I have been using Instagram for over a year now and probably, not in the right way for building a following that relates to my brand.
I used it more as a way to store photographs of my personal life which is okay for some if that is all you want to do with this visual social media tool but I have bigger plans to connect with the world, fellow creatives and share my inspirations with people.
I realise if I use Instagram correctly to build a brand I can reach potential customers in a new and more entertaining way. But like anything, it is simply understanding tools properly to help you grow an audience that is interested in what you have to offer.
In this blog post, I will discuss what I feel I was doing wrong to build a relevant following and what I will be doing in the near future too (fingers crossed ) to build a fanbase for my brand.
So what the heck was I doing wrong?
1 ) Sharing photos of my wife, family and the dog
Although it has been said being personal on occasions can help users to be able to relate to you and realise you are not just a brand but a human bean there is a place and time to share your personal life and if you are trying to build interest in your business, works or profession then sharing a picture of your family life will have no relation to someone who may be interested in your new t-shirt business. Saying this, they do need to feel a connection to you so sharing the occasional picture is okay as long as it one in every 10 more relevant posts. People only become interested in your life when they have built rapport with what else you are sharing such as educational or entertaining content.
2 ) Less than 5% Content relevant to my profession and business goals
As you may have guessed I am a brand, graphic and web designer ( as well as a qualified part 1 RIBA Architect, NLP Practitioner, teacher and wannabe artist ) but my Instagram account rarely communicated that to viewers of my pictures and videos. It is important to keep content relevant to your target audience similar to that above.
3 ) I didn’t create any personas or understand my target market
Usually, before any business idea begins it is hugely important to understand both your product/service AND your target audience.
Who is it you are trying to communicate with? What would they find interesting to look at and interact with?
4 ) I didn’t think about how I can benefit my users
It doesn’t take a genius to suggest that when an Instagram user follows you then don’t do it simply ‘just because’ they do it because they are interested in your images.
Ask yourself, why are they interested in my imagery and then you will begin to understand what photos are going to attract the people you want to attract and what content you should share.
For instance, I was posting an image of what I was doing when I was relaxing rather than when I was working, which really isn’t going to benefit anyone interested in graphics, web, advertising or art very much.
I’ve realised it’s all about building your brand.
5 ) Your photos should reflect your Instagram profile
To make it even more clear what I should post photos of is how I have described myself in my Instagram profile.
If I was a hairdresser then small images of hairstyles and quick intros would be beneficial. Likewise, if you describe yourself as a chef pictures of food are relevant, not pictures of dogs, cats, clouds and trees.
Maybe I should consider adding small videos of code, a special photoshop technique or paint mixing.
Remember, you are trying to add value to people not just share your life experience.
6 ) Not asking for interactions
I never asked anyone to like my images, ask for feedback or follow to follow in return and such which is a mistake. In social interactions of any sort, it is only rewarding when you gain interaction so it is important to ask for some form of interaction.
If someone does interact remember to respond to their comment as it will help build an online relationship.
6 ) Variety is the spice of life
Once I find out what works for my audience posting the same thing day after day will probably help my visitors come back and end up following me to see more of the same but don’t be scared of spicing things up a bit by trying something different.
This will keep things a bit more interesting to followers and being creative in many areas there is plenty I can share with others.
For instance, I am considering mixing things up by posting sketches, digital art, printed works, snippets of code, inspiration and what i find inspirational to name but a few.
7 ) Hashtags help get you found
Probably the most sacred of tools in Instagram ( and overly used at first ) is the hashtag. I have found that there are specific hashtags that can be more successful than others and some that in fact help you build a following.
When you post a photo it is good practice to use hashtags in front of words, basically like adding keywords to a website page, it helps those searching through Instagram photos, and images they are interested in.
So say for example people are looking for some unique jewellery maybe a hashtag of #jewelrydesign may be useful. Or someone who needs some inspiration towards fitness may also choose to look for #fitness images. It is all about understanding your audience and that is the main point I need to consider when adding future images and videos to my Instagram account.
Marketing with hashtags.
After researching I discovered that if you are thinking of creating an expensive marketing campaign it can be beneficial to create your own hashtags?
I have taken part in #30daysofnature, #100happydays and I have obviously been a part of a bigger branding strategy.
The 30 days of nature was with Xcaret in Mexico, a natural rainforest park and people from Mexico to Europe posted images relating to this hashtag thus spreading brand awareness globally to followers of those accounts.
I never refreshed hashtags. Something I discovered after research is that you can add hashtags to images previously added and those new hashtags will then become at the forefront of that keyword. Now that could be useful for #follow4follow and such like!
8 ) I didn’t show myself working or doing arty stuff v often
With the kind of work, I do it is very visual and one of my hobbies is also painting so I should really make more of it. As I am a solo web and graphic designer I am constantly branding myself and my services it is likely my work and how I work and what I create will be of interest to my followers.
Also, as I am not a corporation so the occasional image of what I do in my spare time to show I am a real person may help people to connect with me on a basic level. This can work in corporations as well it all depends on how comfortable your CEO is with the idea of being so open.
9 ) Stop being selfish and start looking at others
I kind of had the attitude ‘build it and they will come.
This is rarely true, people like to feel appreciated and spending time, at least in the early stages, on others’ profiles commenting, liking and appreciating your target audience can help in building awareness and mutual appreciation of your Instagram accounts.
10 ) Final Tip
My final tip is to simply experiment trying different images and hashtags and see what works best for your target audience, if you never get started you never will have a great social media presence.
In 6 months’ time, I will be creating a new blog post to see how well I got on with Instagram, if the following increased, what worked, what didn’t and whether it was successful or not.