This post was originally published on my personal blog in May 2017, following a trip to the BlogOn MSI Conference in Manchester. If you are wanting to learn how to harness the power of Instagram to reach your audience, you’ll find so many useful tips in this post.
I chose the name “Instagram Queen” for the amazing Harriet from Toby and Roo, because it just fits her perfectly. With over 80 thousand followers on instagram, it is clear that she really is the bees knees. Her hilarious accounts of what it’s like to be a parent of young kids (the “I just wanted a bath” video being a classic example of this) have captured the hearts of so many. But as Harriet herself said, “if content is queen, then engagement is her king”.
I’ve been lucky enough to know Harriet for several years now, having first met her at another conference way back in 2014 (that’s a long time in the blogosphere, don’t you know!) And it has been a joy to watch her passion and skills lead to great success in her online work. So it was absolutely no surprise to me that her session at the Blog On Conference this past weekend was packed to brimming
There was so much information given out during the short 45 minute session – it’s been a long time since I have needed to write as fast as I did to get it all down (I really must learn shorthand one day!) I kid you not, I have 4 pages worth of notes to share with you, and even with all of that Harriet was still gutted that she couldn’t fit more in. That’s why she’s the Instagram Queen, and that’s why I’m sharing my notes from her session with you all – because they are awesome.
Instagram is keyword searchable – make sure that both your profile and your images take this into account.
600 Million people use instagram every month. It is estimated that 68% of those are female, and 90% of them are under 35.
Analytics will tell you when most of your followers are online – use them to help you connect with others more efficiently. You can access analytics if you have a business account. If you don’t have a business account, you can try third party apps like Squarelovin.
Post consistently – if you have under 10k followers, post 2-3 times per day; if you have more than 10k followers aim for 1-3 times per day.
If you post more frequently than this, your engagement will drop. Instagram no longer works like a timeline – it shows your posts to those you are most engaged with you, so if they see multiple posts from you it will come across as spammy and they will stop engaging.
Equally, if you don’t post consistently, you won’t give your followers a chance to engage with your content and they will become less likely to see it in future.
Put your niche before your name in your profile (e.g. Harriet’s says, “Parent Blogger. Harriet” not “Harriet. Parent Blogger”). This means that when people search for parent bloggers to follow, you will come up in a search easier than if your name was first.
Add an email address to your profile – make it easy for people to contact you.
Also make sure your website is in your profile – it is the only place on instagram where you can add a clickable link, so use it!
Your profile image should be on brand – that means either a photo of you or of your logo. People want to see who you are.
Have 3 things that you are known for and stick with them (Harriet used the example of two of hers, which are always using emojis, and swearing!)
Don’t try to copy others or worry about how successful they are – build your own style and success.
It is possible to be too niche – don’t worry about doing something slightly different from time to time, as long as you can make them relatable to your core niche. Brands will look at your feed, and it is if too narrow, it may result in you losing potential opportunities.
Harriet used the example of how she worked with a Nails Inc and created an image of how she found time to pamper herself as a busy mum, as that would speak more to her audience than a photo of her painted nails alone – see below.
HOW TO GROW YOUR INSTAGRAM Account
This is where Harriet’s brilliant phrase, “If content is queen, then engagement is her king” comes in…
Follow other Instagrammers within your niche.
Comment on other photos within your niche.
However much you comment, comment more! People will see these comments and come to your profile to find out about you – this can (and does) lead to new followers.
Like things, a lot. However, don’t do it all at once as you may get blocked by instagram. You will usually get a warning from instagram, followed by a “soft block”, which can last anywhere between 12 hours and a week. Finally, if you keep doing it, you could have your account deleted.
If you see the hashtag #ad, comment to support your fellow bloggers and instagrammers.
But remember that your niche is not other bloggers (support them, but remember your niche is not “blogger”).
Unfollow people if you’re not engaging with them – you aren’t helping them by being an unengaged follower.
THE BIG NO-NOS
Never buy followers or likes – it is obvious when you have done so.
Avoid follow for follow opportunities – they’re aren’t supportive. Instagram is ratio sensitive and so they will know. You are actually capped at following a maximum of 7,500 accounts, and some brands will ask that you follow less than 2,000.
Don’t play the follow/unfollow game with your fellow bloggers – this is popular in the US and a lot of businesses do it on instagram, but whilst it works it really annoys a lot of bloggers.
Don’t use automated systems for commenting and liking – instagram is slowly shutting them down and they don’t help with engagement anyway (plus they annoy people and are often really obvious).
hashtags and keywords
People won’t find you unless you market yourself, so hashtags and keywords are vital.
Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags on a post, so use them all! Think of them like flyers – you wouldn’t print out a load of flyers and only hand out a third of them, so why only use a third of the hashtags you’re allowed to use.
Always place hashtags in the first comment rather than the caption – this avoids making people scroll down incessantly.
Research relevant hashtags and keywords using the instagram search function, and aim to get into the top 9 results (i.e. those that show first on the search results screen).
The number below a hashtag or keyword on the results page shows you how many people are using it. You will have far more luck getting into the top 9 results if you use a less popular hashtag, rather than one which has 100k+ people using it.
The top placements in the search results are worked out based on the speed of engagement in ratio to the followers someone has, rather than the total number of likes per post. This means that smaller accounts have a better chance of showing up in results.
Have presaved lists of various hashtags and keywords you can use for different types of posts. This makes it much quicker and easier to use them when posting.
Be aware that instagram is moving away from using hashtags to keywords, so make sure you use carefully selected keywords in your caption to compensate for this.
This change in the use of keywords instead of relying on hashtags alone has led to various speculation over “shadow banning”. Shadow banning is not a thing – The Social Media Posse have done some research which shows this change towards using keywords for SEO functions, rather than hashtags.
HOW TO BOOST ENGAGEMENT
Instagram’s algorithm is based on speed – it’s all about how many people engage with your content within a certain time frame.
Reply to comments left, to keep engagement going.
Join a comment pod.
Join an Instagram Instant group on Facebook, such as Instagram Bloggers UK, Instagram Fabulous, and UK Instagram Support.
Engage on followers’ posts.
Join in with like for like threads (i.e. those where instagrammers share an image they would like engagement on in return for engagement on one of your own posts).
Use hashtags and then comment and/or like the top 9 results for each hashtag used straight after you post your image. They are likely to return the favour.
You should be making use of this feature.
Aim for between 5 and 30 stories per day.
Do one just after you post, so followers know you are on the app.
They are ideal for supporting other things you have done, to direct people to a blog post or specific instagram share etc.
If they are sponsored, they must include the #ad hashtag.
MAKING MONEY FROM INSTAGRAM
Instagram is second only to YouTube in terms of monetary value.
The standard rate is 1-10% of the number of instagram followers, if you engagement is good (e.g. 10k followers = £100 per post).
Engagement rates for standard users is around 1% – to work with brands you want yours to be between 2-5%. If it is higher than this, make sure you say so when talking with brands. However it’s important to note that some niches will always have a higher engagement rate than others.
Your overall theme is what matters – numbers aren’t enough if your feed isn’t well curated.
When pitching to a brand, show them examples of previous posts that had a good engagement, and make them relevant to your idea for the work you want to do with the brand. This helps them to see your vision and know that it will lead to good engagement.
PITCHING TO BRANDS
Brands will often contact you with information regarding current campaigns – if you want to be involved with a brand try contacting them and asking if they have a campaign you could collaborate with them on.
Look at what other bloggers are working on – which brands are actively seeking collaborations with bloggers and instagrammers.
Check the hashtags #ad, #spon# #sponsored, #advert, and #collaborative to find current campaigns.
Use Twitter and LinkedIn to find the name of the person you should contact at the brand you wish to work with. Sending an email to the right person will make a big difference.
Utilise contacts from previous campaigns you’ve worked on.
OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER
Check with your apps can do – some apps have access to your account and can like things for you. Not all of them do this, but some do, so it’s important to monitor your account.
Phew… can you believe Harriet managed to fit all that into 45 minutes? It has taken me longer than that to type it all up! I do hope that it has helped you feel more confident with growing your own instagram account – I know I have got a lot of action points to follow myself.
All that’s left for me to say is a massive thank you to Harriet, for being so awesome.