Are you ready to join the #Instaparty? Instagram is one of the fastest growing channels, but it can be a tough one to build a meaningful following on. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering adding Instagram to your social media marketing plan.
Who’s on Instagram and why should I be there?
Instagram has 300 million active users who have shared over 30 billion photos. An average of 70 million photos are shared per day. Similar to some other channels, 70% of Instagram users come from outside the United States and it is more popular with teens than any other network.
Many businesses see more engagement on Instagram than they do on Facebook and Twitter. The reason for this, is because of the way Instagram’s setup (no crazy newsfeed algorithm and less noisy than Twitter), it’s visual, and when someone likes your content it shows up on an activity feed, so your content can show up again and again with you only having to post once (also known as evergreen).
I’ve seen Instagram work really well for food, travel, fashion and lifestyle bloggers, designers, artists, and people who also have large followings elsewhere on social media. The key is that you HAVE TO HAVE GOOD PHOTOS. Crappy, poor-quality images just won’t cut it, so if you don’t have a photographer’s eye or the budget to hire a photographer, take a few lessons first (Youtube it up!).
The downside to IG
No channel is perfect. IG can be easy to gain followers on, but there are A LOT of spammers who will propose like-for-like schemes. Don’t fall into this trap, because you’ll end up with a list of followers who don’t really care about your stuff.
Also, there are a lot of people trying to market like crazy on Instagram. You’ll find this out quickly when you start getting lots of comments like, “cool photo” and “this is great!”. Bleh. This is what drives me completely nuts about Instagram. Don’t expect to get beautiful comments full of useful feedback and information like you do on Facebook. At least, not right away. Once you build your tribe, things will change…a bit.
Also, be prepared to see way too many selfies. I hate taking selfies, and I just don’t get why other people are so into it, but if you’re a selfie-taker go for it.
Five big tips to help you succeed on Instagram
I personally don’t focus a lot of my effort on my own Instagram account, but I may in the future. I’m not convinced it’s my channel, and I’m way too busy to spread my attention around, but it could totally be what sends sales your way. Also, I question the quality of engagement on Instagram at times. I have a funny story about a joke account my husband and I set up for our cat that boomed, but that deserves its own article. Anyways, here is what works for Instagram:
Use hashtags to help people find your stuff
I always start with this site to research what the most popular hashtags are. Also, do some research on Instagram to see what your audience is posting. What hashtags are they using? Note: there is a difference between which hashtags are searched the most and which hashtags are written the most–you want searches. The trick is to keep experimenting with different hashtags to find what works for you.
Many people recommend posting your hashtags in the comments instead of the post. Personally, I haven’t noticed a big difference in engagement because of this, but if your audience responds better to that practice, go with it.
I’ll say it again, post great photos
Bright, styled photos do the best on Instagram. Scroll through the Instagram newsfeed and note what stands out for you. Try to keep your look consistent, but don’t be afraid to use a mix of graphics and photography. Short 15 second videos also do really well.
Also, if you’re taking great photos, I highly recommend you brand them. It can be a subtle logo or website address in the corner, but it will stop people from stealing your images and it will make your work recognizable.
When in doubt, use quotes
People LOVE quotes. Post a quote using a font colour that contrasts to the image. BrainyQuote is one of my go-to sites. I probably don’t need to tell you this, but please don’t search for images and quotes on Google images because: a) a lot of the images are copyrighted, and b) there are a lot of misquotes, which is really embarrassing.
Direct people to click on the link in your profile
You can’t post live links in Instagram like you can on other channels, which makes it hard to track traffic. However, you can direct people to click the link in your profile. Have an exciting new blog post out? Just update your profile link with a shortlink (like Bit.ly so you can track), and tell your audience about it. Just remember to update that link often.
Say what you really want
Some of my favourite channels are very outspoken, and they’ve grown HUGE audiences because they are memorable. Be controversial and stir things up a little bit! People appreciate authenticity, and emotive content really works, whether you’re making ’em laugh, cry, or swear.
Schedule, but also engage
Instagram can be a huge time-suck, mostly because it’s all mobile. I’m a millennial, but my fingers are not text-friendly. I’d way rather type on a keyboard, schedule my content and check in on it later. You?
I use Hootsuite to schedule all of my Instagram posts. Latergramme is a great alternative, and Tailwind also has a beta Instagram scheduler. Create posts in batches, include your hashtags, and schedule. You will have to manually push the post through (your scheduler will send you a notification) on your phone, but it takes seconds.
The easiest thing to do is batch-schedule and then walk away, but you won’t necessarily gain followers that way. Want someone to like you? Like them first! If you’re a fan of someone’s content, let them know. Follow other people, post meaningful comments, play with emojis, and build that tribe!
I hope this helped you decide whether or not to pursue Instagram. There is a lot of opportunity, but it takes work.