21 Days of My Instagram Habit: Week 2
I'm now in the second week of this 21 day experiment with Instagram which officially started last Monday, March 27th. I first blogged about it last Wednesday, March 29th and every Wednesday evening (up until April 19th) I'll be back here blogging about this little experiment and sharing 7 new tips on using Instagram. By the fourth and final week, I will have shared a total of 21 tips.
So here I am again. First things first, here's what happened after implementing some of the tips I shared in last week's post:
Last Friday I decided to try out Tip #6 and Tip #7 from last week's post, but found it hard to find specific hashtags that would apply to my personal Instagram account @felishalin. I looked up #author and #writersofinstagram and each only had about 2.7 million and 3.4 million posts on Instagram respectively. If you compare these two hashtags with the most popular hashtags on Instagram: #instagood, which had about 563 million posts and #photooftheday, which had about 400 million posts at the time this blog post was written, you'll see that writers are not really that big on Instagram. So I decided to give up on Tip #6.
On to Tip #7: Find influencers in your industry or area of expertise.
Based on what I discovered after trying out Tip #6, I decided to look beyond simply following other authors. However, it still might be useful to look through the feeds of successful authors at a later time, to see which of their posts have been the most popular and what hashtags they use. But I'm not sure if Instagram is the best social media platform for book authors so I'm taking a different tactic here.
I've long been interested in entrepreneurship because I love ideas people who dream big and make things happen. I also "follow" a number of thought leaders and influencers, in the sense that I read their writings, watch their videos, listen to their podcasts, and am generally interested in what they are doing. As a writer and author, I can identify with some of the struggles that entrepreneurs face, and I'm inspired by their stories. The writing that I share on Instagram is from my blog, and while I've been writing more about social media lately, my blog posts could cover any number of topics depending on what direction I decide to take it. In a broader sense, I see my writing as a way to share ideas, inform and inspire. So I decided to follow the entrepreneurs, thought leaders and influencers on Instagram who I've actually been following in real life.
It turns out that many of these people are also influencers on Instagram with sizeable followings- we are talking anywhere from tens of thousands, to hundreds of thousands to half million and into the millions. Here are some of the people/Instagram accounts that I decided to follow:
Next, I moved onto the second part of Tip #7, which was to see who was following these Instagram influencers. Doing that is as simple as clicking on an Instagram profile and clicking on that profile's followers.
Also, when looking at an Instagram profile, like Kim Garst's for example, there are a few more things you can do. If you click on the down arrow to the right of the Following button, this will give you a list of people people that Instagram suggests you follow based on the fact that you're looking at Kim's profile.
When I scrolled through the suggestions, I came across Guy Kawasaki. I've heard him speak and have read his book APE which stands for Author Publisher and Entrepreneur. The book is a great resource for people considering self-publishing, and so I decided to follow Guy Kawasaki on Instagram.
Another thing to do when looking at an Instagram profile, in this case Kim Garst's, is to look at the "Followed by" section at the bottom of the bio to see who you might know that is also following Kim.
By simply following some select entrepreneurs, thought leaders and influencers on Instagram, and then following the steps above to find others to follow, I saw the number of people following me on Instagram increase over the weekend!
In just a couple of days, from Friday to Monday my personal Instagram went from 531 followers to 608, so I'd say that Tip #7 definitely works! NOTE: I tried to do something similar for my other Instagram account @ICarteverywhere, but haven't had much success yet. I've mainly been focused with my personal Instagram account @felishalin. If there are any developments with @ICarteverywhere, I'll surely write about it in a follow up blog post.
There's definitely a lot more digging around that could be done- by looking at the most popular posts done by Instagram influencers and their followers, especially those related to your industry or area of expertise. In doing so you'd see what others are doing that works, and by looking at who's following the influencers in your industry, you can start to find your potential audience and get to know what they like.
Yes, there's plenty more that I could be doing to increase my following on Instagram and this 21 day experiment is giving me an excuse to try things out. In the past I've signed up for webinars on Instagram and have skimmed through articles by social media experts about Instagram only to save them for later reading and study. So now it's time dust all of that off and to finally put it all to work!
How to Increase Your Engagement on Instagram
The most obvious thing to do to increase my following would be to step up my engagement. That of course means liking and commenting on the posts of others. When commenting, it's important to say something specific or useful to the poster rather than generic comments like "cool" "great" or "beautiful." Here's an example of a very thoughtful comment by Maggie Cousins on one of my Instagram posts:
Because of Maggie's comment and feedback, I not only went to her Instagram feed to like some of her posts, but I also decided to share my blog posts about Facebook more widely on LinkedIn and Medium. I did get quite a bit of positive feedback from the comments made on the post above, but it was Maggie's comment specifically that made me realize that people were really getting some value out of what I'd written.
Another way to use comments in Instagram would be to ask your followers to tag a friend in the comments. For example, if you have a special offer or giveaway, ask people to comment or tag and friends interested in the giveaway, or if sharing something informational or cause-related, ask followers to share the post with a friend who might also find the post interesting or helpful. I've done this on my post from last week about my 21 Day Instagram Habit. And going forward I'll try doing this with future blog posts that I share on Instagram.
It's also good to mention someone else's Instagram handle in a post or comment especially if you have quoted them, want to let them know about your post, to thank them or to otherwise communicate with them. Instagram users are highly engaged with the notifications that they receive on Instagram about comments, likes and mentions. In last week's post I mentioned Kim Garst:
On the subject of Instagram posts, while Instagram is all about the photo, it's also important to think about what you are writing in the caption that accompanies the photo. The length of what is written can be short or long since Instagram currently allows up to 2,200 characters in the caption.
How to Write a Great Caption
Here are some tips for writing a great Instagram caption, whether short or long: provide context, show personality, write something that speaks to your audience, and inspire someone to take an action (whether it is to do something make a change or to click on a weblink). If keeping your Instagram caption brief, use popular targeted hashtags rather than general hashtags. This requires doing some research of course. By looking at what hashtags are being used by your audience, influencers, experts, peers or competitors, you'll be able to find targeted hashtags for a specific industry, community, cause, or topic.
And speaking of hashtags, while Instagram allows a maximum of 30 hashtags in a post, it's best not to hit that limit since it can make your caption look spammy. Also, all those hashtags can be distracting and detract from the message of your caption. I know I have been guilty of putting tons of hashtags in my captions. My thinking was, Why not? The more the better. If you take a look at my first post on Instagram about the 21 Days of My Instagram Habit and count up all the hashtags, you'll see that there are 12 hashtags in it!
How to Use Hashtags in Your Instagram Posts
One useful tip about hashtags that I picked up from Later.com is to only use the one most relevant to your photo in the caption and to then to include all the rest of the hashtags in the first comment on the post. Going forward I'm going to keep my captions cleaner by limiting the number of hashtags used to a maximum of 5 and using more targeted hashtags. If there are any additional hashtags that I want to use, I'll post them as a comment on the post.
Other suggestions to engage people on Instagram include sharing content that invites comments, discussion, and debate, such as asking a question. Another idea would be to share a quote related to your area of expertise or one that connects with your audience. The quote could be original or borrowed. With quotes you can get creative by placing text over an image, using hand lettering, or making an eye catching image that consists only of text. If the quote is borrowed from somewhere else, it's a good idea to give credit by mentioning the source, especially if the source is on Instagram. Time for a summary of the tips shared in this post...
Tips Shared in this Post:
1. Write useful, meaningful comments on the posts of others on Instagram. These types of comments are more likely to get you noticed. Liking and commenting is a good start to increase your engagement, but writing one-word comments don't do much.
2. Mention someone's Instagram handle in a post's caption where relevant- to give credit, thank, or notify someone about your post.
3. Invite people to share your post by mentioning others in the comments if they think someone else might be interested in your post.
4. Craft your caption. Instagram allows up to 2,200 characters in the caption. Whether long or short, make sure your caption does the following: provides context, shows personality, speaks to your audience, and inspires action.
5. Don't over hashtag your post's caption even though Instagram allows you to put up to 30 hashtags in a caption. Put additional hashtags in the comments of your post.
6. Use popular targeted hashtags in your captions rather than general hashtags. Do your research to find them.
7. Ask a question in your post's caption to invite discussion, comments and debate.
8. Share a borrowed or original quote related to your area or expertise, or that connects with your audience and get creative with how you present the quote on Instagram.