New to Instagram? Here’s my best advice

Not everyone in the world is on Instagram (although to be fair, many are), so if you’re a little late to the party but want to build an audience, fast, here are some ways to do this!  By the way this is the most condensed written form of my training ever.

Build an audience quickly with hashtags
To build an audience on Instagram, you have to rock the hashtag thing– it works both ways whether you want to be found or to find others. Instagram is like a massive match making platform between you and the rest of the world, I mean forget the spamming weirdos who use it as a dating service, just block them and see it as a means of gathering your rightful audience, your soul tribe.

They’re out there.  Go find ‘em.

First of all make a note of your overall themes.  Let’s say you have a blog about outdoor writing and photography.

Note down your general themes and turn them into hashtags.  I mean, actually please do this.  Get a pen and pad.

Hashtag overall key themes

#writing #poetry #outdoors #countryside #photography

These are your basics. You need to be using these frequently, but they are also overdone, so you can build up your hashtag use by taking any one of these and doing it to death, as in the following example.

Take photography.

#photography #photo #photographer #amateurphotographer #pic #canonnphotography #lightroom #photographoftheday #nikon

You get me?

So if you’re a photographer, put some of your best pics up with these hashtags.  You can either include hashtags with your post caption, or put your hashtags in a separate comment after your own comment that goes with your pic.  You’ll now get followed by other photographers or people looking for those hashtags.  Follow them back if you like their account.

Let’s take another key theme hashtag, say #outdoors

Now go bananas with it and see what happens:

#outdooradventures #outdooradventurephotos #outdoorslover #outdoordude #hike #hiking #walking #hikerlife #lovehiking #hikingwithfriends #walkingclub

You can make up your own, such as I made up Outdoor Dude (?!) but also a great tip is to go to the search facility on Instagram and type in one of your key hashtags.  Take a look at what else that brings up (Instagram will offer you similar hashtags across the top of the screen).  Note down the ones you like.

If you want to be cynical about it you can also look up what’s trending, and words like #love and #girl are always popular, but possibly out of genre unless your post happens to be about a girl you love.

Cynical audience building
If you’re simply looking for likes and follows then #like4like #follow4follow and all the other crap that goes with it, are ways to get an audience fast, but I don’t advocate this as it’s both cynical and riddled with bullshit accounts you’ll wish you never attracted.

I’ve been saying quality over quantity for the past 4 years and I’m not about to stop now.

Practical implementation
If you have a lot of content to go on IG, the quickest way is probably using a scheduling app like Hootsuite, in which you can schedule photos in advance and type messages as long as your arm and hashtags to go with it.

If you don’t use a facility like this, manually the quickest way I’ve found to get hashtags onto your Instagram page is to keep them in a word doc or notes page then copy and paste them to yourself via messenger app and copy them from there to your Instagram page.

Get organised
Let’s say you want to share content in different topic areas.  If you have some posts about health, some about writing, some about parenting, etc, you can keep your hashtags in a table in categories, making it easier to quickly add hashtags to your posts that are relevant and will drive an audience to them.

Whilst this sounds like a pain, it’s really not when you consider you can hashtag every post with up to 30 hashtags. Yes, it’s like hashtag spamming yourself but it’s also an amazing way to pick up an audience very quickly.  Once you gave gathered an audience you can slow down on the hashtag spam a bit and work on building relationships with your community instead, but to gather your tribe, hashtag away.

The key to keeping an Instagram account going is posting regular content of a high quality.  This is least of all a problem for a photographer.  If you’re not a photographer (I@m certainly not!) then get yourself clued up with some YouTube tutorials on how to take better pics with your smartphone camera.  Learn the basics of what settings you need, lighting, perspective, etc.  General rule – the lighter and brighter the photo, the more clicks it gets, so use your phone edit function to make it brighter.

Make sure you write something in your caption. This can be a real tough one for some people, we’re not all writers and writers block can be common. The deeper you dig and the more authentic you can be, the better. Humans are hardwired to listen to stories, so try turning your hand to storytelling and making meaning.  Never forget there is meaning to be found in everyday experiences. The more emotionally compelling and truthful, the more we connect.

The biggest downside is not having clickable links within the Instagram post itself meaning people cannot directly go to your blog.  In this case it’s best to copy a snippet of your best writing, a tantalising taste, from your blog directly into your IG caption which will give your followers a taste but also make them click through to your website for the full article.

Also, you need to have a think about your overall theme and positioning. What is the purpose of your IG account?  Is it personal or are you also selling something or showcasing a hobby or driving traffic to a website or blog site? Your purpose will inform your theme, type of content to post both images and captions.

By being clear about who you want to attract you can better understand your audience and how to write for them.  Most of all, be real.  There are no rules, make it as fun and creative as you like.  The more you play with it, the more you’ll want to put into it.  You can see your IG account as an expression of your own creativity.

Be yourself
Of all the platforms I personally find Instagram the place where you can be most yourself.  It’s a creative’s dream.  Aside from the occasional message from users who mistake it for a dating site, it’s an accepting place full of lovely kind tolerant people.  It comes without the harsh sarcastic opinions of Twitter and without the close friends and family ready to jump on shouting WTF that you might encounter on Facebook.

Building friendships and letting your intuition guide you
Use hashtags to search for other accounts you might like.  Ask friends to tag you in accounts or posts they think you might like and do the same for them.  Remember to comment on others’ posts in the same way you might on FB, but comments are normally expected to be complimentary and brief.

Instagram, like any other platform, will offer you friends you have on other social sites and in your phone contacts.  This doesn’t mean you have to follow them.  This is your feed and all posts and accounts come with an energy.  If you don’t like someone’s energy or type of post, simply don’t follow them and then you won’t have to hold yourself in resistance.

It’s really that simple.  Same with accounts you love or otherwise envy – if they give you a case of comparing-itis because their life looks too perfect, leave them alone.  Online platforms work best when you take your real-life energy and pour it into an online space.  Use your intuition to feel into the accounts that make you feel happy.  All else is surplus.