Last week, I started writing a book about social media, to give away for free to you. It’s getting long, but I felt like it might not be addressing the questions that you might be wondering. I asked on a couple of Facebook groups filled with smart people “do you mind giving me your top questions about Instagram?” I included some suggested questions, but no one really seemed interested in the answers to those.
I got 20 questions. Here are the replies. If you like this sort of thing or have your own question, reply back and let me know. I’m going to keep writing and start making videos with this content for people who don’t enjoy reading as much as I do. Eventually, this will be an empire.
If you’re not familiar with Instagram, here’s a quick read to bring you up to speed.
I remember hearing about Instagram in 2012, signing up, and being confused at the concept. “Why do we need Instagram if Facebook already exists? Who wants to see pictures of other people’s food?” And this was before the selfie craze was born.
Here’s the way to think about it, using a brief foray into recent history. Back in the early time of camera phones and smartphones, pictures you took stayed on your phone. As cameras in smartphones improved, the quality of pictures rose. Instagram started as a photo service to get pictures off your phone. Sure, there were always services like Kodak Gallery and Snapfish to print your photos out, but the process of uploading them to the computer, then to the website, then cropping or resizing them to finally placing an order was excruciating – never mind the weeklong delay waiting for the pictures to arrive. I can personally attest to leaving hundreds of pictures in my cart on those websites, just because I got fed up with the process.
The point of Instagram, simply, is to share the pictures that live on your phone, the great photos you take that might not see the light of day otherwise. Instagram is mobile only, meaning you can’t upload from the computer to Instagram. (Let’s not get into the hoops that professional photographers have to go through to post photos from their DSLRs – well, we’re used to it now, but Instagram is designed to be mobile-only.)
Do you remember the phase “a picture is worth a thousand words”? We all know what it means. And although people do like to read, a person in today’s world is more likely to digest and react to a photo than read a thousand words and respond.
When was the last time you were in art museum? Did you walk around? There were probably many pictures on the walls, but why did some pictures hold your attention more than others? Perhaps it was the subject matter. Maybe it was the colors the artist used. Your attention might have been captured because there was a crowd around a certain painting. Everyone is attracted to different artwork for different reasons.
That’s the easiest mindset to go into Instagram with. A picture is worth a thousand words, and Instagram is a Mobile-only, living art museum. Photos on Instagram don’t have to be perfect, just good enough. If you can show what you’re doing in that moment, why that moment is special as you’re in it – you’re ready for Instagram. If people might like that photo because of the subject matter, or the colors in the picture, or because other people are interested, then you’re on your way to making your own living art museum on Instagram.
After that quick briefing, here are the questions and the answers!
1. How can I best interact with Instagram via desktop? I prefer seeing videos/photos full size.
You can view photos at Instagram.com, you can comment and like things, but you can’t post. Instagram is really designed to be mobile only. Alternatively, you could always get an app to see your phone or tablet screen on the PC, and do it that way.
2. What Instagram can do that a Facebook page does not?
Instagram gets you in front of a different audience. Instagram is a younger, more visual demographic, although that is trending to a slightly older set over the past 12 months.
3. How much is too much with hashtags? Compare/contrast Instagram vs Facebook when it comes to hashtags.
You can have up to 30 hashtags per post. Go crazy with that. The more hashtags, the better, up to 30. Don’t use them as jokes, though. (#whatsthepointofhashtags is useless.) You should also spend time clicking on the hashtags you use and commenting on the pictures other people post, if you like them.
Hashtags don’t really work as well on Facebook, they were added as more of an afterthought later.
4. If the picture tells the story what should the hashtags do?
Hashtags enable posts to be found by searching and also group conversations together. The most important thing to remember is that hashtags are how people who you are not following you yet will find your post.
5. How can I use Instagram to promote my blog posts in a proper, non-spammy way?
Take a graphic from your blog post, write the title on it in block letters, and post it. Make sure the title is engaging, the put the link in your profile. Change that link frequently (like, every time you get a new blog post.)
6. How can Instagram support a personal brand?
Instagram is perfect for personal branding. The platform gives you a variety of mediums to show your work and creativity. You can use pictures, video, text on pictures or text on video. You can use the Stories to show what you’re doing in small 10 second blocks. You can show people your value, your mission, your purpose or whatever else you’re trying to accomplish by using a variety of those methods.
7. Should I change my Instagram handle to my first and last name?
Yes! It should be your first name, your last name, and exactly what you do. You’d be very surprised how many people click on your name after seeing you comment on someone else’s post. They’re more likely to click on your name if they have some idea of who you are or what you do.
8. How do I target an ideal demographic with Instagram?
You target them on an individual level by searching hashtags, following people, and engaging in conversations with them. Starting conversations is easy – just compliment them on something you like in their pictures. Alternatively, you can run ads.
9. I’ve seen people post frequently, while some authors (generally more popular authors) post only when they have something valuable. What makes the most sense?
Post what’s right for you. Posting more frequently can be better, but that often pushes your best work to the bottom. Do what feels comfortable for you. I recommend a maximum of one photo per day, 3 – 5 times per week. Spend less time posting and more time commenting on other people’s pictures!
10. What are good scheduling / automation tools for Instagram?
Instagram’s Terms of Service do not allow fully automated posting, so I don’t recommend it. I’d give thought to your content, and plan it out in advance, then save the images to Dropbox or other cloud service so you can upload them at whatever intervals you decide. But don’t forget, Instagram is all about life in the moment! Posting when you’re doing something interesting and exciting translates really well if you can capture it.
How was that? It might be too much information to digest at once, so I’m going to send you the rest of the 20 questions in 48 hours!
Ah, what the heck. Here’s one more.
11. What type of posts encourage interaction, versus which ones get passed over?
Depends on your audience, there are so many variables. I recommend posts that show what you’re doing, and you being excited and happy doing that thing. Posts that are funny and humanizing do really well. If you can get people to laugh, you’re golden! Equally important is to share what motivates and inspires you and you’ll motivate and inspire your audience.
OK, that’s it! Look for the next 10 questions in 48 hours! As always, feel free to hit me up on Instagram @danielhillmedia with questions or feedback.