How To Get the Most Out of Instagram

By Tracey Dowdy

Instagram is an essential marketing tool whether you’re looking to create your own personal brand or connect with potential and current clients. But not all photos and hashtags are created equal. If you don’t take the time to curate your Instagram posts, you’ll end up lost in the crowd. If you really want to stand out, take the time to implement these ten Instagram optimization strategies.

1. Complete your profile. This may seem obvious but in order for followers to fully engage with you they need to know who you are. You don’t need to tell your life story; in fact it’s best to keep it short and sweet. Your profile includes a clickable link, so if you have a website, make sure to include a link.

2. Post Original Content. Again, this may seem obvious but the same social media etiquette applies here. If the content isn’t yours, be sure to cite your source or give credit to the owner.

3. “More Signal/Less Noise.” The motivation behind photographer David Hobby’s last writing and teaching project was “more signal and less noise.” Instead of being more of the same old, same old, stand out from the crowd. Posting a steady stream of photos that are re-grams from others or tired quotes and clichés isn’t going to generate followers; in fact, it will drive them away.

4. Edit Your Photos. Instagram lets you add filters and offers basic editing tools but don’t limit yourself to what’s in the app. Use Photoshop Express, VSCOcam,  Instasize, Over, Diptic and Pic Stitch to edit and add captions, contrast, crop, or keep the original size of the photo.

5. Use Hashtags. The easiest way to turn other users into followers is to use hashtags. It’s how users with common interests find each other. Unlike Facebook, the more hashtags the better; in fact, posts with eleven hashtags or more do best. Just make sure the tags are related to the photo – no one likes a bait and switch.

6. Engage with Followers. Make sure you connect with your followers. Even if you don’t follow all of them back, at least stop by their page and comment or like their photos. By engaging with them you demonstrate that you value them and they in turn are more likely to return the favor.

7. Be Genuine. Whether it’s your own personal account or one you’ve created for your business, curate your brand. Don’t try to imitate a celebrity or other top account – be unique. Stand out from the rest by being yourself, being real, and being genuine.

8. Be Nice. We all know someone on social media who is the online equivalent of a cloudy day or a clammy handshake. Everything they post is negative or makes you uncomfortable, because every post is designed to make you feel sorry for them. Don’t be that guy.

9. Cross Post. Instagram allows you to link your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr accounts and post directly from the app. There’s no need to post to each platform separately, though you’ll definitely want to edit the number of hashtags depending on which site you’re posting to.

10. Be Consistent. A big part of cultivating social media followers is by posting consistently. No one likes their feed to get blown up with twenty photos but then not see another post from you for a week. The key is consistency both in quality and in content. It’s better to post one or two great photos a day with relevant hashtags than ten mediocre photos with weak hashtags.

If you want to see how well you’re doing, use an app like Iconosquare to track statistics like your total and average number of likes and comments per photo, where your followers are from, and share photos or accounts you like with your community.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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