Do you know your Instagram strategy for 2023? If you had asked any social media marketer in 2022, the strategy would have simply been Reels. Instagram wanted so badly to beat out TikTok that Reels were getting insane views and helping small businesses reach a larger audience.
However, things are changing a bit for 2023. Back in September, Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, admitted that Instagram went a bit too far with its prioritization of videos. He’s now saying that photos are still relevant on the platform.
For those of you that really struggled with Reels, this is likely welcomed news! So, what does the new landscape of Instagram look like for 2023? Let’s break down my recommendations for a small business Instagram strategy for 2023.
What Content Should You Post?
First, it’s important to think about who your audience is and what they’re getting out of following your profile. A lot of businesses think first about what a social media profile will bring their business. If you want social media to work, that’s completely backward.
Think it through. Do you think people would prefer to watch advertisements all day long? They only put up with advertisements because they know something they want is coming afterward. In fact, the best advertisements are the ones that provide just as much entertainment as the content.
Will your audience walk away from your profile entertained? Maybe they’ll be educated? Or maybe they’ll get joy from the beautiful images they see? Start your content plan with what you’re giving your audience.
While Reels might not be as powerful as they were in 2022, they aren’t dead. If you like Reels, keep using them. However, you should do what you can to only focus on high-performing Reels.
Here are some tips to make sure your Reels perform well:
- Use trending sounds. Scroll through Reels on Instagram and look for ones that have an arrow in the bottom left corner. That means the sound is trending.
- Do some unique transitions or styles. After a while, the Reels pointing at boxes of text can get repetitive. If you want to really stand out, try some unique transitions or styles. If you have some really nice photos that you want to make into a Reel, check out this account for some inspiration/tutorials.
- Watch TikTok. I know we’re talking about Instagram, but the truth is that the trends on Instagram are often repurposed trends from TikTok. Instagram tends to be about a week late to the trends.
- Create shareable content. A big part of how people use Instagram is by sharing content they see on their own Instagram Stories. People won’t do that for just a general ad, though. You need to share something that is inspiring, funny, or relatable. The account @bossbabe.inc does a good job with these types of Reels for their audience.
As I mentioned earlier, Instagram is back to putting more emphasis on good photography. If you can, invest in getting some professional photos of your business, team, or products.
If that’s outside of your budget or doesn’t quite work for your type of business, think about what you can take photos of on your phone. Most smartphones will create photos and videos good enough for social media.
While it can get pretty complicated to go through all the photography options available on smartphones, here are a few simple tips to remember:
- Wipe off your camera lens. Use a glass cleaning cloth to wipe off your camera before you take a photo. Your phone goes through a lot throughout the day, and you’ll find your photos blurry if you don’t take this crucial step.
- Make sure the subject of your photo is toward the center of the photo.
- Clean up the area in the background so that there aren’t distracting elements.
- If you have an iPhone, test out portrait mode. It can make simple photos look really cool.
Another tip to keep in mind for 2023 is that it may be helpful to make sure your Instagram posts are the full portrait size (1080 x 1350) instead of the square size. The portrait makes sure your post takes up the whole feed when someone is scrolling through. If you do a square, people will see the next post already in the feed.
As mentioned earlier, when it comes to social media, people want to get something out of the accounts they’re following. Sometimes that’s entertainment; other times, it’s education.
For small businesses, especially service providers, education is a great thing to include in your social media. Graphics are a great way to share some information. Maybe you’re going to share tips or answer a frequently asked question.
The thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to put too much text on one graphic. You can actually divide your tips among numerous graphics that can be added to one post as a carousel. Here’s an example of that from HireAbility Spokane.
Graphics can also be a place where you share quotes, screenshots of Tweets, or announcements.
If you’re worried about making the graphics, there’s a free site called Canva that is a game changer for social media.
Keep in mind the portrait size tip from above also applies here for graphics.
Note: Graphics are great but not accessible to people who are visually impaired. If you’re putting text on a graphic, people include that text in the Alt-Text of the graphic or in the caption. I’ll write a blog in the future with more details about accessibility on social media.
When it comes to business posts, Instagram Stories can be difficult to wrap your head around. You’ve already scheduled out your posts and want to forget about them so you can get back to business.
However, Instagram stories are a powerful relationship-building tool for businesses. They’re a place where you can show what’s going on right now in your business, what it’s like behind-the-scenes or more authentic content that doesn’t fit the feed.
So how do you use Instagram Stories for your business? Here are a few ways you can incorporate them:
- Tag other businesses. If you’re working with a business partner or going somewhere in the local community, take a photo/video and tag that other business. Businesses will often reshare that content, meaning you reach a new audience.
- Use polls to get information or reach out. The poll sticker on Instagram is a great tool for businesses to use. Maybe you’re trying to decide between two new drinks for your menu. Give people a chance to vote. If you’re an education-based business, you could ask people what topics they’d prefer to learn about. You can even see who wants to learn about certain topics and send them a direct link to your website or freebie.
- Use questions to connect with your audience. People might have questions they want to ask but don’t want to put in a message. The question sticker gives them a chance to do that and you a chance to respond. Pro-tip: Because the questions are anonymous, you can submit your own! That’s a helpful way to get the conversation going and even answer questions that you really want to touch on.
- Show your daily life. Since Stories only last for 24 hours, you can share more personal content. Show what your dog is doing or how you make your morning coffee. It lets people feel like they know you a bit more. Plus, you can save a video of you making coffee and share it again later on when you don’t have time for new content.
- Think about your Instagram highlights. Have you ever noticed the circles below an Instagram bio? Those are your Instagram highlights. These are places where you can save your Instagram stories so that people can see some of your best Instagram Stories at once. This is a great spot to share answers to your frequently asked questions, how people can work with you, who you work with, and more.
Hashtags don’t hurt, but they don’t really help much anymore. I’ve actually written on this subject before. Keywords are more important than hashtags at this point. That means that instead of using #SocialMediaManager, it’s more helpful for me to say in the caption “Social Media Manager.” It’s a slight difference, but it’s more in line with how people naturally search on the platform.
When Should You Post On Instagram & How Much?
It’s always interesting to me the questions that get asked the most as a social media manager. I always think people want to know about making good content because that’s so intricate. However, I often get asked about how often someone should post on Instagram and what time of day or day of the week they should post.
While timing can be helpful, it won’t make up for disappointing content.
I’m still willing to share the answer, though! It just might not be one you like. The answer is it depends.
It depends on your audience, and it can change throughout the year. There used to be a place in your Instagram Insights that showed you when your audience was most active. However, that seems to have been removed.
What you can do is use scheduling programs like Sprout Social that predict optimal times to post. Or you can look at data from Hubspot that gives some time frames to use.
The best way to know, though, is through trial and error. Spend a month trying different times, days, and types of posts. You’ll want to see how things perform and adjust for the next month. Since this can change over time, it’s good to check your analytics periodically to see if you can come up with any patterns.
As for the frequency of posting, post as much as you can be consistent. I’d recommend 2-3 times a week at minimum. It’s more important to have good content consistently than to fill it up every day.
Now, that being said, you can definitely grow faster by posting a lot of content. However, most of the businesses I work with aren’t looking to become influencers. They just want to reach people in their communities. For that, post consistently as much as you’re able to make good content.
What Type of Instagram Outreach Should You Do?
If you’ve heard me talk about social media strategy before, you might have heard me talking about outreach. Social media content is great, but it’s not where the world of social media ends. In fact, just posting content isn’t really being social. That’s what these platforms want, and authentic engagement can help foster good relationships with your community. Here are a few ways you can do outreach for your business’s social media.
Don’t follow and unfollow. Don’t join engagement groups. Anytime someone is telling you to do something as a trick or hack, it’s probably not sustainable or well-liked by the platforms. What you need to do is any type of outreach that is authentic.
When it comes to following accounts, that might mean following the businesses next door or any companies you partner with. Maybe you follow accounts you just really like or who are in a similar industry. For example, as a social media marketer, I might want to follow graphic designers. We’re in a similar field, but we aren’t competitors.
You can also think about accounts that your ideal audience might follow. Maybe you sell luxury goods. You’ll likely want to follow some luxury hotels in the area.
React to Stories
Deals happen in the DMs. DMs mean direct messages, in case you didn’t know. However, it’s a little spammy and uncouth to slide into the DMs unprompted. Instead, you can react to someone’s Stories.
Let’s say you want to reach teachers. You followed some teachers or teacher groups in the area. When they share something cool in their Story, you react with a heart (don’t do the heart at the bottom right, do that actual heart that goes to their messages.) Now, you’re in a conversation together. You don’t need to send anything else; just your being in their inbox is a great way for them to remember that you exist, and they can ask you questions when you want to.
Comment on posts
Since you’re following those new accounts, make sure you comment on their posts. This is another way to show up and keep your brand in their mind. It’s like showing your face at a networking event, but easier!
Just comment something authentically. If the post asks a question, try to answer it. Respond to what the post actually says.
Pro-Tip: When I follow an account that I want to make sure I engage with regularly, I’ll mark them as a favorite. Just tap where it says “Following” on the profile, and you’ll have the option to add the account to your favorites list. Then, when you’re in your normal newsfeed, tap on the Instagram logo in the top left corner. It will let you switch to your favorites feed to just see that content.
Share posts to your Stories
As you scroll through your favorites, you might find some posts that your audience will like too. You can share those to your Stories so that you have some great Stories content and you’re helping other accounts get more views. It’s a win-win!
As an example, I work with a travel and hospitality company. If there’s a photographer who takes a beautiful photo of the city they’re based in, they’ll share that to their Story.
What Kind of Community Management Do You Need?
Community management, or CM is a social media industry term so let me explain what it means. It’s simply responding to comments and messages that you get. You might call it the customer service side of things.
Social Media Comments & Messages
My advice is to respond to ALL messages and MOST comments.
Messages are typically from people who are very interested in working with you, so you definitely want to respond. It’s like someone sending an email. There will still be spam that you can ignore, though.
As for comments, the more you respond, the better. It helps encourage people to comment more and shows the platform that you’re being social. One of my favorite hacks is to try to ask a question when you respond.
For example, someone may comment on a restaurant’s food post, “Wow, that looks good.” The restaurant can then respond, “Thanks! Have you had it before?” The person who made a comment will then come back to comment again, and you can respond again. Now a post that just had one comment has four.
The algorithm will see that you’re being social and reward the post with more views.
Along with your comments and messages, you’ll also want to check posts that you’ve been tagged in. You can do this by going to your profile and selecting the icon you see here on the bottom right.
If you have a physical location, you’ll want to check your geolocation tags. This is used when people don’t tag your page but do say that they’re at your location. Just search for your business name, and you’ll be able to find your location to look through posts shared in that location.
Comment on these posts and like them if appropriate. You can even use these posts as content to fill your own feed if the photos are nice enough. Just make sure you ask for permission before you use the photo and that you give photo credit in the post.
Big Takeaways for Your Instagram Strategy 2023
This is a lot of information, so I want to try to condense it into some simple ideas:
- Post content that provides something of value to your audience
- Feel free to mix Reels, photography, and graphics into your content
- Be authentic on your Instagram Stories.
- Work outreach and community management into your daily routine
- Post consistently as much as you can (even if that’s just two times a week)
- Hashtags aren’t super important.
- The time of posting varies for every account and throughout the year. Check your analytics!
Remember, there are also some new features that Instagram has added for 2023. Check out my blog on some of the new tools Instagram has added and how you might use them.