More Than a Pretty Picture: Demystifying Instagram Engagement for Brands

Opinion: Building an engagement strategy on Instagram isn’t the guessing game it once was

Let’s talk about Instagram for a second. With more than 600 million monthly active users who like posts an average of 4.2 billion times every day, you know it’s important, and you know your audience is likely there. But do you know why and what they’re doing on the platform?

Understanding the user motivation behind the world’s most popular image-sharing social platform is paramount to creating a positive experience for your brand’s audience and capitalizing on your opportunities for engagement. Here we’ll take a look at three strategies for getting the most out of your Instagram brand marketing plan.

Give ‘em what they want

The most important step in understanding how to create a relevant, engaging Instagram experience is to do your due diligence in observing how your audience interacts with you, and other brands like you. According to Forrester Research, top brands post an average of 4.9 times per week on Instagram, so there’s a good amount of data available to help inform your content plans.

Gauging your customers’ reactions to your competitors is especially telling, since chances are that they are employing a content strategy different from your own. What’s working (or not working) for your competitors on Instagram can not only influence your own content decisions, but also save time and resources by helping you steer clear of strategies that aren’t resonating with your brand’s wider potential audience.

An ounce of planning

Now that you have a focused idea of what your audience will likely respond to on Instagram, it’s time to get to planning the content on your brand’s feed. Mapping out your content strategy—the key types of content you want to focus on, your posting plan and cadence and what you want to inspire your audience to do when they see your content—gives you a clear and complete picture of how your brand’s messaging comes to life on Instagram.

By planning your content in advance, you can identify gaps in messaging (are we too focused on products at the expense of lifestyle content?), cadence (are we striking the right balance of staying top-of-mind and sharing too frequently?) and calls to action (are we asking the right questions to get our audience engaged?).

Tell the whole story(ies)

Your brand’s Instagram feed is only part of your overall Instagram story—or Stories, as it were. Instagram Stories is an episodic, temporary category of content that people and brands are using in a fashion similar to Snapchat Stories.

Stories typically feature less polished, more timely and authentic peeks at what makes people tick. Instagram users have adopted Stories at an impressive rate: While Instagram as a whole boasts 300 million daily active users, a full 50 percent—150 million—of them are using Instagram Stories.

While the content posted to your Instagram feed remains in perpetuity, Instagram Stories are visible to your followers for just 24 hours. So worry less about the production value and more about offering your followers a glimpse behind the scenes of your brand’s story.

Presenting your brand in lifestyle contexts, pulling back the curtain on a photoshoot or event or offering a quick, casual question-and-answer session with a brand influencer are all notable, relevant avenues to generate authenticity and keep your Instagram content fresh and compelling.

Bring it all together

Building an engagement strategy on Instagram isn’t the guessing game it once was. By planning content, monitoring your competitive set and measuring your performance with Instagram analytics such as likes, comments and engagement rate, you can and will create a resonant content and engagement strategy for your brand on “the happiest place on the internet.”

Lizz Kannenberg is director of content at social media solutions provider Sprout Social.

Image courtesy of hocus-focus/iStock.