You have been working feverishly on your social media strategy. Curated stories, infographics, brand messaging, and engagement on all social platforms. Your stories have found a following, and you have invested substantially. Your social marketing investments include a substantial layout to buy real Instagram followers, and you have had conversations with your social media strategists. The followers are there, but this has not significantly changed your bottom line. The return on the investments isn’t simply happening. How often must you have wondered about the payback period for your investments sunk into social media? The engagement that you desired to build somehow eludes you.

Why Following Doesn’t Translate to Sales

Multiple studies have shown that increased social engagement is directly correlated to increase in visits to the website. However, this direct correlation does not necessarily apply to sales. One of the reasons cited is that social media enthusiasts may not be buyers. Social enthusiasm does not imply a buying enthusiast of the same degree. So, how do you get to analyze the effectiveness of a campaign, where’s your audience?

The answer lies in the levels of social engagement of your audience. Ghost followers, inactive followers, have become a bane for the marketer. Not always though, as there continue to be a number of people, including celebrities, who buy Instagram followers. However, ghost followers or inactive followers affect your marketability drastically. As they are not actively engaged and do not follow your posts, Instagram sees this as lesser interest or lesser engagement rate and hence wouldn’t show your post to as many people. Get rid of ghost followers! Invest in engaging or buying active Instagram followers and put in place content strategies that work on Instagram.

What Works on Instagram

Your audience is what matters most. Relevant content and exciting images? Yes, they are necessary, but even tons of them may not produce results if you do not get the hang of what your audience wants. Besides a lot of other things like psychology and timing your posts, hashtags play a crucial role. Of course, you ought to work on colors that attract and content that prompts the user to explore more of your website, but hashtags are what gives shelf-life to your posts.

Instagram feeds are very dynamic and keep changing fast. This implies that old content gets buried quickly beneath the pile of new posts. The only way than to stay relevant is to be discoverable. Posts get grouped together by keywords, and these keywords are nothing but the hashtags that Instagram allows you to create. Up to 30 hashtags are allowed for a post! So, it’s time to start making optimum use of them. On the other hand, though, too many hashtags not only make a post cluttered, but is most often considered as a pushy sales pitch.

Key to Using Hashtags Prudently

As with keywords, hashtags also need to be examined carefully. You would, of course, research the most popular or trending ones using tools like Iconosquare or Websta, but which hashtags should you really consider. Should you be using the most popular ones? How many do you use and how?

The key is to find out relevant keywords. Best is to brainstorm by yourself first. Which words relate to your brand, what messages would ideally be associated with your product. List them down, then proceed to research trending hashtags. From the trends, pick up the popular and relevant ones. One word of caution though. Wouldn’t you like to pick up the hashtag that’s most trending? Given human psychology, we would tend to agree. However, think of how much of content is likely to be associated with that hashtag. Your content is possible to get drowned somewhere. For example, if you are into fashion, a hashtag like #fashion would be too generic. Therefore, consider the audience that you cater to. If you are into men’s fashion, maybe something like #mensfashion would be more appropriate.

Create one that you would relate to your brand. For example, for Nike #justdoit would be most relevant. A custom hashtag helps your followers associate themselves with it and tag their own images with your tag. That’s engagement, what in the physical world would be the equivalent of ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing, referrals to be precise. Isn’t that something you crave for, references that create sales?

The idea is to be innovative, to be as precise as to be able to strike the right chord with the relevant audience but not to go overboard. Relevant engagement is what matters.