Social Media is as competitive today as it has ever been. It is a war. Unless you are deceptiveness funny, boldly quirky, extremely pretty or just downright famous, sorry to say, your chances of survival are as good as chances of an ant surviving in an elephant stampede. So does that mean you cannot survive? Of course you can, but obviously you have to plan and do things in a planned way, or in short just read this guide that would maybe not empower you to become a Social Media celeb overnight, but perhaps improve your chances of being one than what they were a few seconds ago, which were let’s be honest null!
So, let’s dive in to Instagram to start off with and see what works, what does not work and what to do to make yourself or your brand to standout on Instagram.
1. Build a personality, not a brand:
Your Instagram profile is your personality. It is one platform that screams the age-old saying that pictures talk louder than words. This does not mean you have to be an expert photographer, it just means like like any other platform, you have to be selective about your content. When you look at brands that have leveraged Instagram to do well, one thing is very obvious, that the personality of the brand shows in every picture. For the sake of simplicity, we will consider an individual as a brand too. Let’s discuss this with the help of an example both of a famous Instagram Celeb and of a famous Brand.
a) Famous Insta Celeb: iJustine
iJustine or Justine Ezarik is one of the oldest tech personalities of Youtube. You may argue that she is famous cause of her breathtakingly good looks, but the story is deeper. If you go through iJustine’s instagram profile here you will see a personality. She’s funny, smart, trendy, fashionable, maybe loves her siblings and likes her video games. Pretty much every single image revolves around this. You do not see too much of food or even landscapes or macro shots cause that’s not her. What’s the lesson then? The lesson is your instagram profile should tell the person you are. People use Instagram to post random images, and well you can, but that is certainly not going to give your profile that personal feeling. It would be like another brick in the wall.
b) Famous Brand Account: Nike
If you love sports you love Nike. one may argue that Nike as a big brand has a distinct advantage and therefore the huge number of followers. But Coca Cola is no slouch either, and despite that Nike has 30 times the followers as compared to Coca Cola. A quick look at Nike shows that brand is all about speed, about sports, about hard work and about taking chances in the wild. See, how there is no quotes instagramm’d there, because Nike has always been about strong visuals, less slogans. Again, the brand personality is reflected in the photo stream. Some of the images of Rafael Nadal or Serena Williams fist pimping are so strong visuals. Notice how in most of the images posted by Nike, there is not even a brand symbol used. Saying without saying if you will.
So the bottom line is, select your brand personality, and then use that on your Instagram profile. A good exercise for this is, make an Instagram cloud and fill it with words that best describe you or your brand, and make sure you post a visual around a particular word everyday. And, you will suddenly see an upsurge in your followers.
2. Use Hashtags, lots of them, at least to start with:
A quick way to gain likes on Instagram is bombarding your image with tags. tags such as #TagsForLikes, #FollowForFollow #Instapic etc. If you are starting off new on the platform, right tags can do wonders for your Instagram account. A word of caution though, does not insert tags in the description of your images. Once you have uploaded the image with a valid caption, go ahead and fill the first comment field with tags. At the time of writing, Instagram allows thirty tags, so pick carefully. You may also use an external application like Tags for likes to pick the tags for you for a particular category. Remember as you gain followers to tone down on the usage of your hashtags as they may be a mild annoyance, but till you get the first thousand, go ahead and let those hashtags shine on the images. It is also worth noting that at certain times, certain types of tags get a higher traction than the others. So, experiment with the timing of your posts too for a greater effect. (Image: Journeys of Growth)
3. Tag the Right Profiles
Just like Facebook, Instagram brings the ability for you to tag the right profile in your image. So for example, you are posting a picture of yourself running and you are wearing Puma shoes, go ahead and tag official account of Puma. This way, your image will show up on Puma’s profile under tagged images and somebody who does not know you or your profile is likely to check out simply because he is connected to the brand. Tagging right profile also gives a sense of professionalism, like you know your way around the platform, it gives a grander than grand appearance, so next time, you are at a restaurant or watching your favorite football team in action and decide to instagram the moment, make sure to tag the place or the team, or whoever connected to the image has an Instagram profile. (image: Zowchow)
4. Use Instagram Videos:
Videos take the entire experience of engagement to the next level. Instagram allows you to record 15 seconds videos. Since you only have 15 seconds, make sure your videos are fun to watch and have a message. Thanks to a recently released feature, you could also embed these Instagram videos to your website for a thorough coverage of your profile. So make sure you use the video feature judiciously but only when you have the right content. Making a video for just sake of one will not cut it. Using well known tricks like stop motion or even a time lapse video shot with the camera reel of your device in a square mode could be some of the interesting content choices. (image: Newyorker)
5. Fill your Profile:
It is gob smacking how many people neglect the need to have a fully informative Instagram profile. Make sure, you have at least one contact detail, maybe your website, or your Twitter handle or even E-Mail so that people can get in touch with you personally. Use an appropriate Display Picture and not just a random image like that of a flower. Use the description space carefully to promote yourself, your brand and your business. And lastly, however silly it may sound, check for grammatical or spelling errors in your description. A typo there could really ruin a lot of things for you. (image: MarketingThink)
6. Use Witty Captions:
We underestimate the power of well-crafted and used words. Sometimes a one-word caption is sufficient to aptly describe the image, whole on other occasions you may use a more detailed description. The rule of thumb though is, the more interesting your picture, or rather the more unique it is, keep the words shorter but use the right one. Instagram is all about your images talking, but throwing in a right word(s) in description will only make the image look all that more desirable. Be witty, be original, perhaps even poetic but always make sure your words describe the image well and thoroughly. (Image: Prasad Naik)
7. Cultivate a Following:
Instagram allows you the ability to share images on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr etc. If you have an account on those Social channels, make sure you are sharing your image there. This way, if your Facebook friend is on Instagram and does not follow you already, will know about your presence and is likely to follow you in Instagram too. This can be a very useful way of gathering followers if you are new to the platform. Not just for Instagram, this trick would help you leverage engagement on other platforms too as images are always great conversation starters both on Twitter and Facebook. (image: iMore)
8. Use Filters:
Now this is a tough one. As somebody who loves to take RAW images and post process them, filters seem small time. But, they are there for a reason and that is to enhance the visual appeal of your image. Use them appropriately but use them. Use things like Focus blur to highlight the action centre and play around with borders if the need be. For this, obviously, you would need to have a thorough knowledge of the control settings and options that Instagram provide. To take it a notch above, it is always a good idea to tweak an image in a square dimension after taking it from the camera app of your device and use an external albeit on mobile application like Snapseed or even PS Touch to edit things. A good example of this would be, when shooting antique silver jewellery, making the image Black&White with the help of a filter will give that added appeal to your image that perhaps it did not originally have. Throw in the right tags, a quote talking about how ageless few things can be, tag the right people and boom, you have a winner.
At the end of the day, its all about creating WOW moments with pictures:
Notice how we kept the most important point at the end? The reason is simple. if you use the points above, you can actually take your time into developing a good Instagram photographer. Photography is an art, and not most of us are born with it. But, we can all learn. It’s about visualising well and knowing the camera capabilities of your smartphone on which you are taking the picture. The smartphones of today come with several interesting features. Use micro shots, long shots with greater depth of field, play with white balance, play with shutter speed for things like motion blur when taking picture. A good picture is just as valuable on Instagram as anywhere else. A motion blur shot of a Ferrari revving engine will beat just as many Instagram hearts as perhaps on Facebook. So make sure, you learn and practice good photography. It kind of brings us back to the first point of building the brand. Instagram is not about holding the camera and pressing the shutter button aimlessly. It’s about reflecting personality. (image: Nike)
So, those were some of the tips that if you keep the above points in mind, there is no reason why one day, your picture would not feature on the explore page of Instagram. Yes, it can be tricky and at times time taking, but if pictures are your thing and you enjoy photography, then Instagram is one platform that is more rewarding. One can argue that in an 800×800 image, plenty of details are lost and a true photographer will go on Flickr and maybe upload all of his 41 Mega Pixels raw shot there, which is fine. But your average Joe, which forms the target audience is definitely not on Flickr but on Instagram, and if you want to connect with that audience, why not start right away.