While 2020 has been rough on most businesses, it’s been a good year for social media. According to We Are Social’s latest Statshot report, most social media platforms expanded their user base over the last three months.
Instagram boasted exceptionally large audience growth in the last quarter, rising by 76 million to a total of 1.16 billion at the start of October. And with the explore tab seeing regular use — around 200 million views a month, with over half of users visiting it at least monthly — it’s a good time for brands to get started on the platform.
If you’re looking to ride the rising tide of Instagram, it’s important to go into it prepared. There are several tools out there designed to optimize your use of the platform, whether that means touching up photos before posting, or studying the numbers behind your account. So if you’re aiming to grow your brand on Instagram, here are seven digital tools to consider.
Instasize is designed to provide a full post-processing suite tailored specifically for Instagram. It boasts a catalog of ready-to-use filters and cropping presets, as well as sliders for individual qualities, such as brightness, saturation and hue, among others. A consistent look can do wonders for your Instagram gallery. Consider how Food & Wine, for example, use saturated colors to whet their viewers’ appetites.
Photo from Kicksta
The iOS version of Instasize also has video editing features. If you’re on the fence about getting started with Instagram videos, keep in mind that they generate around twice as much engagement as static images.
Instagram stories are the most commonly used content type on the platform. They’re a great way to roll out frequent but unintrusive updates or, through highlights, to pin important info to your profile. You can use stories to get information across in creative ways, or to experiment with different styles while still establishing your brand. Made, a story editor and collage app (available for Android and iOS), is designed to let you get the most out of every story you post.
Images from Etude House.
Made features a wide variety of ready-to-use templates, so that you can create eye-catching content with minimum effort. You can further customize these templates with backgrounds, fonts and filters, so that your stories stay fresh and on-brand. And if you want to design a story series all at once, Made’s planning tool lets you edit story posts by batch, before uploading them to Instagram — perfect for crafting your next highlight reel.
GIFs have become one of the most popular and visual formats in circulation, featuring the expressiveness of video, without needing much more time (or date) to digest than a static image. While it’s easy to find ready-made GIfs, ImgPlay lets you make GIFs of your own to match the situation.
To make a GIF, you can start with one or more videos, or even a static image to which you can add animated stickers or text. The app lets you crop, clip and splice, and includes several built-in filters and effects. To see it in action, see how this illustrator promoted her work by assembling a GIF from a few drawings.
DATA AND MANAGEMENT
Hootsuite is a social media management platform that integrates with several social networks. You can use it to schedule posts and monitor user engagement with your account in real time. Hootsuite also lets you monitor keywords. Since lots of Instagram explore activity is driven by interests and hobbies, keeping up with keywords your audience cares about provides a considerable advantage.
What sets Hootsuite apart from alternatives like Buffer are its wide range of integrations (both with social networks and analytics tools) and its collection of in-house training and certification courses. This makes it a great choice for brands just starting in social media marketing, as do its flexible pricing tiers (which include a free version).
Iconosquare integrates with fewer platforms — focusing on just Facebook, Instagram and Twitter — but its analytics are top-notch and presented in a way that makes them easy to understand. In addition to the usual numbers (e.g. interactions, impressions, followers, etc.), Iconosquare helps you analyze ideal posting times (see below), the lifespan of your content, and trends among your followers.
Photo from John Lincoln Marketing.
The clean, efficient user interface is one of the features that sets Iconsoquare apart. The platform does a great job of presenting information on all its dashboards, and in its easy-to-generate reports. It also has scheduling features, which makes it an option for content management, if you stick to the three networks it’s built for.
OPTIMIZATION AND ENGAGEMENT
One major restriction that brands face on Instagram is the limit of having only one link in your bio — Shorby is designed to make the most of it.
Shorby lets you create mobile-optimized landing pages that users reach by following your profile link. You can customize these landing pages to suit your brand visuals, include multiple links and content blocks, and even schedule links at specific times of day (great for sales!).
Note how this online bakeshop uses its Shorby page to streamline its ordering process, effectively getting around the problems that would normally arise from the one-link-only limit.
Photos from Dough It Yourself.
It’s hard to overstate the customization the platform allows: you can suit the visuals to your brand, include multiple links and content blocks, and even schedule when links should appear — great for limited-time promos — or have the feed update itself whenever you publish new content on one of your linked accounts.
Contests are a great way to get people to interact with your brand, content and hashtags. ShortStack’s main selling point is how easy it makes it to run a social media contest. The software streamlines various contest-related tasks, such as collecting entries based on hashtags/mentions, getting permissions for user-generated content, and randomizing winner selection. For extra reach, consider what this Etsy artist did: awarding bonus entries to people who tagged their friends.
Image from Shortstack.
Shortstack supports various contest formats, including comment-, hashtag-, and mention-based entries. It also has a few supplementary features, such as email campaign management, and data and analytics management.
Having seven different tools may seem like a lot — especially considering that’s on top of Instagram itself — but remember that each one will save you time, while improving your social content and boosting your following. The trick is to expand your toolkit little by little. Use each tool when it becomes relevant based on your brand and digital marketing strategy. You might want to start with some social listening on Hootsuite, for example, or you might start by polishing your content on Instasize or Made.
And remember that each of these tools is precisely that — a tool. It’s meant to help you get better results more efficiently. So keep on exploring, experimenting and stay creative!