Instagram has been big for awhile, but for me I wasn't certain that it was here to stay. I was anticipating a shift to a new platform like we have seen many times before. Once Snapchat came out I was playing it safe by not investing too heavily on Instagram. But now I'm rethinking all of that. In fact, I now believe Instagram is the best platform to be on.
Let's start with the basics. Instagram is a photo sharing platform. People engage with photos very well. Although Instagram has implemented video as well, I won't be talking much about that. That are several reasons why video hasn't done as well and for the sake of this strategy we aren't going to cover it.
People love photos. They are easy to digest. We can see this across other platforms as well. Even Tinder a dating platform is heavily based on looking at photos one at a time. Photos are just enough to allow us to peer into our favorite creators lives and interests. They give us access to celebrities and our major interests whether it be travel, food or animals.
One of the biggest revelations for me has been that Instagram can also be a blogging platform. IG gives you 2200 characters (about 400-500 words) to work with and we shouldn't ignore that.
But I thought this was about photo sharing? Well it is. But the photo is just the beginning. With a great opening line to our photo's description we can increase engagement and do more than just share a photo.
I see more and more people wishing they could get their blog going. Improve rankings and increase website traffic. But it's tough now to gain any real authority in the best niches. You are late to the party. But don't worry a new one is just getting started.
Here's why I'm now using my IG account for more than just photos…
These are the real key. IG let's you use up to a max of 30 HASHTAGS per photo. If we do our research and get it right we can generate tons of new eyeballs to our photos and in turn our description and with enough will, we can get them to click our bio link.
Let's unpack this.
If we have a blog with no audience how do we really get any traffic. We either pray for some organic search traffic off long tail keywords, which works but can take months to see results or we spam out social channels and hope for some clicks.
I'm suggesting we skip all that and just use the social channel as the blog itself. What I like about this is it's new and it's different. I don't see many people take advantage of the 2200 character description as a blogging medium.
I do see hashtag spam which is completely fine but what is the goal…likes? Followers? It takes a lot to get a new follower these days. One pic won't do it. You need both a great profile overall which demonstrates that you are active and care about it and you need to be providing some added value.
Photos alone can provide entertainment value but then what? Is that enough for a follow? You aren't differentiating yourself. But by utilizing the description and going the extra mile you can write something profound, inspiring, technical, cute, anecdotal, and extend the value of the post by multiples.
My experience has been shocking. By writing extensively in my posts about online marketing I'm getting a ton of new followers who want to hear more.
The idea is simple…attract them with a great photo but keep them with compelling copywriting and value driven content.
Wait I didn't mention the best part, each photos can use different hashtags attracting brand new people each time. You have access to the millions of IG users who browse hashtags on a regular basis.
This is not possible on a web based blog. And unlike a tweet an IG post properly tagged can be quite evergreen.
Okay that's the theory. Let's get down to the technical aspects of this strategy.
1. Who is your audience on Instagram?
This is the beginning of the entire strategy and it stems from your own personal goals and objectives. If you want to grow an Instagram account then you probably have some business or personal branding motive.
You must absolutely define your target audience.
This helps you pic the photos, write the captions, and set the tone of the account. Without it you'll be all over the place and less likely to attract followers. It might seem counter intuitive but the more narrow your audience the bigger you'll grow. People dont want to follow half asses, spammers or accounts with no focus. This is mission critical. Get focused. Get targeted. Get going.
2. Once your target audience is clear you can start sourcing photos.
Do you suck at taking photos? Guess what no big deal because there is no rule you have to post your own photos that you take. You can repost other people's photos with credit or you can source royalty free photos online.
The photos shouldn't be the problem simply because you can repost other photos that are already popular that fit your niche.
There are tons of apps you can use to alter photos and make them your own as well.
Download and try Repost for Instagram.
You can also post word based images like motivational quotes. The point is to stand out when you are in the hashtag feed. This isn't about impressing your existing follower base it's about amassing a huge audience by taking advantage of hashtags.
3. What hashtags do I use though?
Start with your primary keywords and find the most relevant hashtags by using the IG search feature. You'll see tags at the top and you can also see how many posts they have.
You need to pick your hashtags very strategically. You don't want to use just the top tags because you will be lost in thousands of other photos being posted to the same tag every second.
You want relevant tags, that are a balance of popular tags and long tail tags. You might also include one or two brand tags that you made up.
Don’t use hashtags you make up that you think are witty, the reason being because no one is searching them. Hashtags aren’t to be read, they are to be used as a search query.
Let's do an example.
In the screenshots above I show one of my recent IG posts where I talked about preparing for a world of automation. The second photo shows the hashtags I used. My goal was to attract entrepreneurs and online marketers to the photo because I knew they would enjoy the post. The hashtags are all very clear and straightforward. They aren’t perfect but this photo got a lot of engagement.
4. So what about this blogging stuff?
Remember blogging isn't just rambling, it's a way to demonstrate your authority. By writing 2200 characters about online marketing I was giving my followers who are interesting a quick hit of knowledge in their feed when they least expected it. And also, people who aren't interested in it might TAKE interest if you write well. They might not normally come across such info and if you evoke some curiosity in your opening lines you'll be surprised.
You don't have to write the max each time I fact I recommend it only 1-2 times a week. But when you do, do it right. Write it in Google Drive using Word or a memo app with correct spacing then bring it over to maintain the spacing as IG often messes up if you write in-app. Don't add anything afterwards either like emojis that can also ruin the spacing.
I recommend tagging a few people who might comment to give the post more umph but trust me people appreciate the added value when you do it right.
5. When is the best time to post on Instagram?
There are multiple data driven posts out there. I recommend you get a Facebook page so you can get the business IG account which gives you great insights to when your users are most active. I notice it's right before work, 2nd hour of work (coffee break), just after work and then late at night. The photo to the right is my insights page that you get access to once you convert your IG account to a business account.
People seem to be more engaged late at night even thought they more be active early in the day. I suspect they do more liking and commenting when they are bored at home rather than when they are supposed to be working.
So we’ve just gone over a basic Instagram strategy for generating more engagement and potential leads to your business.
Remember we started off by saying how important it is to target a specific audience with your account. Without that this strategy won’t see nearly as much results.
You also shouldn’t be worried about photos because you don’t have to take them yourself. You can report others or get royalty free photos from the internet – try Pixabay.com for starters and lots of free images.
Then we talked about hashtags as the key to driving all the traffic.
Finally we said how you should add value to your IG posts with longer captions that are like mini-blogs. We also realized that if we want maximum engagement we need to post at the right times.