Throughout my summer at Of the Sea, I’ve learned quite a bit about social media and how essential it is to exposing audiences to your business. I’ve had the opportunity to see the process of developing a social media strategy, which you can read more about in Kaylyn’s blog post: “How to Create a Social Media Strategy.” Once a strategy is implemented, it doesn’t stop there. There are always ways you can improve your accounts since social media is constantly changing. Read more about how you can improve your Instagram account through hashtags, stories, content and captions.

Hashtags

On Instagram, hashtags are a huge part of exposing posts to people who may not be following your page. However, putting random hashtags on each post that don’t relate to your subject or audience are a waste of space.

It is best to not use all the same hashtags for each post. Why? This can make your Instagram account look spammy and won’t attract new audiences. It can also be detrimental to your account since people can report your posts as spam. To avoid this, make sure the hashtags you use relate to each of your unique and different posts. The recommended number of hashtags for Instagram posts is 15 to 30. The more hashtags you use, the more exposed your profile will be to a wider audience. Here’s an example of one of our recent posts. As you can see, we added a few general hashtags like #buffalo and #buffalove, but also added ones that relate to the post such as brainstorm and #workoutsidethebox. 

It’s also important to add 1 or 2 brand hashtags to each of your posts. Your brand hashtag should be unique to your business. This provides a way to group all your photos together under one hashtag. For example, Of the Sea’s brand hashtag is #brandloveorbust. We added that to the end of our caption in the post above, and it also appears in our Instagram bio.

Stories

It’s hard to believe that 400 million users watch Instagram stories everyday, a phenomenon that Instagram introduced a few years ago to compete with Snapchat. Turns out, posting on stories is a great way to promote your business and improve relationships with current followers. Because of their expiring nature, people are more engaged while watching them because they don’t want to miss the content. Here’s how to create engaging Instagram stories for your business:

Use stickers and add a location to your posts. For example, if you post a story working behind the scenes with clients, tag your clients and the location of where it was shot. You can also add some flare with stickers. Make sure they relate to your post. 

For example, if Absolut Care had an Instagram, we would have used the @mention to tag them. We could have also added a sticker to this story to make it more interesting, and added a Buffalo location since most people we would like to reach would be in the WNY area.

If you are a business account with over 10K followers, you are able to use the swipe up feature to direct people to your website. This feature allows you to link viewers to a blog post or a sales page. This is an example of a Call to Action, which refers to when stories encourage viewers to take action. This can be done by telling them to swipe up, visit your bio, or check out your latest post. 

Another example of a Call to Action post is the Polls & Question feature, which allows viewers to directly respond to your stories by answering a question.

For example, if you are testing a product, ask your viewers if they would be willing to spend $__ on it. Then you can see the results of your audience and find out what they want.

When putting together stories, content needs to be valuable, strategic, and on point, which brings me to the next topic…

Content 

How do you create new and engaging content every week? For Instagram stories, it is important to post frequently. This means that you should not use the same content over and over again. Stories can include events, meetings, brainstorming sessions, or quotes. Instagram users love watching people, so it is important to feature people on stories. Of the Sea has done segments that show each team member’s preferences and personality. 

Examples we have implemented:

“This or That” showed each team member selecting their favorite out of two choices.

“Get to Know Our Intern” where I discussed 5 facts about myself.

Weekend in Our Life” segment is posted every Monday, which shows what a team member has been up to over the weekend. 

“Are you Smarter than a Sixth Grader?” segment is being posted every Thursday, we are posting face-offs to trivia questions. 

Coming up with new topics is crucial to making your page stand out.

So, what about actual Instagram posts?

After creating a social media strategy, you probably have an idea of what you would like to post. Here are some tips for actual Instagram content:

Make a list of social media holidays and find ones that relate to your business. This shows you are keeping up with social media trends. Make sure the holidays you pick are relevant to your business.

Make your captions relevant to your posts and overall social media personality. Ask yourself, do you want to make them educational, inspirational, or funny? 

For example, for our client, The Gateway City Deli, we used the caption “You Breader Believe It” for one of their posts. This pun shows their humorous side while focusing attention on their quality homemade bread. 

Finally, if you don’t have a professional photographer, you can still take quality photos on your iPhone. How you take pictures is the difference between your page looking professional or amateur. 

iPhone Tips

First, drag your finger up or down to increase or decrease light. Make sure there is not too much light. 

Best time to take photos:

Blue hour – the sky is colorful but the sun is no longer visible

Golden hour – the hour leading up to sunset or after sunrise

The position of the sun is best during these hours so it shows just the right amount of natural light. 

Make sure to include negative space, so the photo doesn’t look cluttered.

Turn on Camera grid in settings (Settings > Camera > Grid) to help you balance elements inside the frame. Follow the rule of thirds, which is displayed below.

Takeaways

Follow the latest trends and spend time brainstorming how you can continue to improve your business Instagram account. If you want inspiration, look at what other successful businesses are doing and see what posts trigger the most engagement from users. Don’t be afraid to try new things to see what really attracts people to your page. Once you have your ideas, capture them clearly.