You have an Instagram account and you post photos when you can, but you don’t see a lot of growth or interest in it. So how do you change that?
    Thanks to Instagram’s new features plus a few key suggestions, attracting new followers and increasing engagement with brides could be easier than you think. Here are seven tips:

Tip #1: Multiply Your Presence
    One of Instagram’s most welcome features is its new slideshow, which allows you to upload up to 10 photos in a single post. Once the post is live, viewers can swipe from one photo to the next to see all the images.
    “This feature is ideal for content creators who are looking to increase visual storytelling capabilities on social-media platforms,” says Kris Ruby, president of Ruby Media Group in Westchester, N.Y. “It’s also ideal for those who struggle to choose just one image for an Instagram post.”
    This is a perfect tool for bridal retailers to use to increase customer likes and engagement. For instance, Mandana Budare, co-founder of Instaboost in San Diego, recommends using the slideshow feature to show the full experience of someone walking into your store.
    “Think of it as a step-by-step demonstration,” Budare says. “For example, photo 1 would show your staff greeting the bride and her family. Photo 2 shows you serving champagne to the group. Photo 3 shows the bride selecting gowns, and so on.”
    Another slideshow suggestion includes having a full-length image of the wedding dress, with subsequent photos showing details on the dress. Just back from market? Showcase 10 photos of a particular designer. Likewise, do a round-up on the top 10 dress styles for the year. There are lots of possibilities, so brainstorm with your staff to create your own Instagram slideshows.

Tip #2: Tell a Story
    Another new feature is Instagram Stories, a short video or image series that displays for just 24 hours before it disappears forever.
    “Instagram Stories was created for people that want a lot of content, and it’s tough to share too much on such a minimalist social-media platform such as Instagram,” says Camille Smith, public relations and social media coordinator for ONTRAPORT in Santa Barbara, Calif. “Instagram Stories is a happy medium. Did you get a new shipment of dresses? Show them off on your InstaStory!”
    Lindsay N. Fork, owner of La Jeune Mariee Bridal Collection, La Jeune Mariee Maids & Social, and LUXEredux Bridal in Ohio and Indiana, likes Instagram Stories because it reveals the unpolished side of the bridal business.
    “People think the wedding industry is so glamorous and fun,” Fork says. “Stories allow you to get your feed a little dirty because it’s not the perfect picture, making your mosaic clean and pretty. People like real.”
    Instagram Stories include additional options that allow users to post photos along with video, to write or draw on photos, and to tag other accounts or list a location. Plus, you can download the videos and use them elsewhere, such as on Facebook or your store blog.

Tip #3: Hashtag a Plan
    When it comes to making the most of your Instagram posts in order to increase followers and engagement, do not overlook the importance of hashtags. Hashtags are a searchable tool on Instagram, which allows users to find you.
    “Use 30 hashtags for each post relevant to your brand and store,” says Kristin Marquet, creative director for Creative Development Agency LLC in New York.
    This includes your branded hashtag, which should be your store name or branded slogan.
    Jessica Broston, owner of The Moss Rose in Greeley, Colo., relies heavily on hashtags.
    “To grow my followers, I typically do a lot of hashtags to get a bigger audience,” Broston says.
    To find additional popular hashtags, look at fellow bridal retailers’ and bridal manufacturers’ posts to see what they use. Also, check out Instagram’s “related” hashtags, which it shows you when you search a particular hashtag.
    That being said, be selective in which ones you actually use.
    “Strive to use hashtags with between 100,000 and 300,000 uses, so [your posts] don’t get lost in the shuffle,” Marquet says.
    There has been some discussion as to the best place to post hashtags – either in the post itself or in the first comment – so try it both ways and see which posts receive the best response, then go forward from there.

Tip #4: Recycle, Recycle, Recycle
    Because Instagram is so limited in what you can post, it’s very easy to use a snippet of content you already have in your Instagram posts.
    “The best way to repurpose existing content is from your blog, Facebook posts, designer look books and any other events you may hold in-house,” Marquet says.
    In fact, your blog stories can be a wealth of content for Instagram posts that, in turn, can drive traffic back to your blog.
    “If there is a blog post on your website that has gotten a lot of traction, considering taking a quote from the article and turning it into an Instagram post,” says Maggie Aland, marketing writer for Fit Small Business in New York. “You can include a link for users to read more in the caption.”  
    Also, Budare says, if people leave public comments on Facebook, Pinterest, blog articles, etc., you can turn them into a quote card and use it as a testimonial post. Take it a step further, and take a testimonial quote from a bride and post it as the caption with a photo from her wedding.
    And don’t forget the popular “Throwback Thursday” hashtags that include #tbt and #throwbackthursday.
    “There’s a reason #tbt – Throwback Thursday – is a thing: People love old content!” Smith says. “But only when it’s been around long enough to have charm so they don’t seem spammy.”

Tip #5: Trust Your Insights
    Another feature Instagram rolled out for business accounts was “insights.” Insights allow business users to see how their posts and Instagram Stories are performing.
    These include which posts performed the best, when your followers are on Instagram (by time and day), and user demographics such as age and location.
    “We study our insights carefully to optimize the timing of our posts,” says Mary Anne Carr, owner of M.A. Carr Bridal in Orchard Park, N.Y. “We love Instagram and frequently post.”
    Review your insights to see when your followers are on Instagram, and then create a schedule of content to post when they will see it. Also, take a look at your most popular posts and use those as a template going forward in content creation. But don’t get complacent; go back and check your insights in a timely manner to see if there are any changes and adjust your content and posting times accordingly.

Tip #6: Avenue to Advertising
    Instagram continues to evolve its advertising options so today’s business users can customize their ads better than ever.
    “Paying to boost a post will instantly get your bridal store in front of a whole new audience,” Aland says. “If a user is interested in your company, they can easily click to your profile and see all of your posts. If they like what they see, it is likely that they will follow you.”
    Another bonus for business users is targeted ads.
    “The best part is that you can target your ads to only show, for example, to women who were recently engaged,” Aland says. “Since Instagram was acquired by Facebook, Instagram advertisers can take advantage of all the data users have on their Facebook profiles.”
    Plus, Instagram now offers business users the advertising option of including a “Buy Now” button on their posts. So when you post about the new dresses that just arrived in store, you can insert a “Buy Now” button right below the picture.

Tip #7: Be Interactive, Not Just Active
    This article overflows with information you can use to increase followers and engagement through your posts, but just posting is not enough. Remember that social media is a two-way street.
    “I can’t stress the importance of community management enough,” says Monica Dimperio, founder of Hashtag Lifestyle in New York. “What that means is direct communication with your super fans and commenters. Talk to everyone! Leave comments on other pages. Build a network of advocates on Instagram. That is what will drive your business.”

    With the recent features Instagram introduced this spring, it’s easier than ever to create interesting content that will increase followers and engagement for your account. Although it may seem overwhelming at first, take some time to try out these features to see how they work and learn how you want to use them to your advantage. Once you are familiar with them, creating fun and exciting posts for your followers will be quick and easy, leading to the results you want.