. You might not start out with that many options, particularly if your audience is smaller. But, don’t hesitate to start encouraging your followers to share their own images. It can be a great way to secure some additional content and increase your engagement—without actually needing to create any posts of your own! Pro tip: Our Chrome extension – Sked Social Regram will help you repost on the web and schedule reposts with your Schedugram account! To start using it, click on the link and download it for free from the Chrome Web Store. Then, anytime you’re browsing Instagram on your desktop with Chrome, you can easily regram user-generated content with just a couple of clicks. All you have to do is click on the Schedugram icon on Chrome’s toolbar (see red arrow below) and it will automatically create the post for you (it’ll even give credit to the original poster via a mention so you don’t breach Instagram’s regramming rules!). Then, fill out your caption and first comment (green arrow above), add your tags/hashtags, and either add it to your queue or schedule it to post on a specific time/date. How easy is that? RELATED: Instagram Fails? 17 WTF Insta Moments from Brands Instagram Marketing Tips #5: Track Your Links Metrics and analytics are key to the success of any marketing effort, and that same holds true on Instagram. But, let’s face it, tracking exactly how your Instagram account is converting can be tough. Why? Because Instagram doesn’t allow you to put any clickable links in photo captions. Instead, you’re only allowed to share a link in your Instagram bio. However, simply having that link there simply isn’t enough. You want to discover how well your Instagram account is performing, by monitoring the amount and quality of traffic being driven to your landing page within your bio. This is why many social media experts recommend using a link shortener which you can add in your bio. That way, you can see exactly how many people are clicking over to your website from your Instagram account. “Create a different bit.ly link each time you change the link for a new landing page, campaign, or default page to continuously track successful traffic leads,” advises social media trainer, Jenn Herman, in a post for Social Media Examiner. Instagram Marketing Tips #6: Prevent Yourself From Getting Shadowbanned Hashtags can be a powerful tool to leverage on Instagram. And, it’s tempting to think that slapping a bunch of them on your post will get your content seen by anyone who’s perusing that specific term. However, many Instagram users have recently noticed that their posts actually aren’t getting seen in those hashtag pages. They’ve been “shadowbanned”—a term users have coined for this bizarre phenomenon. What does it mean to be shadowbanned? “Your images will no longer appear in the hashtags you’ve used which can result in a huge hit on your engagement,” explains Alex Tooby in her blog post about shadowbanning, “Your photos are reported to still be seen by your current followers, but to anyone else, they don’t exist.” Why do accounts get shadowbanned? Many Instagram experts think that this is an effort on Instagram’s part to weed out accounts who don’t abide by the terms they’ve laid out. Reasons can vary, but according to Tooby, the following could lead to your account being shadowbanned: Using software (such as audience-growing bots) that violate Instagram’s Terms of Service Abusing Instagram’s daily and hourly limits Using a broken or abused hashtag Owning an account that’s consistently reported by other users How can you prevent yourself from being shadowbanned? Since the entire concept of shadowbanning is still somewhat mysterious, it can be difficult to know exactly how you can avoid it. Of course, if you find yourself guilty of any of the above bullet points, you should stop those immediately. Additionally, building up a core group of highly engaged users—people who will always like and comment on your posts—can help to improve your engagement level, which is something Instagram considers when figuring out whether or not other people would want to see your posts. Learn more in our in-depth guide to Instagram shadowbanning. Instagram Marketing Tips #7: Add Locations to Your Posts If you aren’t already adding a location to your Instagram posts, you should be. Why? It can improve your search optimization and geo-targeting. In other words, users who are looking at posts from that specific area will see your own post pop up. So, get started with adding your geographic location to your Instagram posts! It’s a simple change that can yield some impressive results. Instagram Marketing Tips #8: Get Serious about Instagram Captions Yes, Instagram is a predominantly visual platform, but captions are a key way for users to find out more information about your company, follow your page, engage further with your brand values, and ultimately decide if your company is for them or not. While it’s tempting to pack as much detail into captions as you possibly can, a better approach can be to think of your caption as a conversation — keep it short, snappy and relatable, and above all else, make sure the language that you use fits flawlessly with the overall tone and attitude of your brand. A useful way to begin establishing a written tone for captions is to think of your brand as a person you are having a conversation with. What sort of words do they use? Are they the playful and enthusiastic friend who you can have a laugh with, or are they the more serious friend that you turn to for advice on serious issues? Once you establish this personality, it becomes much easier to assess whether a caption does or doesn’t fit your Instagram feed. A key tip: Remember to review posts as they appear within a user’s general feed, which only shows between two and four lines of copy. Are you using these first words wisely? Make sure that your captions spark curiosity or interest within your target audience using these first few lines, and that they make sense when cut off or abbreviated by Instagram’s feed presets. Instagram Marketing Tips #9: Make Sure Your Brand Hashtags Feel Natural While bespoke brand hashtags can be a fantastic way to connect passionate fans and invite them to join in the visual conversation, nobody likes a brand that is constantly forcing its hashtags into users’ feeds by overlaying them onto what would otherwise be a beautiful image. Rather than spoiling a beautiful image with hashtags all over it, consider using Schedugr.am to place your brand hashtags within the first comment instead. You’ll be able drive engagement and avoid frustrating your audience at the same time. Like all decisions, brand tags can be a product of your company’s values, so be prepared to think beyond the scope of simply your brand’s name and location. When deciding upon your brand’s unique hashtag, you should also search for other content that has been tagged with the word or phrase to ensure that there aren’t other brands out there using the tag. For example, imaging your brand is a cosmetic company called Vixen Beauty, that aims to empower wearers and allow them to express themselves. Instead of promoting #VixenBeauty as your key hashtag, look to incorporate the empowerment aspect of your ethos into the tag, with something like #BeAVixen or #MyVixenLook. Champion users who post content using your hashtag to encourage others to do the same… Everyone loves the flattery of a regram! Bonus Instagram Marketing Tips #10: Never Stop Learning It’s true what they say: The only constant thing is change. Instagram, as a platform, will always keep changing, and the ways in which people use social media to communicate will continue to evolve. Subscribe to key updates from Instagram via news outlets such as our blog and don’t be afraid to try new things, such as Instagram polls in Instagram Stories, or gallery posts that have a narrative that runs through a few sequential images. Your brand could be the first brand to introduce a user to a new function that Instagram has released. This will make you stand out as a leader by encouraging the user to share your content with friends. So once you become aware of a new feature, trial one or two posts that incorporate it (in your own style and tone, of course), and then test several approaches to the feature over the next week so that you can establish how best to use it. Bonus Instagram Marketing Tips #11: Establish Your Color Palette Begin to define a two or three-color palette that reflects your brand. This will become your visual footprint in users’ feeds. This palette could be derived from your branding, your logo, or your packaging, or could simply be a series of colours that reflect the mood of your company. Test out several colour palettes in blocks of 9 images using an app such as VSCO, or on a hidden Instagram account, before establishing the colours that you’re going to keep consistent on your feed. Once you have made your decision, start collecting backdrops and plain styling objects that can be used when shooting images for your Instagram feed. It’s a great idea to keep a few with you at all times, in your backpack or handbag, at your studio etc, so that they are always to hand. You never know when the opportunity to snap a great image might strike! Remember Editing techniques such as tonal filters and varying the contrast can also be key to creating your brand’s visual style. Take advantage of Sked Social’s in-browser editor to crop, add stickers and apply tonal filters to your posts as you schedule them in advance. Should all images be slightly de-saturated, but with heightened contrast, to make them a little more dramatic without making them feel garish? Or should you adjust the warmth setting to give a cool, sophisticated overall feel? Make a note of the editing settings that work for you, and try to use them consistently so that your feed feels cohesive when viewed as a grid. Bonus Instagram Marketing Tips #12: Know What Your Brand Stands For Trends come and go in today’s fast-paced world. While it’s important to move with the times, knowing what your brand stands for, and what the key objectives of your Instagram content are, is foundational for building an impressive feed. Before you start creating content, ask yourself: What does my brand stand for? Any brand should have a clear mission statement, supported by a short list of brand values. These values (usually around three to five values are ideal) should be clearly actionable, and reflected in every aspect of the brand’s products and marketing. Understanding the key values of your brand will help you to answer many questions that you will encounter throughout your company’s life, from what the packaging should look like, to which hashtags you want to align with on Instagram. What is the objective of my feed? Is it to inform fans of new products and services? Is it to inspire them to use your current products in new ways? Is it to show affinity for a lifestyle in which your brand fits into? By having clear objectives and goals about what you are trying to communicate, you can ensure that each and every post ties into a bigger-picture strategy. This makes your feed a more effective tool in your marketing toolbox and results in an actively engaged following who are prepped for what to expect when they encounter your content. For example, IKEA UK does this very well with their posts that incorporate style, interior design and product placements all at once. The screenshot below is a glimpse of their grid: Bonus Instagram Marketing Tips #13: Own A Visual Style Developing a uniquely distinguishable visual style and colour palette can take time, however a great place to start is combining the brand values that you have already defined, with some research into visual language used by other successful companies. For example, if your company is selling giftware, and your brand is designed to appeal towards females who have a high level of disposable income, have a look at other brands playing in the premium giftware space. Perhaps include jewellery and luxe homewares too, and do some homework on the style of imagery that seems to consistently rank highly in terms of likes and comments. Are flat lays the best way to illustrate what you are trying to communicate? Does inspirational travel photography resonate with your audience? Or is it a combination of both? Make a list of techniques and a gallery of screengrabs as a reference point for the content that you want to generate, and revisit it —you can add to it, re-edit it—regularly to keep your own visual style on track. About the Authors Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development, and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she’s also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor all over the web. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website. Clare Acheson is a creative consultant, researcher and writer with an interest in visual culture, trend forecasting and design criticism. She’s currently in Melbourne, working as a Content producer & strategist at Urban List. If you’re looking to carve out hours in your social media workflow, sign up for Sked’s 7-day trial. Our all-in-one Instagram scheduler allows you to automatically post images, carousels, Stories, videos and more. Tag locations, users and products and manage all your hashtags in one place to save 5+ hours every week.