If you’re anything like us, you’ve likely found yourself scrolling through post after post on Instagram thinking that you, too, could have a massive following like the accounts you stalk.
You see that they have countless comments and even more likes, and wonder why you haven’t seen that same level of engagement on your posts. Rather than letting the green-eyed monster (we’re talking about you, envy) get the better of you, start plotting your way to #Instafamedom the tactical way with proven strategies.
Having a killer Instagram account is an invaluable tool to be seen, to be heard and to interact with your target audience — especially as a blogger. If only it was as easy as posting a pic, getting some likes and adding a couple of hashtags. The truth is that there’s much more planning and intention that goes behind that sleek AF grid you drool over. There’s the researching, strategy, shooting, editing, captions, hashtags, scheduling and sadly you’re not done there. After that, there’s the ongoing interaction with your audience. Wash, rinse and repeat this process on a regular basis and you basically have a second job.
Instagram is one thing to start, but it’s an even better thing to get right as a blogger. So, to save you many Google searches and trial-and-error episodes, we’re giving you our five top tips to creating, growing and maintaining a slicker-than-your-average Instagram to help you and your blog thrive.
01. MAKE SURE YOUR PROFILE IS UP-TO-SNUFF
This may seem like a throw-away tip, but everyone’s heard about giving the right first impression right? Your profile’s bio information, profile picture, Insta name and profile link are all part of your virtual ID on Instagram. If they don’t accurately tell your story, then your people will have a very hard time finding you. So, first things first, make sure you’re happy with your Instagram username. It sounds simple but consider this the 101 of consistency - having a username that is homogenous to your blog name, website and other social media accounts is key. Why? Because if your audience comes across you through another platform or by word of mouth, then it makes their life a whole lot easier when they try to find you. Especially on the ‘gram because that’s what every single person with a smartphone does. Also, check out your profile pic. Is it flattering? Is it uniquely interesting? If so, rock on! Though, be sure to not get in the habit of changing your profile picture often else it will be difficult for your people to recognize your post. Think of your profile picture as your logo. If you change it often, your following will have a harder time identifying your posts.
Your next decision will be whether to have a personal or business account. The account types both have pros and cons, but when it comes down to it, the benefits of a business account are far more impressive than the downfall, especially when you’re establishing a blog. Think of what a contact button and instant access to insights and reports can do for your website’s growth!
150 characters doesn’t seem like much to sum up the very essence of your you and blog but, we’re telling you, it is more than enough. Your bio should be short and sweet, a tagline or a summary of your story. Play around with it and if you’re after some serious bonus points try creating a short and sharp bio in the tone of voice that is consistent with your blog, and don’t forget to add a link to your blog! If you’re an overachiever, feel free to update your bio with a link to your most recent blog post on a regular basis.
02. POST ORIGINAL PHOTOS
Any Tom, Dick or Harry can rip off photos from other Instagram accounts or Pinterest. When it comes to creating a dreamy account, one that catches the right kind of attention and the right kind of peeps, it’s all about original content. True story.
What’s also a hard truth is that it’s not always financially feasible to pay for a professional shoot. That is unless you are a maestro with a camera / iPhone. It is wise to invest in creating beautiful visual content. To start, you can create a visual mood board for inspiration. You can either use them as shoot inspiration or keep them for a rainy-day regram. Make sure you always credit the original owner as this allows you to set the tone for your brand, and to also engage with other brands or individuals who you’d like to connect with. When curating a collection of imagery that will work for your feed, ensure that the images stay within your style guide - colors, vibe, etc. Also ask yourself if it is related to your blog. Quality over quantity wins. Always.
Then comes the real work. You don’t need a fancy, expensive camera to take fabulous photos. You can use your handy dandy smart phone. Here are some quick and dirty tips for taking Instagram-worthy photos with your iPhone:
- Set focus and exposure for clear, well-lit photos
- Lock the focus using the AE/AF lock feature on the iPhone camera
- Use the exposure slider to get the perfect amount of light
- Think about the story you are trying to tell through the photo
- Use simple backgrounds that make your subjects pop
- Use attractive props that enhance the story of the photo (want a quick and dirty trick to make a normal looking shot look even more interesting? Shoot throughsomething. Stand behind some ferns and shoot through the leaves for example)
- Hunt for golden hour. Golden hour is the hour during sunset and sunset, where you’ll get the softest lighting.
- Switch on the grid on your iPhone for better composition
- Use the Rule of thirds to compose interesting shots
- Intensify the colors in the photo with the saturation tool in editing apps like VSCO
- Use the same filter to maintain consistency in your photos
- Adjust the temperature of your photos by either increasing or decreasing the warmth of your photos
- Use a few reference photos when you’re editing that you always refer back to during the process. One important reference photo is the original photo - checking out the photo originally looked helps keep you in check and not over-edit. Another good reference photo is a inspirational photo from a favourite photographer of yours, so you can see what treatment other photographers use.
- Shoot photos in RAW mode for more flexibility during editing
- Save photos and export in full-resolution for high-quality
- Use iCloud or Dropbox for storage
If you are interested in a professional shoot, consider bartering with a photographer. Perhaps you’re a writer in need of eye-catching Instagram photos. Reach out to a photographer who has a similar aesthetic and offer to write their website or something that is of the same value. Most budding photographers are looking to build their portfolio anyways, so use that to your benefit by offering your pretty mug for a shoot so long as you have license to the photos on your channels. A win-win for all involved.
With all of this said, every image doesn’t have to be original. Go by the 80/20 rule and try to aim for at least 80% original content, and weave the rest of the regrammed content throughout your grid.
03. DEFINE YOUR STRATEGY AND SET A DIRECTION
When it comes to social, we can spot an imposter from a mile away, so we believe there’s no better strategy than being yourself. When we say yourself we mean your fine self — the one who only posts with intention and purpose, who truly loves and believes in their blog, and of course the one who posts frequently and engages with their audience.
Don’t know where to start? Write down the four key elements you want to portray about your blog on social media. Each element should share a different side of you and your blog. But as a whole, your grid should look like one big happy family of images that all belong together.
Once you have shot your photos and curated an amazing grid, it’s time to schedule - try out a few apps and see what’s right for you. UNUM and Planoly are a few of our favorites. Planning in advance means that your photos and captions are saved and ready to go – all it takes is the tap of a button to post. The schedulers can also remind you to post when your followers are most active. It’s sublime.
In the beginning, embrace trial and error, and learn the best times to post, notice what posts are working and which ones aren’t, what hashtags have helped you gained the most traction and which ones offer no added value. You may have 99 problems, but a gorgeous grid should never be one if you plan well.
04. WRITE GREAT CAPTIONS
It’s all well and good having all these beautiful images but what about the caption? The words you use along with your image are just as important and help to share a bit more of your personality, allow you to relate to your audience, and show you are indeed a real person (#nobotszone).
Like your bio, it’s all about consistency when it comes to tone of voice. If you are feeling a little stuck for words, use the following intentions to help guide your captions:
Educate: this may be revealing a little about yourself, sharing your most recent blog post or offering tips around your expertise.
Persuade action: Promote your most recent blog post, ask a question or invite your people to take part in a competition.
Evoke an emotion: This can be something cheeky, funny or something a little more vulnerable. Whatever it is, try and write something that truly connects with your followers.
We’ve talked about being authentic and here’s where to let your personality shine - your caption doesn’t have to be long, if you are a straight shooter and fast talker then make your captions short and sharp, one word may even do the trick!
Now, for the hashtags, choose a few that have your name in it and stick to it. Feel free to add more hashtags that relate to your image or offerings in the comments section. Adding it to the caption can take away from the post and look a little too wordy. To find hashtags that expose your posts to the widest audience possible, consider using Display Purposes or Focalmark. Both tools suggest hashtags that connect your content to your target audience. Using crazy-cool machine learning, the suggestions are relevant and increase your exposure.
Through the use of carefully curated hashtags, you could get featured by a large account that would expose your snaps to a super big audience. Strategically, suss out the hashtags that these accounts hang out in and use them to attract their attention. Target large accounts whose style matches yours to ensure maximum impact. So, if your photo-editing style is light, airy and employs lots of whitespace, find accounts that will eat that up. Work smarter, not harder — don’t get that twisted.
05. ENGAGE WITH YOUR PEOPLE
Social media is meant to be just that - social! The good ol’ post and forget combo is one of the most cringeworthy sins of social media. Seriously. Don’t ever be mislead to believe that one post will magically grow your followers to Kimmy-K levels. When it comes to Instagram, how much you put in is how much you’ll get out of it.
To really get traction with your Instagram following and to attract your dream followers, you’ve got to open a conversation and show your support by interacting with them. When you do comment, make sure it’s authentic - there’s nothing worse than someone being insincere or sounding like a robot with a generic comment like “so pretty” or “love this”. If you are really going to bother to engage with your community or attract others to your Instagram, you need to genuinely be interested in what they are posting - ask a question or make a one-of-a-kind, tailor-made comment to show you really dig that image and what they are all about.
One of the ways to structure your engagement efforts is to build communities. Firstly, build an internal community of followers you always interact with and an external one you periodically check in with. Think of these as your “Instagram squad”, people around the same niche, following size and style as you that you can genuinely get behind and support, and who will support you back.
Then, after you’ve established an internalcommunity, start building an external community. These are people who may not be quite similar to you, but still may use similar hashtags, or employ a similar editing style to you. Every now and then, go searching for this external community and start engaging with these people.
Don’t forget, likes are free, so fire off as many as your fingers can handle. Also, always make sure your comments are 4-5 words at least with an emoji for good measure. Instagram’s elite typically spend about 2-4 hours a day just building engagement. So, consider setting up a schedule for yourself that sees you spend 15 minutes every other hour or so spreading the Insta love.
To foster even deeper connections with your peeps on Instagram, try your hand at Instagram Stories. Unlike Snapchat, the audience is built in, it’s user friendly, and the viewership engagement is unreal. Instagram Stories gives your followers real-time, raw access to your life in a way that filtered Instagram posts can’t. You can even add links out to blog posts using Insta Stories. If you’re not using Stories, you’re leaving social currency on the table. Don’t get left behind, stay ahead of the curve with the new feature.
Quality content, along with consistent engagement, is where it really counts. It’s not uncommon for example, to see incredibly beautiful Instagram accounts who have much less followers than they deserve because they don’t put as much time into the engagement aspect, and vice versa. Instagram is a social game, so you’ll need to play it to win it!
Putting these tips into action is one thing, but the best thing you can do for your account’s success is remaining consistent. If you plan to post everyday, don’t miss a day. If you intend to spend an hour commenting and liking your followers’ posts each morning, don’t forgo a single Instagram love fest. To grow on Instagram, you need to approach the platform with intention and goal-driven purpose. In the words of one of our generation’s greatest thinkers, Drake, do better than good enough. Happy grammin’!