Updated: Jan 22, 2019
By no means am I an expert – at business or Instagram. But when I set up my first Instagram account it was for another small business I was trying out. I didn't ever have a personal account. And I was clueless. In fact, setting up a practice account is a really good tip. I worked on my first IG account for a good eight months before I started my current one. I became more familiar with Instagram, which made me more confident when starting with @dankejudaica. So here are a few things I wish I'd have known back then, to make my "Instajourney" a little smoother. And a few tips and ideas I've picked up along the way.
First things first
Choose your Instagram handle (username) wisely. Maybe you want it to indicate what exactly you offer. I use Danke Judaica instead of Danke, so if anyone sees me commenting on or liking a post, they will know I create Judaica.
Set yourself up as a business account on Instagram. This gives you extra features, including insights on your content and audience, which can be pretty helpful! You can also link it to your Facebook page, for easy post sharing. Bonus!
Craft your bio carefully. Make sure you include keywords and that it's crystal clear what your account is about. Some people will give you literally 2 seconds of their time. If you're lucky enough to have people checking out your profile, make them want to scroll down and see your posts.
You only get one link on Instagram. You may want to link to your website, or your online store. You can change this link as often as you like, so you can link to new blog posts or articles that feature your brand. There's no right or wrong.
Don't get caught up on the numbers It is HARD to build up followers. Especially if you're using IG for business and are selling something, it is tricky to get found and even trickier to entice thousands of strangers to follow you. I think most people definitely do look at how many followers an account has. Yes, it does feel embarrassing when you have very few. Been there. But own it. Speak with authority. Repost and tag like everyone is your friend. Everybody starts somewhere and all Instagrammers know that.
Also, don't worry that you are following too many accounts. Most people don't even register how many you follow - they only care about how many follow you. (Sad but true.) In fact, following others can often get them to follow you back, there's some sort of Instagram etiquette. But don't get upset if your numbers fluctuate. Some people will follow you hoping for a follow back and then sneakily unfollow you a few days later. It's all about content. If you want to grow your followers, just focus on what you post.
Curate your feed Some feeds are simply GORGEOUS! Check out @ariellevey to see how she sticks rigidly to her colour palette for a consistent and jaw-dropping feed. Look at @candyminimal to see how carefully the images are organised, so that similar images do not sit right next to each other. @serjios does minimalism and geometry so well. And @julieskitchen is great to see how she mixes different types of content: close ups, patterns, people, etc. When people click on your profile, they are likely to follow you if your feed looks pretty! It's not the be all and end all, because if your content is great, they will still want to follow you, but for the quick clickers, an eye-catching feed is your friend.
Plan ahead Some people like to schedule their posts in advance. I am one of those people. For personal bloggers, this approach might not work as they are more spontaneous: they post what they're wearing, what they're doing, what they're eating RIGHT NOW. You can't really plan all that in advance! But because I mainly post product shots, I can plan ahead. I use a free scheduling app called Later. It is actually great. I spend an hour (during my lunchbreak at work) and plan out a week's worth of content, if not more. You can upload all your images and place the ones you choose into the calendar. Then you can preview your IG feed and rearrange the images until you think it looks pretty. Add captions, hashtags, tags and voila! You can set it to auto publish at your chosen times, then forget all about it! I also love how I can save hashtag groups, so I have one set of hashtags I use for challah covers, one for havdalah mats, etc.
*I am not sponsored by Later at all, but it really is a great app!
Be genuine Even if you are selling something, don't be too sales-y all the time. Instagram is casual. Make a joke or use an emoji (or ten). Add some personality to your captions and people will start to know you.
Show your face I struggle with this one. But your followers definitely engage more if you show your face and let them know the real you. For some people, this is easy peasy. For others less so. But try and sprinkle a few pictures of yourself in there.
<-- Yes, that's me!
Research your hashtags Before you start posting, just hang out on Instagram. Search some keywords relating to your business, click through and scroll to your heart's content! Note down hashtags that you notice, that apply to your business, that seem to be trending. Use the right hashtags You want to use hashtags that are specific to your business. Not too vague (like #design) – think how many people are using that hashtag. You are not going to appear at the top of that search! But not too specific (like #brushedcopperlampwithtouchofpink), because who is going to be searching for that?! Something like #brushedcopperlamp or #vintagebrushedcopper is more likely to help the right people find you.
Hide your hashtags Some brands prefer to 'hide' their hashtags either far below the caption or in their comments because they look 'ugly'. People use full stops/periods for line breaks because Instagram doesn't always format line breaks properly.
Use them all! Instagram allows 30 hashtags per post. Make the most of them. Think about your followers AND your followers' followers This what your ideal follower is looking for. Make sure you give it to them. Do they want detailed views of your product? Do they want to see how your product works? Do they want to see what your home looks like? Do they want to know what you ate for breakfast this morning? Mix it up, keep it exciting, and share with them. That's what they're here for.
And take it further. If you want people to share your content (which you do...!), think about what things THEY want to share with their own followers, because that is what they are thinking about. So ask yourself: who is your ideal follower? Now who are their followers? Try make your content relevant to them too, because otherwise, why would your followers share? Tag away There are lots of IG accounts that feature, or repost, posts. For example, @tablescapes_ reposts gorgeous tablescapes from all over Instagram. Some of these accounts have thousands, if not tens of thousands of followers. Try to get your posts reposted. Use the hashtags they use and TAG them when you post an image you think would work on their feed. They might actually see it!
Engage Likes are free. And, unlike Facebook, your likes don't get broadcast in your friends' feeds. So like away. Commenting is even more valuable. Write a real comment. Not just a red heart or smiley face. Take two seconds to think of something you actually like about the post and write that. The poster will notice you and so might their other followers. Reply to comments, try writing questions to encourage further engagement. Repost others. Beware, this takes TIME. Instagram takes work. Don't be shy Engagement on Instagram is rewarding. Influencers gained their army of followers by engaging. By being on Instagram the WHOLE time. By replying to messages. So don't be shy to approach them via a DM (direct message) if you have a collab idea or want to send them a freebie. I have found most to be really responsive and friendly. Freebies Its tempting to give out your products to influencers hoping they will post about it and you'll get zillions of new followers. What actually gets you the most followers is a giveaway/competition where entrants need to follow you. But a few carefully thought out freebies can work well too. You can always Try to set up a giveaway yourself. Why not?! What you want is for the influencer to include a link to your account (your IG handle) in their story - or better yet, in a post. People are lazy. They will click and follow only if convenient and quick. Don't be afraid to state these terms to the influencer when proposing the giveaway/competition/collab.
Stories Stories can be intimidating. Once you're comfortable, try and just do your first story. Get it over with. You will then feel more comfortable to do more. Trust me. Stories are a really good way to engage. It shows your followers you are not a robot. You can inject more personality here with stickers or comments on the photo. Your stories do not have to look as good as your feed. Use stories to tell behind the scenes stories, share a customer review, show your packaging, or even just share a snippet of your real life. Some people will flick through stories before they scroll down their feed. If you can include teaser photos, watch this space content, or unanswered questions that lead back to your feed, you will make sure more people are seeing your feed content.
That's all I can think of for now. I hope this helps if you are just starting out. Let me know how you get on!
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