By: Nikkia Adolphe, PR Director

In today’s digitally inclined environment, PR professionals are able to discern if a brand is stagnant or smart.  Stagnant brands aren’t as adaptive to change while smart brands are always ahead of the curve with innovation, growth, and relevancy.  Furthermore, brands that fall into the smart category are aware that having a social media presence is no longer an option; it’s a requirement to stay current, and oftentimes, drive revenues.

These smart brands are turning to social media superpower Instagram to drive business and ROI.  In fact, 70 percent of US businesses are using Instagram this year, doubling the number of companies that used it in 2016. This significant jump in Instagram business profiles speaks to the power of this social media platform and how it resonates with consumers. But, as PR and marketing pros, we’re always curious about how brands grow its following and increase engagement among target audiences.

To cure my curiosity, I recently attended a panel at the General Assembly in Ponce City Market where I had the opportunity to meet and gain insights from some of Atlanta’s most popular Instagrammers, all with different niche profiles, from food and fashion to lifestyle and hospitality. They discussed a wealth of topics from how to use hashtags, stories, and other tools to build your online presence to how Instagram can be a useful and meaningful avenue for business and branding success. Here are a few pointers I learned from their successes:

· Understand the importance of algorithms

· The power of #hashtags

· Rely on a social content calendar

The algorithm effect

Last March, Instagram shifted to a completely reverse-chronological feed to integrate the use of an algorithm, allowing users to view the moments that matter to them first.  What’s most significant about the implementation of the algorithm is that it increases engagement for users, and that’s advantageous for influencers.  If followers are able to consistently see quality content that they can relate to or love, influencers are more likely to increase their following exponentially over time.

Hashtags, the must-haves

One may ask, ‘Is there really a point in hashtagging my posts?’ Indeed, it is.  It seems the hashtag frenzy will continue in this socially-craved digital age, with no signs of abandonment.  Most influencers are about using hashtags as a means of building brand-recognition, creating hashtags campaigns, and also finding their target audiences.  The short answer is, #HashtagsDoMatter.

Social content calendar

As PR and marketing professionals, we are all too familiar with editorial and marketing campaign calendars.  It’s a part of our everyday lives, and if you’ve been enlisted to manage a client’s social strategy, a social media calendar is likely in that category.

For influencers, coordinating a social media calendar is essential to their presence as it allows them it be prepared for holidays and events relevant to their niche.  Case in point, @sheepish_addie – one of the event’s featured panelists – needs to be mindful to organize content for #NationalDogDay, while @foodistagirl (another highlighted panelist) will definitely want to have her taste buds and photos armed for the upcoming #NationalPhoDay on December 13th. Having a social content calendar will help you stay on top of those important days, along with other great benefits. The Essentials of Insta-Branding: How These Influencers Stay Relevant

Based on the Insta-Brand event, what we know for sure is that Instagram is here to stay, with no chance of decimating anytime soon.  This creates an opportunity to be present in the social realm – if you’re not already – and discover ideas that could deem useful not only for your client, but your personal brand.