There are over 300 million users on Instagram, and Emarketer estimates that Instagram enagement (likes and comments) is passing that of Twitter. However, Social Media Examiner shows that marketers are not including Instagram in their future plans, focusing mostly on Linkedin and Twitter. I believe this is partly due to the fact that Instagram, as a relatively new social network typically favored by teens, is unfamiliar to many marketers. I want to address this by showing marketers how they can take advantage of high engagement rates on Instagram and start valuable discussions in the comments section of their posts.

1. Use a Relevant Hashtag

Hashtags are all about joining conversations on social media. On Instagram, the strategic use of a hashtag can put your post firmly on the radar of many users who are not your followers, or allow your followers to chime in on a topic knowing that their comments will be seen by anyone looking for the hashtag. For example, after the US Supreme Court’s historic ruling on gay marriage, Coca-Cola posted the picture below, with #lovewins. This hashtag allowed the post to become a forum for people to discuss the ruling, all while interacting with Coke’s content.

Coca-Cola #lovewins Post
Coca-Cola #lovewins Post

2. Post on Their Terms

Many Instagram users see hundreds of posts every day, so it is easy for your post to be lost – especially if you post at inopportune times. Furthermore, Instagram users browse differently than twitter and Facebook users, as most of the browsing is done on mobile (posting isn’t even possible on desktop). You can find some general information about posting times, or use an in-depth social analytics tool like Crowdbabble, and then schedule your posts with the free to make sure you never miss a posting time.

3. Post a Video

Videos are especially engaging pieces of content on Instagram, and are seldom used by marketers. We took a look at the media mixes and relative engagements of 5 top brands on Facebook, and found that videos were in all cases used less than 30% of the time, however in many cases they generated more comments than a regular photo. A video gives your brand more facetime with the consumer, more of an opportunity to grab their attention. With a good post, like the NHL’s #slowmomonday videos, that attention translates into comment depth.

NHL Media Mix
NHL Media Mix

4. A Longer Caption

One of my favorite Instagram feeds, National Geographic, uses exclusively long captions. They allow their photographers to tell the stories of each photo, often for a number of paragraphs. These stories draw users like me in, and I found myself often commenting, or browsing through any of the linked Instagram pages (in other words, engaging with the post). Like the videos, a long caption gives you more interaction time with your followers, increasing the chance that they will communicate their interest in the comment section. However, a long caption has to be interesting. If you waste users’ time, they will communicate this by unfollowing. Check out @natgeo or @humansofny for examples of accounts that pull off long captions.

5. A Controversial Post

Sometimes, as Eminem says, “we need a little controversy.” Before I start with this tip I want to warn you: get this wrong, and you could be mocked mercilessly on sites like Reddit. However, as a social media marketer I’m sure you’ve gotten used to managing that risk, so here goes. A controversial post causes users to raise their opinions on the topic and argue with people that disagree, all while commenting on your post and raising its profile. A controversial post is not politically, ethically or socially charged. Getting into these arenas as a brand is never a good idea. A controversial post targets a competitor, or comments on popular culture in a way that relates to your users and compels them to engage (usually in a witty or sarcastic manner). For example, a Mexican soccer fan tweeted #noerapenal (“it wasn’t a penalty”) at the Dutch soccer team’s account every day for a year, in reference to a controversial decision in a game. Recently the Mexican team won a game based on a similar controversial decision, and the Dutch team tweeted this at the fan (meaning “it was a penalty”):

era penal

and the post skyrocketed onto the radar of soccer fans around the world.

Employ these tips correctly, and your posts will be flooded with comments in no time.