This article is jointly written by myself (Amber aka California Girl) and Audrey from www.sanityfound.me. We felt it was time to share some Instagram insights we’ve gained in the short period that we have been trying to navigate the minefield. Some are on point; others are just the odd quirks we’ve picked up along the way.
First a little background
Audrey: I joined Instagram as a blogger in the middle of August. It’s been an interesting four months of multiple marriage proposals, figuring out the game of unfollowers, gaining huge inspiration from amazing photographers, and making amazing Instagrammer friends.
Amber:You’re still stuck on the marriage proposals, aren’t you?
Audrey:I wish I was kidding, honestly, I do. Direct Messaging on Instagram is both a blessing and a curse. I’ve had outright proposals and hints at proposals; including the offer of tigers and the option of living on the supposed huge family estate in who knows where. Then, of course, the very overly forward people who think Instagram is really a dating site with landscape photos of unmentionable places…
Yes, I know. I was speechless when it first happened and it didn’t stop at the one time either. It got to the point that in month three I put in my bio “No Marriage Proposals”. Did it deter them? I’ve had fewer suggestive messages and finally, for a whole week, I can happily say I didn’t get even one! Success!
Amber: I have been on Instagram for about a year. However, I have only really been focusing on it for the past four months. (Thanks to Audrey kicking my arse on a daily basis and nagging me.) When I first started my blog, I had no clue about Instagram or Twitter and its vital importance to becoming successful in todays social media world.
Once I did join Instagram, I had no idea about hashtags, the etiquette, or how the whole thing worked. I just posted my photos and didn’t understand why I was only getting a couple of likes per photo. It was very frustrating! Even after starting to use hashtags, I still didn’t understand how to go about getting my photos seen. (Just a note here – I got no marriage proposals or suggestive messages – I must be doing something wrong or Audrey has some uh “skills” I don’t know about…!)
One of the reasons that Audrey and I are writing this so-called guide is that there is no real “free” help or guide to any of this stuff. You can pay for people’s expert advice, but there is no easy comprehensive guide to how this works. Other bloggers or users will give you tiny snippets of advice but in my case, it still didn’t lead me to any understanding. (I’m old school people!).
Audrey: Firstly I never nag. And secondly… Moving on… Amber and I are big believers in being part of our community and helping others along our way. That’s why we are writing this guide. We are simply putting good Karma out there and passing it on. We do not profess to be experts in any shape or form, just forever evolving Instagrammers.
Why use Instagram in the first place?
Audrey: For a blogger or business, the primary reason is to get your photos / art / brand out there. If you’re someone who just wants to post for the family and personal friends, keep your account private.
Amber: Instagram is a useful tool to get your message out to the masses. I hate to say it but people today are too busy to read long blog posts about anything. Times are a changing. (The truth is, only older people read long articles these days – young people use Twitter and Instagram pretty much exclusively.)
People like snapshots of your material; “soundbites” and pictures or videos that tell your story for you. Write a paragraph and your audience doesn’t have to take much time to wade through your information. It’s a fantastic marketing tool for you and your brand.
Some people we know just focus on Instagram to get their audience. Instagram posts are short, sweet, and short-lived. If they are eye-catching enough though, they can make an impression about a product or a place enough to “influence” the viewer into thinking the place is fantastic or bad. That is the power that Instagram has.
Audrey: I am shy. Ok, stop laughing now. No, seriously… stop! Yes, I am shy. I am the most self-critical person you could meet with regards to my art in any form; be it painting, photography, or sculpture. Putting my photos on Instagram was a huge step for me. Posting them out there in the huge world for people who don’t know me from a bar of soap to see was a form of artistic relief. I’m not alone on this one, am I?
Instagram can be impersonal and yet very personal, It’s a great way to get your stuff out there especially for us ultra shy folk. It’s also a nice shock when people actually like your stuff!
Amber: Here is the good news! First, the photography can be learned with a cell phone even if you don’t have a good camera. I am living proof of that, as I never took a photo with my cell phone before August of this year. (Its all thanks to the
nagging encouragement from Audrey and @GreenLakeGrl and the breaking of my DSLR camera in the middle of an important blogging assignment – sigh.)
Secondly, those amazing photos I was seeing were mostly stolen from professional websites or taken with pro equipment and not a cell phone and edited with pro software. Don’t be discouraged, like everything else it just takes the right cell phone app software and lots of practice to get it right. Sometimes it’s the creativity of a photo that makes it a winner.
Personal Account vs. Business Account
Audrey: Honestly I don’t see too much difference between the two with regards to engagement. The business account does give you the additional advantage of analytics and insights along with additional contact options for your followers. Other than that it’s up to you which you prefer.
If you want more insight head over to iconosquare.com and start a trial, the insights you gain through their analytics are incredible.
Should my profile be set to public or private?
Amber: If you are reading this post, you are trying to grow your followers. If that is the case your profile should be set to public. If you only want your profile to be for your friends and loved ones, make that private. A private profile can’t be seen by anyone you haven’t given permission to no matter how many hashtags you type in. Keep that in mind.
Audrey: As a side note I only follow private accounts if it is someone I know in real life. I’m not into the whole “oh let me see what they have” story. I don’t have time and, ten to one, marriage proposals will follow. Public accounts will get more “hits” but it does open you up to the aforementioned specials that may or may not include said marriage proposals.
The Dreaded Instagram Algorithm and Pods
Amber: I already said that the folks at Instagram are wiseguys. They are trying to force people who they consider businesses (bloggers) to pay for people to see their posts. It is a way to monetize their service which started out as free. However, it is super annoying to have slaved to get 500 likes per photo and then wake up one day to get 80. I am not amused!
Now, most bloggers make absolutely zero money blogging. There are maybe the top 10% who even cover their costs. Only the top 2-3% actually make a living blogging. It’s like Instagram want to make it extra hard to get into the top class.
To get around this algorithm nightmare, people have banded together and created “pods”. Pods are groups that have private messaging chats on Instagram. It’s best to have groups of under fifteen people per pod so that you aren’t committing to liking and commenting on so many posts that you can’t keep up. All of the people in the pod make an agreement to like and comment on each other’s photos to bring up their engagement. Pods can be brilliant, they can also be a pain if everyone isn’t holding up their end of the deal.
The other thing is that people commenting need to write at least five words on your post so that it helps avoid the dreaded algorithm Instagram uses and keeps your profile up where people can see you. Complicated right? Instagram isn’t making it easy, are they? Note: Make sure you don’t name your pod with the word “pod” in it. If you do, Instagram will ban you.
Software for Instagram to help you keep it all straight and on track
Audrey: There are a lot of apps that help you with keeping things on track, in order, and appeals to my Virgo nature. I use the following apps. If you use any not listed, shout – I’m always looking out for easier ways to do things… and I’m a geek for apps and software! No seriously I really am a secret tech freak who has a love of cookies.
Later.com – this is my “go-to” scheduler and photo organizer for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I like it the most because it’s both free and useful when managing multiple accounts. I have honestly tried pretty much all of them out there and so far this is it for me.
Lightroom app – I like to use it for things that Google’s Snapseed can’t do. Both of these trusty apps allow me to edit photos on the fly without pixelating or destroying the quality of the images. On Instagram, quality and high contrast are key.
Canva – Oh heavens this is a lifesaver and without it, I’d be in Photoshop hell! I’m a graphic designer so that should say it all. You can literally create graphics for Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and so so many more; including the beloved Instagram stories… all to the correct size. Oh, and it’s also free. I really like free things.
Followers & Likes Tracker – It’s a phone app that is awesome if you’re into keeping those that follow you vs unfollowing the unfollowers. I run it once a day, not because it stresses me out, but because I try to like all my follower’s posts and it gets a bit much liking people who don’t return the courtesy of following me too.
In the coming weeks
- Instagram and the business of hashtags
- Stories, Photos, and Selfies…
- Instagram and the game of followers
If you have anything to add or if you think we skipped or missed something give us a shout in the comments, we are always game to learn more as well! Any questions, we will try answer and if we don’t know we will try find out for you!
Amber: Do us a small favor if these tips help you, send us back some love. Follow us on our social media accounts; especially Instagram and Twitter. Like, comment, and share our posts. That is after all how it all works right?
You can find Sanityfound on Twitter and Instagram @Sanityfound
You can find Napa Food and Vine on Twitter and Instagram @Napafoodandvine