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The following is a guest contributed post from Shawn Arora, the founder of LaunchSpark

Instagram is a popular and highly engaging social media platform. In just seven years, Instagram has significantly increased its user base in almost all demographic groups, and now helps users share roughly 80 million new photos every day. According to Forrester Research, there is a 4.21% per follower engagement rate for every Instagram post. This is 120 times higher than Twitter and 58 times higher than Facebook. For marketers, Instagram is a vital resource, and learning how to use it effectively is crucial. Here is a few hacks to get you going:

Connect to Facebook

Since Facebook owns Instagram, it is easy to connect your profiles on these platforms. By doing so, your posts on one platform will automatically be posted to the other platform as well. If there is not considerable overlap among your followers on each platform, this is a great way to maximize the outreach of your posts. Even if there is a lot of overlap, you will be able to reach all of your followers equally, regardless of which platform each frequents most.

Use Specific Hashtags

Hashtags are key to discovery on Instagram – how else do people discover your content in the barrage of 80 million images uploaded every day? With hashtags, you can define your content and make it stand out as relevant for particular audiences. There is no limit to the number of hashtags you can use, so don’t shy away from this feature.

That said, you don’t want to overdo it. Adding too many hashtags can come across as desperate and obscures your content. The point of a hashtag is to quickly and clearly tell users what your content is about before they click on it. Therefore, you only want to use hashtags that are specific and succinctly describe your post. By doing this, you can easily feature on the Discovery / Search dashboard and gain more views. Do some research on trending hashtags in your niche to get started.

Once your account has a large enough following, you can utilize Hashtag Contests to increase engagement with your account. Here’s how it works: First, choose a hashtag thats is relevant to your niche. Next, encourage your followers to upload photos and videos that fit the hashtag. Finally, create a gallery of these posts and upload it to Facebook, Instagram, and your website where people can vote for winners. By doing so, you’ll increase engagement with your chosen hashtag and drive a lot of traffic to your Instagram account. If your following is large enough, you could even create your own hashtags that are specific to your brand.

Shout Out to Followers

It is important to give as you receive. One reason why Starbucks is among the top five brands on Instagram is that they routinely give shout outs to their follower’s accounts. By linking to follower’s accounts and even setting follower’s images as their account photo, they maintain their followers and also attract new ones. Just make sure to seek permission from the original poster if you’re going to do this.

There are other ways to shout out to followers. One way is by embedding user submissions on your website. If your site has a lot of traffic, it will provide great exposure for the user. You can also draw attention to your followers by liking and commenting on their photos, responding to their comments on your posts and using @mention while interacting with them.

These gestures show you really care about your followers and that you’re not some cold and inactive account that only wants followers but gives nothing in return. This can only make more people want to follow you.

Be Creative with Brand Promotions

Ultimately, every brand wants to use Instagram to promote their products and services. But when you do, its important to stay classy, cool, and creative. Pilot Pen USA, for example, uploads pictures of beautiful notes written with their pens.

But you don’t need to stick to just product demos. Other great tactics include uploading videos of the brand’s core members discussing company culture, or cool photos of company events, networking clips, parties and other fun activities. The idea is to get the audience to relate to the brand, rather than just providing a product demo. Videos are particularly effective here, which is why it’s now one of the most widely used features for marketers.

Get People Talking

There are various ways to get followers talking about your brand. By asking for product feedback, suggestions, and real-time images of followers using your products, opening a Q&A networking session, or doing anything else that makes followers feel they are part of an inclusive circle, you’ll create a community around your account.

Bottom Line

There tons of Instagram hacks out there that will help your marketing campaign. Take note of what successful brands are doing on their account and see how you can incorporate their strategies in your own. Be creative and stay committed to it as Instagram marketing is an ongoing and dynamic process.

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