Don’t leave just yet!
Pull up a chair and take a look for a moment.
You see, I know what you are thinking.
“I’m not a photographer so why should I even bother with Instagram?”
This is a completely reasonable question and one I mean to answer in the following paragraphs. You see Instagram was a challenge for me to get behind, but once I did, I found that it was not only effective but a very enjoyable practice.
I think that Instagram is a very engaging and fun social media network for beginners!
And a confession…I am not a photographer either, but I grew up very much aware of the value of picture taking. If you visit my parent’s home in Vancouver you will find two things.
[Tweet “Instagram is a very engaging and fun social media network for beginners!”]
First, you will find walls are covered with pictures of all shapes and sizes: pictures of family and friends, pictures of our travels and special occasions, and pictures from 20 years ago and yesterday.
And secondly, you will find a room with shelves upon shelves of photo albums: black and whites from the days of my great-grandparents and then colored photos documenting my life from birth to now.
When I first met my now wife, I was able to get a great picture (no pun intended) of her life and her family’s life from the photo albums we went through.
Photos are memories and some of my family’s most prized possessions are our photo albums. There is something magical about how an image can transport you back to a certain point in time. The old adage of a picture tells a thousand words is true, not only from a personal and emotional standpoint, but from a promotional and marketing one as well.
Instagram Beginner’s Guide: What Is Instagram?
Instagram is the photo album of modern times. Sure, it is a little more public then we are used to, but that is the case for most of our lives in general in this age of the internet.
Instagram is an online mobile photo and video sharing social network. Now you can share and create new memories with your friends via your smartphone.
[Tweet “Instagram is the photo album of modern times.”]
It has been around for over five years, ancient in the world of social media, and it is primarily responsible for popular colloquialisms such as Food Porn.
In 2012, social media giant Facebook recognized the potential of Instagram and bought the network for $1 billion. Since then, we have seen the network grow and expand exponentially, from the introduction of advertising to the more recent announcement of an Instagram algorithm.
Whether it is tonight’s sunset, your latest selfie, your dinner, or your pets, your life is the subject matter for your Instagram content. With more users than Twitter and its focus on visual content, it has become one of the go-to social media tools for individuals and businesses alike.
Instagram’s most popular feature is likely their photo filters; digital layers that you can add to your photos to make them look like they have been edited by a professional. Filters can enhance your photos’ colors, dull the light, and much more to give your photo that unique look without the need for an expensive camera or years of schooling.
Instagram at a glance:
+400 million active monthly users
+70 million photos shared per day
90% of Instagram users are younger than 35
Instagram Beginners: Optimizing Your Profile
As with a social media network, before we can discuss messaging and how to reach out to a wide audience, we have to make sure our home is in order. In other words, our Instagram profiles.
Whether you use it for business or for personal needs, you need to consider your brand and how you want to be represented online. Wherever you are online, you have to focus on communicating your or your business’ personality and what your goals or objectives are for using the social network.
For instance, a photographer’s goal might be to reach as wide an audience as possible so that people can see his/her work, whereas a casual user might just want to take fun pictures that their friends will like and engage with.
Your profile has two major aspects: your profile image and your bio. Let’s look at each in detail.
Your profile picture is important because not only is it featured on the mobile app, but it also has a prominent place on the desktop profile.
There are various directions that you can go with your profile picture, but regardless of what you opt for, please ensure that the size is optimized for Instagram. Instagram uses a round frame and requires a minimum of 110×110 pixels.
Also, it is advisable to use a professional grade photo. Whether you hire a pro to take your headshots or you get a high-resolution logo from your designer, representing yourself in the best light will help you get the best results.
If you are determined to use a filter on your profile image (I would not recommend it) you can first add the photo to your Instagram stream using the filter of your choice. Then when picking a profile picture, click “Choose from Library” –> “Instagram Photos” and then choose your filtered image.
Who Are You: Instagram Edition
Your bio is important when it comes to being discovered online and on the app. Including keywords in your bio will guarantee that you get more targeted followers related to your niche. For example, I include “social media marketing” in my bio as that is my area of expertise and what my blog is about.
Make sure it is consistent with your other social profile bios (like your Twitter bio) so that someone visiting your profile for the first time will understand at a glance what it is you do.
BONUS TIP: It helps to ask a friend or family member to read your bio for a fresh perspective, you’d be surprised what our own eyes miss.
[Tweet “Ask a friend or family member to read your social bio for a fresh perspective.”]
A few things to keep in mind:
– Unlike your Twitter bio, hashtags are not clickable via Instagram bios. Adding a bunch of hashtags will only serve to clutter your limited space while providing no value whatsoever. If your brand has a particular hashtag associated with it, it is common to include that, but no more.
– Do not include your website URL in your bio, again, it is not clickable and there is already a dedicated website feed that doesn’t take up character space in your bio.
How to Speak Instagram
Like many of the popular social media networks, it can be a scary and intimidating experience to try to join in.
The native users seem to have their own language made up of hashtags, acronyms and words unique to the platform, creating an alien world for any courageous traveler stopping by.
We will look at hashtags later, but here is a short glossary to make sure you are ready to speak with the natives.
Feed – Refers to your photo gallery. The collection of photos you have posted to Instagram. Think of it as your photo album.
Comment – This is when someone leaves a thought or starts a discussion on a particular post. A great way to connect with the Instagram community is by commenting on others’ posts.
Like – Similar to Twitter and Facebook, a “like” is when someone appreciates what you have posted by double tapping a photo or clicking the heart.
Post – Refers to any photo or video uploaded to Instagram.
Caption – The text description that is added to a photo.
Hashtag (#) – Any word or phrase preceded by the “#” symbol are called hashtags. When you click on a hashtag, you will see all the other Tweets containing the same keyword or topic.
Filters – Refers to the digital overlays that users can add to their photos that edit the exposure, color balance and contrast of said photo. There are currently 27 filters with more being added all the time and users can also manually edit their own photos.
Photo Tips for Beginners
You and I might not be photographers, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take great pictures that wow our fans and followers and start increasing our audience.
First, let me save you a ton of time and sleepless nights by saying that your photos will not look as good as those accounts that you follow (whether it’s Nike, National Geographic or GoPro). As soon as you start analyzing what successful brands do to go viral or be successful you develop SMAP (social media analysis paralysis).
Plus, if you focus too much on what other people are doing, you are going to lose that personality and those ideas that make you and your brand unique. With this in mind, there are some things you can do to create a better product and to best represent yourself on Instagram.
This brings me to another point before we get into the nitty gritty of photo taking. Make sure you have a clear idea about what you want your Instagram to represent. Like with any social media, whether for business or personal use, if you don’t have a plan or a theme, then you will limit how successful you could be.
The Science of a Successful Instagram Post
– Lighter, brighter images generate 24% more likes than dark images
– Images that are more blue generate 24% more likes than images that are more red
– Images with a single dominate color get 17% more likes than images with multiple dominant colors
Use Your Camera App
Do not take the original photos within the Instagram app. This is important for a few reasons.
First, the Instagram app does not have a flash function which you will need from time to time.
Second, it will save an unaltered original image on your phone, allowing you to edit and add filters after the fact, but always leaving the original untouched.
Lighting is Key
Like in any other form of photography, good lighting is very important. Natural lighting is the best. If you are taking your pictures outdoors, then early morning, late afternoon or overcast days are optimal.
For outdoor shooting always be aware of where the sun is in your picture. Having the sun behind you is preferred for shooting objects, but as soon as people are your subject matter you are better off not having them face the sun directly. Avoid shooting directly into the sun as well, as it will be difficult to light the faces of your subjects properly.
When you are shooting inside, I encourage you to experiment with your flash. If you have time, take the same shot with and without the flash and then post the best one to your Instagram profile.
I mentioned Filters briefly before, but this is my favorite thing about Instagram. With the right filter, you can turn a fairly ordinary photo into something that belongs in a magazine.
Take your time to experiment with the 27 filters currently available and find your favorites. Some of the most popular filters include: Clarendon, Valencia and Kelvin. But it is also common to see photos with #nofilter, so change it up and keep your followers on their toes.
Play with Props
Props can really personalize an image, whether you just bought an ice cream cone, you have funky shoes or perhaps you are out in the rain with a colorful umbrella. Keep your followers engaged by giving them different looks and incorporating different props.
The Power of White Space
We don’t like our websites to be crammed with images and information, likewise our brains need breathing room. Make sure that you include images that have lots of white space.
Look for white walls that you can shoot in front of or use Canva or another image app to put a quote on a solid background to give your Instagram feed a zen-like quality.
This may seem like a lot, especially just starting out, but no one is expecting you to become an expert overnight. This all takes practice. Start taking photos with the above tips in mind and you will begin training your eyes to see potential photos everywhere.
Instagram Hashtags for Beginners
Alright, this is where we start straying from the photo album analogy a bit. If you are interested in as many people as possible seeing your photos, or, if you are a marketer or small business owner looking to use Instagram to engage with a new audience then the coming sections are definitely for you.
[Tweet “Success in Instagram marketing depends a lot on having the right hashtag strategy.”]
Hashtags on Instagram are an absolute requirement if you are concerned about reaching the widest possible audience. Avoiding the use of hashtags will ensure that your content remains virtually private, viewable only by your followers.
Hashtags allow you to reach people who do not currently follow you on Instagram. Although hashtags originated on Twitter, they are much more widely used on Instagram. Success in Instagram marketing depends a lot on having the right hashtag strategy.
As important as the photos you publish, is the captions that accompany them. Each photo you post should have a caption with a few hashtags included which helps to categorize your content and makes it easier for others to find it.
This means that if you are a health and fitness business sharing workout content, adding the hashtag #fitness or #workout will reach anyone else interested in the industry. It is common practice to use between three and five relevant hashtags per caption.
The top hashtags reach an audience in the millions but they might not be relevant to what you are doing on Instagram so only use the following when it fits.
Hashtags are a very powerful tool on Instagram, but overusing hashtags or using unrelated hashtags as a marketing tactic is not going to bring you much success. Choose your hashtags carefully and see what happens.
Connecting to Other Social Networks
Another great way to gain new followers and increase your reach on Instagram is by connecting your account to your other social media profiles.
You can share any photo or image that you share on Instagram via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr.
Sharing your content simultaneously via multiple social networks will show your followers on Facebook and Twitter that you are on Instagram – chances are that they will follow you on Instagram as well.
This cross promotion of social media accounts is a practice you should be doing across all of your profiles. Your followers are already sold on the fact that you create good content so they will be easy “sells” on your other accounts as well.
Video on Instagram
Instagram has been the photo social network since its inception but with the video rage taking social media by storm over the last year, the social network has adapted.
Instagram followed Vine’s lead by allowing users to post short, 15 second videos to the app. You can add filters just like with images and they recently announced the integration of 60 second-long videos.
With a potential audience of over 400 million users, stepping up your video game is in your and your brand’s best interest.
There are tons of cool things you can do to create great video content for Instagram including:
[su_note]Get the 9 most effective video hacks to bring your brand to Periscope, YouTube, Vine and Instagram! [/su_note]
– Give a Sneak Peek
Building curiosity for a product launch or event is always going to attract viewers. Make sure you include a relevant hashtag so that you can track the campaign.
– Product Promotions/Demonstrations
Don’t go overboard promoting your product, but if you have a creative idea to present your products via video then give it a shot!
– How-To Videos
One of the most popular content-types on the web, if you or your business have unique talents or knowledge then use video to share it with your audience.
– Behind the Scenes
Whether it is in the office, a look at how your products are made or a short interview with the CEO, this one is no-brainer and people love them!
Is your business ready for Instagram’s algorithm? Tracking engagement will help you serve quality content that keeps you at the top of the Instagram feed. Read the full article by clicking the link in our bio! #marketing #socialmedia #business #entrepreneuer #socialmediamarketing #smm #socialmediatips #smallbusiness #new #socialmediaexaminer #professionaldevelopment #smb #socialmediastrategy #businesstraining #instagrammarketing
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Instagram for Business
If you are still reading this post then you have already decided that Instagram is a social network that is worth your while. For businesses, regardless of your industry, there are few social media networks better at brand-building.
If you consider that Instagram is one of the most used networks among Millennials and Generation Z, and, that Millennials have just become the largest generation on the planet, then I think you can see the importance of creating a presence.
Instagram also boasts a much more engaged audience than either Facebook or Twitter, so brands on Instagram regularly get up to 120 times more engagement per Follower than its competitors.
As a business you need to know what your goals and objectives are for any social media network that you use. Once you have them set, you can begin crafting your content strategy always tying it back to your business goals.
3 Instagram Tips for Business
1. While the temptation to emulate the big brands will always be there, you need to figure out what your businesses’ unique voice and style is. I would suggest starting with your ideal audience and then creating the ideal Instagram brand for that audience which will address all their interests and needs.
2. You are a storyteller, so make sure that your captions are engaging. Humor is always welcome, include emojis and find a creative way to tie the photo back to your business.
3. Contests work really well on Instagram. Ask users to comment, share or mention friends. Try one out and track the analytics and what works for you and your business. You will earn more followers and increase engagement.
Get Started on Instagram!
Pictures are so powerful, whether in business or in your personal life.
Instagram is a really fun way to snap and share parts of your life with the world and can be very effective for marketing and brand building.
You don’t have to be a photographer; you just need a smartphone and the willingness to capture special moments. Get out there and start snapping!