How To Start Out On Instagram

Instagram is honestly an old hat for a lot of users but despite its age this is a platform with a lot to offer businesses, brands, and individuals. Created in 2010, merged with Facebook in 2012, it's estimated that over 300 people use Instagram on a daily basis. So, how can you get started?

Content

Instagram is all about visual storytelling, even after their introduction of stories (images that disappear after 24 hours), and multiple image posts take one look at the platform and what's clear is the focus on compelling imagery. Instagram allows for videos to be posted in addition to pictures.

Scroll through any big brand account and you'll see there is a clear focus on brand between images. Some people do clever things with the three image format spreading a piece across a row in their profile to create a sense of space and something incredibly striking to new visitors to their profile.

This kind of use of the Instagram grid on profiles is striking and widely appealing. 

Whatever your decision on grid format images or individual posts, what's clear when looking at profiles is that your Instagram profile is like a magazine spread for your brand -- each image within it is a story or feature on a part of what makes you unique. Some people and brands opt for strong colouring in their pictures, for example sticking to cooler colours and blues if this is your brand. 

Regardless of whether you link images together in your profile to make a continuous grid (you don't have to all the time!) consider how each image looks next to one another and what the grid will look like when you post. There are plenty of apps you can use to do this. These apps allow you to plan posts in advance and understand how images will fit into your brand.

Your profile is the first thing people will click through to see of you or your brand, and it's how they decide whether or not to follow you, so try to make it something worth following.

The most successful Instagram profiles tell a story with every post, focusing on a human narrative or compelling element and narrating this in the post. Instagram posts can be pretty long if you want them to be so don't be afraid to get real and genuine, writing something from the heart. For me, emojis always help too but that's a personal preference rather than a business savvy tip. 😉

Hashtags

Around thirteen or so hashtags should go into any one Instagram post. Remember, these are how you link your posts to topics and new audiences. Unlike on Twitter, people don't have conversations on hashtags per se but there are a lot of people on Instagram who exclusively track certain hashtags so tagging is the key to growth when it comes to smaller Instagram accounts. You can connect into local influencers too if you use the right tags.

What to expect

I've found a growth of around 500-1000 followers in six months to be a really reasonable goal for a smaller account as long as you post something everyday, utilise Instagram stories for additional behind-the-scenes content, and tag your images correctly. After six months and around 1000 followers I've found growth increases rapidly. Things spiral once you hit the 5000 follower mark as long as you are putting the effort into posting every day and replying to comments, plus maybe even commenting on posts in some relevant tags every few days.

For me, this is a low level of commitment to have to put into a social media platform -- potentially the lowest level of commitment I know of. Instagram is worth trying out not only because it's easy to use but also because of the sales opportunities there. For me as a user it's a really nice way to interact with brands, and pleasing when you can find offers on Instagram stories. Using it as a brand and creator I've found that engagement is higher than on other platforms (I expect around 10% engagement on any given post) and putting up promo codes on Instagram stories is a great and fast way to track sales.

Your initial growth might vary, of course, from my suggestions and that's okay! Some brands are more suited to Instagram than others. I've found I have a real affinity for Instagram and visual storytelling, so setting up channels and growing them comes naturally to me, but it's not for everyone.

As with everything online, one of the best ways to learn what to do is to watch other accounts. Take note of what highly engaged brands do and think about how you might utilise this in your posts. Experiment. Try new things and monitor engagement (likes and comments on Instagram) and understand that sometimes you have to feel these things out before you truly understand what is going to work for you.