Let’s talk about Instagram, Part One
When I first wrote this, it came to about 3 and a half thousand words, and even I couldn’t be bothered with reading it, so I have split it into 2 parts. This ‘part’ is going to talk about getting started with instagram and how to overcome that pesky little algorithm, and part 2 will talk about Instagram business tools and tips.
Important information to include on your page
There are a few things you should think about including on your profile to make yourself more searchable, visible, and to make it easier for your audience to understand you and your business. The user name should be your business/trading name, or the closest thing to it if the one you want has already been taken (possibly something to think about if you are just starting up and haven’t decided a business/trading name yet!)
Have your location on your profile! If not the specific village, then your nearest town or city. This, again, makes you more searchable, and will help you market to people in your area, and also gives you a higher chance of popping up on the explore page for that area. You only get a limited number of characters for your information, so use them wisely! Use the space to tell people who you are and what it is you do. You can include your email and mobile number as direct links, so don’t waste those precious characters! The same goes for your website (and if you don’t have a website, that should also be next on your to do list!) It’s where people will go to find more information about what you do if they’re not quite ready to get in touch with you. People might want to book you directly through Instagram, but I find people use it to get an idea for what I do first, or it’s where they ‘find’ me.
The Algorithm (as I understand it)
Once upon a time, Instagram (and Facebook) used to show you everything everyone posted in chronological order, but not anymore! It shows you content it thinks you want to see, and therefore shows your followers what it thinks they want to see. This is based on engagement, which is when we like or comment on someones post, click on their profile, click on their website or any other interaction. If we don’t engage with someones content, it will stop showing it to us. If you get a low rate of engagement on a post, next time you post, instagram is less likely to show as many people, the ones who don’t engage with your content, your post. The more people engage with your content, the more other people will also see your content. Have you ever noticed on facebook that when your friends likes something from a group you don’t follow or a post from someone you aren’t friends with you see it? It’s vey similar with instagram. This is really important to take into consideration when you post content and when you interact with other accounts.
What to post
It’s really important to have a separate profile for your business and a separate profile for personal photo’s, you need to keep your business profile relevant to your business! (more on this in part 2!)
To maximise your use of instagram, you need to post good quality images, and have good quality engagements, it’s quality over quantity! If you’re a frequent poster, you’re posts are likely to have a lower rate of engagement and therefore you will have a lower ‘reach’ (the amount of profiles that see your post). Personally, I also unfollow people who post too often, I need variety in my newsfeed! If you post several photo’s in a short amount of time, the first photos you posted will get lost, and your posts will each have a lower rate of engagement which will result in a lower subsequent reach (those grid photo’s you can post look great from your profile but can have a huge negative impact on your engagement and reach!). You will get a much better engagement by spreading your content out, and taking more time over your captions and hashtags (and it means you can save photo’s for those quiet patches too! As much as you don’t want to post too often, you need to maintain a presence)
Before you take a picture of that perfect butterfly face paint you just did, take a minute to think about the image. If it’s really sunny, make sure the person is facing the right way so the sun doesn’t cast a shadow over their face and they’re not squinting, and if you’re indoors, try to take the picture facing a window so you can make the most of natural light. Also try to make sure there isn’t too much background clutter, the focus needs to be your beautiful work, (instagram actually decreases the reach of ‘busy’ photo’s) . The back camera on your phone is fine, and if you have a DSLR and have time to use it then great! Just try not to use your front facing phone camera. It can produce really grainy images that might not perform so well on social media, and you might not want to use for your website.
What to include in your post
This is just as important as the quality of your image. If you don’t caption and don’t hashtag your posts, no-one is going to see it! And if no one see’s it, you get lower engagement, and lower reach and lower engagement and blah blah blah. Engage with your audience. Tell them what you painted, ask them if they like it, ask them if they’ve made their minds up about what they’re going as for halloween! And hashtag! You get up to 30 hashtags per post, so use them and use them wisely. Hashtag something relevant to your post, don’t hashtag something completely unrelated just because it’s a really popular hashtag. It can come across as spammy, and your post can get lost in a sea of other posts and won’t have as high a reach.
“But Mazz, I don’t know how to hashtag?!?”. Ok. So when you are typing in the caption box, on the keyboard, at the bottom right of the screen there is a little #. Click this and then type your hashtag next to it, but you have to type it all as one word. If you put a space, it only recognises what you have put before the space , for example, if I posted a butterfly face paint, I would tag #butterflyfacepaint not #butterfly face paint, it would only register the word butterfly. If you’re not sure what to hashtag, what you can do (what I often do) is look at posts in your newsfeed that are performing well and see what those people have hash tagged, as long as it’s relevant of course.
Don’t forgot to also add the location to the image. As I said earlier, this will make you more visible to other people in your area. You can actually click on the location (on a posted image, not in editing mode) and see all of the other posts that have been tagged with that location and surrounding areas. You can then engage with other people in that location, which will in turn increase engagement with your posts.
Engaging with other accounts
Engagement makes the social media world go round! On my ‘The_pixie_tribe’ page I follow other face painters, and a few other related accounts. This is because I want to see images that inspire me, and because this is the best way I can support other artists. Short of just giving anyone any money, the best thing we can do for each other is regularly engage with each others posts. This helps boost our reach to the other people who follow us, but also helps us to reach our target clients by increasing our exposure under the hashtags and location tags, and gives you a higher chance of reaching the explore page.
It’s really important to support the painty community, but you also want to be engaging with your local community and potential clients. Click on that location button on your posts and have a snoop at what people in your local area are posting, comment on the cute pictures of their dogs and that delicious looking cake they made! They will wonder who you are and click on your profile. Boom. Potential new client. If your painting at a PPF or birthday party and handing out business cards, and one of those people follows you, follow them back, and engage with their posts!
Don’t forget to check your inbox!
Yes, that’s right, people can slide into your dm’s without you even noticing! When someone you are connected to on instagram messages you, you will get a notification, and a little red dot on the paper aeroplane in the top right of your newsfeed. But when someone you don’t know messages you, you won’t get a notification, you won’t get a little red dot, and if you don’t actively check that paper aeroplane, you won’t know that you have a message request waiting for your approval. I have missed potential bookings and photoshoots from this before, and it’s infuriating because this is where messages from your potential clients (and potential repeat clients!) are going to end up. I check mine every day now, and no I don’t have a dm every time I check, but I would rather check and not have any messages than not check for like a week or a month and miss out on a booking.
It’s ok to lose followers
Well, you can’t force someone to be interested in what you do, but that’s not the main reason you will gain and lose followers. A lot of Instagram accounts are fake, or spam, or managed by robots. You will probably notice a lot of accounts called ‘get more likes’ or ‘instagram followers’ etc etc will follow you. There might not be a real person behind that account, it exists solely to gain as many followers as it can. You will also get people following you in the hopes that you follow them back, before they unfollow you to build their numbers. You can get apps that tell you how many followers you have that you follow back, how many people you are following that follow you back, show you all your new followers, and show you all the people that unfollow you, and then should you wish, you can unfollow them on the spot. It can be a useful way of analysing what kind of accounts are following/unfollowing you, wether its clients, other small businesses or just spam accounts
I hope you’ve found this post useful. I know social media can be a bit of a minefield, but it really is so important to our businesses, it’s often our first point of contact with a client. Part 2 will focus more on the business tools and extra features. If you have any specific questions on that, please let me know in the comments here so I can incorporate them! Equally any other questions or topics you want covering, please do leave a comment!