Instagram for Beginners

Social Media is the best way to promote your business and connect to potential and existing clients/customers for free. Not only does it give you a platform to show off your product, but it allows you a way to have a rapport with your current and future customers. One such social media tool is especially fun if you’re a visual person: Instagram.

Instagram is the number one photo social platform. It was founded in October 2010 by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger and was later bought by Facebook in April 2012. In its first two months, Instagram already had one million users and today there are over 150 million active users monthly. Suffice it to say, Instagram is the place to be.

Are you thinking about starting an Instagram page for your business but don’t know where to start? This handy how-to guide should get you going.

Is Instagram Right For Your Business?

Not all social media is created equal. Instagram may work for your cafe, but may not be so great for your tax software service. Before starting any marketing campaign, think about who your customer is and where they spend their time online.

The Easy Stuff

Create an account using your email address or Facebook login. Give your Instagram account a name, one that’s easy to remember and identify as your business. For example, Steeplechase Coffee is a family owned coffee shop in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn. Their Instagram account name is Steeplechase_Coffee. If you already have social media accounts on other platforms, try to keep your account names the same or similar across all platforms so your customers can find you- example: Brooklyn Creative League’s twitter and instagram accounts are both named CreativeBklyn.

Follow a handful of people related to your industry. If you’re an architect, follow other architects. You can also follow your friends, family members, current or past customers/clients. You don’t need to follow a million people- in fact, don’t – but just follow a few to get you started.

Creating Content

Instagram is a visual platform. Your posts will perform best if the images you create are visually appealing, easy to read,are relevant and straight to the point. For some businesses, this is pretty obvious. For instance, Steeplechase Coffee’s instagram shows pictures of pretty coffee drinks and pastries. But because it’s also a family business, posts include neighborhood going-ons, kids, community pets, etc. An account like Brooklyn Creative League, however, is more challenging. BCL is a coworking space, and is also a locally owned business. Posts show off the design of the space, the fun events and activities we do and occasional motivational quotes or jokes to get you through the day.

Keep in mind that picture collages, images with text and stock photos/photos you didn’t take perform worse than thoughtful photos you took yourself. You don’t have to be a photographer to take a good picture for instagram, but learning some basics (like the rule of thirds) will certainly help.

Rule of Thirds?

The Rule of Thirds is a very basic photography principle that suggests that, if you break your image down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically), the eye is drawn to the points where the lines intersect. You can imagine a grid, or use instagram’s built in editing tools and adjust your image accordingly.

Another composition tip, is to try to fill at least ⅓ of your frame with the subject. This is particularly useful for instagram, because the pictures are only as big as your phone, and users tend to scroll quickly. If they have to work too hard to “get it”, they probably aren’t going to.

Hashtags and Location Tags

So now, you have this shiny new instagram account, and you have a super cool picture- how is anyone going to see it? Once you have enough followers, your pictures will be seen- no problem. But until then, we have to help! This is where Hashtags and Location Tags come into play.

Users can (and do) search instagram by certain locations and keywords (hashtags). So using these tools is an excellent (and sometimes the only) way to get some traffic to your page.

Location Tags are the easy part. Before you “share” your post, instagram gives you a whole mess of options. You can add a caption, tag people, add location or share to other linked social media sites. To add a location, click the Add Location button and select your location from the provided list. Be as specific as possible. For instance, if the picture was taken at Steeplechase Coffee, tag Steeplechase Coffee and not Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn.

Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags per post. And you should use all 30. Hashtags should be relevant to your image, company/brand and industry. Here’s how I choose my hashtags

Start small, and work your way out. Example: I have a picture of this dog sitting on a bench outside of Steeplechase Coffee. So one hashtag will naturally be #dog. If I need more ideas of dog specific hashtags, I can search the #dog hashtag on instagram and see what other people use for their #dog posts. I find #dogsofinstagram #cute #puppy #dogs, etc. etc. I want people to find it for Steeplechase so I use our brand specific hashtag #SteepelchaseCoffeeBrooklyn and industry specific hashtags like #coffee #coffeeshop #localbusiness. From there I grow wider and tag #brooklyn #newyorkcity and so on and so forth until I have 30 hashtags.

But, Jenni, aren’t hashtags tacky?

Yes- hashtags are super tacky. But, they are necessary! The solution is to hide them in the first comment of the image.

Let’s go back to this dog picture, because it’s just so cute.

The caption of the dog photo is (a little long, I’ll admit) is “Meet Groot! Groot is a Steeplechase regular, lives down the block and was rescued from Sean Casey Animal Rescue across the street- he’s a true neighborhood hero”

Immediately below the image you see a comment from steeplechase_coffee that reads (…)

Once you click on that you see a series of dots followed by 30 hashtags.

Hiding the hashtags in the first comment makes your post appear clear and tidy, while still getting it out to the world and raking in those engagements!

Another trick I use for this, is to keep my commonly used hashtags saved in the notes app on my phone, when I post a photo, I copy and paste my hashtags into the first comment.

Engagements? Seriously Jenni, I have no clue what you’re talking about

Engagement just means “likes” and “comments”. The more engagement a post gets, the more likely it is to be seen by others, which hypothetically means you earn more followers, and ultimately get new clients.

I’m Feeling a Little Overwhelmed

That’s fine, we’re almost done. Is your business already on Facebook? Easily link your facebook business page to your instagram to access Instagram Business Tools. Instagram Business tools will show you which posts perform best on Instagram and when your followers are online.

Use these tools to know when and what to post. If you notice that some types of posts perform better than others- post more images like that. If your followers are online around 8 AM and 8 PM, you should post then. (post at least once a day and no more than 5 times a day). You should also use these tools to know which instagram posts to share to your other social media platforms.

Oh, I thought we’re just supposed to share all of them everywhere?

Nah- don’t do that. Once a week, check your instagram business tools, see which post performed the best and share that one to Twitter and Facebook.

This should be just enough info to get you started. Follow these basic steps and your first instagram account will look clean and professional, and in no time you’ll have a whole bunch of followers, I guarantee* it

*I can’t guarantee anything, I just work here!