5 tips for Instagram beginners

5 tips for Instagram beginners
Photo by Elena Koycheva on Unsplash

It wasn’t so long ago that I wrote a post about Instagram and how I wasn’t sure if I was doing it right. I didn’t want to conform to the idea of Instagram-worthy, beautifully styled and aesthetically lit photos that filled those perfect squares. And I’m not. I’m committed to living my truest self and what you see on my Instagram is 100% me.

I’m captivated with Instagram and the opportunity it creates to connect like-minded people. As a mom blogger, there is an ocean of other moms out there doing the same hustle or simply sharing their motherhood story. Either way, I’m here for it. I completely believe that supporting another person contributes to your success. Rooting for another woman always has a better result than competing against them.

So Instagram has been my focus lately, followed by Pinterest and Facebook. Still don’t follow me on those platforms? You’re missing out 😉

When I first started my Instagram account last fall, I had no idea what I would post and if anyone would follow me. But slowly, I mean, S L O W L Y, I started gaining followers and getting a feel for what content to post. I’ve had a lot of fun designing my own memes, but also posting real photos from my life to engage my audience.

I never thought I would make it to 100 followers, and am now at 500, which is amazing to me! While I am in no way an Instagram expert (or “Influencer”), I thought I would offer my observations to help anyone new to the Instagram game.

First, all of my followers are real, organic followers. I have not paid for any followers.

Second, creepy Insta-dudes get blocked. It took me a while to find my “requested” DM box and to my surprise found a handful of messages from guys trying to holler at your girl. I’m not here for that nonsense, so they go bye-bye. I know this might not bother some people (because you don’t need to interact with them), but it creeps me out giving them access to my life, so for my peace of mind, they gotta go.

Now, for the tips:

1.Engagement and hashtags are everything

You can’t hop onto Instagram planning to post photo after photo and expect to get any traction. Think about it: you want people to like, comment, and follow you so you have to do the same for others. People want to be seen. The reality is that you will be spending significantly more time interacting on other people’s feeds and stories than you will on your own. Think of it as networking. You want to connect with others and get your name out there, so you gotta put in the work.

One of the best ways to track down your audience is to utilize popular hashtags and follow them. Since I write a lot about motherhood, #motherhood is an obvious one that I follow. This allows me to see posts from other like-minded people. I like posts and then visit the user’s profile. If it seems like someone I want to connect with (is my target audience), I give them a follow right away. Other times, I comment on a post and if they respond and follow, I return the favor. It’s all very transactional, which feels a little icky, but that’s why (most) everyone is here.

Since I’m a relatively small account, I look for other women who have a similar number of followers. These are more likely to do a mutual follow than someone who is established and already has amassed a large following. After a while, you can kind of sense which accounts are just trying to use you as a follow. They may follow you, but once you follow them back, they drop you. Everyone wants to gain followers without adding to their number of following (annoyed yet?) It’s all very political.

I don’t play that game. I remain a mutual follow of accounts who engage with me. I do have a cleaner app, which I utilize once a week or so when I’ve noticed a drop in followers. If I see that a mutual follow has unfollowed me, I return the favor. Petty? Maybe. But I’m trying to build my brand, and it’s just part of the business. Of course, there are accounts that I follow that do not follow me. These are accounts I want to see content from.

2. People want to see YOU

Like most moms, I’m usually the one taking the photos. Rarely, does someone else grab the camera and seize the opportunity to get me in the picture. And I’m not really a selfie Queen, so most of my photos on Instagram don’t feature me. However, I’ve grown more comfortable with getting my face out there, and it turns out people like to see me. People like to see the real person behind the account.

If you can recruit a friend/spouse/someone to take photos of you, even better. Here’s a tip: you don’t need someone following you around day in and day out with a camera trying to catch the perfect photo opp. Plan a day or afternoon of photos ideas you’d like to get to use for the next week or month and get them all done at once. I haven’t used this strategy, but it seems like a good idea if you are really into investing into Instagram. At the very least, get comfortable asking someone to take your photo when you’re doing something that you want to post about. Your followers will enjoy seeing your face.

3. Utilize Insta Stories

Video is hot content. Think about it, do you like to watch videos? So does your audience. Instagram Stories are fun because they are little snippets of videos (or photos) that people can view and interact with. It reminds me of Snapchat in that your stories disappear after 24 hours (yet remained archived). Stories are really hot right now, so don’t neglect them.

4. Collaborate with other small entrepreneurs

If you’re utilizing Instagram for business purposes, you should seek to connect with other entrepreneurs. A hustler supporting another hustler is good business for both. If you sell a product, think about collaborating with another similar shop to offer a giveaway. This will expand your reach and gain new followers who are likely to turn into purchasers. If there’s someone who sells a product that you like, message them to see if they offer any discount or benefit for you promoting their products (i.e. being a Brand Ambassador). Be mindful that if you are advertising a product, make sure to note this in your post. The disaster of Fyre Festival highlighted how people should legally promote products on social media.

5. Be yourself

If you’ve done any research about Instagram, you will come across all kinds of information about how you need to have perfectly styled photos that are themed with colors that are consistent throughout your feed. When people go to your profile, they will see your squares that are very pleasing to the eye. While this is a tactic that many people choose, it wasn’t for me. And it made me wonder if I would have any success on Instagram because of it.

But my whole shtick in my writing and social media is that I want to represent a real-life account of my life – which isn’t picture perfect. So if you go to my feed, you will see a mix of graphically designed memes with my words and photos of my life, definitely not staged. This is me and I want my Instagram to represent my authentic self. Decide how you want to represent yourself on Instagram before you starting posting. If you want to stick to a color theme (like white minimalism), go with that. Just be you.

There you have it. Those are my quick tips for users just starting out on Instagram and want to utilize it for business purposes. Make sure you register as a business account (you can always switch to personal). But the business account allows you to see insights on your content and audience.

Like my tips? Make sure to follow my blog for more about my life and business journey. And if you haven’t done so, follow me on Instagram for more content.

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