New apps pop up all the time, but Instagram remains a must-have in a brand’s social arsenal. Some companies know how to make the most of the photo-sharing app. Bonobos, a men's clothing line, balances product, production and office shots with shots of city life and the occasional event photo. Public relations firm Edelman mixes photos of clients and employees with clean graphics and quotes. Taco Bell usually has product in each snap, but does it in a way that's cool and funny.
Whether you have 10 followers or 10,000, here are some tips for boosting your brand’s visibility and improving the quality of your posts.
1. Be consistent with your posts. Don’t go more than a few days between posts; you might be forgotten about if you do. Once you get into a routine, it’s easy to add photos more frequently.
2. Get noticed by being nice. Not everyone comes with a built-in fan base. Search for hashtags that are in line with your business. Own a pizza parlor? Search for photos of pizza and 'like' and comment on them. Potential fans will be stoked you’re checking them out and might follow you. Launching a clothing line? Compliment a user on her fashion choices. You never know the relationships that will develop. The important thing is to be genuine and not desperate (“Please follow me!!!!” is never a good idea).
Related: Instagram's 5 Tips for Better Marketing -- With Pictures
3. Edit outside of Instagram. Instagram offers an abundance of filters, but sometimes they're a tad too much. Simple is best when it comes to editing. A few editing apps to try: VSCOcam allows you to control the intensity of the filter, and includes tools to change the contrast, temperature, exposure and more. This one requires some getting use to, but once you do, it is great. Instagram forces you to crop your photos into a square; Instasize lets you use the entire photo. Over lets you add clean type to a photo and stock artwork photo. Additional fonts and artwork can be purchased. Diptic and Pic Stitch makes photo collages. Hint: Use a maximum of four photos in collages. Otherwise the photos will be too tiny for your followers to see what's going on.
4. Go outside. Whether your business is based in New York City or in Billings, Mont., your town no doubt has interesting and beautiful sites. Show it off! This goes for your workspace, pets, co-workers, etc. This will add variety to your feed and your followers will get to know you better.
5. Get chatty with your customers. Do you have a tangible product? Create a hashtag for your customers and repost their photos. Host contests. Respond to comments.
6. Be smart about hashtags. Keep hashtags in your caption relevant and to a minimum. Create a second comment on your own photo with several applicable hashtags. It’s helpful to keep this list handy on your phone somewhere (like in Notes on your iPhone).
7. Fill out your profile. It may seem like a no-brainer, but your profile is important. Keep it short and sweet. Make sure you include your website. This is the only place with a clickable link.
8. Track stats. Use a site like Statigram to track your statistics, view your own feed and search for photos from the comfort of your computer. Examine the analysis to figure out when your followers are most active and which of your posts are performing the best.
Above all: have a focus, but stay flexible. If something works, keep doing it. If it doesn’t, learn from it and move on!