By Sam Jones  |  March 28, 2018

 

Let’s talk about the big, bad beast known as Instagram. Many clients are curious whether they should even entertain using the app, and if so, how to go about getting started. This social media platform is a giant, housing a whopping 800 MILLION (plus) monthly users as of September 2017 and the numbers are only growing – that’s a sea of connections, businesses and people to interact with. If you haven’t caught the wave yet, it’s not too late to grab a ride.

Here’s a crash course on the essentials needed to create an authentic presence on Instagram.

1. Craft the perfect bio.

Think of your bio as your business card. This info should be short, sweet and paint an overall image of what it is that you do and how to continue to interact with you. There’s three main parts to crafting a successful bio:

·     The Headline (or text in bold): Instagram will fill in your business name by default, but you can edit it to be more searchable. For example, if your account is called “JaneDoe Designs” your headline might say “LA-Based Designer and Hand-lettering Specialist,” this is more niche and opens up search options, such as location.

·     The Body (or the goods): This is the chunk of text that should bring in elements from your own brand. What is it you do? This may be your mission statement, motto, tagline, or overall vision of the company. It should be short but have touches of personality.

·     The Call-To-Action (or the next step): Keep your audience exploring with clear call-to-actions. You can do this through a hashtag you want people to use, (see examples below) or direct them to your website, and even link to a new blog or service that they should check out.

2. Create a cohesive feed.

Instagram is a visual platform, so it should come as no surprise that your posts or “feed” must be striking to capture your audience. One of the easiest ways to keep people scrolling and coming back later is by creating an experience that is easy on the eyes. In the world of IG, there’s two things to keep in mind when creating your feed– consistent content and quality aesthetics. If you’re a travel blogger, your feed might show crazy landscapes or lots of photos with your passport and luggage. If you own a swanky restaurant, your photos should capture the dining experience with colorful dishes and scenes from Saturday’s nightlife. Check out these three accounts that are the definition of cohesive feeds:

·     saltinourhair: This example comes from a travel couple, Hannah and Nick. They are travel bloggers and photographers, so naturally their feed consists of beautiful, swoon-worthy landscapes, portraits in ancient temples and everywhere else to make us all jealous. Not only is their content consistent, but their soft, warm editing style makes scrolling through this feed a dream.

·     andpizzaThis is the official account of a rising pizza brand. That’s right! Food doesn’t have to be boring, and it shouldn’t be. This pizza place focuses on the culture that they’ve built with their following. Their photos include the people that make up their vibrant communities, pizza of course, and a predominantly B&W theme to correspond with their branding.

·     thesill#PlantsMakePeopleHappy is the hashtag used by this plant-based online retailer. The Sill doesn’t take themselves too seriously, as demonstrated through their bright white theme, with pops of green and quirky graphics sprinkled here and there.

*Photo Tip: Download free apps like VSCO and Planoly to edit your photos and plan out your perfect feed.

3. Use the right hashtags.

Hashtags allow you to engage and connect with the right types of people. The hashtags you use should follow your marketing goals, fishing for other like-minded companies or social influencers that you want to be seen by. Avoid unauthentic and spammy tags like “follow4follow” and “like4like,” and replace those with relevant and competitive ones. There are two ways you can start using hashtags now:

·     Popular Search: The popular hashtags are the ones that come up naturally when looking for a particular word or service. When you are writing a post and hit the # symbol, as you start to type, Instagram will generate the most used hashtags (see examples below). Also, look to your Instagram community and see what other Instagrammers are using to capture people’s attention and add those to your list! You want to have a few tags per posts, but don’t write a book with just hashtags. Write anywhere between 2 and 10 to start.

·     Branded Hashtags: These are hashtags that may not be in the search bar yet, because you have yet to create them! Whatever this tag is, it should align with your brand, service or followers. For example, the Home Décor shop Westelm encourages users to share their home styles using #mywestelm, so they can share their follower’s photos on the Westelm account.

4. Add your location with GeoTags.

When you upload a photo, Instagram will give you the “Add Location” option, very similar to Facebook’s “Check-in,” where your location will be added to your post. Tagging your location makes you searchable when people search the same place, giving you more exposure in the community. It is important that you include your location, because users are utilizing location-based searches almost like Yelp – searching for specialty stores, food joints, bars and music venues. They see other people’s photos to get a glimpse of the atmosphere and will oftentimes explore for themselves if the location is being well-trafficked. Always tag your own business location in your post. It’s free advertising for you, results in higher engagement and makes you more relevant in searches.

5. Engage with your viewers.

Last but not least, be sure that you are interacting with your viewers and other Instagrammers to build credibility and an authentic following. When people comment on your posts, be sure to comment back at them, answering questions or thanking them for dropping a line. No matter how beautiful your feed is, if there’s no voice behind it, people will eventually unfollow and connect with a brand or business that speaks to them. Post polls on your Instagram Stories, or create posts that prompt questions to your audience in the description. For example, if you run a sushi shop, you can post a photo of your new roll saying “We’re happy to introduce our new Dancing Dragon roll! What’s your favorite specialty roll of ours?”

Like other people’s posts too and follow businesses that are similar to yours, those you can potentially partner with, and social influencers with a lot of pull. If you are selling cosmetics, you may want to follow Kylie Jenner, Rihanna or Tarte Cosmetics. If you are an artist, connect with art curators, popular painters or even your local galleries. You can even send these folks a direct message if you want to start a conversation one-on-one. Lastly, be sure to stick to a schedule, if possible. Set a goal for yourself of once or twice a week, to keep content fresh and your viewers expecting.

There you have it– five essentials to keep in mind when kicking off your Instagram.

Once you’ve got the swing of things, there’s plenty more tips and tricks to learn as Instagram’s algorithm is constantly evolving. Stay in-the-know, because Instagram is not only a fun tool, but the optimal social media tool for growing your business or personal brand using your own authentic voice.