As creative entrepreneurs, we understand the importance of visuals on making a great first impression on potential clients and customers.
So naturally, we tend to put a lot of emphasis on curating our social media feeds and making sure all of our photos look styled, branded, and professional.
But social media is changing.
It isn’t enough to have a beautiful feed anymore. Your potential clients and customers (and apps like Instagram and Facebook, themselves) are becoming less interested in pretty photos and more interested in one specific thing.
What is it and how can you implement it? Keep reading.
What caused the “super styled” photo revolution in the first place?
Remember when Instagram first launched in 2010 and everyone used those ugly filters?
No one really knew (or cared) about how to take pretty photos with their iPhones. Instead, they took photos of their day-to-day and slapped a filter on it.
So brands and businesses had an opportunity to stand out and differentiate themselves through their styled photos.
Others were drawn to their pretty feeds and followed along for inspiration.
But before long, everyone started to catch on and began copying each other. Creative entrepreneurs got really good at taking super styled photos, and everyone’s posts began to look the same.
Back then, Instagram also chronologically shared new posts from the accounts you followed...
...but then Instagram implemented that dreaded algorithm
And business owners began to freak out for fear that their posts would no longer be seen.
Like Facebook, Instagram got rid of the chronological order and instead featured posts that - as they determined through complicated algorithms - are more relevant to and generate more engagement with their users.
Instagram is since more concerned with showing their users the posts they’ll enjoy most, and they boast the highest engagement rates.
But due to that change, 70% of Instagram posts don’t get seen anymore (source).
As a business owner, you have a much smaller chance of actually reaching your audience.
On top of that, 71% of US businesses are using Instagram, and they’re all competing for the same attention.
Content overload on a saturated platform.
This new algorithm, coupled with the increasing competition and the influx of super styled photos, changes the game.
It isn’t enough to post pretty photos anymore, because everyone is posting pretty photos. And those pretty photos won’t be seen by followers if there isn’t any engagement.
The most important factor for beating the algorithm
One of the biggest key factors in positively influencing the Instagram algorithm is engagement.
If your posts have high engagement through comments, likes, shares, and views, they will naturally rank higher in your followers’ Instagram feeds.
When a post receives a bunch of engagement, Instagram’s algorithm recognizes that your post is connecting with your audience. Followers obviously enjoy and want to see it, so Instagram will show it to more users.
Not only that, but Instagram’s algorithm also cares about how quickly your posts begin receiving engagement.
If your audience begins engaging with a post quickly, it will naturally show up more frequently in your followers’ feeds.
The amount of time people spend viewing your posts also factors into this Instagram equation.
So if you have an engaging caption that draws people in, your posts will more likely be seen.
All this to say...
Super styled accounts with pretty photos may look nice and make a great first impression, causing someone to follow along with your brand.
They may legitimize your business and build some trust with potential clients.
But if you aren’t creating engagement with your followers through the content you’re sharing, your posts won’t be seen.
And because styled accounts are expected and overdone, Instagram users are caring more and more about engagement and interaction with the brands they follow.
Engagement now sets brands apart on social media.
So with all of this useful information in mind, if might be helpful to reevaluate your social media strategy.
What is your main focus on Instagram (and every other social media platform, for that matter)?
Is it to curate your feeds and have them look pretty? Or is it to engage those who are following along with you?
How to drive engagement
Engagement is all about interaction. Social media may feel like it’s often a one-way conversation, but you have every opportunity to invite people in on the conversation.
So before each new post, consider how you want your followers to take action. Even if it’s something simple like “double tapping” the photo or leaving a comment with feedback.
Include a call-to-action on your posts, just like you would on a landing page of your website.
You could even get creative and ask people to react to the post or sum up their feedback with an emojis.
When you make it fun for your audience to participate in the conversation, you’ll increase your chances of generating more engagement.
Use Instagram live
Live video is far and above more appealing to brand audiences than any other type of content.
In fact, 80% would rather watch live video from a brand than read a blog, and 82% prefer live video from a brand to social posts (source).
So if you’re trying to increase engagement, live video is the way to go.
Host a Q+A, share a teaser about a piece of content like a new blog post or an upcoming webinar, walk through a tutorial, dive into a specific topic that’s related to your business or ask for feedback on it, share a behind-the-scenes look at a current project.
The possibilities are endless and you can find all kinds of ways to put your own creative spin on it!
But again, always consider how you can turn your live events into a conversation with your audience.
Use Instagram stories
Instagram Stories have more than 250 million active daily users and their popularity continues to increase with each passing month (source).
Their engagement and number of users is easily surpassing Snapchat now.
And because they’re right at the top of everyone’s Instagram feeds, more and more people are beginning to scroll through new stories before they scroll down to view new Instagram posts.
Not only are they more easily seen, but features like polls and direct messages are fantastic opportunities for engagement with your audience!
So if you aren’t utilizing stories in your current social media strategy, they are definitely worth putting time into.
Struggling to come up with ideas? Check out these 15 ways to use Instagram stories.
Post at times when your audience is the most active
Engagement will naturally increase if you post at times when your audience is on Instagram.
Because remember, the more quickly people engage with your posts, the more quickly they’ll be seen in the feeds of your followers.
While there are lots of stats out there on the best times to post on all social media platforms, it looks different for everyone depending on their audience.
An easy way to discover when your audience is on Instagram is to look at your own statistics (you have to have a business account to do this).
Simply visit your profile, click on the analytics icon, scroll down to the Followers section and click See More, and then check out which days and times your audience is most active.
Share your face
Instagram photos that feature faces get 38% more likes than those without (source).
Even if you don’t like being in front of the camera, the simple personalization of showing your face can allow people to connect with your brand.
If you share photos without you in them most of the time, switch it up and add a personal touch with a photo of yourself to see if your engagement increases.
If so, it might be time to share more.
Get creative with your captions
Captions have the potential to drive engagement much more than the photo itself.
If you share a relatable message that connects with your audience, entertains them, or strikes a cord, you have a much greater chance of increasing the number of likes and comments your post receives (which increases the frequency of times your post appears in followers’ feeds).
So instead of focusing primarily on the quality of your photos, put a greater emphasis on your captions (and be sure to include that call-to-action I mentioned earlier!).
Posts with at least one hashtag receive 12.6% more engagement than those without (source).
They’re important for the discovery feature on Instagram, allowing your account to be found by people who are following accounts similar to yours.
While they may not drive a ton of extra engagement compared to Instagram stories and many of the other tips mentioned here, involving them in your content media strategy can increase your brand exposure.
While pretty images are helpful for creating a positive first impression, it’s becoming increasingly important to engage your followers.
What are is your primary focus: appearance or engagement? Which one do you think is most important and why?