A little while ago we started to use Instagram to share insight and interesting snapshots of what happens behind the scenes of TechAcute. I used Instagram personally for a while when it was new but haven’t seriously used it for some time. There we were looking at our blank profile, not knowing what to do next and what to expect like everybody who starts a new account there.
We decided to post a variety of snapshots and videos that are generally taken exclusively for our Instagram account. We shared photos and video snippets from events, special locations and made sure to keep the fun in it. Whether we put a filter on it or not, the content is raw and unrefined. A blurry selfie or a shaky video recording of the latest in technology. It’s all welcome as long it’s authentic and gives additional insight into what we do: Surfing the internet and traveling the world to find the coolest innovation and the most disrupting technology for you.
With this article, I wanted to reflect what we have learned from the Instagram as we know it today, not as it was when it started out. It’s mainly aimed to help newcomers to stay motivated, using the platform, but perhaps there’s even something to learn for the Pro IG’ers.
1. Automation of comments and likes
Instagram nowadays is full of automated feedback such as generic comments and scripted likes. We encounter things like “Awesome photo!” and “Great!” all the time and while at first they feel real and supportive, we quickly began to realize that those are random and automated without an actual interest of the posting user account.
It makes it very difficult to engage with actual users who submitted an honest comment as feedback or as part of a communication to us. In most cases, you can identify who is an actual follower and who is a spammer, by checking out their profile or reading the comment.
If their profile already screams that they are a spam bot with suggestive themes of “get rich quick” or similar stunts it’s very likely to be fake. If a user’s comment contained more than a few words, there’s a good chance it was from an actual person. Sometimes it’s also obvious we are dealing with a machine, when they comment a tech photo with “That’s so cute!”.
Focus on real people and try to re-engage with your audience. You will quickly learn to know who’s real and who isn’t as you go. Ignore or report the spam bots.
2. Follower churning practice
On Instagram, it’s not easily possible to find out whether or not someone is following you (back). You will be notified about someone following you, being suggested to follow them back, however, there won’t be a notification as they unfollow you.
This is a social network mechanic that is unique to Instagram and while there are some benefits of it being as it is, the downside is a frequent abuse of people who “churn” their followers. That means they follow an account with the hope they will follow them back, only to unfollow them shortly after.
Certainly not a white hat practice in social media. Only a few would support this as a viable strategy to grow your audience. It’s borderline compliant to Instagram terms of service but everybody needs to decide that on their own. This leads us to the next bullet.
3. Followers come, followers go
It’s fair practice in social media that users follow you on an impulse and unfollow you if they don’t like what you share or the frequency you share content with them. On Instagram, we witnessed large numbers of people following you but there is also an unusually large number of people unfollowing you the same time.
This makes it relatively hard to stay motivated when you want to grow your audiences or make friends. As one week you could gain 100 followers but lose the same amount of followers, or more, or less. Don’t be frustrated about this.
This is normal to the platform and if you keep doing your thing, liking what you like, sharing your content and establishing relationships with others, you will gain more followers than you lose. Don’t forget the positive angle about this: It’s very likely that most people who unfollow you are just churning bots and you’re not actually losing your audience.
4. Video isn’t king of content
Video is an exciting format and might be the future. There are many apps and services that transform raw video into a cool snippet to share with your audience but often our photos are receiving more attention than our videos. Videos also have some limitations, such as not being able to tag users or brands as part of a video but you can still reference a location in the post. Maybe it’s just us but this is what we can understand from the engagement data of our own Instagram channel.
5. Tags make it or break it
As it’s relatively challenging to discover content on Instagram beyond the users you follow, the use of hashtags is imperative for being discovered by others. If you start a new Instagram presence and upload your first pictures without adding some hashtags to the description, prepare to receive no exposure and no reactions whatsoever.
From the time I spent on my personal Instagram account, I still remembered some formatting practices that allowed the use of hashtags without making the post look spammy. Just start with your description and share your story in the free-text field. When you’re done with that add relevant hashtags behind or below the actual description of your post.
When you hashtag your content, be reasonable and make relevant connections to people who are searching for content. In my opinion, you can be redundant with your tags as long they don’t reduce the experience of your audience. If you share a photo or video of a car you could possibly add hashtags such as #car #cars #automotive #auto and similar terms that people might be looking up in the search function.
If you have no idea about hashtags, try assessing what tags are associated with a single term. For instance look #car up on Hashtagify and see what it comes up with. Try to analyze your post and tag whatever seems relevant to you and to others. The maximum number of hashtags you can use on Instagram is 30. That also includes hashtags added in the comments section.
Beyond the common hashtag make sure you add the location where the photo or video was taken and if you got a reason for it, tag other users or brands in your photo, so they will receive a notification on that as well. Don’t be excessive about this though.
If you would like to know more about the hashtag itself and its origin, you should definitely check out the article “The History of the Hashtag“.
Bonus: Instagram is not fit to advertise linked content
Instagram does not support hyperlinks as part of a post. This means that any pasted URL would remain text and would not be formatted to a hyperlink. What does that mean for you? It means that the chance for someone actually typing the URL down and copying it into their browser is close to zero. You will not be able to post an image and make people visit the corresponding article or another website.
The only link is part of your profile listed as “homepage”. There is no other option of having the Instagram user leave their session for external content. That’s why we usually don’t advertise recent articles here on TechAcute and just use Instagram to share other visual content. If we want to redirect attention to an article we only would drop a comment as in “Check out our latest post for more information on this.
You can find a link in our bio.” Still, a little chance that someone goes through the trouble of crossing their session just to load up your site in their browser. Instagram is Instagram. It’s not Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+ or something else. It’s for photos and videos, not for linking external content.
If you’re looking for information on content marketing you should check out our article “Guide to Content Marketing“.
Instagram is fun and fast paced. It is, however, a whole new thing to learn to manage and not like other social networks. If you’re a company building and selling a physical product, it’s a great place to share photos and videos about your solution and lifestyle. If your company is mostly about virtual products or services, it’s going to be really challenging for you to ramp up a likable Instagram stream.
What to take photos of? The developer? The support staff? The lunch break with folks eating pizza? Sure you can do one or two shots but beyond that? Think hard if Instagram is the right place for you before you commit to an account. An abandoned social network account is certainly not very likable.
If you ask one or more people of your company to support your organization’s Instagram efforts, make sure they want to do it and make sure they have active personal accounts as well. Instagram is not exactly a social media network for beginners.
Without a doubt, please have a look at our Instagram feed as well and share your opinion with us. Have some other experiences about our pointers above? Want to share a positive or negative example? It’s all welcome feedback. Please share your thoughts with us using the comment section below!
Photo credit: Wiam Belhis /Conny Nolzen / Christopher Isak / Silvia Spiva