With 200 million active monthly users and over 75 million people logging on daily, Instagram is the social media tool to have in your cache. In less than four years, Instagram has emerged as one of the dominant social media platforms to reach the world at large. That being said, Instagram has ushered in a new style of visual engagement that is completely changing how businesses reach their audiences and promote their brands.
Even if you knew that already, how good is your Instagram, really? To use Instagram effectively (and to make sure it doesn’t suck), ask yourself the following questions before you post.
1. Is my photo as engaging as it could be?
No one wants to be directly convinced to buy your product/use your services/fall in love with your brand. Consumers have to come to that conclusion on their own. And since Instagram is a visual medium, engaging photos that spark some sort of emotional reaction (whether it be humor, inspiration, feeling connected to something, etc.) are critical to the success of your account.
To capture the most attractive angles in your photos, start with the classic Rule of Thirds. Simply put, the “rule of thirds” is imagining your visual broken up into three parts. Line up the object of interest into one of those thirds (generally, avoiding the middle third), allowing for the rest of the space to take up the remainder of your visual.
Another Instagram technique is an aerial view, wherein your shot is taken above the subject. This is incredibly popular, particularly when it comes to capturing table spreads, food, fashion, and more. If composed correctly, aerial shots can be a beautiful way of capturing your subject matter in a very Instagram-worthy way.
Also, strive to take shots with a clean background and your light source behind you (the photo-taker), taking advantage of natural light whenever possible. Be bright and bold, my friends! When in doubt, handy free apps like VSCO Cam will assist you in adding lovely filters, cropping, and any other image-altering effects you might need to perfect your pics.
Also try to keep your captions short and sweet. No one wants to/won’t read the essay you’ve typed out beneath your photos. Describe your image for what it is and how it applies to your brand…your audience will catch your drift.
2. Am I connecting with anyone?
Instagram is a vast place full of fascinating individuals. Connecting with them builds rapport and can expand your reach far beyond anywhere you could imagine.
If you haven’t already, start following users you admire, explore and discover content, “favorite” posts, and leave dialogue-building comments, like praise for something you enjoy. As you build connections in both the physical world and on Instagram, start tagging users where relevant: featuring them in a photo, thanking someone for their hard work on a project, or mentioning a business you visited recently.
At left, Kansas City coffee shop Thou Mayest regularly builds connections with local businesses and individuals by mentioning them in their posts…all while enticing you with delicious drinks and a cool atmosphere.
And don’t forget to respond to comments! Every comment equals someone taking an interest in who you are. Your interaction builds connections and those connections will keep coming back time and time again.
3. Do I need any hashtags?
As mentioned previously, hashtags are undeniably important. Are you using any in your posts? Are they relevant to you or are they simply trendy? Are you using too many? Research hashtags to find the right ones…or create your own and incorporate them when necessary. You never know what kind of a trend you could inspire. But find a good balance! Too many hashtags can invite a lot of ridicule if you’re not careful, as Jimmy Fallon deftly demonstrates:
4. How often am I posting?
It’s best to post as often as you can, but keep in mind–once you post at a certain rate (every couple of days, daily, multiple times a day), you have to keep up with it or risk losing followers. Posting too little can also be self-defeating, especially if you’ve gained momentum recently. Be wise when you strategize…and post at a rate that is reasonable for you.
Have any tips to share? Post in the comments below!