As a digital marketer, it’s important that I use my own accounts to not only promote my own business but as a place to experiment – testing tactics, content, hashtags and more.

Instagram is part of my social channel mix but a place where I’m still working out the fit with my business – a mix of community engagement/marketing strategy AND arts-focussed creative output. Since January this year, I’ve made a concerted effort to see just what could happen if one ‘played’ the Instagram game. I’ve hit on a formula that is working in terms of building a steady flow of followers, boosting engagement levels, prompting conversations, directing web traffic and more.

While engagement rates on Instagram are far outperforming those of Facebook and Twitter, one should still be asking if that engagement is with the right audience.

Engagement is the metric I look at more than anything, regardless of the platform – the caveat being you still need to have a decent number of followers (the vanity metric) to make the engagement significant and to build a good audience profile. One of the problems is that for many accounts who pull big numbers of followers, engagement rates are as low as 1-2 percent, complicated all the more by the algorithms of the day.

Kim V Goldsmith digital marketingLooking at my top performing content over the last quarter, I’ve achieved engagement rates on Twitter of 2 – 8 percent, Facebook 2 – 19 percent (not including boosted posts), and on Instagram 45 – 69 percent engagement. I regularly look at how I can possibly replicate or improve on these results every month I plan content. My competitors are pulling engagement rates between 2 – 14 percent.

In terms of my followers, I seek to have enough to build a solid audience profile (this is important for targeting your organic and paid content), but not so many that I can’t meaningfully engage with them on a regular basis. Celebrity Selena Gomez has 116 million followers on Instagram – her last post pulled 1.97 million likes and almost 19 thousand comments, equating to 1.71 percent engagement.

While engagement rates on Instagram are far outperforming those of Facebook and Twitter, one should still be asking if that engagement is with the right audience. It’s taken a couple of months, but as well as seeing consistently higher engagement rates,  I’m also now seeing the right metrics in Instagram Insights in terms of who my followers are (after a drop off with the switch to Instagram Business last year*).

In 2015, Forrester Research described Instagram as the “King of Social” at a time when engagement rates were falling across the board on all platforms, including Instagram. In the two years since then, more features have been added to these platforms to beef up opportunities for followers to share the love of your brand. But are they?

These are big brands and yet average engagement rates were all less than 2 percent.

In early 2016, influencer marketing agency MediaKix took a look at some of the top brands on Instagram, breaking them down by industry. Not surprisingly, some industries perform better than others on this platform; the top three positions going to Fashion, Media/Entertainment, and Beauty/Fitness brands. There are big names in these categories and yet average engagement rates were all less than 2 percent.

In summary, question everything but if you decide to go ahead on Instagram, showcase what you’re best at – particularly if it’s visual, and talk to your chosen audience as if you have them in the room – stay on message and to the point.

Be authentic and original, as there are enough stock photos and famous quotes out there to last a lifetime – create your own gems and keep it relevant. Do this and you’ll find your people. And yes, you must use relevant, researched hashtags, as well as being consistent and measured in your timing and frequency.

Here are my Top 10 Instagram photo posts for engagement for the first quarter of 2017 – nine of the ten are my own photos (the curious cats are a stock pic) and all of them are my words – truths I’ve come to learn through business and life, often the hard way. You’ll notice these are all photos or graphics. Photos still outperform video, although I’ve had two short videos in the total Top 10 posts, so I’ll be experimenting with more to see how they perform over time.

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If you need a hand with content creation for your social media marketing, connect with me about content creation and curation packages for your business. I also provide training and coaching in best practice for digital marketing through the Social Media Matters workshop and coaching program.

*I switched from a personal Instagram account to a business account when the option became available rather than creating a new account. This has been problematic in terms of gaining traction and my advice would be to consider a new account even if you are the brand.

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