Instagram is great fun, it’s true! But if you’re using Instagram for business, you really need to be strategic about how you use it – you do not have unlimited amounts of time to faff about, no matter how much fun it is. These tips are aimed at helping you get the most out of it, by pinpointing the most effective methods of building your audience and your brand style.
In Part 1 of this series, I talked about WHY Instagram was great for business – including its rapidly growing rate of new users, and the fact that everything you post gets seen by everyone who follows you, unlike Facebook and its tricky and limiting algorithms. This post is about how to find your ideal followers on this great social media platform, to get your best business advantage.
It’s true that the fastest, ethical way to build a following on Instagram is to follow other users and interact with them. However, don’t just follow anyone! You need to concentrate on the people who fit your brand. Not only do you feel way more comfortable with and genuine about interacting with them, you are more likely to attract them as a customer.
But Instagram for business is not all about having customers either – there are a few types of people you’ll want to follow, including those that totally inspire you (so many good ones! but some faves include @LisaMessenger, @sydney_jewellery_school and @swallowsanddamsons), and your peers (people around the same business level as you – great for cheering you on your biz journey!).
Don’t go overboard on following tons of people in a short space of time. There’s no official word from Instagram, but anecdotally there are several folk who say that there’s a limit of about 150 new followings per hour, and if you go faster than that your account will be limited, stopped, or removed. In any case, there is an official total limit of 7,500 users you can follow with your account now, and Instagram states that this is to stop spam and bots.
From this post on Shopify, the rates of follow-back increased substantially in direct proportion to the amount of effort you went to in interactions – i.e., for just a follow, the author got a 14% follow-back rate; for a follow and a like or two on their images, it jumped to 22%, and for a follow, some likes and a comment, it jumped again to 34%. But when you’re commenting, don’t just stick in something lame like “lovely” or “cute”. Spend some time in crafting something a bit meaningful, and a better response is guaranteed.
SHARING OTHER PEOPLE’S PHOTOS
Instagram doesn’t actively promote sharing, and they have no tools to do so within their app. They DO always encourage people to post original content, and they care about copyright, which is all good!
Of course it’s great to give props where credit is due, and sometimes there is totally beautiful stuff that you’ll want to share. There are also times when the people you follow actively encourage you to repost (for instance with a competition). However, don’t just take a screenshot and feed that in, because a lot of users scroll through pretty quickly and it can kinda look like it’s your photo if they don’t bother to stop and read. But there’s ways to share and keep everyone happy. And you should share – other people love being recognised for what they do! I’ve been taking part in an initiative by @CreateAndThrive, called #MakerKinMonday, where every Monday you share an image by another maker/designer that you admire, and also describe what it is about their work that you love. It’s fab! You get to see a whole bunch of beautiful new work from makers around the world, and everybody wins.
There are several apps that you can use to repost if you wish. These are great, because not only do they help people to share the good stuff, it’s also very obvious it’s a repost because they add a noticeable graphic to the image to let everyone it’s a repost, and they also give a text credit to the original Instagrammer. My fave app for this is Repost App. It stamps the image with a graphic, copies over the original text with credits, and also lets you edit that text so you can add further info if you want before reposting it into your timeline.
CONNECT IT UP WITH YOUR OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA
This is almost a no-brainer. These days, you can set up most of your social media accounts so that when you post on one, it will automatically feed through and post on your other sites as well, saving you a lot of time in getting your images and messages out to all your followers.
On Instagram, it’s super easy to connect it up – click on the little cog icon at the top right of the screen, and scroll down to ‘Linked Accounts’. Click through, and it will come up with a list of several popular social media sites. Click on the ones you want; Instagram will ask you to log in to that site, and then just follow the prompts. And if you have more than one Facebook account for instance, you can decide which one you want Instagram to post to.
Then after you’ve set it all up, when you post to Instagram it gives you the option of pushing your image out to your chosen social media sites as well.
Hashtags are a great way of finding other people to follow, and getting other people to find you too. Just click on one, and Instagram will bring up all the images that have been tagged with that word most recently.
There are several lists out there of what are the most frequently used hashtags, but really those sorts of lists are not very helpful. They do include really broad ones, like #photooftheday and #design which are kind of OK, but they also include ones that are next to useless if you’re trying to get like-minded folk to search you out. Who’s going to do a search on #me, #selfie or #day? And as I noted before, you’re not trying to just get numbers, you’re trying to narrow in on your target market – #followme, #like4like, #tagsforlikes aren’t going to cut it either. You want genuine followers who are following because they really like your work – i.e. potential customers; you don’t need random heads or worse, bots.
Using general tags that are a bit more specific to what you do is more useful, for instance #handmade, #kidsclothes, #handmadeaustralia, or #vintagefabric. You can also use ones for things that you find visually interesting, such as #colourlove, #patternonpattern, or #landscape, because chances are if you find those tags interesting, someone else will too and will find you. Another good one to use is your location – e.g. #Australia, #Riverina or #WaggaWagga – so you can help local folk to find you. But only ever use tags that are relevant. What’s the point of tagging your handmade chocolates with #design, just because it’s a popular hashtag? People who search for #design aren’t searching for chocolates, so they’re not going to bother with you (well… maybe. Because chocolate. But you get the idea?).
You can even make up some tags that are completely you, such as #tractorgirlmakesnewtops. I tag all of my clothes with this on my IG account, so that people can easily click on that and see all of my clothes together, instead of having to scroll through my feed – and I also mention it in my profile blurb.
Don’t get carried away with hashtags – around 4 or 5 is enough. Those posts with around 20 look like you’re screaming for attention. Take some time to check out what hashtags other people in your niche are using too, and use them as well. When you’ve compiled a list of relevant hashtags, note them all down somewhere (like an Evernote file) so that next time you post something you can just copy and paste – you’re not scratching your brain trying to remember what the hell all those good tags were.
That’s all for today, but I’ll be back with the third and final post in this Instagram series real soon! (Part 1 is here.) Part 3 will be all about how to engage with your community (and you absolutely most of all want to build a sense of community into your business), so stay tuned…
And in the mean time, catch me over on Instagram at tractorgirlmakes. Let me know you found me via the blog – I’m always up for a chat and I love connecting with you all!
Have you got any burning questions about Instagram? Please ask away! Let me know in the comments below and I will find you an answer. Guarantee!
With love, Julie.