There has been a huge rise in visual communication in recent years and leading the pack are platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest, Vine and Snapchat. These visual canvases, such as Instagram give bloggers a brilliant foundation to share their stories and connect with a very large and fast growing audience. Boasting over 200 million active monthly users and growing, Instagram has huge potential as a key marketing tool in a bloggers social networking strategy.
Over the next 5 weeks, Amanda and I will be unpacking the in and outs of the major social networks and showing you how you can harness them effectively as a blogger. Today I will be delving into Instagram and exploring how you can show your brand story visually, instead of just telling and selling it through words and advertising, plus some great practical steps to creating a strategy and growing your following.
Let’s get set up
When you jump in and create an Instagram page, there are a few key ways to establish your brand and create a profile that is consistent with your blog.
- Adding a profile image – use a profile image consistent with your other social media platforms. You can use a logo or a profile photo so just go with something that captures your brand and if it is a logo, keep it simple and easy to read.
- Craft a catchy bio – You have 150 characters to capture what you are about and tell the world why you’re worth following. It’s great to keep this bio consistent with your other social media bios and also to add in any hashtags for projects, challenges, or resources you are involved in or have created. Encourage users to join in and share using your hashtag.
- Add in your website / blog URL – it’s super important to make sure you have your blog link set up here as you cannot add in links to any of your image captions so this is the main traffic driver to your site should people wish to visit. Most people use Instagram on a mobile device so try and make sure you have a mobile friendly site or plan for one in your next redesign.
What’s your strategy?
Once you are all set up, now is the time to define what kind of message and marketing strategy you want to have, if you want to have one at all. It’s totally fine to use Instagram as a personal photo stream and not have any clear structure around what you post, however, if you want to carve out a visual brand story that’s an extension of your blogs key message and brand vision, then a little bit of thought and strategy will really help you establish this.
Five questions to consider in creating your strategy –
- What kind of story do you want to tell? If your Instagram is an extension of your blog, know your key blog messages and brand personality and intertwine these into your visuals and the way you tell your story through the images you choose to share. For example, your may be a fitness blogger so your Instagram feed is an inspiring collection of healthy lifestyle images, motivational quotes behind the scene videos and images. Keep your images focused around your niche and take the time to upload beautiful well-lit images, as it really will make you stand out.
- What kind of images and filters do you want to use? Defining your style from the beginning will help create a much more cohesive and visually appealing look to your images. Stick with a few key filters, font styles, and consistent image lighting and composition and you will create a visual stream that is far more pleasing on the eye. Always chose quality over quantity. Check out the great list of tools below to help you take your images up a notch.
- What time is most of your audience online? Snapping a beautiful image and sharing it at the wrong time can mean that you are losing out on a whole lot of audience engagement as your image can quickly become lost in the feed within 3-4 hours. From my own observations, mornings and evenings are the times that I get the most engagement on images and this is usually when I’m jumping on to check out my Instagram feed as well. Play around with your posting times and see what garners the best response from your followers and try to post at these times.
- What kind of hashtags are popular in your niche? Using hashtags provides a great way to broaden the reach of your images. Create a list of popular hashtags in your niche and each time you post an image use these hashtags and some additional image specific ones. You can put a few in your key photo caption and then add in an additional comment with more related hashtags. This will help your post not look too spammy and once there are a few comments on your image your additional hashtag comment will be hidden in the additional comments area.
- How can you get people involved in your story? There are a number of ways in which you can get your audience to interact with your content. Coming up with a creative and unique idea captured with a hashtag is a great way to spread your message and build your community. Is there a specific daily challenge you could run? A photo project you could create? A behind the scenes glimpse you could invite your readers to share each week? A regular branded quote or inspirational image you can share regularly? Do you have a product that you could prompt your readers to capture in their own environment or submit images for a competition? There are many ideas you could try out, take a look at some of these for some inspiration – Fat Mum Slim #FMSphotosday, Styling You #everydaystyle, Blog Society #blogtribe Tuesday, #beauhudson brand images from customers and my own #beyondtheblog monthly challenge.
Once you have created a strategy of how you want to portray your brand on Instagram, write it out and keep it handy so you can refer to it regularly.
What works well?
There are a variety of images you can use to tell your brand story. Here is a handy list of some of the most popular types of images that Instagram followers love. Choose the ones that fit your message and tie them into your regular posting schedule.
- Relatable and personal photos
- Behind the scenes images that capture what’s beyond the shiny and styled façade
- Motivational and inspirational quotes
- Meme based images
- User generated content associated with a brand
- Sharing images to enter contests and tagging with relevant hashtags and @instagram name
- Call to action images
- Before and after images
- In depth captions that tell a deeper story and prompt the audience to answer a question or share on the topic themselves
- Short creative videos and Flipagram sequences
Social media is not just about driving traffic to your blog, it’s about storytelling and inviting people into your journey, not just screaming at them about what you have to sell or offer.
Here are some great examples of inspiring Instagram feeds that capture this sentiment perfectly.
How To Build Your Following
This is the big questions most bloggers want answers to. How do I get more people following me? How do I build my network?
There are a few ways to do this:
- Contribute to someone else’s hashtag – Join in and take part in a challenge such as those listed above. This a a great way to connect with others on Instagram and to get your images seen by others who may love your style and start to follow you.
- Interact – Don’t just have a one-way mentality when it comes to Instagram, get out there among the feed and comment, and like other people’s images. Truly connecting with others will make them interested in what you are sharing too.
- RSVP – translation: “Respond Please”. Has someone left a comment for you? Don’t leave it unanswered. Take a moment to let that person know you appreciate the time they took to comment. This will help keep your followers loyal.
- Be Consistent – Post images regularly, at least 1-2 times a day, and keep to your brand’s visual story and your strategy and people will start to take notice.
- Be Patient – You probably don’t want to hear it, but it simply does take time for people to find you, follow you, tell others about you and for your following to increase. It’s just the way it is.
Tools you will love
Photo and video tools:
Do your images need a little help in the brightening, sharpening, cropping, tilt shift, and filter departments? Check out this swag of amazing apps:
Want to post whole images or add in white borders? These will do the trick:
Need a little help in the design department with your quotes, videos and shareables? Become an instant graphic designer with these beauties:
Are you managing more than one Instagram account?
Check out Fotogramme for IOS, which allows you to add multiple Insta feeds and comment without signing in and out of different Instagram accounts. (Know a good Android version? Let me know in the comments below).
User statistic and scheduling tools:
Iconsquare – this great tool works with your Instagram account to help you grow a social-rich media strategy, effectively interact with your community and measure your efforts through a great range of user statistics.
To schedule your Instagram posts, check out these handy tools:
Thanks so much for reading. I hope that you can glean some gems from this post that will help you effectively portray your brand story and build up a community of supportive followers.
- Jazz up your Instagram profile – profile image / bio and URL
- Create a posting strategy following the 5 tips above
- Download some of the great apps to step your images up a notch
- Keep the 5 tips in mind for growing your following and jump on Instagram and start connecting
- If you are already well on your way with these steps, start brainstorming ideas for a challenge / project / competition you could run that caters perfectly to your niche.
Join the BLOGGERS BAZAAR CHALLENGE GROUP now so you can share your work, get some great helpful feedback and join other bloggers doing the same tasks.
If you aren’t already, why not follow along with Amanda and I on social media, you can find us on:
Do you have a niggling question or an Instagram success that you would like to share? I would love to hear it, jump into the comments below and I’ll see you there.