The golden pillar of business advice: people do business with people they know, like and trust and this still holds true in 2019. However, social media platforms have become the new coffee clutch and the local chamber of commerce in which people look for recommendations from friends and get to know the businesses eager to serve them.

Just like a networking event caused clammy hands and nervous nibbling at the hors-d’oeuvres table of yesterday; constant status updates, sharing and memes plague today’s business owners.

Mastering your social media game can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. You don’t need to be a digital strategy genius, a professional photographer, expert copywriter or blogging dynamo. You just need to be consistent, thoughtful and your charming self.

In the name of getting actionable, we are going to focus here on a few quick ways you can get the most out of one of the top performing social media platforms: Instagram. Though the broader strategy presented here can benefit your efforts on many social media fronts.

First, Accept the Algorithm

You have zero control over all social media platform algorithms. It’s time to just take a deep breath, close your eyes, and let it go. Doesn’t that feel good? In all seriousness, though, there’s no point in complaining about it and no reason to let it become a major point of stress or a time suck. You need to dedicate a little time and attention to cultivating your social media presence because regardless of your objections and frustrations, your customer is there.

While we’re on the subject of dialing back the algorithm hating for a moment, let’s be really honest. The goal of the companies who own the social media platforms is to keep the attention and interaction of the audience for as long as possible. And, really, that’s good for everyone! The longer any given platform remains relevant and useful to the public the better.

The key to success in social media is as old as the concept of networking itself: show up to the party, have something of value to offer and be a delightful conversationalist.

Welcome to the Party or Perfect Your Profile

Consider a tap on your Instagram handle the new handshake. Someone saw something they liked in their feed or received a recommendation from a friend to come on over and get to know you. The old advice holds true here. You only get one chance to make a first impression. You’ll want to make sure that your profile page is representative of who you are and what you offer from that first glance.

We all like pretty things and beautiful imagery draws us in to tell us a story. It can be both fun and effective to work with a talented photographer to create original content to fill your feed. If that’s not quite in the budget, there’s nothing holding you back from shooting your own gorgeous photos and easily editing them right on your phone.

  • Make your Bio Count. You only have 150 characters to quickly communicate what you’re about and why you’re worth following.
  • One Link To Rule. Use your profile link wisely as it’s the only live link available on the platform. Stretch your linking budget by creating your own custom Instagram landing page on your site (best!) or using a service like Campsite or Linktree (quick & easy!).
  • Go for Best Dressed. Take the time to ensure that every post is both aesthetically pleasing and in line with your brand and business. You can be professionally polished and unapologetically authentic at the same time using user-friendly apps like Canva and Snapseed to edit your images to perfection.

Work the Room or Be Consistent with Your Target Audience

People like people they can depend on. Being in front of your audience consistently will keep you at the top of their mind when it comes time to make a purchasing decision. Also, consistency is not synonymous with constancy. You can easily manage an effective content strategy posting once a day or even once every other day. The focus here needs to be on quality imagery and a great caption that speaks directly to your target audience. Keep your feed purposeful. You can use your stories for fun glimpses that take your new friends behind the scenes.

Speaking of your audience, another easy trap to stumble into is focusing on an audience that is too broad. There are volumes of cliches to reference regarding the imminent dangers of trying to be everything to everyone. Targeting your audience can feel a little scary at first because, of course, you want to attract as many customers as possible.

Keep in mind that narrowing down your ideal customer will help you create a stronger connection with the right audience instead of a lukewarm presence with the masses. Additionally, targeting your message only refines who you are speaking to directly. It puts zero limits on the people you’re happy to make your customers! A couple hundred raving fans who adore you and want exactly what you’re offering are far more valuable than a couple hundred thousand eyeballs that are just mildly interested.

  • Create Invisible Friends. Spend some time thinking about one or two specific target customers. Give them names, hobbies, families, lives and speak directly to them in every single post.
  • Start with a Plan. Setting aside just a little time each week to sit down and plan what you will post and when takes the guesswork out of your consistency game. Leverage a service like Plann or Planoly to schedule your content and master your grid layout at the same time.

Facilitate Sparkling Conversations or Focus on Engagement

More than ever before, the algorithm is favoring good ol’ fashion conversation. It’s seeking out content that signals real people are finding the what you’re posting both interesting and useful. That’s great news! Want to improve your reach and growth? Just act like a real, live, helpful friend and start chatting up your followers.

  • Don’t Bury the Lead. While you have 2,200 characters available in your caption, the excerpt that is visible in the feed is only the first 125 characters. Ask your question or drop your knowledge at the start, to encourage comments and get people to tap for “more.”
  • Be Real. Engage authentically with your audience by setting aside just a little time each day, even 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the late afternoon to interact with comments on your own posts and scroll through and engage with your audience’s post too.
  • Be of Service. Make your comments count by saying something meaningful. Instagram counts comments with four or more words as “official” engagement which contributes to increasing the likelihood of posts being seen organically.

The social media landscape is guaranteed to shift and change over time. The one constant is that behind every screen is a real person with real emotions, interests, and needs. If you put a few of these tips to work for you, there’s no reason to spend your time fretting over algorithm updates or giving in to overwhelm. Just get in there and start mixing it up!