The Ultimate Guide to Being Better on Instagram

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Let me tell you something. I sold $1,200 in a weekend using Instagram and my email list. What did I do? Nothing special. I put together a sale image, bundled some products together and posted it at about 1PM on Black Friday. The sales started rolling in. I was just as surprised as you are that I was able to make this passive income with such little work. So if you think this is about to be an in-depth blog post with a whole bunch of strategies, you’re in the wrong place. I didn’t have a super complicated launch strategy or marketing plan. I had a product people wanted to buy and a relationship with my audience. What I can share with you is how I grew my audience and developed trust with them so that when I did have something to sell, they were ready to buy.

Profile and Photos

I’m a fan of alliteration. Can you tell? 

The most important and overlooked tool on Instagram is the profile itself. Your instagram page is viewed in two ways: individually and collectively as a feed. Those who are already following you, see your feed one-by-one as you publish, but those that are discovering you for the 1st time are looking at your entire feed. What kind of impression does your grid make? Are the first 9 images telling a story? Are they cohesive?

These photos and your profile biography should capture their attention, communicate your brand personality and entice them to follow. Do a quick audit for you profile and remove any pictures that aren’t on brand or high-quality. “On brand” doesn’t mean that every single picture needs to be taken from the same angle or have the same filter. What you want to do is evoke a feeling. When you look at Kirk Kara’s feed, what do you feel? How do you want users to feel when they visit your page?

A descriptive biography and appealing photos are the difference between a one-time profile view and a new follower. Although there is no formula to calculate this, each instagram follower represents potential revenue for your business or opportunities for your brand. Keeping this in mind, your website link should drive them to a landing page where you can collect their information and have them enter your marketing funnel. An opt-in product is a great way to build your email list, but it also helps you to build rapport with your audience.

Melissa Griffin or nectar collective, kaye mcoye and kirk kara are great examples of instagram profiles.

Melissa from The Nectar Collective nails this. The biography tells me exact how she adds value and drives me to her e-course, while her profile has a clear color palette and feels exciting.  If you are in retail or ecommerce, consider offering a coupon. As an agency, coach or consultant, provide a guide or white paper providing solutions for one of your ideal customer’s pain points. Opt-in products come in many forms, but at the very basic, it should be valuable information that website visitors would be willing to provide their name and email for. Once you have identified an opt-in product, you can focus on creating better photos.

Kaye McCoy’s profile is a great example of what to aim for when you clean up your profile and take pictures. Notice the similarity in the lighting and the colors. All images capture something different, but it still feels cohesive. Remember, instagram is about portraying a lifestyle and letting your audience get to know, love and trust you.

Posing and Posting

Instagram is a very visual platform, so in order for you to gain any kind of following you need to take better pictures. If your profile and individual images aren’t appealing to the eye, you can forget about people following you. Taking great pictures not only increases your amount of followers, but it boosts your credibility too.

I am by no means an Instagram expert, but these photography rules are the ones that every photographer I’ve spoken to has mentioned. It really just requires practice and patience. One of the social media managers I chatted with mentioned that she takes up to 50 shots of a particular image at a time, trying out all angles and lighting possibilities. Here is what you should consider when shooting your next photo.

Rule of Thirds

You know that grid that Instagram provides? It is there for a reason. Placement of your subject is important. You don’t have to center your subject in every photo. The rule of thirds suggests placing objects toward the outer thirds or bottom thirds of a photo to add depth and provide a different look.

White Space

Your feed is going to need some breathing room. If all of your pictures are close up with little empty space, your profile can look crowded and busy. Balance between close-up shots and

Lighting Source

Always seek the light. Selfies, product shots and everything in general looks better with bright natural lightning. Flash can wash your subject out or make your photo look too produced. Instead, plan to take pictures near your window or outside where you can capitalize on natural light.

Consistent Edits

Consistency goes far on Instagram. Whether the angles of your shots are the same or you use only one kind of filter, the similarities in the photos help to tie them together. Committing to one angle like Murad does in his #FollowMeTo project may be difficult, but he does keep all of his photos very bright and saturated. Find the editing style that works for you and commit to that one look.

Captions

Instagram is as much about the photo as it is about the caption. Use this space to tell a story. Because formatting directly in the app can get somewhat difficult, type out your captions in your phone’s notetaking application and simply copy and paste it over. Looking for clients? Use the captions to share tips about your expertise. Selling a product? Take us behind the scenes.

Tools

VSCOCam

Forget about your phone’s camera and never open it again after reading this post. VSCOCam is the best camera replacement app and gives you more control over your shooting and photos. You can manually control what to focus on and get the right lighting for your photo.

Snapseed

Now when we talk editing, I have to mention Snapseed. I found this app earlier this year, and it has been my go-to for those photos that need a little extra umph. What I love most about this app is the ability to edit only portions of a photo. Selective editing allows you to brighten backgrounds, boost saturation and draw attention to one part of the photo over another.

Afterlight

Afterlight is another popular editing app for Instagram. It has over 60 adjustment tools and filters that allow you to transform your photos. This will most likely be your go-to app, and Snapseed will only be used for special edits, but both useful nonetheless.

Wordswag

Monday Motivation is huge on Instagram, and I have been using Wordswag to create quote graphics for a while. If your brand guidelines are forgiving, you can use this tool to create wordmark text overlays on any kind of background. The app is preloaded with various solid color and patterned backgrounds, but you are also able to search for free stock photos right within the app.

Canva

You don’t have to be a graphic designer to make awesome posts. Canva is a step up from Wordswag. The platform has images properly sized for all of your social media channels, so you don’t have to worry about pixels and placement for pins, instagram posts, facebook posts or twitter banners. Available for iPad and desktop, you can create tons of images with the pre-created template and the built in gallery of stock photography, icons and illustrations. I have moved away from using Indesign recently, and have focused more on using Canva since it cuts my graphic creation time in half. It is a great tool if you are a DIY social media manager that wears many hats.

Related: 10 Tools You need to Download for your Brand

Engagement

Engagement, engagement, engagement. You don’t have to be a social media expert to hear this buzzword constantly mentioned. Connecting and building relationships with people online is the only way to build a viable presence on the social web.

If you are stagnant in follower growth, create a schedule to cross promote on other brand channels like Twitter, Pinterest and your email list. If they have connected with you on another channel already or they have opted to receive emails from you, they are likely to be engaged enough with your brand to follow you on Instagram.

Engagement Tip: Each day, go through and like 5 - 10 photos in your feed and leave relevant, personable comments.

Susan Petersen, CEO of Freshly Picked, mentioned that this was her tactic to grow her Instagram into the hundreds of thousands. Leaving comments and liking photos allows other users to discover and connect with you, as well as humanizing your brand’s account. This is only successful if you are engaging with the right people. Identify the hashtags in your niche and the followers of influencers in your space. This way, you can be sure to target the people are already interested in what you are offering. Speaking of hashtags, use Instagram’s new Explore feature to identify any Trending Tags that may be useful and relevant for your brand.

Engagement Tip: Encourage user-generated content.

Promoting and encouraging user generated content (UGC) is a simple way to build a stronger user community, increase your following and promote your hashtag. According to Nielsen, 43% of consumers are more likely to purchase a product after learning about it on social media, and Instagram is a common distribution channel for user-generated content. Incorporate fan photos into your feed as well to add in some social proof. Be mindful not to use a repost app since it adds an unsightly banner on your photos.

Optimization + Metrics

In order to stop your account from getting stagnant, you should be consistently evaluating and updating your Instagram strategy. What content is performing well by consistently getting likes and comments? Do you notice any trends? Use a tool like Iconosquare to track these metrics and inform what content your audience responds well to. It also goes a step further to tell you the times that your audience is most engaged, so that you can post when they will be more likely to interact with you.

Related: 3 Reasons Instagram Entrepreneurs Fail

Instagram Guide