Instagram has been around since 2010, and has really exploded in popularity since 2016. The growth of the online social hangout has picked up steam as the cameras in smart phones have become better at taking high-quality pics and videos.
When you open an account, and it is free to do so, you have a profile and a news feed. Snap a picture with your smart phone camera, and when you share it on Instagram, it is displayed on your profile. This is similar to the experience on Facebook. If someone searches for a particular term and you have added a caption or hashtag with that term to your photo or video, that person may see your content.
When someone views content on your profile, they can follow your activity. This means whenever you post a new photo, it shows up in their news feed. It is pretty much a direct copy of Facebook, except the focus is on visual content and mobile use. People can comment, like, tag and private message on Instagram, which is currently available as a download on any android or iOS devices.
Obviously, you need an account before you can start growing your blog on Instagram. It is easy to get started. Download the app from the Google Play store or Apple store. You can sign up using your current Facebook account or email. You can set up either a personal or business profile. It is recommended you create a business profile, since Instagram provides some marketing and behavior tracking tools for business profile account holders.
Your first opportunity for marketing comes when you decide on a user name.
Instagram’s search engine works pretty much like that of Google, Bing and other Internet search engines. It is text-based, and you have a better chance of someone finding you if your user name has a keyword or two that is relevant to your business. People search on Instagram for topics that refer to the photographs and videos they want to see. Someone may search for “monster trucks”, so if you had a relevant business, you may want your user name to be MonsterTruckAccessories.
Don’t waste too much time sweating over your user name, as you can change at any time.
If you sign up through Facebook, you will be asked if you want to follow your FB friends that are already on Instagram. If you don’t want to do this now, skip this step, and you can always come back to it later. You want to customize your profile by adding your name, link to your site or blog, a short and lighthearted biography and of course a photo. Add all of your contact details as well, so people know how to get a hold of you.
Optimizing Your Biography
You only have 150 characters for your biography. This means you have to put on your marketing hat. Be direct, concise and informative, but still engage your audience. Add a hint of personality, and encourage users to take a specific action. This is a great place to add a link to an opt-in squeeze page where you give away a free gift in order to build your email list.
Use a link shortener such as Bitly or Goo.gl so your link doesn’t take up too many valuable characters. Those link shorteners also have free reporting tools that keep track of just how much traffic your Instagram biography is sending to your squeeze page.
You can also use industry-related keywords so the Instagram search engine can start sending you interested users.
Your profile picture should be a picture of you, if you are the main focus of your brand. If the page is more of a brand that isn’t tied to a specific person, then you can use your logo or a high quality picture that matches your niche and attracts attention.
Building Your Instagram Page & Gallery
Once you have set up your account, you need to build your page and gallery. What do we mean by “page”? Well, we mean what people will see when they click on your profile. They’ll see your profile avatar, your description (as mentioned above) and then your gallery.
Basically, think of your Instagram page and gallery as a way to make a first impression on any potential followers. And the best way to make an awesome first impression? Take great photos!
Add Your Starting Content
At this point you’re probably ready to get out there and start getting followers. This is never a good idea until you have added content to your gallery. You want at least 10 or 20 photos or videos on your page to get started with. Think about it. If you have no content for someone to view, like, comment on and share, why would someone want to follow you?
You can add content by taking photos yourself (and we’ve included specific tips below about how to make sure they’re good ones).
But before you do, you’ll want to understand filters.
What Are Filters?
Instagram provides 23 filters you can choose to apply to your videos and photos. Just as a professional photographer can use filters with a hand-held camera, you can use these filters to change the way your photos and videos look. In normal mode, no filter is applied. The “1977” filter gives your photograph a brighter, rosy, but faded look. The “Rise” filter puts a softer lighting on the subject and adds a glow to the image. Play around with these filters to find your favorite. Tapping the “Edit” option at the bottom of your photo editor also gives you several editing tools to apply to your content.
Note: Once you get better at taking your own photos, and understand the feel you want them to have, you might move away from Instagram’s filters and use third-party apps.
How to Create Amazing Instagram Photos
The following tips and tricks will help you create engaging and memorable Instagram content, photos and videos that increase your followers and build your business.
- Instagram should be less about sharing other photos you find online, and more about taking your own photos and videos.
- Create a conversation with your images. Pictures and videos that tell a story will get more followers, likes and comments.
- Eventually, you’ll even be able to have a “theme” for your photos. For example, they might all contain a hint of blue (your brand color) or evoke a certain emotion (like moody or bright and cheerful). This all takes practice.
- Think about your subject before you take a picture. What is it that moves you about this particular scene or image? Mention that in your caption.
- Use the tools at your disposal. Instagram offers filters and editing tools. There are also third-party applications which boost the ability of your smart phone camera.
- Experiment with unique and interesting ways to take a selfie.
- The early morning and late evening hours provide the best outdoor light for taking photos.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. Look around Instagram and find content that appeals to you the most. What is it about that content you like so much? Use the same ideas and tips on your page.
- Shoot more pics. The more snapshots you take, the more amazing content you will create.
Using Instagram Stories
Instagram Stories is a feature that was added in 2016. This allows you to post a photo or video that disappears in 24 hours. It has become increasingly popular, since the Internet is full of people looking for content right now. Everyone wants instant information and instant gratification, and Instagram Stories provide that.
At the top left corner of your Instagram feed you will see a plus sign (+). Click this. Then tap on the circle button that appears at the bottom of the screen to take a photo from your smart phone, or hold it down to record video. To add a filter, just swipe right or left and choose from the different options provided.
Tap the check mark at the bottom of the screen to add your story. You can decide on just who can view your story by clicking on the three dots in the bottom right corner and choosing “Story Settings”. People on Instagram are using stories to provide behind-the-scenes looks and provide a more intimate look into their personal lives and businesses.
Using Other People’s Content
Generally, most people on Instagram – even brands – will use their own photos for the platform. However, if you want to make things easier and use other people’s photos then you could set this up the right way in a way that doesn’t violate any copyright.
In your profile description you could add something that looks like this:
“Tag #jokesdaily if you want your content to be featured on our page!”
This does two wonderful things for you. First, it gets other people creating videos and photographs for you. This means you will have other people “working” for you, for free, and this will keep fresh content headed to your account. When you add a picture or video and include a hashtag (#), followed by some phrase, this tells the Instagram search engines what your content is about. It also makes it super-fast for people to find your content.
The second thing this does that is really great for building a following quickly is it keeps your audience engaged. It shows people you are interested in what they have to share, and not just in promoting your business. Announcing the hashtag that you are going to use on your content in your page description means that when others also use that hashtag, they could be featured or promoted on your page.
Just make sure you create a hashtag that is memorable, makes sense for your page, and is preferably unique to you (see below for more info on hashtags).