In last week’s column, we began the conversation about whether or not Instagram was a viable marketing tactic for your business. We covered having a business profile rather than a personal one and the fact that bios play an essential role in connecting with new followers.

In this week’s column, I want to give you some best practices that will help you elevate your Instagram game.

Mix your organic content with some sponsored ads: Much like Facebook ads, Instagram ads are easy to control in terms of both budget and audience. Brands can promote their photos (built to serve as an ad) to anyone who fits their target audience. You can also turn existing posts into sponsored ads much like you can boost posts on Facebook. This is a smart way to leverage your top posts and get even more eyeballs on them.

There are also many ways to control what kind of ad you run. You can showcase just one sponsored ad or multiple ads with the carousel feature.

Encourage user-generated content: User-generated content (UGC) is not about doing less work. It’s as much work, if not more, to manage a UGC effort. But when your audience is passionate enough about your brand to participate, it’s worth the extra work.

There are several advantages to UGC. Your audience loves that it’s authentic, interactive and a little unpredictable. People love being part of something special. You can encourage UGC by celebrating it in your feed, calling out the people who go above and beyond or even making it a contest. Use a particular hashtag to fuel the competitive spirit of your followers. 

Be smart about posting schedules: As in all settings, oversharing gets old in a hurry. If you clutter someone’s feed, especially if you have not mastered the “don’t sell here” mantra, you’re going to get unfollowed in a hurry.

But there’s a fine line. You want to post consistently enough that you can form a connection with your audience. Part of that is about timing. If you post during peak days and hours, you can maximize every post.

According to SimplyMeasured, the worst days to post are Wednesdays and Sundays, while Mondays and Thursdays are your best options. CoSchedule released some information from recent research that said the best times of day to post are between 8 and 9 a.m., as well as 2 a.m. Apparently, those night owls and insomniacs are active Instagram users!

Remember that Insights will also tell you when your followers are most active so you can customize your posting schedule to their preferences.

Measure the metrics: With every business profile comes the ability to access Instagram’s Insights. It will show you impressions, engagement data and breakdowns of your followers’ demographics, including their age, gender, location and most active hours. 

You can drill down and get Insights broken down on a weekly basis. Check how many impressions you earned for that time period and what your top posts were for the week.

In next week’s column, we’ll talk about the difference between posting on your Instagram feed versus using Instagram stories and how to use stories to your advantage.