For our next “Tips” article, we reached out to the masses looking for a guest writer/blogger to provide their thoughts and tips for using Instagram. Adrian Gordon of Fingers2Paper.com was gracious enough to accept. Here are Adrian’s thoughts and ideas for using Instagram to improve your branding efforts online.
#1 – Pick a Good User Name
Deciding on an appropriate username will be one of the most important and monumentally difficult tasks you will have to undertake when first signing up for Instagram (or any other social network). Your username, for the entirety of your Instagram life, will be serving as your personal (or business) brand, so it is extremely important that whatever you end up choosing matches up with your goal on the platform. There are couple of ways that one can approach this, each coming with its own unique advantages and drawbacks.
Using Your Real Name
Using your real name as an Instagram handle is telling your audience that you are the brand. The main benefit of using yourself as the brand is that it lets your followers know that they are interacting with an actual human being. This feeling of a one to one human connection, as opposed to being force fed messages from a marketing machine, will increase the bond between you and your audience members and will inevitably lead to a more loyal follower base.
The main drawback of using your actual name as your brand is that you will be personally liable for everything that is put out into the public sphere. Because of this, you will have to carefully monitor the kind of posts you are feeding to your audience as it may have a wide reaching, and unexpected, impact on how you are (personally) perceived by others who happen to check out your feed.
Using a Brand name
Using a brand name is a great way to manage user expectations (especially for new users). Are most of your posts centered on a certain topic? Try using a brand name that conveys this message to your new and potential followers so there can be no mistaking what you are about. People that have a genuine interest in the topic will be a lot more likely to follow you if your username lets them know that you too are interested in that niche.
The drawback with using a brand name as your Instagram handle, as opposed to using your real name, is that you lose some level of connectivity with your audience. Brand names are best suited for situations in which the Instagram profile is representative of a business (or a general idea) as opposed to the random impulse posts of an individual user.
#2 – Don’t Use the Instagram Camera App
Have you ever wondered how some users are able to create amazing pieces of art while your efforts, no matter how hard you try, come across as amateur at best? Does it frustrate you to watch as the number of “Likes” hit other pages (seemingly) when others are able to capture on cameras that are (functionally) no better than yours? I can assure you that there is no sorcery at play.
The trick is that the majority of these users are not using the standard Instagram camera to record and upload their pictures. To be able to compete with these users (in terms of quality) you will have to take an additional step before posting your pictures onto your stream. There are two ways to go about this:
Using a “Real” Camera
While the average smartphone camera has dramatically improved in recent years they are still a far cry from even the most basic point and shoot cameras available today. Using a point and shoot (and then uploading the pictures later) will dramatically improve the quality of your posts and will definitely give you a leg up on the competition.
Using a more advanced Camera App
If you do not own a point and shoot camera and have no interest in purchasing one then using a more advanced camera application can be a great alternative. Applications such as ‘Camera+’ (for iOS) and ‘Pro HDR Camera’ provide you with a myriad of additional features that are not available in the standard Instagram camera application. Utilizing these extra features will give you more options for taking your pictures (and editing them after the fact).
#3 – Always Use a Hashtag
The search box in Instagram, though by no means as sophisticated as Google or Bing, is still a search engine at the end of the day. Like every other search engine it uses the same basic principles in order to help users find what they need after a search query is executed. To give your post the best possible chance of being discovered it is best to view a hashtag in the same light as you would a keyword in a search engine.
For your post to get discovered you will need to view it from the point of view of the searcher. If you were hunting for an image similar to the one you are about to upload what word/phrase would you use? This needs to be your thought process every time you are about to post a picture to Instagram. The hashtag that you include should be the most relevant word/phrase that comes to mind when thinking of the image that you are about to upload.
It is almost always better to use hashtags that are already commonly in use on the platform (when first starting out). These tags are already being searched for by users, so piggybacking on a couple of them will ensure that your posts are reaching the widest possible audience.
PS: Never upload a picture without a hashtag
#4 – Share Everything
Ever since Instagram finally made its appearance on the Android platform (in early 2012), the amount of people using the service has grown exponentially. Recent statistics have shown that over 130 million Instagram accounts have been created to date and, of that amount, about 100 million of them are currently active (meaning that a post is made at least once per month). This may seem like an astounding statistic, but when compared to the amount of Facebook, Twitter and even Google+ users, this number pales in comparison.
To truly bring large amounts of traffic to your posts you cannot simply upload it to Instagram and sit back. It is best to take advantage of the audience that you have already built up on these other platforms by sharing your posts with them. You might be surprised at just how effective a simple thing like sharing your posts can be (especially if you have a large number of followers/friends on these other platforms).
#5 – Find Like-Minded People/Brands
“Birds of a feather flock together”
Nowhere is this statement truer than in the world of Instagram. While adding and being followed by your “real life” friends is a great way to get the ball rolling, if you ever want to take your Instagram “career” to the next level you will inevitably need to branch out. Finding “like minds” on Instagram, believe it or not, can be extremely easy insofar as you know where to look.
The easiest way to make connections with people, who share the same interests as you, is to use Instagram’s search feature to find people that are posting on the topics you find interesting. These people, based simply on the fact that they are posting on these topics, clearly share similar (if not the same) interests as you.
Befriending these people (by following, commenting, and liking their posts) will increase the chance that they will follow you back and share your posts with their audience. If you are new to Instagram these shares are going to be what will take you from a few dozen followers to exponentially more.
#6 – Follow Back
Yes, you will inevitably be bombarded by random “duck faces” and pictures of meaningless SMS conversations, but, in order to truly be successful on a network like Instagram, you will have to take the bad along with the good. Everybody likes to believe that they are important and so following somebody back (especially people with lower follower counts) can be one of the quickest ways to gain the approval of said users. Once your followers truly believe that you are interested in them (despite the truth of the matter) it makes it a lot more likely that they will share and comment on your posts.
#7 – Post Regularly (But not too much)
The most important tip on becoming the next “internet celebrity” of Instagram is to post pictures and updates to your status on a regular basis (but not too often). One of the most annoying things a person can do on any social media platform is to bombard someone’s feed with irrelevant and uninteresting content. I am sure that many of us have experienced this in the past (or are currently experiencing it) and so we all know what happens to people that do this … an instant block or un-follow.
How much should I post?
You do not want to be in this class of users (spammers) so it is better to post a moderate amount of content on a regular basis. It is best to upload a post about once every day or two. This will ensure that you only make a post when you truly have something interesting to show (or say).
What’s wrong with posting every picture that I take?
What’s wrong is that most won’t appreciate the trivialities of your everyday, non-celebrity lifestyle. Even if you genuinely do lead a uniquely fascinating life, it is still best not to post to Instagram too often or you may risk turning your once reciprocal audience, into a jaded group inactive followers.
#8 – Engage With Your Followers
Many people, after they have gained a relatively large amount of followers, tend to forget that it was these very same people that allowed them to reach to the point they are at now. It was these same people who liked your pictures, commented on your status, who shared your posts and who told their friends about the great new friend they made through Instagram. Engaging with your followers (liking and commenting on their posts) is a great way to show that you are appreciative of your audience. It is little things like this that set an Instagram star apart from a regular user who just happens to have a relatively high follower count.
Are you growing tired of Instagram? The following applications can serve as a great alternative:
Note from John: Here is an interesting SlideShare presentation from @SimplyMeasured on brands that are winning on Instagram:
I want to thank Adrian for his writing services and hope that you can take at least some of these thoughts and tips over to your Instagram profile. If you have any questions or additional tips, please let us know in the “Comments” section below. Once again, you can find Adrian at Fingers2Paper.com and/or at ThirdWorldFreelancer.com.
Thank you Adrian!