Boost your Instagram influenceHas Instagram’s new update left you wanting an upgrade? While it’s long been where the cool kids hang out, more and more brands are channelling their social media manpower into Instagram. With users gaining millions of followers through effective marketing and boundless talent, the potential for business is tantalising. After all, don’t you want a piece of the action too?

According to the Social Media Marketing Industry Report 2015, Instagram comes out on top when it comes to engagement. With a 4.21% engagement rate for top brands – that is 58 times higher than on Facebook and 120 times higher than Twitter – Instagram truly is, as dubbed by Forrester “the King of social engagement.” But how can you tap into this infinite source of organic traffic? With a little help from the Social Media Examiner, we have come up with some tips to get you a slice of the pie:

Schedule posts

Sure, Instagram may be the app designed to document life in real time, but when life gets in the way it’s often the first to be neglected. Luckily, there are numerous web-based scheduling tools that will allow your business to maintain an active online presence and build a following.

Tools such as ScheduGram and Plan Your Gram both allow multiple users, accounts and the ability to edit and schedule posts. Instagram currently does not allow for any third party apps to post on your behalf, but these apps will send you a helpful little nudge when it comes to peak posting time. Speaking of which…

Keep track of your stats

Anyone who has been in the content marketing game for a while knows that likes do not always correlate to actual engagement. Like any project your business undertakes, you want to have a clear and decisive plan in place to make the most of your online efforts. But unlike Facebook and Twitter, Instagram does not yet have inbuilt systems that provide breakdowns of impressions and engagement, but fear not – help is at hand.

Analytical tools such as Iconosquare allow you to track your stats through likes, comments and engaged followers. It also provides insight into which of your posts fares best and at what time. Collecto provides an additional summary of best performing tags, locations and filters.

Many businesses opt to post during the morning and evening commute times, but if you have a user base that transcends time-zones, these tools can be a helpful way of setting goals and determining just what to post and when.

Find your niche and start showing off

You do not need to be selling a product to sell a story and on Instagram – it is all about the story. Give your followers behind-the-scenes access or offer a glimpse into daily life on your side of the screen. Instagram accounts that stick to one topic or theme often prove popular, and as always, thoughtful and intelligent design never goes amiss.

Take advantage of Instagram’s visual strengths; get creative with your photos and add a filter to stamp them with your brand’s ‘personality’ and make them stand out. If you find that Instagram’s in-built filters can be too grainy or simply do not capture what you want, apps like VSCO and Over are simple but effective tools that can give your photos that professional and unique edge.

Users now share an average of 70 million photos a day. Getting noticed takes ingenuity, time and effort – but you’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge, right?

Keep it consistent

Once you have decided on your account’s story or theme, the final step is to keep it consistent. Just as your written content needs to have a standardised voice, so does your visual marketing as well. But consistency does not mean predictability: if anything, the constrictions leave more room to play.

Remember that your last six photos are seen immediately by anyone looking at your account and jarring, dissimilar colours and subject matter can make your grid’s aesthetic inharmonious and deter new followers. Brands that stick to one or two filters and colour schemes tend to reap the most rewards.

Crowd source and be part of the community

Instagram users – when they are not taking photos of their food – tend to be creative and naturally collaborative. This is a platform based on the love of sharing experiences and photography, so why not actively engage with your follower base? It is called ‘social’ media for a reason.

Due to Instagram’s one-kind-of-profile-for-everybody policy, brands and consumers can interact in a unique way. Make the most of this by commenting on posts and following users; be a part of the community, rather than just a business shouting from its edges.

This engagement will not just boost your chances of being seen by new users, but will create organic growth and loyal consumers who will keep coming back. Talk to others in your industry, show your support and engage with what they share – the favour is sure to be returned.

Your call-to-actions do not have to be flat out hard selling either, but rather wish everyone a great weekend or simply ask them a question. Hashtags open up users to the community and make them discoverable, regardless of the number of their followers. You may get lost in a sea of content if you participate in the more popular hashtags (#blessed), but creating your own unique tag is a great way of getting your content out there and seeing how your audience responds.

Utilise your followers and get them to contribute to your account through competitions or ‘photo of the day’ hashtags. They are a source of infinite natural advertisement that not only makes them feel like they are part of the action, but gives you free content as well.

Instagram, like any platform, takes time for the results to manifest. However, by utilising these tools and employing a well-researched, insightful and tailor-made strategy, the results you want are closer than ever before.