I posted a while back with some tips for better Instagram engagement and still to this day it is one of my most viewed posts. (You can find it HERE and before reading this if you haven't read that post go now because this is more specific and that will provide some background for this post) The most common email, direct message, and commented question I get is always about Instagram, collaborations, and growth. So I thought it was high time for a follow up post which in some ways my views have really changed as it has been over a year since my last "Instagram tip" post and as I watch the algorithm and marketing change the way people interact with Instagram I am realizing my own views and use of this social platform have changed as well. So on that note please keep reading if you want to hear my thoughts and opinions... these are not to be taken as an attack on anyone, as saying my way is the only or best way, or as a complaint.. this is just completely my perspective and how I strive to function within this community it is NOT an ultimate guide or the end all be all of how to use Instagram..
(Basically what I am saying is don't hate, don't assume there is one right way, and please please don't judge anyone if they are interacting within the Instagram community different than you.. this is a community and community thrives when people are different and bring their own perspective SO I will leave it at that)
WHEN YOU POST:
- Photos: This is probably a given and I have said it before but post only your best photos and don't over post. Instagram came out with stories actually exactly one year ago which is a great way to photo dump, share moments that aren't curated, and really share a more raw side to your Instagram account. Your feed the "top 9" in your own profile should tell a story and so whatever that looks like it should be the best story you can tell. This doesn't mean the photos you post have to be perfect but it does mean they need to flow and your voice needs to shine through in each one... people should know what to expect from you. Not in a boring way but in a familiar and recognizable way... your voice should be steady and allow your followers to trust that what your sharing is authentic and your best.
- Caption: On the same note as photos share a story through your caption and be authentic. Your caption doesn't have to be cool and aloof it can be whatever you want but make sure it also shares that good story. Think about the accounts you like to follow and go look at their captions, what stands out? What do you like about it? THEN don't copy but go back to your own photos and think about the message and voice you want to get across through your captions. When all else fails ask a question! Engage with the community and don't be afraid to be vulnerable.
- Comments: If you haven't noticed the common theme here Instagram is a community SO engage with your comments. Answer questions, respond with a simple thank you... basically interact as much as you can. Honestly for me I end up "liking a comment" more often than responding primarily because I don't want to be sitting on my phone all day BUT as much as possible I try to respond, just acknowledge that I appreciate whoever commented taking the time to do so or responding in a way that connects back... keep the community going it is great for your engagement and just a good way to make friends and foster awesome discussions!
- Hashtags: This one has really changed over the year hashtags aren't chronological anymore and with the addition of the algorithm actually aren't as important as your explore feature... so what that means is you need your hashtags to match what is going on in the photo. The algorithm analyzes your photos and looks at what is in them... obviously it is not perfect so you need your hashtags to match the theme of your photos... ie. if it is outdoors use outdoor hashtags, if it is a portrait use hashtags that fit that... make sure your hashtags fit the photo just slapping up general community hashtags won't work anymore and won't help you connect effectively with the right people in the Instagram community.
- Be Authentic: This is going to be the theme throughout this post so you might as well get use to it but PLEASE be authentic to your voice. If you aren't sure what your voice is on Instagram maybe take a step back and think about it. Share your story and share it well! DON'T copy others and don't compare... your voice is enough and that is what will bring real community and engagement in your posts.
WHEN YOU INTERACT:
- Like ALL the photos: Okay I am kind of kidding about that but also not... the algorithm shows you what you interact with in your feed so even if you follow an account you will not necessarily see that accounts photos if you never interact with them.. I like all the photos in my feed so that I will see all the photos. Maybe that is ridiculous and unnecessary but it works and I don't miss posts. Also on the note of liking go through Explore or a hashtag that is relevant to your style and like those photos... the more you interact the more you will be interacted with it is just how community works.
- Comment: Okay this doesn't mean going and leaving a generic heart on a million photos (unless a few hearts feel relevant) but it does mean go through your feed and try to leave a comment on as many photos as you are able to authentically comment on. Commenting is a great way to engage with the community and foster real relationships. This doesn't mean your comment has to always be deep and heart felt, it can be as simple as "this is cute!" but letting people know you saw their post and liked it is important. Leaving more meaningful comments is always better as in asking or answering questions or sharing a story of your own... but again this is just Instagram don't spend all day on here do what you can and leave it at that!
- Respond to Direct Messages: This one I struggle with but when possible respond to your messages, check them regularly and interact through stories. This might not mean responding to every single one but answer questions, send back a good story, do what works for you and interact as much as you are able.
- Be Authentic: Basically at the end of the day be authentic in how you interact. Similar to the real world everyones voice is different so bring what you have to offer to the community. On that note I would say please be kind in how you interact, remember than Instagram is a tiny window into someones life and not the big picture so for me I try to go in and leave positivity rather than judgement... basically don't be a troll spread love.
THIS AND THAT:
Hashtag Projects: Get involved with hashtag projects within your community! Instagram has one the do every single week, you can find it on their feed on Friday and usually have until Sunday to participate! A lot of the childhood boards will have weekly projects and their are a ton of photo communities that do projects as well! This is a great way to connect and find inspiration for your posts. When all else fails start your own project and encourage others to join in! I do this weekly with the #lovelywanderings which is a small community to share wandering moments and has been a lot of fun!
Collaborations: I am not going to touch on this too much because everyone has different opinions but my two thoughts are... don't hate on people for doing collaborations, the world of social media is constantly changing and evolving and it is pretty awesome that we are able to provide a bit of income for our families while doing what we love! Also be authentic in the collaborations you choose to do meaning your voice should ring through in every collaboration. Your followers will get use to your voice and so make sure you only represent brands that fit that voice and products that are relevant to your story...
Inspiration and Authenticity: I cannot say this enough but be authentic in everything you do on social media. Share you, your life, your story... whatever that may be. Don't try to be someone your not, don't copy others, don't buy your fame.. Do stick to your voice, share your adventures, create beauty out of what you see around you and hold that space. Likes aren't everything, followers aren't everything and comparison will kill your creativity. Worrying about being the biggest, the best, the most popular... having all the collaborations that will not help you and at the end of the day won't really attract the type of people you want to be in community with anyway.
The truth is if you want to grow, have good engagement, get good collaborations, find authentic community... or whatever you have to have a story to share. It sounds cheesy but the best way to do this is to put the phone down and go out and live! If you want a good story you have to live it, if you want an awesome picture you have to create it... go out and find your voice and hold to it. Okay I know that sounds super inspirational but seriously... I don't get wildflower photos by sitting at home on my phone... I don't have adventurous photos to share if I am not out there hiking, exploring and living. You can't make up a good story... or maybe you can but I wouldn't recommend it. You have to get out there and do it... your authenticity, your uniqueness... THAT is what will attract the community you are looking for I promise.