how-to-instagram

What started out as an idea to improve the sharing of photos between friends now wears many hats, and is easily one of the most popular and used smartphone apps in the world almost 10 years later.

Instagram is a quickly growing social media platform. In February of 2013, the company announced it had its 100 millionth active user. Just six months later, the number had grown to 150 million. Given these staggering numbers, it is important that you make yourself known on this platform.

Instagram was originally developed for three main reasons:

  1. To transform cellphone photos (which were mediocre at best in 2006 when the idea was formed) into shots that looked as though they were taken with a professional-grade camera
  2. To allow users to share on multiple platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc.) as well as Instagram simultaneously
  3. To offer a speedier way of uploading photos

Now Instagram is a tool that is used by many people for many different reasons. Consumers can use the app to connect with peers, family members and coworkers and share photos and short videos. Celebrities often use Instagram to promote upcoming films, television shows, music albums, sporting events and more; but also connect with their fans on a more personal level. It is also becoming a definitive place for brands of all sizes who want to engage with their audiences. Want to make Instagram work for you? Here are some tips:

1. Types Of Posts

Like other platforms, your posting frequency will be impacted by your content calendar. It's expected that you'll share product news, special events, etc. However, don't shy away from posting random snapshots or funny images that are visually interesting, too. You don't want to come off as too "salesy" to your audience. A spur of the moment shot of a pizza slice during a staff lunch or a potted plant at your desk can generate a lot of interaction from your community. Use Instagram to showcase the personality of your brand.

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The Montreal Canadiens got creative with one of their recent posts. They reposted team member Brendan Gallagher's photo of himself dressed up for Halloween. This is a fun way to break up all their other posts about their games, practices and the NHL itself.

In addition to making sure you post a variety of photos (not just "salesy" ones), it's key to remember that there is such a thing as posting too often. You don't want to flood the feeds of your Instagram followers, you want them to look forward to your posts.

2. Paid And Promoted Posts

Consider adding paid Instagram tactics to your future content promotion strategy. Sponsored Photos and Sponsored Videos are two ad types that brands and businesses are utilizing to promote their content. Having said that, Instagram is very particular when it comes to partnering with advertisers. Currently, Instagram is only working with a few brands. However, advertisers can expect a full rollout to more businesses in the near future.

3. Formatting Your Images

Look for apps to help you edit and crop your photos. An app such as #SquareDroid or InstaSize helps to fit larger photos into the Instagram "square" with a choice of coloured borders. This way, your audience sees as much of your photo as you intended.

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Here is a screenshot of an Instagram video that was shot in wide format to fit in not only the person exercising but the rest of the fitness equipment they're using during a workout.

Another trick you may want to consider is to use a framing app. An app such as InstaFrame can help you frame up to 16 photos in order to post them as one. This is great for before and after photos, food, events and more.

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Here, I chose to frame a holiday dinner. Instead of uploading two separate photos, I decided to frame two images (dinner and dessert) into one upload. This can help with not overloading your audience's feeds with photos. Using a framing app gets the message out that you intended in a more efficient way.

Image filters can also impact your engagement. In addition to the filters that Instagram itself offers, consider a secondary app that may offer a larger variety of editing options. VSCO cam is very popular among bloggers, due to its range of beautiful filters. While editing your photos might seem like a lot of work, it can definitely lead to more followers, likes and comments.

4. Interaction With Your Audience

Tracking the activity and community engagement on your account is the key to its success. Is your community more active during specific days or times? Look for a pattern and consider publishing content during activity spikes. Also try and look at where (in the world) you're getting engagement from and take time zones into consideration. By only posting during daylight hours where you live, you may not be reaching your audience on an opposite schedule.

Be sure to thank others for liking and commenting on your images by holding down the user's name. Return the favour and create goodwill within the Instagram community by liking and commenting on other users images, too. Whenever possible, try to mention other users on Instagram-especially if they're following you. It's a great way to foster follower loyalty, build your community and develop partnerships with other content creators.

Another way to recognize followers is to repost their images. If they post a photo of themselves enjoying your product, attending an event, etc. is a great way to show that you look at photos when your followers tag you. Showing that the interaction goes both ways is a great way to build loyalty among your followers.

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Here is a great example of a repost. McDonald's Canada has reposted a photo from a follower eating one of their burgers over 30 years ago and today. They have also tagged the user using their Instagram handle and thanked them for sharing.

5. Gaining Followers

Check out your competitors' Instagram accounts, but more specifically, their followers. Are there any followers that you can engage with? If your competitors are sharing content that is similar to yours, you may be able to attract their followers to your community by liking, commenting or just simply following these people.

Just like other social platforms, Instagram is hashtag-friendly. Use hashtags to increase your chances of being discovered by other users. However, don't overuse hashtags on Instagram, as excessive hashtagging can decrease your engagement levels. Instead, only use one or two hashtags per image.

Be strategic when choosing hashtags to use on your posts. Stay away from ones that are too generic and try for something a little more specific to your brand. For example, instead of hashtagging #hockey, you may want to use something like #torontomapleleafs or #goleafsgo to make sure your fan base is targeted.

Having followers is so important when it comes to promoting on Instagram. Afterall, without people to look at your photos, your promotion efforts go nowhere. To learn about additional ways you can gain followers, check out this blog!

6. Promoting Your Instagram

Something that goes hand-in-hand with gaining followers is promoting your Instagram account. If you're wondering how to promote your Instagram, there are lots of ways. First, be sure that links to your different social media accounts are placed on your website.

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Here, the Toronto Blue Jays have done a great job of displaying all of their social media channels. Users are able to click each of the buttons on the left, and the Blue Jays' account will show up with the option to follow or like the page. By clicking each channel, the user is also shown some of the most recent photos or posts on that specific channel.

Another way to promote your Instagram is to make sure your Instagram posts are linked to other social channels such as Facebook or Twitter. By doing so, those users who may be unaware of your Instagram will likely see posts if they follow you on other social networks.

Accessibility is important to most users, and showing your audience that you are on multiple platforms (not just the most popular ones) allows them to access your channels from wherever they are whether it's at home, on their mobile phone or on a tablet.

Because of its rapid growth, Instagram is something that needs to be utilized. With nearly 200 million users worldwide, you can't afford to miss out on the chance to interact (for free!) with your audiences.

Make The Most Of Instagram

To make the most of Instagram, read our other articles (we've been using Instagram for a while now!):

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* Leader image with photo by gaganmoorthy