2017 was unquestionably a big year for Instagram marketing. As the social network grew and underwent changes, marketers learned to adapt and optimize their strategies. 2018 will likely be no different in that regard.
Every year brings unique challenges, as technological and social media advances happen so rapidly. Sometimes what worked before can become obsolete and ineffective. New trends can sneak up on you and pass by before you even get a grasp on them. It can get overwhelming if you feel you can’t keep up with all of it.
So, what can you do to prepare for next year’s challenges?
It comes down to a mixture of looking back at the past and forward to the future. Capitalize on what has proven effective, and keep an ear to the ground for what’s coming.
With that in mind, here are 10 tips for creating killer Instagram content in 2018:
1. Use Instagram Stories more.
Over the last year, Instagram Stories has proven to be the Snapchat killer that it was hyped up to be. Not only does it outperform the competition in terms of features; the size of its user base has far outgrown Snapchat’s.
About 250 million people use Instagram Stories every day. Snapchat has yet to crack 180 million daily users. Without question, Stories has left Snapchat in the dust.
It’s inevitable that Instagram will continue expanding the feature in 2018. New tools and options should be rolled out as the year progresses.
There’s already quite a bit to play around with at the moment. You can add filters, stickers, location tags, selfie masks and more. There’s also the option to broadcast live-streaming video.
If you haven’t already familiarized yourself with Instagram Stories, you should do so immediately. Don’t fall behind the other brands that will surely be using it in the months ahead.
2. Review your analytics for 2017.
As 2017 comes to a close, it’s time to do a little self-reflection. The best way to do this is by reviewing your performance through analytics.
Ask yourself the following questions: Which posts got the highest rates of engagement? Which ones underperformed? What campaign seemed to get the best response out of your followers? What has been your largest demographic? When have been the optimal times to post? Where can you improve?
There are plenty of analytics tools out there that will help you find the answers. One of the most robust can be found right here on Owlmetrics.
Owlmetrics has a variety of plans suited for your company’s needs. Each one offers a multitude of options for monitoring engagement rates, checking follower growth, obtaining demographic data, tracking the competition, analyzing hashtags and more.
3. Expect an increase in competition.
Many are predicting that Instagram will surge past 1 billion users at some point in 2018. Soon it will be in the same league as Facebook, its parent company.
This means that there will be plenty of new viewers to attract to your page. It also means that there will be more businesses vying for their attention.
I recommend keeping an eye on what your competition is doing. One way you can do this is by keeping updated on their activity. All you have to do is go to their profile and click on the options button in the upper right corner. Select “Turn On Notifications,” and you’ll be alerted whenever they make a new post.
You should also invest in Instagram ads to reach these new users. With the advanced targeting abilities Instagram offers, you should be able to bring in more of your desired audience than before.
4. Prepare to utilize shopping tags.
Instagram has been teasing the rollout of shopping tags for a while now. They have tested them with a small, select group of accounts and found the results promising. However, there’s no clear indication yet when the tags will be arriving.
In October 2017, Shopify announced an integrated shopping feature on the platform. Currently the feature is in its testing phase. In the coming months, thousands of brand partners will be able to use it to sell products directly through their Instagram posts. After that, Shopify hopes to expand to an even larger number of businesses.
It’s certain at this point that widespread shopping-tag systems are on the way. This will definitely change how marketers approach Instagram. For one thing, it’ll lead to more brands showcasing their products in their posts.
5. Include more branded hashtags.
Around 70 percent of the most-used hashtags on Instagram are branded. Since hashtags are a proven way to increase engagement, it would be smart to focus campaigns around branded hashtags.
A benefit of using branded hashtags is that they’re trackable. You can observe and monitor their engagement rates through analytics tools. They can also make for innovative campaigns that followers can interact with by using the hashtag. Just look at how long Coca-Cola’s iconic #ShareACoke campaign has been running.
6. Look for 360-degree photo and video support.
Recently, Facebook has started supporting 360-degree photos and videos. You can post these on your timeline, or even use them as your profile’s cover photo.
Facebook has made capturing 360-degree images simple. All you have to do is select the “360 photo” option and rotate your phone along the path on the screen, and Facebook’s technology will stitch it together.
It’s no stretch of the imagination to assume that Facebook will bring this feature to Instagram next. In fact, it’s perfectly suited to Instagram’s visually oriented nature.
It’s not too early to start considering how you could use this feature. Maybe you could give an immersive tour of your business, or offer a behind-the-scenes peek at a sponsored event.
7. Continue making video content.
Some will advise you to stick to photos as your primary type of post. This is because photos still earn more engagement on average than videos. However, you shouldn’t let this dissuade you from posting a mixture of both.
Instagram introduced the ability to upload 60-second videos just over a year ago. Around that time, video consumption spiked by 40 percent, and it has increased since then. Given time, video might rival photos as the dominant form of content on the network.
To get some inspiration, take a look at the brands that excel at video content, such as Red Bull. A majority of their feed is composed of video posts that make the most of the format.
8. Take advantage of refined visual searches.
Earlier this year, Facebook revealed the ways in which it has been improving its image-searching capabilities. The most impressive advancements so far have been with its “Computer Vision” research.
Their AI systems now have the ability to automatically tag photos with alternative text that describes the image’s content. So if a post has giraffes in it, the animals will be detected and people searching for them will find the photo in their search results.
There’s a lot of potential for this technology if it’s brought over to Instagram. Right now, the only way to find content on Instagram is through hashtags. If consumers were able to do an image search for certain products, it would be a major blessing for marketers.
9. Leverage more user-generated content.
User-generated content (UGC) is an invaluable resource. It’s essentially free advertising provided by passionate fans and customers. It would be a mistake for any brand not to encourage its creation.
Research has found that merely viewing UGC increases conversion rates by 4.5 percent. If the user interacts with the content, this rate doubles to 9.2 percent.
UGC works in the same way influencers do. Users tend to trust normal, average people when it comes to product recommendations.
Some of the most creative and groundbreaking Instagram campaigns of 2017 were built around UGC. It should be embraced by more brands in the future.
10. Anticipate a reaction to Snap Maps.
Everything Snapchat has done, Instagram Stories has copied and done better. It’s expected at this point.
One of Snapchat’s recent successes this year was with its Snap Map feature. With Snap Map, you are able to view the activity of your contacts on a global map. It’s a handy way to see what events are going on, and you can start conversations with your friends on the fly by tapping their marker on the map.
Most are speculating that it’s only a matter of time before Instagram does something similar.
Instagram actually had a Photo Map feature in the past, which it quietly discontinued in late 2016. It seems likely that this will return in an improved form in 2018. It would undoubtedly fit well into Instagram Stories’ growing arsenal of features.