Instagram epitomizes the increasing importance of visual posts in social networking. Images draw people in like nothing else. The audience engagement rate on Instagram, for example, is much higher than on Facebook or Twitter.
Given this, Instagram can be a successful instrument to strengthen your brand if you follow several key guidelines. Peg Fitzpatrick, an author, speaker and social media marketing pro, teamed up with Sprout Social recently for an Instagram 101 webinar. Here, we summarize seven take-aways from her presentation that will help you get the most out of your Instagram presence.
1) Focus on your goal
Instagram is not just about taking pictures. You should ask yourself why you are publishing content on Instagram at all. What are your goals? Who is the audience you want to reach? A good exercise is to come up with three topics for your Instagram account and use them as guides. This could be campus life, behind the scenes, or science.
2) Tell a story
An Instagram post is basically a mini blog post with a compelling image combined with a short description to create meaning. It’s all about telling a visual story.
Experiment with different content and try to discern what works and what doesn’t. Think about what you want to tell your audience about your brand. What makes your campus unique, for example? Try to be consistent and bring added value: Does your post and picture help someone? Is it entertaining? Are you being true to the topics you’ve promised to cover?
3) Take awesome pictures
The key to success on Instagram is to post the best pictures you have. Yes, you can take great pictures with your smartphone, but think about using an actual camera once in a while if you have one. And take as many pictures as you can, but be sure to post only the best.
You can even plan ahead and make a list of objects you want to photograph. There is no such thing as being too organized.
Use natural light whenever possible and try to hold your phone or camera as high up as possible, to get the best angle. Don’t use zoom, just try to get as close as possible or crop the picture afterwards.
Try to take pictures with the rule of thirds in mind. Don’t place the object of interest right in the middle. Camera apps like camera awesome help you by providing a grid structure to take the perfect shots. Photographer Richard Schabetsberger has some great tips on how to take pictures with your smartphone.
4) Style pictures
Instagram filters are an easy way to make your pictures look compelling. To draw attention to the main object in your picture, blur the background to move the important objects in focus. Use the online design tool Canva to edit your pictures and add text to it. Other helpful apps for editing or adding text are Afterlight, Facetune, Over, and Word Swag.
Perfect pictures are one thing but it’s important to think beyond the timeline. The entire appearance of your profile is important. Try to avoid too many similar scenes (like group shots). Style and coordinate your grid. A perfect example is beauty blogger Michelle Phan’s Instagram account. She uses a color scheme and is very consistent.
5) Use Hashtags
Hashtags are a great way to connect your content to other users. You can also come up with specific hashtags to group your pictures by topic. You can add hashtags in the description or in the comments of your pictures (if you put a hashtag in the comments, your description might look a bit cleaner).
Don’t hold back when using hashtags. Research actually shows that you have a much higher chance of getting likes by using up to 30 hashtags on your pictures, which is the limit on hashtags you can use. As it’s normally not that easy to come up with 30 meaningful hashtags, though, other social media pros suggest that 5 to 10 will do the trick.
Like all other social channels, Instagram isn’t a one-way street. Comment and like other pictures to build your community and strengthen your brand.
6) Optimize your workflow
Instagram works best on mobile—there is still no other way to post pictures than directly through your smartphone. Here is a workflow that might help master your tasks better:
- Take a picture
- Edit it on canva.com
- Use Trello or Evernote to optimize text and hashtags. Trello is great if you want to can add a due date to your task on Trello so you always get the overview of what to post at which time.
- Use your Trello or Evernote smartphone app to download the picture and copy/paste the description
- Post via the Instagram app
- Engage with your community via Hootsuite or the Instagram website (while logged in)
- Check your Instagram statistics via Iconosquare
This is just an example of what a workflow could look like. Based on the applications you are using, you could come up with a different workflow that might suit your needs even better.
7) Learn from the pros
No worries, no one is born a master. Experiment, play with it and find out how others are doing it. You can learn a lot by just browsing through Instagram and getting inspired by others. Keep exploring and learning from Instagram stars like Alice Gao.