With its humble beginnings as a simple image sharing and editing application, today Instagram has evolved to become one of the top sources of engagement and conversion for the biggest brands in the world. As the fastest-growing social networking site by crossing the one-billion monthly active user mark in 2018, Instagram has much stronger growth aspects than parent company Facebook. It also commands a much higher share in terms of active users than LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, and Pinterest, in terms of users.

With Instagram, therefore, brands that create contextual content aligning with their core values and ethos with the right messaging can not only establish better brand recall, but also kick-start conversations with their audiences. Let’s see how.

B2C Engagement: The Instagram Way

In an age when audio and visual dominates content consumption, Instagram offers opportunities for deeper engagement than any other social networking sites, and by a large margin too. The average engagement rate of Instagram is 2.26%, surpassing Facebook’s 0.21% and Twitter’s 0.02% and allowing brand to use the medium for meaningful conversations with customers.

But creating content on Instagram may not be the easiest task, considering it’s a visual-only medium. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Instagram is not just about writing a witty post, inserting a link and getting clicks on it. In fact, URLs on Instagram posts are not even clickable!

Unlike B2B brands who find it difficult to promote on Instagram due to a lack of a tangible product, B2C brands may find it much easier to establish a community on Instagram. The numerous features on Instagram give brands a lot to explore and experiment with. Here are some of the platform’s key features and how you can make the most of it:

1. Do more than just photos

Instagram is primarily an image sharing platform, but in the recent years, the platform has introduced several new features, making it a whole package that brands can depend on entirely. Videos, stories, short videos (reels), etc. have added to the platform’s credibility and increased brands’ dependence on the platform to get their messages to their audience. Apart from the features, many a brands even use the platform as a medium to inform and educate, and involve the audience in its content.

2. Leverage User Generated Content

User generated content is the best way to get your consumers to build an affinity with your brand and develop an active community on Instagram. It is the best way to gratify your consumers and push out content on your platform with minimum time or resources. One such example is visual technology company GoPro’s content on the platform. Through its images and videos, it not only talks about the capabilities of its wearable cameras in capturing adventurous moments and experiences, but also regularly encourages audiences to share their GoPro content for wider recognition and even monetization opportunities.

3. Indulge in Influencer Marketing

Influencers can help reach your brand to greater heights. Whether a small, medium, or large business, influencers with great reach will definitely leverage your brand’s presence on social media. The credibility and reach of an influencer can be highly beneficial to your brand. Collaborations can be as simple as a clothing brand giving their product for free to a fashion influencer, and the influencer in turn can promote the brand and make it visible to several tens of thousands followers.

4. Use the power of words

‘Image’ doesn’t always necessarily mean ‘photo’. Many a times, your brand’s values and messages can be conveyed through simple text-based images as well. A catchy headline on your image can always prove to be engaging among the users and help increase traction.

5. Amplify your content with hashtags

No matter how beautiful, inspiring, and attractive your content is, if you don’t make it discoverable and relevant to the correct audience, it is futile. Hashtags are the ultimate tools to marketers for discoverability. They are a way to get potential customers to you rather than going the traditional way of you taking your ads to them. Master your hashtag game and you are on the right track!

A recent research by SocialFresh suggests to not exceed more than 10 hashtags per post to avoid the perception of your post being spam. Being spammy with hashtags results in a negative effect on the engagement. Use an ideal number of hashtags in the main caption and the rest of the hashtags can be added in the comments section.

6. Ask questions or run contests

The best way to develop a community among your consumers is to build conversations through your brand among them. Give them a reason to tag or comment on your posts. Brands with higher engagement rates always tend to ask something through their posts and usually reward them with freebies or giveaways. Contests are another great way in which the same conversations can be taken forward and consumers can be rewarded for helping take your message to more people. Brands, both big and small, often employ such gratification methods generate maximum engagement in a short amount of time and as a result, even draw traffic to their websites and drive purchases in the future.

Creating a repository of content and building a sizeable audience on a channel like Instagram is a long game, and frankly, not for the faint-hearted. However, with some of these basic tenets, success can be found. Always remember, your brand identity should be at the center of your content strategy to make sure audiences see a consistent message across channels, which ultimately helps drive better recall. Whatever content you create or engagement methods you deploy should reflect that identity.