I’ve only been on Instagram for a couple years, but in that time I’ve learned a bit about what it takes to not flop on my face. My Instagram account is far from being a success as far as numbers go, but that’s not my goal. I enjoy it as a community inspired by photography, beauty, and life’s moments. If you’re new to Instagram and trying to put your true self forward, here are 8 ways to win at Instagram and to connect with other users:
1. Strategize and Plan Your Content You plan your blog content calendar, so why wouldn’t you also plan your Instagram content? You want to portray your interests and brand, but also vary the images a bit. Create a schedule so you rotate through your interests while also promoting blog posts, your activities or events, and throwing in a little spontaneity or whimsy. Maintain a separate folder or album in your smart phone’s photo library that contains the images you plan to share. This saves time when you’re ready to post. Post with enough regularity that you can be counted on and enjoyed, but not so often you flood the feed and become an annoyance instead of a treat.
2. Share Only Quality Content Be consistent. This goes for your visual message, your tone in writing, and the image quality itself. You can take photos with a nicer camera and load them into your special photos folder on your smart phone to share. Your images should be taken with adequate lighting and be in focus. Instagram has nice filters, but they can’t make a bad photograph go viral. Unless it’s so bad that’s the reason it goes viral. Though you can set up your Instagram feed to go through to your
Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr account, not every image is suited for all those media channels. Keep that in mind when sharing.
3. Be Consistent and Stockpile Images This goes along with planning and quality content, but worth giving its own place here. Consistency is your cornerstone to success on Instagram. Part of consistency comes from the look of your images, so photographing still life shots in the same room with similar lighting helps with that. You can stock up on some styled and nicely designed shots captured with a DSLR then alternate them in your feed with on-the-fly (but awesome) smart phone pics of life and moments. Don’t flood your feed with selfies – and the selfies you do post should be good and offer something different from your previous and subsequent selfies. Capture real life moments to counterbalance images that may be more strategic (like publicizing your blog or product).
4. Stick with Your Style You want the overall appearance of your feed to have the same brand feeling. This means choosing the same filter (or one of two filters) for everything you post and using adequate light and white space. Don’t be afraid to adjust you filter intensity or customise ’til your heart’s content. Your look, your style, your aesthetic… it’s your brand. Define it as you would your font choices and Pantone color palette and respect it. But also break the rules for the right reasons.
5. Engagement and Hashtags Social media is about being social, so take time out of pushing your creations and brand to explore other people’s images. This will also help you expand your online network as you follow new people. Comment and like as well, especially on images from users you think would enjoy your own Instagram feed. Always reply to comments on your own images, until you have comments in the hundreds. Learn from users you admire by making note of the hashtags being used in highly liked posts. Knowing popular hashtags is important. When you begin to type a hashtag into the app, it shows you options by popularity. Keep in mind that when you’re feeding to Twitter, only the first
112 152 characters will carry over (the image link takes up 28 characters of the 140 280).
6. Timing is Everything Know your target and who you want to connect with, then determine when they use Instagram and post then. Consider the time zone differences when posting. You can learn about user trends with tools such as Buffer or by researching your blog analytics. Keep in mind that consistent popularity of your posts on Facebook at lunchtime doesn’t mean you will have the same popularity at the same time on Instagram. You should post AT LEAST once every three days and should post no more than four images per 24-hour period. But that’s just my recommendation, there is no foundation in market research.
7. Learn from Others
Many of the accounts I follow are like mini vacations to view. When I see one of their images in my feed, I instantly am happy. Then I look at why I am happy so I can learn that approach and apply it to make my images even better. My favorite idols on Instagram are:
8. Tools of the Trade
There are countless resources to track your Instagram performance and learn about your followers. Tracking your followers and data trends can help you understand what works and what doesn’t. When people unfollow you, you can see that too. It also helps you see when people follow then unfollow you if you don’t follow back. Don’t take that personally, by the way. Here are a few favorites: Iconosquare (formerly Statigram), Union Metrics, Crowdfire, Simply Measured, and Unfollowers.
…and SURPRISE… there’s a number 9 too!
9. Don’t be afraid to abandon all these suggestions for a moment that makes your heart soar. Because if you are connecting with it, someone else will too. Though data and formula can go a long way for content marketing and building your social media presence, always be true to yourself first and foremost.
Instagram is its own community and with that comes different expectations and requirements. Adapt your brand to its format and you will find great connections and maybe even a few new friends. I know I have! If you want to read more and you have these elements down, this article covers how to create a more engaged Instagram audience.