Instagram Best Practices

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Instagram is one of the big social media platforms to watch for 2014. As visual marketing becomes more important and as Instagram adds more features, they are quickly dominating the social media space. But along with popularity comes abuse from users not familiar with common practices.

To ensure that you are up to speed and ready to use Instagram effectively in your social media strategy, here are some Instagram best practices.

Set Your Profile to Public

Instagram is kind of like the photo version of Twitter. You can follow anyone and anyone can follow you. So if your profile is set to Private, you’re not going to get a lot of new followers. First of all, they can’t see the photos you share so they don’t know if you’re worth following. Secondly, people on Instagram like instant results. They don’t want to wait for you to approve their request.

If you are using Instagram for personal use and want to restrict your audience to close friends and family, then, by all means, lock that profile down! But if you’re using it for business or marketing, keep it public.

Use a Recognizable Profile Pic

One of the things I like least about Instagram is their search function. It’s really not very effective. If people are looking for you, make it easy for them to find you! Use the same profile pic that you use on all your other social media sites so that you are easily recognizable.

Use Your Twitter Username

Chances are you have been using Twitter a lot longer than you’ve been using Instagram. And people know how to find you there. Again, make it easy for people to find you on Instagram by using the same username.

This also allows comments or tags with your username to show up when posts are shared to Twitter. We all like cross-polination in our social media sites, right?

Complete Your Bio

People want to know who you are and what you do. Tell them in your bio! This is also the only place on Instagram where you can include a clickable link so take good advantage of this to list your website link or blog. If you want to track traffic from Instagram, you can set a landing page or tracking link as the URL in your bio.

Post Regularly

No one likes a lazy account. Posting once a month is not a successful Instagram strategy. Depending on your business and your strategy, you may post as many as 3-5 times a day or you may only post a couple times a week. Determine a schedule works for you and your brand. And then stick to it!

Space Out Your Posts

If you don’t want to get accused of spamming Instagram, space out your posts! If you’re posting multiple shots from an event or location, share one an hour, not one right after the other.

This also helps keep your engagement high on your posts. If you share 5 photos in a row, by the third one, people stop liking and commenting. However, if they are spaced out over a period of 5 or 6 hours, each post is fresh and will produce more likes and comments.

Reply to Comments

If people have taken the time to comment on your posts, it is very important to respond to them. This is how you will quickly grow a loyal Instagram audience. Make sure to @mention their name in your response comment to ensure they receive a notification of your comment.

Use Hashtags (Sparingly…)

Hashtags are the key to exposure on Instagram. As someone who is not a big fan of hashtags, it took me a while to adopt the practice on Instagram. But they are extremely useful on this site and will drastically increase the reach of your posts.

Do not, however, overuse them or hashjack. Use 3-10 hashtags per post that are relevant to the content you are sharing. For example, tagging #OneDirection on a picture of your lunch is not appropriate.

Do NOT Follow Only to Unfollow

If you’ve taken the time to follow someone on Instagram, it should be because you actually like what you see in their gallery. Instagramers do not have a lot of tolerance for people who follow someone to get a reciprocal follow to boost their numbers and then drop them.

Don’t Buy Followers

I feel like this should be a no-brainer, but when a lot of people start out on a new site, they think they need to look popular right away. I promise you that buying followers is not the way to a successful Instagram campaign and can actually cost you more users in the long run.

Do NOT Use Other People’s Photos

Not only is sharing someone else’s photos a direct violation of copyright laws, but Instagramers are extremely vigilant about their content. If you want to share another user’s content for UGC purposes, you may request users to submit posts. However, you must provide proper attribution with tags or mentions of the original photographer. You can also use third party apps which allow shares of other Instagram posts. These apps apply watermarks or banners detailing the original source of the image.

Be Active

It’s important to like a lot of posts and comment on others’ posts. Being active and engaging with other users will help you grow you audience and reach new people. Instagram is also very reciprocal and if you want to boost your likes and comments, doing this on others’ posts will usually result in them engaging more with your posts as well. Just don’t be spammy! Contribute relevant comments and be genuine.

I hope this list of tips helps you better understand the culture and behaviors on Instagram. It’s a really friendly site and is extremely easy to use. Following these tips, you can see great results quickly!

Jenn Herman
This monthly Instagram column is contributed by Jenn Herman. Jenn is a social media strategist and Instagram advocate who writes a blog focused on understanding trends in social media management and how to use Instagram for business. Her goal is to see you succeed with social media marketing in order to boost your business. Jenn provides consulting and training for small to medium sized businesses that need to structure their social media strategies and goals. +Jenn Herman
Jenn Herman


Social Media & Instagram consultant & trainer. #8 Social Media Blog by Social Media Examiner. The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Instagram:
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