Social media has become a major part of our lives. First came Myspace, and then Facebook. Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram soon followed.
If you think that social media is just for kids, you couldn’t be more wrong. It’s here to stay. If you choose to embrace it, you may be surprised at how simple these platforms can be to help you promote your brand and business. I am not an expert in every platform; I’m more fluent in some than others. My favorite is Instagram. I’m going show you the basics of navigating the smartphone app and how Instagram can help promote your brand and attract new customers.
What is Instagram?
Instagram is an app that allows you to post photos and videos to create an online gallery for the world to enjoy. You’ll be able to tag friends to notify them that you’ve posted photos. People who view your photos can click the heart button to show that they love your photo, and they can also leave comments. Instagram is simple to navigate, and yet it’s powerful in the way it represents you, your brand and business —“ all with very little time and effort. This is mainly why it’s one of my favorite apps.
At the bottom of the screen are five buttons —“ Home, Search, Camera/Picture, Activity and Profile.
The Home button shows you the most recent photos from the people you are following. As you can imagine, the more people you are following, the lengthier your feed will be.
The Search button is where you search for top-rated pictures, a specific user, a hashtag or places photos were taken.
The Camera/Picture button allows you to take a new photo or upload a recent photo from your phone’s picture gallery.
The Activity button shows you people who liked your photo, followed you, left a comment or tagged you in a photo.
The Profile button shows your entire photo gallery. Here you can also find how many people you are following and, more importantly, how many people are following you. There is also an “edit profile” tab that allows you make changes to your profile.
Maximizing Your Photo Gallery
I can’t stress enough how important it is to regularly modify your gallery. When you look at your gallery as a whole, try to stay away from posting pictures or videos of the same color. Mix it up, and try to post a balanced combination of pictures, content with crazy effects, videos… and even selfies. Yes, selfies are important. Some of us hate to have our picture taken —“ no one is guiltier of this than I —“ but it’s important for your clients to have a face to associate with your brand.
It’s important to take not good —“ but great photos. You don’t need to buy the latest camera to do this. With a little practice and today’s technology, most smart phones can make you look like a seasoned professional. You can also use lenses that attach to your phone, like the olloclip, for zooming and macro shots. Making sure your pictures are in focus is a no-brainer. The key is composition —“ the rule of thirds, lighting and, most importantly, creativity. Creativity is crucial in making an average photo great.
Anyone can take a picture of a flower. It’s when you take that photo at an unusual angle or under the right light that brings it to life. After you take the photo, make it look even better before you share it! There are many filters within the app that can be applied to enhance your photo, if you choose to do so. Personally, I rarely use the filters Instagram offers and instead prefer to adjust brightness, contrast, and saturation manually within the app. It’s quick and easy, allowing me to deliver the great photo I want my followers to see. Most of the time, I’ll attach a caption about the content. A brief summary of the content is enough for users to understand exactly what they are looking at. Occasionally, if the content is especially amazing, no caption is required.
Pictures in Motion
Videos are also a key part to attracting followers to your gallery. Keep your content focused and interesting. Instagram allows you to post videos up to 15 seconds long. You can shoot the video directly from Instagram or import videos you have previously taken. If the videos are longer than 15 seconds, don’t worry —“ you can trim them to create the desired content you wish to share. Adding effects to your video is not only fun, but it’s also a great way to direct attention to your video. Effects such as time-lapse and slo-mo are very popular and fun to watch.
Add Another App or Two
There are some amazing applications out there to make your pictures stand out and get the attention they deserve. Many of them are free!
One of my favorites is Framatic. Framatic gives you a variety of frames and borders to make your photos look more professional. In addition, it allows you to watermark your photo to protect it from theft.
Tangled FX allows you to turn an average photo into something truly amazing. It takes the most dominant lines in your photo and turns them into radical brushstrokes that you would normally see in abstract artwork.
Flipagram is an application that creates a video from photos you select. You can even add music to the Flipagram video to capture the mood you are trying to convey to your audience.
Repost is an application for Instagram that gives you the ability to repost a picture that another user has posted, giving them full credit for their work. Why would reposting someone else’s work be important? Perhaps you are showcasing someone else’s work in order to bring attention to both galleries. This is a win-win for both parties.
The name of the game on Instagram is to stay relevant. There are times I simply don’t have a photo I want to post to my account, so I’ll turn to Repost. It keeps me active, and I’m also drawing attention to another user’s account. This, oddly enough, can help you gain followers.
Hashtags are used in the social media world to help users locate specific topics, photos, people or businesses. Simply put, hashtags act the way billboards and freeway signs do. They guide you to what you are searching for. Add the pound or “hash” sign to the front of a word, and you have a hashtag. For example: #koi. Clicking on this hashtag will show you media from all users who have used this particular hashtag. If I have an amazing photo of a water lily I want everyone to see, it’s my job to direct them to that photo by getting creative with the 30 hashtags per post that Instagram allows you. Obviously, I’m going to use #waterlily, but beyond that, this is where creativity pays off. Using additional, clever hashtags with your photo will drive all kinds of traffic to your picture, even users who weren’t necessarily looking for you. But now, all of a sudden, they are on your page, looking at your gallery and maybe even commenting, because that picture of yours is great!
Current topics or events in the news can also serve as great hashtags to direct attention to your gallery. Add those hashtags to draw in new users. This is how you market your brand outside your trade. It’s easy and effective.
Another trick I’ll often use is to only include 29 hashtags. Then I have the flexibility to add a single hashtag at a later date to bring traffic back to an older photo. For example, I posted a picture six months ago, and it attracted a lot of attention at the time. But time passed, and the photo got less and less attention. So, I went back to that picture and added a new hashtag in the comments section, perhaps pertaining to something that was popular or making news. By doing this, I brought that old post back to life and attracted potential new followers.
Find Your Followers
It’s imperative to be active on a daily basis if you want to gain followers. Do your best to post every day, if you can. If posting daily is too much, aim for every other day or once a week. Have a goal and stick to it. Make sure you are active with your followers. Like and comment on their photos. Respond to and thank others for the comments they leave on your content. Search for hashtags that you are interested in, making it easier for you to leave sincere comments. As you like and comment on others’ content, you will find that you slowly but surely gain a respectable following. When looking for people to follow, pay attention to their number of followers, versus the number of people they follow back. There are accounts that have thousands of followers, but they only follow a few hundred people back. Spending time on accounts like these can be a waste of your time. Instead, look for users with a more even “followers versus following” ratio. Chances are, these are the users that will follow you back when you follow them first.
I did some beta testing with POND Trade Magazine’s Instagram account to see the most effective way to gain followers, and the results were interesting. Posting pictures without any hashtags received very little activity. The addition of hashtags increased the activity dramatically. I selected a number of users to follow without liking or commenting on any of their content, and the number of followers increased about 15 percent. When I performed the same test but also liked three or four photos, the number of followers increased about 23 percent. And if I added a comment on at least one photo, the number of followers jumped 30 percent.
Just Five Minutes a Day
Like everything else in this world, you will get out of your Instagram what you put into it. If you are not regularly active, you are not going to see much activity. It may take some time to establish your account, but stay with it, and post a picture every day. The great thing about Instagram is, once you’ve mastered the ins and outs of using it, it doesn’t require a lot of time to stay active and relevant. I’ll spend about five minutes every morning, sometimes during a commercial break, posting content. This includes adding a frame, editing color, adding a caption, posting it online to Instagram and linking it to my Facebook and Twitter accounts. Covering all your social media platforms is easy to do and gains the maximum level of exposure. I’ll also spend a few moments perusing my account throughout the day to find new followers and check out content posted by the people I’m following. Just five minutes a day is a very cost-effective way to promote your business. It’s essentially free advertising —“ all it costs you is a few minutes. We have gained new business directly from our Instagram account, referred business from Instagram to others in our network and connected with others within our industry, such as artists and realtors. Give it a try! Five minutes a day is an easy way to leave a digital footprint in the social media world. Show off your talents to connect with customers old and new who want what you have to offer.