Welcome to chapter four of the Guide to Promote your Blog/Business at the Social Media. How is it possible that a whole month has passed already since we started? This week the post is dedicated to Instagram, the phone application to share pics with the world. I hope you'll find it useful! If you're interested in the previous weeks (dedicated to twitter, facebook and pinterest) you'll find links at the end of this post.
Get ready to "click"!
WEEK 4: INSTAGRAM
- Post good quality photos. This doesn't mean that your photos need to be professional, but they have to "look" professional. Avoid posting blurry photos, or photos that are cut in places that shouldn't be cut. Share photos that are nice to look at, after all Instagram is a visual application. This also applies to the filters. No, let me rephrase that: this applies SPECIALLY to filters. We love to play with filters and look at the effect they give to photos, but when we have the impression that we're looking at an Andy Warhol painting rather than a photo taken from somebody, then there's probably a problem with the pic (with all my respects to Mr. Warhol, of course).
- Post your own content. We're not talking about a network like Pinterest or Tumblr where you can repost photos you like, in here we're talking about an application in which you share the photos you take. If you "steal" content from other people and post it as your own, not only you risk to be legally sued, but you also risk to be left aside on the corner of the social media while people throw rocks at you. Believe me, it won't be nice. If you don't have original content to post, then don't post. If you don't like to share pics you take, then probably Instagram is not the application for you.
- We were always told not to mix our personal life with business. Today I'm telling you the contrary: on Instagram, break the rules! Post both about your daily life and about the site you want to promote, because your followers will love to learn who is the person behind a site. If you're a jewelry maker who sells their products on Etsy and has a blog about accessories, people will love to know what you're eating today for dinner. Why? Because we're extremely curious. It might sound weird, but don't question it, just trust me: it's extremely effective.
- Engage your followers. When it comes to visibility there's one thing that is amazing about Instagram: your followers will see your pics when they go through their feed. It might sound stupid, but this doesn't happen on Facebook, for example, where we already explained how only a very limited amount of your followers will see what you post. At the same time, though, there is a huge inconvenient on this: people can get tired of you very easily. Give people a reason to keep following you, don't spam them promoting your site in every photo, and more important: make your Instagram participative. We'll develop on that later.
- Hashtags. We talked about them on Twitter, we talked about them on Pinterest, and we even talked about them on Facebook. Hashtags are extremely important on Instagram, so important that they should come in golden letters or blinking neon signs. Hashtags will attract people to your photos, and ultimately to your site. Do you know how many people browse hashtags on Instagram when they're bored? Or trying to fall asleep? I'm sure there's plenty of them.
- Post on a regular basis. Posting only when you go on vacations on a tropical resort only to brag about the amazing view from your window is not the way to go. Posting only on Christmas to share how beautiful your perfect Christmas tree with its cute Scandinavian ornaments look next to your amazingly renewed fireplace is a huge no-no. Bragging on Instagram only works when you post on a regular basis, and when you share so much of your "non bragging" life that when you brag it will just look natural. The same goes for self portraits: be careful with them. The fact that people love to know the person behind a site, doesn't mean that they need to see their face plastered on their cellphones every time they browse Instagram. And don't even get me started on pets. Be fair with your followers.
- The most popular time to check Instagram is on Monday at 5pm PST, so that should be also the best time to post a photo. The second most popular time to post a photo is either on Wednesday or Thursday at 3pm PST (I didn't make it up, I read it here).
- Like it happened with Twitter, the life of a photo in Instagram is short (3 hours). Not as short as a Tweet, but certainly not as long as a Facebook post. This means that you have to be careful picking the correct time to post, specially when you want to post a photo that you really want people to see. You'll have to consider where your followers are from, and most important, you'll have to observe in which time frames you get more likes on photos. Knowing when to post on Instagram is not an exact science, but it's like cooking: once you've done a recipe several times you won't need to measure the ingredients with a scare anymore.
- Instagram has a profile section. Use it! Specially when you try to promote your blog or business through Instagram, the website section of the profile MUST be filled. Is possible that a lot of followers of your blog find a link on there to your Instagram, but you also have to consider the fact that a lot of people on Instagram can find your blog through a link on your Instagram profile. On another side, is not necessary to list all your sites on your Instagram profile (in any case there's just space for one), so use only the one that will bring people to all your other sites. For example, if you have an Etsy shop, a blog, a twitter, a facebook and an Instagram account, linking to your blog from your Instagram will be enough, because your blog will already contain (or should contain) links to all your other sites on the sidebar of it. Just remember to leave doors open.
- Unlike other Social Media sites, Instagram doesn't need much daily dedication. Actually, five minutes should be enough to build up a whole network around it. If you want to know more about it, this website provides some instructions to a Five Minutes A Day Instagram Marketing Plan. It's not a masterpiece, but it can be useful.
- Don't post a photo without a hashtag. Posting a photo without hashtags is like going to visit somebody without having their address. Hashtags will make it possible for all the users of Instagram to find you. If I were you, I'd frame this list of the most used hashtags and keep it on my bedside table. Okay, maybe not that much, but keep the list. And use it.
- Post simple pics, specially when it comes to filters. Sometimes the best photos are the ones that don't even need a filter applied to them. There's lots of guides on the Internet of when is correct to use each instagram filter, for example this one here. Still, the most important thing to remember is that a filter needs to "look right". If the photo looks weird, it's better to post the photo without a filter, or with a very simple one.
- Before I talked about how important it is to engage your followers. A great way to do it, and promote your blog/business at the same time, is creating a photo contest. A great example of it is the Go Play Instagram contest hosted by McDonald's, in which people has to post photos of them having fun in McDonald's, and using the hashtag #mcdgoplay to participate in the contest. Even if McDonald's is a big company (disclaimer: I didn't get paid to talk about McDonald's), you can apply the same exact thing on your site. For example, if you run a blog where you talk about crafts, you can ask people to post photos of their own DIY projects on instagram using a certain hashtag (make sure that it's a unique one that no one that doesn't enter in the contest will use) and then organize a contest in which the most original project can win something. Make sure to promote it in all your social media sites!
- The same way that you can organize a contest on Instagram, you can use Instagram to promote other kind of contests and giveaways organized in your other sites. For example, if you're running a giveaway on your blog, one of the entries to earn points could be to share a photo of a giveaway on Instagram (instead of asking people to follow you on Instagram, ask them to share a certain pic along with a certain hashtag). Usually the easiest way to do it is create a banner for a giveaway that has both a photo and the title of the giveaway, so people can just take a screen capture of it, and post it on their Instagram for another chance to win.
- If you own a shop, every time you release a new item you should share a photo of it on Instagram (unless you produce a lot of them every day, then pick only one to don't spam your followers). It's another way to let people know about your products. If you're selling handmade items, you can show on Instagram a pic of multiple captures that explain the process of making your products. Knowing "the secrets" and the origin of the products you sell is another creative way to promote your shop. Giving "sneak peaks" of upcoming projects is also a great way to go. And for sure, something that works well is to take a photo of the product you're selling while somebody is using it. For example, if you're selling scarves, take a photo of somebody wearing the scarf instead of taking the photo of the scarf scattered on the table or on the bed. To see "items in action" is a better way to sell and promote them on visual sites like Instagram. You could even ask your buyers to do so using a certain hashtag to get a discount on their next purchase!
- There's certain things that shoudn't be shared on Instagram, and sponsor calls are one of them. If you're looking for blog sponsors, keep that information for your blog, your twitter, and your facebook, but leave Instagram away from it. Sharing that kind of content is the most sure way to lose followers. Another thing you should never do on Instagram is beg for followers, besides giving a poor image, it will scare people away. And we already talked about the bad effects of posting too much self portraits or too much photos of pets. And the same goes for bragging. The secret it to make your followers feel like they're "spying" in your life, rather than making them feel like they have to "deal with" all the content that you're rubbing on their face. Sounds complicated? It really is not, you just have to be yourself, and share the kind of content that you'd like to find in somebody else's Instagram.
- Engage directly with your followers. Follow other Instagram users that you think relate with what you do and with your points of view, comment on their photos, like their photos. Like it happens in any other Social Media site, interaction is the key to build a successful network. Be generous with likes, and give support to others. They'll do the same for you.
- It can be great to have an instagram widget installed on your blog, so people can see the last photos you posted on Instagram directly on your website. If you're using blogger, there's an easy tutorial here, and another one here for wordpress users. You can find a lot of them doing a simple search on google.
- Let's now talk about the new Instagram feature: videos. The most useful way you can use it to promote your products is to create a fast portfolio. For example, if you're a card maker, in 15 seconds you can feature around 7 different cards. It's another way to show to your followers what you have to offer. However, because of the time limitations (and let's face it, the constant crashing of the video feature on Instagram) I wouldn't recommend it for much more than that (we can talk about it again when the feature becomes way more popular).
- I can't end this guide without linking you to this article, featuring 21 Stunning Examples of Business using Instagram. As you can see, the secret is to build a brand.