Looking back on all the things that have come before us in the past 6 months. A lot has changed. And a lot hasn’t.
That goes for the world and for Instagram as a platform. The secrets to success on here are in some ways unchanged. But, in the past few months, the way we show up on Instagram, the way we consume content and the things we have come to expect from others on the platform has gone through an undeniable shift.
So if you want to really make progress on Insta in autumn 2020, what do you need to know to nail Instagram?
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Some things never change – so make sure you have the basics covered
When I talk about the basics, I mean things like:
– Showing up consistently, whatever that means for you. Is it 3 grid posts a week and daily Stories? Is it IGTV every day? Is it non-stop daily posts and Stories and living your best life documenting every minute on the app? The important thing is making a plan that fits your life and sticking to it so that you can build your audience and they know when and where to find you.
– Engage to the same degree that you are sharing. Respond to your comments, ask questions within the comments, build relationships, comment on others’ posts, nurture the people who comment on your content to build those meaningful connections.
– Know who your audience is and give them roughly what they want
– Make your content beautiful or useful (both if you can, but definitely aim for one of these!)
– Have a clear bio – make sure it’s obvious who you are, what you do, how people can contact you
You need a plan!
Without some kind of plan, Instagram can be a daunting place that takes up all your time for very few results. Speak to any social media expert and they will tell you the same. To get real traction, you need a plan.
Basic: At the very least, you want to identify 3-5 themes of content that suit your account and you know your audience is interested in. For example, an eco shop might have a loose plan to do posts on the following themes
– Products in the shop
– Eco news (including relevant books, TV shows, awareness days, campaigns)
– Ideas for reducing your waste (food, plastic, recycling)
– Pictures of nature
The most basic planning keeps these in mind and looks to them each time they are posting to ensure the correct mix of content. This is OK but it’s still pretty ad hoc and you may find yourself scrabbling around for content when you need it. You could assign a day of the week to each theme, which would help reduce the time and stress but a little more planning could make things easier and more effective.
Detailed: A more detailed approach would be to both ap out your themes and find some content for each, and then plan a week or a month ahead in a scheduling tool, taking into account awareness days etc. There are some free calendars online for this kind of thing, which I can put in the show notes but a quick Google will bring up info.
Scheduling tools can help you get a grid to be proud of.
There are so many to choose from and Facebook has even launched Creator Studio to have some greater native scheduling capacity. I’m still finding that a little glitchy, but it’s free and you can cross-post from Facebook to Insta, which can be handy.
For the next level, something like Planoly or Later allows you to plan your posts in advance, as well as play around with your grid so you are happy with the way everything fits together. These tools get rid of all the last-minute posting panic by saving you time and effort.
Batch write your captions and quickly add your hashtags to free up more time for engaging with customers. With scheduled content ready to go, you know you will always have that consistency of posting however busy you get. You can then be reactive – following up on to industry news, for example, and put in more timely posts as and when you need to.
Harness the power of Hashtags
Love ’em or hate ’em you need to be using hashtags to get your content in front of more people. Posts with at least one hashtag get over 12 per cent more engagement. The right hashtags will make you more discoverable and you want to be choosing ones that are relevant, not so huge you get lost among millions, and that really drive interested customers your way.
But how do you know which ones to use? And doesn’t sticking 30 tags on the end of a post go back to that thing about Insta being horribly time-consuming? Not if you pre-group them and use my recommended monthly hashtags!
The best way to add multiple hashtags to your posts is to save them in your notes and cut and paste, maybe adding or taking away a couple to make them super relevant to your post and to avoid Instagram’s spam filters mistakenly picking up your activity. Planoly users can take advantage of the Hashtag Manager feature to create groups that you can then use on posts. It’s simple to do and has to be one of the biggest time savers, as well as an effective way to boost your reach.
Searching for # natively on Instagram is not quite as easy at the moment, as they have temporarily disabled the ‘related hashtags’ feature due to some issues relating to the US election. But you can still see hashtags in a drop-down list and see how many posts are attached to each. When you identify some tags you want to use, don’t just look at the size. Click through to make sure your content sits well with what’s posted under each one. If it seems irrelevant, don’t bother with it. The chances are your ideal audience won’t be following it.
For your posts, I recommend mostly using ones around the 100K mark, with a couple of even smaller ones and a few big hitters added in. They can work as a bit of a signpost to your audience if they look at your hashtags so can be useful.
For each post: use # related to your business, the industry you work in, who it’s relevant for, what’s physically appearing in your picture and perhaps the geographical area. A mix of these should bring you good reach.
Show up no matter how you look
This is one area that I think Instagram has really changed over the pandemic – in a really good way.
We all still love to look at those perfectly curated feeds that stop you scrolling and push you down a rabbit hole of beautiful images. And they still exist of course. Instagram is built on this stuff, but I do think that there is a bit less pressure on us all to have that perfect aesthetic. When everyone was stuck at home, something had to give. Perfection was impossible and it’s been brilliant for content creators.
There are a few ways easily get the look you want, if that curated grid is a priority to you. One simple way is to use your brand colours and fonts to create Story highlight covers in Canva. This makes for a more uniform look and is a simple way to make your profile page look polished. You can even get an Etsy icon in Canva (search in Elements), which is really useful for shops and sellers that use this platform and want to use highlights to showcase things in your shop.
Then for that uniform look across your images, you need to go outside of Instagram filters. The big two apps are VSCO and A Color Story. You need to spend some time playing around with these, adjusting the settings to find a look you like. But once you are happy with brightness, saturation etc, lock them down as a preset and you can apply that to all your images to achieve the cohesion that gives some grids the edge. Your images don’t have to look heavily filtered – that’s all a bit old hat these days – but similar settings will definitely help it all hang together.
But also, I think audiences have become a little less demanding of perfection. ‘Quality’ content doesn’t have to mean the most amazing photoshoot. Homespun can be just as impactful. For me, Instagram is about both educating and entertaining. If your content is doing one of these things, then you are most of the way there. Give your grid a cohesive look to back it all up, but focus more on the content than how it looks and I really think your audience will respond.
This lessening of the pressure means you are free to experiment with new features and push the boundaries of what you can create.
Always use video and try out new features, like Reels
Video is probably more important than ever on Instagram and the pandemic has been a great time to try it out, as there is less pressure to look perfect and more opportunities to just show up. Lives and IGTV have been some of Insta’s most used features and continue to be a great way to deliver engaging, entertaining and educational content in a long-form way.
You’ve probably heard the adage that ‘People buy from people’ and video is the way to do this. Showing up on Stories and IGTV gives your account a more rounded presence on the app and allows you to reach your audience wherever they hang out. Instagram also gives priority to content creators who get on board with new features, giving them more visibility and I can see this with Reels, which is really starting to take off.
I know it can be tempting to disregard Reels as another thing to learn at an already overwhelming time or dismiss it as something for the TikTok generation. But it’s SO MUCH more than dancing and pointing. There is a huge potential on Reels for any business. And it’s amazing what you can pack into 15-30 seconds.
Three quick reasons to use Reels
– You can share a preview to your feed and to Stories so you can get your content in front of more people in more places more quickly
– Get discovered by new people. Your Stories are more likely to be seen by your existing followers whereas Reels can reach lots of new ones
– Your content could last as long as a couple of weeks on Reels, giving you lots more chances to be discovered by new people
It’s a fun, light-hearted addition to the app and yes, some people are using dancing to get themselves noticed. I’m also seeing A LOT of pointing. I get it, they are easy ways to create content but I can’t help but feel there more potential in this feature.
If you’re feeling the same, you might want to know that I’m doing a challenge to push myself to create innovative Reels content. I’d love you to come along with me.
We’ll be creating 5 reels in 5 days starting on October 12th. Sign up at www.365daysocial.com/getreels and let me help you nail Instagram.