The great lesson of 2020 and the universal shift to ecommerce might be summarized in the notion that businesses more than ever need to be present online in order to succeed. In the world of online, you need to be seen, heard, and engaged with customers by effectively using the social tools of communication. But how should you be connecting with your target audience and how can you make the most out of your social media platforms?

Let’s start with simple steps to create an Instagram account that people will be excited to engage with.

Take Great Pictures

What sets Instagram apart from other social media platforms? Pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.

Every post on Instagram must have a photo—or 10—which means you need eye-catching, high-quality images that stand out from the crowd and attract attention.

You don’t need to invest in a professional photoshoot to create engaging and exciting content for your page. These days, you can take great pictures with your phone’s camera just by getting to know your device better. Be sure the subject of your photo is interesting, clear, and in focus.

Try posting a zoomed-in teaser photo of new products, or an inside look at an element of your business customers normally don’t see.

Reply to Comments

One of the best ways to drive engagement and have people interacting with your brand is to reply to comments on your posts. Responding to comments is a common courtesy and shows followers that you’re listening—making them more likely to like your posts and comment again. This is especially important if you have invited customers to engage by posting a question in your caption. Don’t leave them hanging.

According to the Internet Advertising Bureau, 90 percent of consumers will recommend a brand to others after interacting with it on social media. Interactions build brand trust and loyalty—creating happy new and returning customers.

Let Them See Behind-the-Scenes

Social media is a chance to humanize your brand, and there’s no better way to do that than posting what happens at your business behind the scenes.

Show followers how things run after-hours, how you package the perfect order, or how you come up with that brand-new product. Give a sneak peek of exciting things happening when your doors open tomorrow or provide glimpses of promotional material. Get the conversation rolling.

A popular behind-the-scenes approach is employee highlights. Show consumers what great people you have working for you and give star performers public appreciation at the same time. And the best part is your employee’s friends and family will most likely like, share, and comment on your post. Everybody wins!

When building a following on your social network, try to create carousel posts (a post with two or more pictures) that feature your staff, clients, or daily happenings at your business and capitalize on the engagement that typically happens.

Don’t Forget the Stories

Stories are hot right now. With more than 500 million people browsing Instagram stories daily, you can’t afford to miss out on this opportunity for engagement.

Stories are an excellent way to share quick content in the moment. Did you receive a huge inventory shipment? Show it off and tell the story through a short video. Wondering what customers want your next daily special to be? Run a poll and tell a story. Did something amusing just happen that you’d like to share? You guessed it…tell the story. You can also share your latest post within your story to boost views.

You can also use hashtags in your stories for extra reach. If you don’t want the hashtag to take away from your story’s content, adjust the text color to be less intrusive, minimize the size, or hide it behind a gif.

Use the Right Hashtags

Hashtags are searchable keywords that can be added to your posts. Clicking on a hashtag shows users all posts that have recently used that particular hashtag, along with a few all-time top performers. The maximum number of hashtags allowed on a post is 30, though 12 hyper-relevant hashtags will generally perform better than 30 broad tags. E.g., #HometownBakery (used just over 3500 times) will attract a more relevant audience than #Happiness (used almost 150 million times).

A post with hashtags sees an average of 12.6 percent more engagement than those without. Hashtags should be directly applicable to your post, and nothing is more direct than the name of your business. #YourBusinessName can be added to all of your posts, giving users another way to find you.

Hot Tip: Search Instagram for your business name to see if someone else in the world is using it. If they are then consider adding your city name to the hashtag to keep your content unique.

Once you’ve created a branded hashtag for your business—encourage your followers to use it. This is a great way to fill up your hashtag with authentic, organic content coming straight from the people who love what you do.

Make a Schedule

You’re busy running a business. Keeping a company thriving and operating is no small feat. Time management is just one reason why a schedule is so important.

With handy tools, you can schedule social media posts to appear when you want. So, even if you’re too busy with clients and orders to devote time to your online presence, it’s still possible to have a reliable stream of content that engages and informs your audience.

A schedule helps your feed stay exciting and is a great advertising tool. While you don’t want to make every single post about selling your products (people are here for that behind-the-scenes content), scheduling posts in advance lets you create hype about an upcoming sale, share information about new products, and keeps everyone informed of exciting changes and promotions well in advance.

When in doubt, be authentic. People follow your business because they like it, so show them more of what they love. Take the opportunity to create a connection with your followers and you’ll develop a loyal client base that’s excited for you, your business, and your success.