The ultimate guide to succeeding on Instagram in 2020
From IGTV to hashtags, Instagram offers a lot of opportunities for businesses. This guide will teach you how to optimize every aspect of your account, including Instagram video format and when to post.
7 January 2020 · 13 min read
Odds are that you already know what Instagram is, considering that one in every seven people uses the social media platform. It’s amassed incredible popularity in the past decade for a few reasons. It’s user-friendly, excellent on mobile devices, and primarily focused on photos.
You may be wondering if Instagram is necessary for your business. The answer is a resounding yes. If you have doubts, just check out these statistics:
- Instagram currently boasts over one billion users per month.
- 116 million of those users are in the United States.
- 53% of Instagram users follow their favorite brands
- 90% of the top 100 brands worldwide have an Instagram account.
- Brand engagement is 10 times higher on Instagram than on Facebook.
- Brand engagement is 84 times higher on Instagram than on Twitter.
There’s a huge business incentive to have a presence on Instagram. However, setting up your business profile is just the first step. Succeeding on Instagram in 2020 requires growing your following and keeping them engaged.
If you’re using Instagram for your professional venture and want to know how to get more likes and follows, this guide will help you learn how to do just that.
Share aesthetically-pleasing, high-quality photos
Instagram’s incredible popularity has a lot to do with its focus on pictures. Most people are visually oriented. 50% of our brain is activated when viewing visuals, and we process visuals 60,000 times faster than text! This gives some insight into why Instagram is so engaging compared to other platforms.
Posting high-quality photos should be common sense, but it’s surprisingly often overlooked. Many businesses are still posting poorly-taken pictures or unattractive stock images. Don’t fall into that trap.
How to improve the quality of your photos
The pictures and videos you post to Instagram should be well-composed and properly edited. If you don’t know how to take excellent images using a smartphone, you can find plenty of tutorials online.
Some best practices to optimize your images include:
- Using natural lighting when possible. Dawn and dusk are the times that produce optimal lighting.
- Composing the photo with intention. Before you snap your picture, clear away clutter from the background. Carefully consider your angle and arrangement. Take multiple images so you can choose the best one of the bunch.
- Avoiding over-editing. Over-saturation, over-sharpening and distracting blur effects all make your photo look mediocre and unprofessional. Businesses should not be caught making these mistakes in 2020.
- Sticking with a set color theme. You want your entire feed to look harmonious when people visit your profile. By choosing a color theme, you’re much more likely to achieve this look.
Not only should your photos look good, but they should also stand out. Boring photos with perfect symmetry are dull. Choose images that are expressive, colorful, exciting, and representative of your brand.
If you’re not putting thought into the visuals you share on Instagram, you’re missing out on a great branding opportunity. All of your photos should follow cohesive color schemes, themes, and use complementary filters if you want to exude professionalism in 2020.
Use location and user tags to get the most out of every post
Not only do you want to create high-quality Instagram posts, but you also want to milk them for all they’re worth. Rather than looking at your Instagram posts as something on your to-do list, think of them as tiny opportunities for growth that can quickly add up.
To maximize the growth potential of each Instagram post, you need to take advantage of all of the available tagging tools. There are two primary types of tagging: location and user.
Location tagging involves pinpointing the location of a particular post. For example, if you took a photo by the famous Hollywood Sign, you can tag it in your Instagram post before or after sharing the image. Don’t skip this step, since posts that have their location tagged receive 79% more engagement!
You can also tag a person or brand in the photo, which is called user tagging. This helps users find the people shown in a post. Furthermore, tagging another account’s handle in a post can improve engagement by 56%.
These small steps can make a big difference over time, so make sure you’re taking advantage of them.
Establish an optimized Instagram schedule
A great photo can go to waste if you fail to optimize your posting times. Instagram’s algorithms are always evolving, but it’s become apparent that some times of day produce much more engagement than others.
The best times to post
HubSpot put out a great article on the best times to post on Instagram, depending on your company type. We’ll cover the basics in this article, so if you want a more in-depth look at timing, we recommend checking out HubSpot’s piece.
Through data-backed trial and error, HubSpot discovered the best day to post is Thursday, specifically at 3 pm, 5 am, 11 am, and 4 pm. For other days of the week, any time between 2 pm and 3 pm saw the best engagement.
It’s important to remember that these are general rules, meaning these aren’t magic numbers that will work for everyone. To find the best time for your business, you’ll need to figure out when your target demographic is on Instagram.
The best apps for scheduling posts
We know it seems like a big commitment, trying to plan, precisely time, and create strong Instagram content — and you’re right! That’s why loads of app developers offer free social media scheduling tools to help you manage your Instagram posts. Hootsuite and Buffer are some of the biggest names for this service, but there are many alternatives.
**The optimal posting frequency **
Posting consistently and frequently is an absolute must if you want to grow your Instagram presence. Your followers will become more engaged and aware of your brand if you post on a regular schedule. The more you post, the more opportunities you’ll have to get likes, follows, and shares.
Generally, once a day is a good place to start as a business account. Most major businesses post an average of 1.5 photos a day. You can optimize your frequency by monitoring your engagement analytics. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t sacrifice your posts’ quality for quantity, so only adopt a schedule you can realistically stick to.
Share engaging Stories
Instagram followed in Snapchat’s footsteps by rolling out Instagram Stories in 2016. Since they came onto the scene, they’ve blown up in popularity. 86% of Instagrammers post stories, and 500 million users post them every day.
Stories have a lot of business potential, and brands are taking advantage of it. Brands use the Story feature at the same rate of general users, and with good reason, 25% of Millennials and Gen Z-ers look for Stories of products and services they want to buy.
How to post an Instagram Story
Instagram Stories allow users to post 15-second videos that last up to 24 hours unless they’re deleted earlier. Posters can make these Stories permanent by adding them to their “Highlights” on their profile, where they will be available indefinitely.
Many of the same aesthetic elements that apply to posts also apply to Stories. You can use filters, add text, and add fun gifs and images. Stories are always offering new features, like polls, Q&As, and music. Thus, they’re incredibly engaging, often receiving more engagement than traditional posts.
Most Story-watchers have their sound on, so pay attention to the audio content in the background.
How should businesses use Instagram Stories?
For businesses, Stories present a great opportunity to share promotions, discount codes, and behind-the-scenes content. They’re great for content that’s time-sensitive or in-the-moment.
Businesses can also advertise through Instagram Stories. All users will see a sponsored Story every few Stories that they tap through, so you’ll catch a lot of eyes with this sort of ad placement.
Get started on IGTV
IGTV is one of Instagram’s new features. In many ways, it’s still finding its footing in terms of engaging the broader audience on the platform. It’s currently watched by 17.8% of Instagrammers. However, this presents an opportunity for many brands to be early adopters of this feature and get ahead of the competition.
IGTV requires videos to be vertically-oriented, or as we like to say, selfie-oriented. With this requirement, IGTV is naturally tailored for selfie videos and real-time sharing.
With that in mind, here’s how you can use IGTV to its fullest.
How should businesses use IGTV?
IGTV allows for some creative business applications. For example, IGTV is a great place to share old video content to your new followers who haven’t had the chance to see it yet. You can repurpose old content by editing it in a new way and changing the orientation to vertical.
In addition to repurposing the old, share new and exclusive footage on IGTV. For example, you could provide a sneak peek into your newest product launch or highlights from a recent industry event. Get even more authentic by sharing a personal office tour or unpublished interview clip. This type of content will attract a broad audience and keep them engaged.
If you want to get educational, use IGTV to share step-by-step tutorials related to your products or industry. Consider also hosting an “Ask Me Anything” where you answer your followers’ questions. Finally, IGTV is a perfect place to promote customer testimonials that will enhance the credibility and desirability of your brand.
What is the best Instagram video format for IGTV?
Getting your video format right is the first step to posting an IGTV video. The best format is MP4, which is pretty standard and easy to create. Furthermore, aim to meet the following technical formatting specifications:
- AAC Audio
- 30 frames/second
- 1080px wide by 1920px tall
- 3500 bitrate
- H.264 codec
If these terms are unfamiliar to you, don’t worry. There are a ton of free video converters online that can easily reformat your video to the proper Instagram video format:
- Kapwing - This online converter goes beyond basic conversions. It also has basic editing tools, like trimming, rotating, adding text, etc.
- Online-Convert - This converter allows for uploads directly from Dropbox and Google Drive. It can handle any file type and convert it for you with ease.
How long can IGTV videos be?
While stories are limited to 15 seconds, IGTV videos can last up to 10 minutes long for most users. However, many experts speculate that this time will extend in due time. Large, verified accounts can already upload IGTV videos as long as an hour.
How to post an IGTV video?
There are a few different places where you can upload your IGTV video.
- The IGTV app
- The regular Instagram app
- Instagram.com via a web browser
Any of these options are valid. However, for those accounts that can post long-form IGTV videos, they’ll have to use a computer. This is notable, as it’s the first time in history that Instagram’s allowing users to share visual content from a computer.
Master the art of hashtags
What are Instagram hashtags? Hashtags are the search terms on Instagram (and other social media platforms) that make content searchable. They look like this: #GreenTea
Hashtags use the number sign (or pound sign) at the beginning. Without it, it’s just another word in your caption. You can add hashtags to your Instagram bio, stories, and (most importantly) your Instagram posts. You can add up to 30 to an Instagram post, but we recommend keeping it to 15 or less.
Like the location and user tags, hashtags make your posts searchable. When you use “#GreenTea” in your post’s caption, anyone who searches for “green tea” could potentially find your post. Instagram’s algorithms, your followers, and a post’s engagement also determine its searchability.
You can tap on hashtags in the Instagram app, which will show you other posts using the same hashtag, as well as where your post appears in the results for that hashtag.
The benefits of using hashtags
Don’t underestimate the power of hashtags. Posts that include at least one can expect 12.6% more engagement! Even more impressive is the fact that 70% of the most used hashtags are branded. Thus, they have a big business application.
If you’re not using hashtags yet, you’re missing out big time. Here are some more of their benefits.
They improve your discoverability
It’s essential to use hashtags because they improve your discoverability. Without them, it’s unlikely someone will find your Instagram posts without directly searching for your account. Try using multiple hashtags in a post and combining them in ways to maximize traffic.
According to a report from Mention, the most popular Instagram hashtags are #love, #instagood, #fashion, #photooftheday, and #style. Research popular hashtags that relate to your posts and put as many eyes on your content as possible. Or you could try using less popular hashtags to help your posts stand out.
They drive traffic to your account, not just your posts
A more recent Instagram mechanism is the ability to add hashtags to all facets of your account, not only your main feed posts. In the last year or so, Instagram has added hashtags to your account, stories, and comments.
Adding hashtags to each of these areas allows you to make your entire Instagram presence just as searchable as your posts. Incorporating hashtags throughout your account will help drive traffic to your profile, likely increasing your visibility and followers. It’s one of the best solutions to get more likes on Instagram.
The best hashtags for each day of the week are:
Finding the right hashtags for your brand
As you can see, there are tons of hashtags to choose from, even when only picking ones for days of the week. How do you evaluate all of these options and select the right ones for your brand?
There are a few different techniques for choosing the perfect hashtags. The simplest is to scope out the hashtags your competitors are using. Check out the accounts of businesses similar to yours and see which hashtags they regularly use. You can also look through their most-liked posts to see ones have the best results.
Another helpful trick is to see which hashtags your followers are using. Not all of these hashtags are going to be relevant to your brand, but using the same hashtags as your followers can help you connect with your audience.
Finally, picking the right hashtags has a lot to do with trial and error. The good news is that every time you post something to Instagram, you have an opportunity to try something different. You can use online hashtag generators to discover the top tags for your desired topic. There are also a plethora of hashtag generation tools out there to help you compile some ideas:
You’re never locked into your Instagram strategy. So, throw in new hashtags now and then and see how they affect your posts, keeping the ones that work and getting rid of the ones that don’t.
Creating your own branded hashtag
Because you can easily create a hashtag by merely typing whatever you want after the number sign, it’s worth experimenting with a hashtag that belongs to your brand.
Creating a hashtag generally won’t improve your searchability significantly, as people won’t initially know about the hashtag. You can include it with the rest of your branding to make it more discoverable, though. Instead, the goal behind creating a hashtag is to encourage people to interact with your brand on Instagram.
By creating a unique, catchy hashtag, you can get other Instagram users to use it and bring attention back to your business. It’s a great way to extend your branding on the platform. For example, if you host a user-generated content creation campaign, you can create a custom hashtag for it.
Some examples of infamous Instagram hashtag campaigns include “#ShareACoke” from Coca-Cola, “LetsDoLunch” from Domino’s Pizza, and “#DoUsAFlavor” from Lay’s.
Include a CTA in your posts
Calls to action (CTAs) are a critical aspect of making your marketing translate to leads and sales. Try to add a CTA to each Instagram post and within some of your stories. By doing so, you’ll increase interaction with your followers, therefore boosting engagement.
Your CTAs can be simple. For example, encourage viewers to tag a friend who may be interested in your post. You could even host a giveaway where tagging someone and following the account are requirements to win.
You can also get to know your following better by asking them questions that they can answer in the comments. Not only will this bump up your engagement, but it will provide valuable customer insight. The better you know your followers, the better you can optimize your content to suit their interests going forward.
1. Cross-promote your posts across social media channels
An excellent way to get more out of your Instagram posts is to cross-promote them. If you post on a near-daily basis, you don’t want to cross-promote all of your content because you’ll probably annoy your followers! But when you have an important announcement, you can share it via your various social media channels to funnel traffic back to Instagram.
Instagram and Facebook share an API, allowing you to automate your Instagram posts to also show up on Facebook. This makes it easy for you to share across platforms.
Even within Instagram, there are ways to promote content throughout the various features. Sharing a Story announcing a new post or upcoming IGTV video will capture more of your audience and encourage them to find your new content.
2. Keep an eye on your engagement analytics
All marketers know that tracking analytics and optimizing accordingly is the final step of any effective campaign. A lot of social media marketing involves trying new creative ideas and seeing how your audience responds. Fortunately, Instagram provides businesses with detailed data on their engagement analytics.
Track your metrics to gain insights on what’s working and what’s not. You can recognize patterns in what times and which type of content receives the most engagement. Every so often, tweak your strategy in response.
Take your Instagram business account to the next level
Now that you know how to get more likes on Instagram, you’re ready to up your game with an informed strategy. Instagram is one of the most popular social networks, especially with young people, which makes it a powerful tool for your marketing campaign. Make sure all of your posts, stories, and IGTV video formats are optimized for success!