Q: I’ve recently opened a new business and am having trouble navigating the murky waters of social media. How do I start a following on Instagram in a way that will help grow my business?
A: There’s more to Instagram than perfect squares of pretty, skinny women drinking green juice with their toy poodles. It’s hard work to truly be successful in the complicated world of Instagram influencing. Through the failures that have then propelled my successes, I’m now making it as a blogger, influencer and creative consultant in the entrepreneurial atmosphere. Succeeding as an influencer has allowed me to use my knowledge and skills to help businesses, brands and organizations grow their own social media accounts and, in turn, expand. And you’re in luck! Because I’m sharing some of my Instagram tips and tricks, right here, with you. These are applicable for everyone—from the woman who wants to share pictures of her baby eating ice cream to the real estate agency that wants to generate more sales. It’s about knowing what to do so Instagram can work FOR you. Yes, it’s hard work. But the return is totally worth it. So here we go!
The first thing anyone sees when they visit your Instagram profile is your Bio. So I like to start there. It’s your first impression and it shows people what you’ve got to offer them, so showcase what separates you from the pack. Everyone is a blogger, but NOT everyone is a Funny Mom of Toddlers creating a supportive community with a daily dose of witty reality. Did I mention I’m a #SocialMediaMaven as well?? See what I mean? #BeYOUnique
Keep it clean and pretty. Use appropriate, yet captivating emojis, and be concise. Too many words and your audience will be on to the next account. Tag your location, and please give people a contact email. No email = NO DEAL. You just lost your $10,000 client because they couldn’t contact you. Bet you never thought about it that way before.
Oh, the infamous hashtag saga strikes again. For those who don’t know, #hashtags are keywords that Instagrammers use to search for photos that fall under certain categories. For example, #ChicagoMom is a great hashtag to use when you live in Chicago and are promoting mom-like content. Hashtags have evolved over Instagram’s lifespan, and now users can follow hashtags in addition to people and their accounts. When you use the right hashtags, your posts can show up on the main page for a specific hashtag. This is a great way for new eyes to get exposed to your content; you can gain followers who may not have seen your content if they hadn’t found you on the hashtag’s feed.
But what’s hashtag protocol? At the end of the day, Instagram has control over what content gets seen. It’s up to us, as content creators, to do our best to not only put out the best content possible, but to also beat the “algorithm”. While no one truly knows the exact ins and outs of the algorithms, experts in the field can attest to certain ways to use hashtags to help posts get discovered. A few key things to note about hashtags:
1) Use at least 15 per post. The maximum number of hashtags you can link to one post is 30.
2) You’ll want to use a mixture of hashtags that are followed by a large number of people (100K-500K) and ones that are followed by smaller numbers (under 50K). Obviously, the smaller the hashtag is, the more likely your post will be discovered. But using big ones makes sense as well—the more eyes, the more chances to be seen.
3) My biggest pet peeve is when an Instagram post is cluttered up with hashtags. So, I suggest putting all of the hashtags in the first comment of the post. They still connect to the post when they’re in the first comment, and then your caption will be clean and uncluttered.
So now that you know a little bit about hashtags and their power, we still have one question: What hashtags do you use? Do your research. Google Instagram hashtags. Type some relevant keywords into the search bar in Instagram and take note of the numbers that follow the words. This tells you how big or small a hashtag is. It’s important to have a queue of different hashtags to use so you can rotate them. Don’t use the same ones on every post. That will get you nowhere. New hashtags means new eyes on your posts. It’s starting to come together, right?
Now that we’ve covered two of the most important areas of any Instagram account, it’s time to bring it all home. Always remember that however hard you work to increase engagement, none of it matters without impeccable content.
Create content that is natural to you and your audience. Anyone can smell a fake a mile away. For a business to excel on social media, it needs to create content that is in line with the platform. As far as Instagram goes, this means that every business should be posting “lifestyle” content just as often, if not more than advertisements for its product/service. This is key. People want to be interrupted during their Instagram experience just as much as 15 million viewers wanted to be interrupted with a commercial break just before they found out if Derek Shepherd had died on Grey’s Anatomy. See what I mean?
It’s all about sharing great content, and eventually, once you’ve gained their trust and given the people everything they want, THEN you can ask them to buy/use/subscribe to your product/service.
With all this information in tow, you are on your way to creating a community, a legacy, a business that will make its followers feel, appreciate and stand behind it. Then, and only then, can your platform build and grow.
So many of us, especially in the Orthodox community, are scared of social media. Whether all of us like it or not, it’s the way of the world and the future, and we have to learn how to appropriately use it to our advantage, because I’m fairly certain it isn’t going anywhere. So get out there! Grow a business or start a non-profit organization. You now have the tools to get started, and together we can change the world.