Kaufdex / Pixabay

With 700 million monthly active users, Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms — and a great place for your small business to get creative and show off your brand’s personality.

More than 80% of Instagram users follow at least one business on the platform, so you should follow these steps built from insights from the content experts at Main Street Hub to stand out among your competition and turn your Instagram fans into loyal customers:

1.) Be you: Know your audience and keep your visual brand consistent
An effective Instagram marketing strategy will be consistent, authentic, and provide value to your followers. Being very clear about who you are as a business will inform every photo that you post and caption that you write.

Ask yourself these questions:
–What is the personality of my business?
–Who is my ideal customer?
–How do I want this post to make my followers feel?

Your answers to these questions will give you a head start to take the right photo and craft the perfect caption! Maintaining your visual brand is also incredibly important. You can do this by using the same filter for all of your photos so they have consistent coloring, or only using a few key colors to use in every graphic you make. Try and find one or two colors from your logo to use as your primary brand colors. This consistency will build brand recognition for your business and help your business’ Instagram presence appear professional and trustworthy.

2.) Be mindful of time of day and day of the week
Yes, Instagram’s algorithm has changed the game a bit — organizing feeds chronologically as well as by interaction and relationships with accounts — but posting times still matter! Think about who your audience is — what do they want to see and when do they want to see it? Are they working adults? Then, posting in the early morning before work or in the evening could be your best bet for the most engagement. Try to post after 5:00 p.m. when they have time to check their Instagram accounts. When do your followers engage with your posts the most? If you’ve had a lot of luck posting on Sunday mornings, then keep it up.

According to a few studies, 2:00 a.m., 5:00 p.m., and 7:00 p.m. on weekdays were among the best times of the day to post, with Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday being the best days for engagement — but pay attention to your followers’ activities and do what works for your brand!

3.) Be thoughtful about your captions

Keep it short and sweet — you should stay within 125 characters and get to the point quickly. Another good tip is to put the most important words at the beginning of the caption — you can always add a hashtag or @mentions at the end. Once your compelling caption is written, be sure to do a thorough proofread and make sure every word is integral to the message you’re trying to convey to your followers. If you can cut a word or two — take it out or use an emoji instead! You’ll want to avoid making your followers hit “More” to see the full caption when possible.

You can also include a call-to-action in your caption to encourage your followers to engage with your business beyond Instagram. Some popular calls-to-action include:
Tag your friends: Ask your followers to tag another Instagram user in the comments of your post. This will get new eyes on your business and encourage conversation among your audience, and Click link in bio: Suggest that your followers click the link in your Instagram bio! This could lead them to your business’ website, another social media profile, your blog, or any other location that is meaningful for your business.

What about hashtags?
Using relevant hashtags in your caption can get new eyes on your business’ Instagram content and help you boost your engagement. In fact, posts that contain at least one hashtag average about 13% higher engagement than posts without any hashtags.

Try integrating trending or high-volume hashtags into the body of your caption, rather than adding them to the end or in a comment in bulk, though sometimes that can work, too. And, think outside the box with your hashtags! Trending hashtags can get flooded with content, which can bury your post. Search for local hashtags that are popular in your community. For example, in Austin, customers and businesses alike love using #ATX, #AustinEats, and #ATXeats to spread the word about delicious food they’re posting about.

4.) Be engaging
Always be sure to like and respond to user comments on your own photos, and comment and like posts of users in your community and fanbase! This will show users that you care about what they post, that you’re listening and engaged, and it will give your business an authentic voice and personality. Building relationships with potential customers and maintaining that relationship with current customers will be the most enduring way to create brand loyalty for your business.

Instagram is a great social network you can use to show your community what your business is all about. Keeping in mind these 4 tips will keep you top-of-mind for your customers and have your customers double-tapping everything you’re doing online.

Want to learn more about using Instagram for your small business? Download my company’s free guide for expert tips on how engage your audience, optimize your strategy, and become and Instagram pro by clicking here!