Businesses know that if they want to market their product, they have to use social media; there’s no way around it. Whether tech savvy or not, you are missing out on a key piece of your market pie by not having an online presence. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter sprung up in 2004 and 2006 and Instagram soon followed in 2010. Facebook would later acquire Instagram for $1 billion. Instagram is now one of the leading social media platforms for image-based content. According to Omnicore, it has 300 million active daily users and 80% of those users are from outside the U.S.

 

Since it’s launch, Instagram has been adopted by hundreds of millions of users and has helped small businesses and entrepreneurs spread the word about their brands in a huge way. Many Instagram users have figured out that they can successfully create a social media strategy that gets them results. It is hard not to notice these users; they often have 70K or more followers and often thousands of likes per photo. Many of these users are part of the early organic reach movement on Instagram. They were the ones creating their own unique hashtags, compelling visual content that was engaging to followers, and spreading the word about their brand at the same time. Some successful Instagram users are often referred to as “Instafamous”, a playful nickname for all their social media success. As Sarah Flanagan, from the Huffington Post, points out, “With fewer people watching TV, the Internet is the new place for overnight stardom.” It is also the best place to market, especially through a mobile device.

 

Many have realized that in order to reach audiences in a relevant way, Instagram has to be on their list of social media platforms that they use for marketing. Instagram is a powerful marketing tool and if used, it can gain businesses a lot of new followers who have the potential to become customers. It has become a visual place where companies can tell their story and speak directly to their audience. When Instagram launched its video recording in June of 2013, there were 5 million uploads within the first 24 hours. Video is so successful on Instagram that it is reported to have higher engagement (over 2X) then photos.

 

Unfortunately, since Facebook purchased Instagram in 2012, it would appear that similar to its parent company, advertising has become the key to Instagram’s monetization. Instagram is encouraging brands to pay for advertisement, as opposed to organic reach, which has proved very successful for users in the past, as a way to gain more attraction to posts. Engagement has fallen for a lot of big users because their posts are not reaching as many people as they use to. One real example, a user with 179k followers only reached 17.9k with a post, that’s missing out on a huge chunk of followers!

 

 

 

A study by Quintly in 2016 discovered that Instagram post interactions decreased by 33% in just one year. The number of likes and comments on Instagram photo posts are down an average of 27%, and videos an average of 39%. So what does this mean? It means that it may be time for brands to rethink social media strategy in an effort to increase engagement. Why is this happening? Julian Gottke of Quintly explains: “The first and most obvious reason is that with a growing user base and constantly increasing post frequencies the individual user has more content in his or her timeline but is not necessarily eager to interact more as he did one year ago. Thus, the average interaction on each post decreases. Thus, the average interaction on each post decreases.” This study concludes that the more followers you have, the more your Instagram engagement is falling. Instagram accounts between 1,000-100,000 followers have seen an interaction decrease of 24-29% and accounts with more than 100,000 followers a decrease of 36-39%. The problem is that both Instagram’s user base and post frequency have increased, which means that Instagram users are following more accounts than ever before and those accounts are posting more often; users are seeing more content and its too much to keep up with.

 

Because of this issue, many brands are now paying for ads on Instagram. Instagram’s website now has an advertising page where it explains all the ways its ads can help “drive awareness, increase customers, and share your story among a highly engaged audience.” The tagline at the top of the page says “All the ways you can buy ads”. The fact that Instagram is pushing ads demonstrates that they are very much in the advertising money game. According to eMarketer, advertisers worldwide spent $23.68 billion on paid media to reach consumers on social networks in 2015. By 2017 it is estimated that global social network ad spending will reach $35.98 billion. It is clear that Instagram has witnessed a lot of its users become “Instafamous” and has realized how it can cash in. EMarketer suggests that Instagram will earn almost $600 million from advertising in the next year.

 

 

While ads are relatively new to Instagram (only since 2015), it is important to remember that they aren’t in the world of marketing. We are flooded with ads everyday, whether on TV, our phones, printed material, or radio etc. Most consumers have become numb to ads, barely taking notice. It is also important to remember that organic reach and growth proved to be very successful for many people and brands, without making Instagram any money. The solution now is to use creative social media strategies that really engage your online audience; you don’t want to be viewed as just as ad. Brands must be strategic in their social media approach and utilize different marketing techniques to increase exposure. There may be times where ads are needed to promote your brand, as organic reach becomes more limited. In those times marketing companies can be a great resource for expert advice on ad strategies that gain exposure.  As your brand grows, seek advice from a knowledgeable agency to help develop advertising and post strategies that are engaging and attractive to your followers. A personal message or story, that connects users with your brand, is essential in gaining new followers and engaging current ones. Instagram ads are all good and well, but it is obvious to the user that they are ads, so if you do use them, make sure they’re appealing and you update your content.

Here are 5 things you can do now to get more likes on Instagram and increase engagement:

 

  • Use hashtags strategically: Posts with at least one Instagram hashtag aver 12.6% more engagement than posts without. Hashtags are essential to help target new audiences on Instagram and gain exposure.
  • Create a call to action on your posts: Calls to action are great for engaging with your followers! All you need to do is ask your followers to do something after reading your caption. This could be as simple as asking a question and asking them to leave their answer in the comments.
  • Post at optimal times: Be aware of the different optimal times for posting on Instagram. Take into account  International time zones in order to maximize the number of followers who view your posts.
  • Run a contest: Everyone loves a good contest! Who doesn’t love winning stuff for free? Use contests as a way to engage followers and get them excited.
  • Partner with social media influencers: Don’t underestimate the power of the “Instafamous” users, they have massive amounts of followers; use them as a way to reach new users.

 

Remember, even though engagement is down, it doesn’t mean your brand won’t be successful on Instagram. Understanding the organic ways users can be reached, developing a strategic social media marketing plan, and looking to marketing experts will help aid brand growth.