Social media marketing has become a necessity for brand survival in today's day and age.
But simply creating profiles on these platforms and hoping the rest will take care of itself is not an effective strategy. You need to be active on social media.
While you may have already recognized the importance of social sites such as Facebook, it's time for you to focus on other platforms-specifcally, Instagram.
Instagram, with its features and benefits, was part of the top social media trends of 2018 I wrote about.
Instagram has more than 1 billion users. Of those users, 500 million use the platform on a daily basis.
Only Facebook and YouTube have more active users.
For the most part, Instagram users are younger. Nearly 60% of Instagram users in the United States are under the age of 30.
This is important to recognize if you're segmenting your target audience with generational marketing.
How can you use Instagram to promote your brand effectively?
Your content might be great, but if nobody sees what you're posting, you won't have results. That's why you need to focus on engagement metrics:
You need to measure all these to determine the success of your Instagram marketing campaigns.
If you need some help with this, I can steer you in the right direction. I've identified and explained the top 13 ways to improve your engagement rates on Instagram.
Review the tips I've explained in this guide, and apply the tactics to your brand's page.
1. Utilize hashtags
Do you remember the days when we used to refer to the tic-tac-toe board as a pound sign?
Well, social media changed that symbol forever. Now the symbol (#) at the bottom right-hand side of your telephone keypad is more commonly referred to as a hashtag.
As a social media marketer, you need to incorporate hashtags into your Instagram strategy.
Research shows that the majority of posts by the top brands on social media only use a few hashtags:
If the top brands are using them, your brand needs to as well.
Furthermore, 70% of Instagram hashtags are branded. Posts with only one hashtag receive 12.6% greater engagement than posts without hashtags.
When deciding what hashtags to use, you want to be broad to appeal to the widest possible audience.
However, hashtags that are too broad will not stand out. On the other hand, if your hashtag is extremely unique, nobody will search for it.
You need to find some middle ground for your hashtag.
Even though the top brands aren't using many hashtags, research shows that engagement rates reach their peak when a post has nine hashtags.
It's also worth noting that hashtags with 21 characters have the highest engagement rates. And 24-character hashtags were second on this list.
You don't need to be shy with the number of hashtags or characters you're using. Just don't go overboard, or you'll appear too spammy.
2. Promote your Instagram posts on all your distribution channels
To have higher and more valuable engagement rates, you need to increase your social following.
If your social media marketing strategy is effective, you can convert your Instagram followers into customers. This needs to be your ultimate goal.
To get more followers, you need to promote your Instagram profile on all your distribution channels:
As a result, you'll get more traffic to your Instagram page. Because of this increased traffic more people will follow your page.
Even if people don't follow you right away, at least they are exposed to your brand. Now your content may appear on their page, and they might engage with your posts in the future.
3. Run a contest
Contests are another great way to gain exposure for your brand.
In addition to the increased brand awareness, contests run on Instagram have been proven to dramatically boost engagement rates.
It's because contests encourage user-generated content.
Plus, the fact that you're giving something away to the winner entices people to participate. Overall, it's a winning strategy.
The best contests incorporate hashtags, which is something I discussed earlier.
Set up a unique hashtag for each contest you run.
It will allow you to track all participants' submissions.
Further, this will make it easier for you to judge the winner.
And this unique hashtag will also be a way through which other people can see your brand and its popularity.
Instagram users who may have never heard of your brand might see posts from contest participants.
As a result, these users may be enticed to follow your page. Once they start following you, they will be more likely to engage with your content.
4. Add emojis to your captions
These little animations are no longer just for your personal messages. Brands are starting to use them as well to drive engagements.
In fact, 56% of Instagram profiles use emojis.
In the last year, emoji usage on Instagram went up by 19%. Adding emojis to your post increases engagement by 2.07%.
This makes sense. Emojis in captions add a personal touch to your posts.
Users will feel as if they're looking at posts from a friend as opposed to some giant corporation. The added comfort your followers will feel when seeing posts with emojis will encourage them to engage with your posts.
Besides that, you need to learn how to write Instagram captions that drive engagement.
Ask your followers to comment on your posts with their favorite emoji or an emoji that best describes the reaction to your content.
I expect the trends related to emoji usage to continue rising in the foreseeable future.
5. Share videos
While Instagram may have started as a platform for sharing photos, the social network has adapted to the new trends and made appropriate changes.
Initially, Instagram had a 15-second limit on videos when the feature was first made available in 2013. But that number jumped to 60 seconds a few years later.
As a result, the amount of time users spent watching videos increased by 40% in the first six months of the change.
It's no secret that consumers want to see more video content.
But how will videos affect your engagement rates? Let's take a look:
As you can see, videos on Instagram typically get more than double the number of comments compared to photos.
While photos get more likes than videos, your Instagram videos will still get plenty of views, even if users aren't liking them.
Mix up your content, and start posting more videos. I'm not saying you need to shy away from photos completely, but try to find a balance between the two.
6. Don't be boring
As I just finished saying, you need to change up your content strategy on Instagram.
Posting similar photos from different angles and just changing the caption slightly will bore your followers. Nobody wants to follow accounts like that, and people certainly won't engage with your posts.
Post funny content. If you make people laugh, they'll be more likely to tag their friends in the comments.
This will help increase your engagement metrics.
If it fits with your brand image, you can even post content that's edgy, controversial, or even somewhat sexual in nature-anything that's going to raise some eyebrows and grab the attention of users.
Share crazy news. Be provocative.
Post surprising or shocking photos and videos.
Just don't do anything that might damage your brand reputation.
But try to make sure you're not posting the same thing over and over again. That's boring and won't drive engagement.
7. Know the best times to post
To get high engagement on your posts, you need to make sure your audience sees your content.
That's why you need to determine the best times to post.
I'm referring to the time of day in addition to the best days of the week.
There are lots of different answers to this question, depending on whom you ask. That said, I like these results from CoSchedule:
Their research shows that Mondays and Thursdays are the best days of the week to post although, for the most part, your metrics on weekdays will be pretty similar.
Engagement on Sundays is the lowest.
That's probably because people are out and about doing things on the weekend. If they're busy, they won't be active on social media as much.
The times you post will also be determined by your target audience.
For example, let's say your brand is targeting consumers who live in the United States. It's worth noting that 80% of the US population is located in the Eastern and Central Time Zones.
These are the types of things you need to take into consideration before you post something.
8. Form relationships with social influencers
In addition to sharing your Instagram content on your distribution channels, you can leverage your relationships with social influencers to expose your profile to a wider audience.
These people can promote your brand, products, and profile to their followers. Since social influencers have great engagement rates with their audiences, those results will translate to your page.
That's because users trust social influencers.
If they endorse your brand, it will increase the chances of more people viewing your page. Now that they've landed on your page, they'll engage with your content.
You can combine this strategy with one of the other tips I've discussed, such as contests.
Let a social influencer give away one of your products as a promotional campaign for your Instagram page.
Influencers are also great options for account takeovers, but we'll discuss this strategy in greater detail shortly.
9. Post pictures of faces
You know you need to post content on a regular basis. But what type of photos should you be posting?
I highly recommend posting images with faces.
That's because photos with faces receive 38% more likes than photos without faces.
Look at how Nike used this concept on its Instagram profile:
As you can see, eight of these nine consecutive posts contain faces.
Don't get me wrong, this isn't the only type of content you should be posting. But when in doubt, share a picture that shows someone's face.
10. Add subtitles to your videos
We already established you need to share video content on Instagram to drive engagement.
But I've got a way for you to make your video strategy even better. Add subtitles.
Video subtitles increase view times by 12%.
It's worth noting that on Facebook, 85% of videos are watched without sound.
Since Facebook owns Instagram, we can safely assume those numbers translate to Instagram as well.
11. Tag your location
You posted a picture of someone's face and added a hashtag to your caption. It's time to post, right?
Not so fast.
Before you post your photos, you should tag their locations. Research shows that posts with tagged locations have 79% higher engagement rates.
You can add a location tag even if you aren't actually there. If your office is in San Francisco but you're trying to promote something in Miami, you can still add Miami to the tag.
Just don't get caught with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background of your photo, or users will know you're not in Miami.
Check out this example from Lululemon.
This image was shared on July 28, 2018.
The date corresponds with the Hermosa Beach Open, which is an AVP beach volleyball tournament.
Was this photo actually taken on this day at this location? Maybe. But maybe not.
Either way, it's promoting beach volleyball gear during a beach volleyball tournament at that location. So the location fits the post.
12. Announce a new post in your story
You need to learn how to use Instagram story to promote your business.
When you add a new post to your profile, announce it on your story. This will double your engagement metrics.
First, you'll get a view and impression on your story.
Then, users will be enticed to view the new post. After that, you can encourage them to like and comment on the post by implementing the other strategies I've discussed so far.
13. Leverage takeovers
This relates to the discussion about social influencers.
An influencer may allow you to take over their account for a period of time. You can post content to their story or even broadcast a live video.
On the flip side, you can let an influencer take over your account. Here's an example from Shopify:
Amber Mac not only took over the Shopify account but also promoted it on her profile as well.
Now her followers have a reason to visit the Shopify profile to see what she's up to over there. This will boost the engagement metrics during that time period.
Furthermore, if those users like the content you post as a guest of another account, they may end up following your page, which increases your chances of having additional engagements with those users moving forward.
Your Instagram profile is a valuable marketing tool. But you'll be successful only if you know how to use this tool correctly.
Ultimately, your content needs to drive engagements.
Getting users to like, comment, view, share, and click on your posts will increase your brand exposure and help you generate more leads.
As a result, your business will be more profitable.
If you're unhappy with your current engagement rates or if you think there's room for improvement, refer to this guide.
Implement the tactics listed above to boost your Instagram engagement rates.
How is your brand using Instagram to focus on user engagement?
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It's no secret we're living in a mobile world.
As marketers, we need to recognize that our current and prospective customers are active on their mobile devices. That's why you need to learn how to optimize your web design for mobile users.
But some of you may have taken this one step further and built a mobile app. That's great news, and you're definitely headed in the right direction.
Mobile apps are increasing in popularity.
If you saw my top mobile trends that are dominating 2018, you're aware of this.
In fact, over half of small businesses in the United States either have mobile apps or are planning to develop one. Further, 55% of these business owners say they are using mobile apps to drive sales.
Those of you who already developed an app have an advantage over your competition.
But your app won't be successful unless you can get people to download it.
Ultimately, the more downloads you get, the greater the chance you'll have of getting more sales and increasing your total revenue.
The ranking of your mobile app has a direct correlation with how many downloads you'll get. Ironically, getting lots of downloads will also improve the ranking of your app.
It's a constant cycle. Basically, if you're able to get downloads, the popularity of your app will increase.
As a result, the ranking will improve, and the downloads will continue.
While it may sound complicated at first, it's not difficult to understand. I'll explain what you need to do to drive downloads and improve the ranking of your mobile app.
Understand the basic concepts of app store optimization (ASO)
For starters, you need to understand ASO, which is short for app store optimization.
Having a mobile app without focusing on ASO is like having a website without focusing on SEO (search engine optimization). ASO is extremely important.
That's because such a large percentage of app users discover new apps by browsing the app stores:
Think of the app store as a general search engine.
Someone knows what they want but doesn't know where to find it. So they type some general terms into the search box.
Just like with a web browser, mobile users aren't going to go searching through dozens of results after they conduct a search. They're going to select one of the top results.
Those are the apps that will get the most number of downloads.
It's the same concept as Google searches. The top ranking results will get the majority of the traffic.
You need to learn which factors can increase your chances of getting ranked higher according to ASO. We'll cover some of these concepts as we continue.
Recognize the differences between the Apple App Store and Google Play Store
Let's continue talking about the basics. There are two main app stores.
The Apple App Store is for apps available to download on iOS devices, whereas the Google Play Store is for Android users.
Depending on your business, your app might be available on just one or both of these platforms.
You need to know which factors impact your ranking in each store. The algorithms for ranking apps are not the same.
Here are some of the key similarities and differences between the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store:
As you can see, the title of your app has the highest impact on your ranking in both stores. We'll talk more about your title in greater detail shortly.
Similarly, the ratings and reviews of your app also affect the ranking of your app on each platform.
However, there are some major differences as well.
Your app's description impacts rankings in the Google Play Store. But iOS users may not download your app unless you're able to describe it, even though it doesn't directly impact your ASO. But we'll discuss tips for writing app descriptions later on.
The keywords field in Apple App Store apps will impact your ranking, but that field isn't even an option in the Google Play Store.
Ultimately, you've got to find a balance between these two stores.
You can't expect the same ASO strategy to work for each platform, so you'll need to make the necessary changes in your listing in each store.
Make sure you have a great title
You need to put some thought into creating a title for your app. This may be easier for some of you compared to others.
For example, if you already have an established business and your app is just an extension of that company, you'll want the name to be the same for your branding purposes.
But those of you who are launching an app as a completely new business will benefit from reviewing my tips for naming your startup.
You want the title of your app to explain the function of your app and what it does.
Here's an example of a great title from OfferUp:
OfferUp is an app designed for buying and selling goods. As you can see, those keywords are also included in the title for ASO purposes.
However, it's worth noting that the Google Play Store could potentially suspend your app if you're using repetitive and irrelevant keywords in your title just to improve your ASO ranking.
Here's something else to take into consideration. The Google Play Store gives you a 50 character limit to name your app.
But the Apple App Store has a 30 character limit for titles.
As far as the ASO algorithms are concerned, having different names on each platform won't impact downloads.
However, from a branding perspective, you want your app name to be identical in each store. Here's why.
Let's say a user who has an iOS device downloads your app from the Apple App Store. Then they recommend it to a friend who has an Android phone.
If the names are different, it can cause some major confusion. That new user may not be able to find your app if they're searching for the wrong title.
Write an informative description
As I explained earlier, your app description impacts your ranking in the Google Play Store.
This is a great opportunity for you to include relevant keywords that prospective users may search for when browsing for a new app.
Even though your description is irrelevant to your ASO ranking on the Apple App Store, you still need to write one that's informative. Why?
Well, how else will people know what your app does? Sure, the title may give them some kind of indication, but the description is your chance to shine and explain your app's functionality.
If you want to know how to write a great description, take a look at this example from Uber:
I pointed out some of my favorite parts.
For starters, the entire description won't be displayed when a user first clicks on the app. That's why the opening lines are the most important.
In the first three sentences of this description, Uber clearly explains what its app does.
As the description continues, they showcase the platform's availability in cities across the globe. There is even a simple step-by-step guide to explain how the app works.
Another great part about this description is how it promotes all the services offered within the app.
Customers who want a simple and affordable way to get around will benefit from using uberX. If someone wants to save even more money, the description recommends uberPOOL.
The description explains that UberBLACK is intended for customers who want to ride in a high-end vehicle.
Uber also offers rides to app users who need accessibility features and to people who are traveling in big groups. All of this information was clearly written in the description.
Keep this in mind when you're writing the description for your app. Make sure it's simple while still highlighting the top features and how the app works.
Encourage users to rate and review your app
How your app is rated and reviewed will have an impact on your ranking in both app stores. So it's important you encourage users to review your app.
Your star rating impacts your ranking in a number of ways. First of all, the higher your rating, the greater your chances of getting ranked higher.
And having four or five stars increases the chances that consumers will download your app.
In fact, 79% of users check ratings and read reviews before they download a new app.
As you can see in the graphic above, if your app is rated too low, people won't even consider downloading it.
This is why it's important for you to encourage users to rate and review your app. For the most part, people won't write a review unless they have a really good experience or something terrible happens.
But an average user has no reason to go out of their way to write a review.
That's why you need to ask them. Otherwise, your app ratings will just be from people who experienced something extreme.
Send users a popup or push notification that gives them an incentive to rate your app and write a review. This will improve your ASO and make your app more appealing to new users.
Improving the star rating of your app will do more than just increase your ranking. It also has a direct correlation with your conversions.
Check out this example from Medium:
Its conversion rates went from 36% to 47% as the app star rating jumped from 3.9 to 4.3.
Improving the rating by such a small margin increased the app's conversions by more than 10%.
Use screenshots to showcase the in-app experience
Your title and description can do only so much.
It's one thing to tell users what your app can do, but it's another thing to actually show them. That's why you need to include screenshots.
Screenshots give you a chance to show off your app's versatility.
For example, you wouldn't want to show four screenshots of one feature. It makes much more sense to showcase different features with each image.
Let's say you have an app for your ecommerce store. Showing screenshots of just products isn't utilizing the option to its full potential.
You're better off showing screenshots of your navigation, search options, checkout procedure, and payment methods. This will give the prospective user a much better indication of how the app functions.
Now, your screenshots aren't directly tied to ASO. However, they'll help you drive more downloads, which will ultimately improve your ranking.
Here's a great example of screenshots displayed on the Delta app listing:
As you can see, each screenshot shows something different.
The first image shows what the app looks like on the day of travel. It's a digital boarding pass that can save you time at the airport.
Next is an image that displays the user's profile. The Delta app also shows travel notifications in an organized feed. This can keep users informed if there is a gate change or flight delay.
Finally, the last screenshot shows how users can book a trip directly within the app.
Varying screenshots increase the chances of your app being downloaded.
Create a video to demonstrate your app
In addition to taking screenshots, you can also use videos to demonstrate how your app works.
Just take a look at these numbers that show how many of the top 50 apps in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store incorporate videos:
As you can see, the majority of the top grossing apps on both platforms use videos.
Users are three times more likely to download an app after watching a video about it, so this strategy will definitely help you drive downloads.
Design an eye-catching app icon
Don't overlook the design of your app icon.
While this doesn't necessarily affect ASO, it will still have an impact on downloads and how your app is perceived.
The app icon needs to be attractive so that it stands apart from other apps when users are browsing.
It should be memorable and related to your overall branding strategy. Don't make it too similar to another app, especially if it's your competitor.
Think about how your app is going to look once it's downloaded to various devices. It needs to be visible against as many backgrounds as possible.
Take a look at the Slack mobile app icon:
It's colorful and draws attention. But it's still simple.
Do you notice anything else about this app listing?
It has a video in addition to screenshots, which is a strategy I just finished discussing.
Promote the app on all of your distribution channels
To get more downloads, ratings, and reviews, you need to promote your app.
Leverage all your distribution channels for this. Convert your social media followers into app users.
Create YouTube content that drives people to your app store listing. Market the app to your email subscribers.
Share download links to the app on your website. Here's an example of this strategy put to use by Hotel Tonight:
Even if you're running your app as a new business without any physical stores or online purchase options, you still need to have a website as a promotional tool.
You invested hard work, time, and money into your mobile app.
But the job isn't quite done yet. Now that your app has launched, you need to take the proper steps to improve its ranking. This will help you get more downloads.
Conduct research on ASO. Learn the differences between listing your app on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.
Focus on your title. Write an informative description.
Use screenshots to show the app's functionality. Create a video demonstration.
Encourage users to rate and review your app.
Design an app icon that draws the attention of prospective users. Make sure to promote your app on as many distribution channels as possible.
If you follow the tips I've outlined in this guide, your app ranking will improve, and you'll get more downloads. These downloads will ultimately translate into higher profits.
How are you using ASO principles to increase your mobile app ranking?
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Some of you who are reading this know who I am. And many of you don't.
So, for those of you who don't…
My name is Neil Patel, and I am the co-founder of an ad agency called Neil Patel Digital. I've also co-founded a few marketing technology companies.
I blog about marketing at NeilPatel.com, and in the last 31 days, I was able to reach 1,701,486 people through my blog.
And in the last 28 days, 43,196 people found me by Googling variations of my name.
So, can you see the issue with everything I am doing?
It's all tied to my name.
None of my companies have as much traffic, and they don't have anywhere near the social following as my personal blog that you're reading right now.
And that's not even the biggest issue, which I will get into later on.
But before I go into why I wouldn't build a personal brand again, let's go over how it all began.
Why did I build a personal brand?
I never planned on building a personal brand. I started my career in marketing at the age of 16.
My first website was a job board called Advice Monkey (no longer exists) that I started when I was 16 years old. I had no clue how to generate traffic… I just thought that you put up a website and people visit.
Boy, was I wrong!
Eventually, I saved up enough money from picking up trash and cleaning restrooms at a theme park to pay a marketing firm.
They ripped me off and provided little to no results.
From being broke and frustrated I had no choice but to learn online marketing.
I got so good at it that Advice Monkey started to rank on Google for competitive terms like job board, job search, and tech jobs. In essence, I was ranking for so many job and career terms that Advice Monkey started generating well over 100,000 visitors a month.
I know that doesn't seem like a lot of traffic, but for a job board with no listings, the Internet not being as popular 17 years ago, and for me being a 16-year-old kid, I didn't do too bad.
But here is the thing, I was never able to make Advice Monkey work out. I just didn't know how to monetize it.
So, like any other nerdy 16-year-old, I did what my parents wanted me to do, I went to college. And I know I was a bit too young for college as I was still in high school, so I took night classes at a college nearby my home while still in high school.
My first class was Speech 101, and I gave a speech on how Google worked. Funny enough, someone in the class worked at a company that was looking to hire someone that knew how Google worked.
He asked me if I wanted a consulting job… I said yes… they paid me $5,000 a month. I was able to help them generate well into the 8 figures of additional yearly revenue because of my work.
The owner of the company was impressed, so he introduced me to his son, who owned an ad agency.
Soon enough, he outsourced some work to me, which lead me to generate $20,000 a month in income.
The start of my personal brand
I was happy with the money that I was making for my age, but I knew it wouldn't last.
Just because someone is paying you money right now, it doesn't mean they will pay you next year or even next month.
I had to figure out how to generate customers.
I wasn't the best at sales, I wasn't well connected… so I did what I knew best. I created a blog that focused on the topic of SEO in hopes that it would generate leads and sales.
The blog no longer exists, but it was called Pronet Advertising. Here's what it looked like:
Over time, the blog started to grow in popularity and it would generate leads here and there. I never hit more than 150,000 monthly visitors, and I wasn't satisfied with the results.
I wish I knew what I know now because I would have done simple things like leveraging exit popups and lead forms on the blog.
Seriously, I made so many basic mistakes back in 2006.
Because the blog wasn't working out too well, I decided to speak at conferences in hopes that it would generate more clients. I literally applied to every marketing conference in hopes of landing a speaking gig.
The first conference I spoke at was Search Engine Strategies (it no longer exists). I was a bit nervous, but people enjoyed my speech.
I generated no new business from the event.
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