How to use Instagram to make an impact

Snackable, shareable content not only sounds delicious, but it’s a great way to mobilise your community and raise awareness for your cause. You know this already – there’s a good chance you’re on Instagram and so is your business. But are you making the most of it?

Let our little refresher decide for you. Armed with a little bit of knowledge and a spot of planning, you too can rock the Gram, find customers and make a difference. These are our Instagram top tips for social entrepreneurs.

Know your objectives and your audience

You might be an Instagram veteran, but posting for a business rather than yourself presents different challengers. Take some time to consider what you want to say and who you’re trying to reach – it might be a specific age range or, just as likely, only people in the town or city you’re setting up in. The chances are you already did a lot of this when you set-up your business. Keep these objectives front of mind and remember – it’s just another channel to raise awareness of your organisation.

When it comes to tracking down your audience, take a look at those around you. What are similar groups doing with their Instagram accounts and who’s influential in your field? With a bit of research, you can quickly establish what these people are talking about, who they’re following, and perhaps most importantly, who’s following them. Use this knowledge to create relevant content to engage with the followers you want (and follow them too).

Identify yourself

You’re on Instagram, great! You might have been for a long time already. But are you easy to find? Your profile is the most valuable part of your Instagram account because it tells other users exactly who you are and what you do. A few moments spent optimising it now will make all the difference to your following.

Your profile is the most valuable part of your Instagram account because it tells other users exactly who you are and what you do.

If you’re already on Twitter or Facebook, try and use the same username across your Instagram account as well. Ideally this will be your business name, but if this is quite generic or already taken try adding a descriptor or location. One example is One Night Stand in Australia. For every piece of One Night Stand sleepwear purchased, the company donates a meal to someone sleeping rough. However, as you might imagine, one night stand already has quite the Insta presence, so they’ve opted for username @OneNightStandSleepwear to help followers hunt them out. By including keywords in your description and using your logo as your profile pic, you’ll ensure you’re identifiable, credible and easy to locate.

Get active

Build it and they might come, but they probably won’t stay. If you want to attract followers who will engage with and spread your message, you need to get active within your community. Instagram also uses algorithms that determine the importance of your posts based on levels of engagement so, if you’re not actively participating, your posts are less likely to be seen.

Red Bull Amaphiko project Gone Boarding, whose multi-disciplinary curriculum allows students to design, build, and ride boards of all kinds, is a great example of engagement in action. By claiming hashtag #DreamItBuildItShredIt, they’ve activated a community around their enterprise as others feel empowered to share their Gone Boarding experience. This spreads the good word even further, far beyond what could be achieved through just @_GoneBoarding alone.

"Early morning shred sesh for the @fhcgoneboarding crew." (Rob Miedema)

Be human

You don’t have to be a polished posting machine from day one – in fact it’s better if you’re not. Instagram provides a great opportunity to be real with your audience, take people behind the scenes and build affinity for your organisation by bringing followers with you on your journey.

Instagram is a community and if you want to be a valued member of that community, you need to give something back. It’s less about the hard sell and more about providing content that entertains or addresses common pain points in the spirit of your enterprise. With this in mind, not all content needs to be directly related to what you do. One day you might post a quote that really resonated with you or a funny GIF. Perhaps, like Red Bull Amaphiko project Well Built Bikes, you’ll chose to focus on hero shots of people in your community. So long as it aligns with your values and objectives, we say go for gold.

"Good friends celebrating Shorty's Earn-A-Bike success." (WellBuilt)

Experiment

That leads us nicely to experimentation – because the only way to truly know what will be most effective for your socent is to try it out.

Certainly be guided by what works for those around you, but don’t be afraid to go off-piste. Experiment with different kinds of posts, different visual styles, posting at different times of the day and getting to grips with all the features Instagram has to offer. Finding your niche and building a following doesn’t happen overnight, but by trying things and keeping a track of what works best for you, you’ll be able to strengthen your content and provide greater value for your audience over time.

Embrace hashtags

Relevant hashtags help new followers discover your business. They can also extend your reach and help you engage your community through user-generated content. A good place to start is by looking at the hashtags being used by successful influencers and others in your field to get an idea of what your audience is searching for or frequently trending hashtags that might be relevant like #CharityTuesday. Free tools like hashtagify.me help you identify the top hashtags related to your area of business. You can then include these with your posts to increase your likelihood of being found.

Find the frequency that works for you without overwhelming your own resources or bombarding your followers with content.

Plan your posts

Whether you post twice a day or twice a week, the most important thing is to remain active. Find the frequency that works for you without overwhelming your own resources or bombarding your followers with content. By planning out your posting schedule, you can take some of the stress out of maintaining your Instagram presence. Of course, there’s always room to change your posts, swap them around or post spontaneously, but having a plan of attack helps ensure you’re keeping in line with brand values and working towards your goal.

Cross-pollinate

Last, but not least, don’t miss a trick to spread the word. If you’re already communicating with your audience on Facebook, email newsletters or even on your website, make sure you include links to Instagram to raise awareness of the channel.

Tell your friends and family and don’t be afraid to ask for followers. You might even find people are happy to share your content via their channels if it’s something they believe in. Take the time to maximise and build relationships and the followers will, well, follow.

So there you have it: our guide to achieving Insta-glory for your socent. Go ahead, try it out by liking and sharing this post to, you know, get things rolling…