Instagram: it started with vintagey filters that caught the eyes of hipsters everywhere, inspired a new wave of amateur food photography, and made creative hashtagging a near art form.
Not quite six years later, the 400 million active monthly users of the photo-centric app upload an average of 80 million photos on the daily, and droves of millennial parents are naming their offspring after their favorite Instagram filters.
People love Instagram. So if your brand doesn’t have an Instagram presence, it just might be the right time to start. Use these tips and tricks for creating a presence on Instagram, and tap into a whole new image-adoring audience.
On Instagram, your photos are your voice. This means they better darn well fit with your overall brand voice and aesthetic. Otherwise, your Instagram account will look like a jumbled mess of things from different brands and not accurately portray what you’re about. Here are a few things to think about when posting images to Instagram:
- Edits: Since photos are essentially the entire basis of Instagram, you’ll only want to post the best. There are a few simple edits that can spruce up all of your photos, check ‘em out here.
- Filters: Selecting a “signature filter” can give your images a cohesive, on-brand feel. Sure, Instagram offers more than a few, but using other filters can make your images stand out in a sea of Clarendon and Valencia. If you find a look in PicMonkey that’s oh-so you, save it as a custom effect and apply it to all of your images on the quick.
- Watermarks: A watermark is essentially a logo you layer onto all of your images, and lets others know where the images came from. There are pros and cons (and more than a few opinions) on whether and how watermarks should be used, but ultimately it’s up to you.
- Captions: Captions on Instagram allow you to tell the story behind your photos, and get people to your site. For example, PicMonkey’s blog post about becoming a pro photographer was Instagramized by posting photos from each photographer interviewed, along with a quote and info (“Link in bio”) on where to find the full post.
If Instagram ain’t your first social media rodeo, you likely have brand fans somewhere else (Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc). These fans are probably already on Instagram, since the social media platform’s active monthly population is about equal to the populations of the United States and Germany combined. So by the rules of transitive social property, people who like your brand and are already on Instagram should want to follow your brand on Instagram. Now you just have to let them know you’re on Instagram. Here are some ideas:
- Put a clickable Instagram icon on your website
- Put that same icon in your email blasts/newsletters to subscribers
- Design a “We’re now on Instagram” announcement to post on your other social media channels
- Share your Instagram posts to other social channels, like Facebook and Twitter
- Ensure that the link in your Instagram profile goes to a cyber place that’s updated regularly
- If you’re already using a special hashtag for your brand, be sure to use it on Instagram and put it in your profile. Speaking of hashtags …
Hashtag the smart way
Once upon a time in analog land, there was an icon made of four lines that was referred to as a “crosshatch” or “pound sign.” Then social media-ers started using this icon to streamline conversations about different subjects and introduce bits of humor, and it became the hashtag. The keys to successful hashtagging are pretty straightforward: don’t use too many (just like on Twitter), and make them relevant to your industry, followers, and brand.
There are a few ways to hunt for popular hashtags. On Instagram, start typing any ideas you have into the caption field and a handy list with suggestions and the number of posts that include each will pop up. There are also mobile apps and websites that help with hashtag research.
You can also prepare lists of hashtags for different kinds of posts in order to save time. Then, when you’re ready to post, pull up the appropriate list and hashtag away.
Follow and interact
Instagram is a social app, which means you’re gonna have to think about other people if you want to use it successfully. Social media maven Peg Fitzpatrick recommends taking a look at things like blog demographics and Facebook insights to get to know your audience.
Follow people who are influencers in your industry or part of your ideal audience, and don’t be a “ghost follower” (one who follows and never interacts). Make sure to leave thoughtful comments on other people’s pics and respond to comments on your own.
Highlighting and sharing your followers’ images is another great way to toss other people some virtual kudos—just make sure to give credit where credit is due, and don’t simply repost another’s photo as your own.
What and when to post
As is the case with every social media platform, content quality will make or break your brand. Post things that are relevant to your audience, and that establish your area of expertise without being too salesy. Things like behind-the-scenes photos and useful tips help personalize your brand and build trust.
Posting quality content is half the battle, and the other half is timing. There’s no solid rule about how often you should post to Instagram—some industry leaders say once a day, others say four times per week, and still others say every six hours. The idea is to post consistently, but not too often. So, no disappearing for a week and then posting 10 new pics in a day.
To make sure you’re hitting all the right notes, plan ahead, stay organized, and develop a workflow. Gather all of the things you’ll need for a great Instagram post: A beautifully edited image, relevant and brand-specific hashtags, caption text, any @ mentions, etc., ahead of time, and you’ll have perfect posts all ready to publish when they fit with your editorial calendar.
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