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Ever wonder how to use Instagram? Or any other platform for that matter?

Β The secret to gaining visibility, followers and conversions – be it sales or website traffic – via social media is knowing how to engage on your respective platforms in the right ways. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: “Engaging” on social media in the wrong ways, is worse than not engaging at all. One of the most common questions I get from social media and design clients is, “how do I DO this?!”. With an ever changing social world, I can understand the frustration. Between Facebook changing their algorithm every other hour, Twitter announcing it’s no longer social but rather, a news feed (we can change this btw), the mystery that IS Google+, and the proliferation of image based social, it’s a lot to keep up with!

Β Enter Instagram. While it’s been around since Oct 6, 2010 (happy 30th birthday to me!), the platform is projected to skyrocket over the next year likely thanks to ever-growing short attention spans & the need for immediate gratification, growing visual media and the acquisition by Facebook. With this in mind, I want to provide you with the tools to take your company, blog or brand from zero to sixty (thousand) followers in as little time as possible so you can get ahead of the curve and make it a platform that works for you.

How to use Instagram  - | website design agency and blog & business mentor in Vancouver BCUltimately, I want you to be successful. Because the more of us who are successful in social media, the higher quality social experiences are for us all. Here are 3 ways on how to use Instagram to enhance your experience, increase followers, engagement and conclusively, brand awareness and sales.

1. How to Use Instagram: Comment Thoughtfully.

Anyone can double click an image or hit the heart button to like it, but taking the time to write a thoughtful comment that is specific to the picture will make you stand out. Focus on making it about the person who posted the picture, but also include one or two brief details that are personal to you will not only invest in the person whose attention you’re trying to get, but will also endear you to them. Don’t write a novel – keep it to one – three sentences and you’ll be set. Do that for 2 or 3 pictures on their feed while liking a couple others, and you’ll have more followers in no time.

Another key here: Monitor who likes, comments and follows you and then give back. You don’t have to follow back if their feed isn’t your niche or of any interest to you, but you can always find something nice to say about one or two of their pictures.

The same goes for others who comment on people’s posts that you follow. Click on their names, check them out – it’s THESE people who are engaging and interested in what’s happening in your niche. Chase them up! They could be your most valuable contributors, support and conversions.

Do not: Copy/Paste the same vague message like “Great post!” or “Looks delicious!” (smiley face, thumbs up, heart heart heat) because people can see right through that. Plus they can look at your activity and see you’re just spamming people. Also, PLEASE don’t ask for them to follow you or check out your feed – why should they invest in you if you haven’t taken the time to invest in them? Again, give them a reason to check you out – comment thoughtfully.

2. How to Use Instagram: Use the Search Function (appropriately).

You know that random star icon at the bottom of the toolbar? Use it. Never mind the feature images you see when you first click on it, use the search tool to look up hashtags that interest you or that you think your target audience would use. Then, spend time going into images and profiles and deploy point numero uno. The key to Instagram – and really any social media – is to get in front of people who wouldn’t find you otherwise. Invest in them, and watch them invest back.

Do not: Expect people to just find you. Social media is a constant effort. It’s like people have gotten so wrapped up in the term “media” they don’t realize that they’ve forgotten the first word! Social media isn’t traditional advertising – it’s social and actually, a little personal. So be that. Be present, be social, be real

3. How to Use Instagram: Hashtags, bitch.

And while we’re at it, tagging people & places too. Unlike platforms like Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook, you get to see exactly what you’ve elected to see – specific people’s feeds. You don’t get prompted to follow similar boards, tweets or pages so the ONLY way to get found by a totally new audience is viaΒ popular hashtags and tagging. So unlike other platforms that recommend no more than 2 or 3 hashtags per post, hashtag the shit outta your updates. Be sure to include thoughtful remarks or comments too, but finish it off with a butt load of relevant hashtags and if you’re at a specific venue, tag the place and anyone you’re with! This is how you get in front of new audiences on Instagram so don’t be shy. Be social!

Do not: Tag photos, places or people that have no business being included in that photo. The same goes for hashtags; if I want to look up pictures of puppies and search that hashtag only to find your boobilicious-selfie (I’m talkin to both men and women here) with no drooling, adorable baby dogs in site, you can sure as heck bet I won’t be liking or following you. Ever.

Other points that warrant note but not as their own headings: Liking, posting (regularly), video and having your Instagram profile visible on your website and your website clickable on your Instagram profile. These are kind of like “duh” mentions, but in order to be successful on Instagram, you need to like people’s pictures, post your own regularly (I shoot for one per day at minimum), use video once in a while to make your feed dynamic and of course, be sure your Instagram account – whether a button link or a live feed – is immediately visible on your website so people can find you as well as make sure you include your website in your Instagram profile so people can convert to your homepage. Duh.

Get it: iDevice | Android | Blackberry


Are you on Instagram? What’s your experience? Any tips on how you make it work for you? Struggles? How can I make Instagram – or the social world in general – easier for you? Leave your thoughts below and I promise to reply directly!

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13 Comments on Engagement 101: How to Use Instagram (3 Ways)

  1. Christine |Taste of Divine
    April 1, 2014 at 7:13 pm (4 years ago)

    Hey Kristy! I need these tips…I definitely am not active enough on Instagram, and have never even used a hashtag before (I know, I”m soooo behind the times!!). With how facebook is looking lately, maybe I’ll start putting more of my efforts here.

    Since Instagram is only available on a mobile device, do you have any tips for easily uploading pictures? I normally only post when I take a picture on my phone. I use my real camera for most things, and it is kind of a pain to transfer pictures over onto my phone, so I generally don’t.

      April 2, 2014 at 4:52 pm (4 years ago)

      Hi Christine! So glad I could help!

      To be entirely & candidly honest …. I’m thinking of leaving Facebook all together. I enjoy Instagram MUCH more (it’s highly addictive) and people who choose to see your stuff, ACTUALLY see it! It means there’s a lot more engagement and opportunities for sharing and conversation. It IS the way forward IMO πŸ™‚

      To answer your question: You upload pictures with your phone. You can’t post via the website – it’s a mobile platform only so whenever I have some food styling pictures that I’m doing, I make a point to shoot one with my phone so it’s already in there. Easy peasy!

      PS. You can find popular hashtags if you just Google the topic (ie food) and then “popular instagram hashtags”. Many of the sites have them copy/paste! Just do it from your phone so you can upload right away.

      • Christine |Taste of Divine
        April 8, 2014 at 8:12 pm (4 years ago)

        You aren’t the only one thinking about leaving facebook. I’ve heard that from other bloggers too. I know some people are switching over to Google + as well.

        Thanks for the tips! And I used a few hashtags the other day for the first time πŸ™‚ I got more followers after that, and more engagement!! I think I’ll start focusing more on Instagram. I’m much more of a visual person anyway.

      April 2, 2014 at 4:54 pm (4 years ago)

      Hey Maggie! I know exactly what you mean …. can’t even stop myself sometimes. I’ll easily get lost in hashtags and looking up new posts and then BAM! An hour has gone by and I’ve done nothing but ogled pretty images. That being said, I’ve made some pretty rad online friends through Instagram too. πŸ˜‰

  2. Maria @ Box of Stolen Socks
    April 2, 2014 at 12:31 pm (4 years ago)

    Excellent post Kristy! Exactly what I needed. I am on Instagram for about a year now but I have so few followers. OK I know I am not engaging very much at the moment but I plan to change that. The advice on leaving thoughtful comments is so simple yet so valuable. And thank you for the hashtag list. I was looking for something like that!

      April 2, 2014 at 4:59 pm (4 years ago)

      Hey Maria! I’m happy to hear it was useful for you. The key to ALL social media is to be social (aka engage) with others – especially before you start asking people to engage with you. Give/Invest in them, and they’ll invest back – shares, follows, etc…

      PS. Instagram is incredibly responsive to engagement! Not gonna lie…. I LOVE Instagram and regularly spend an hour (or more) on it per day. HOWEVER… hahahaha… if you have an extra 20 or 30 minutes daily while on the bus or at lunch or while you watch Survivor or while you’re poopin’, spend time liking, commenting, etc… and you WILL see your followers go up. I promise. πŸ™‚

  3. Zeenat {}
    April 4, 2014 at 1:11 pm (4 years ago)

    Hi Kristy,
    I SO need tips for Instagram! I’ve only just started using it and I must say its fun. The numbers are growing….but not as fast as I would want them to. I am going to try your tips. I need to be more flamboyant with my hashtags πŸ˜‰
    Secondly, I needed to ask, if there was anyway I could promote my blog on Instagram other than hashtags and watermarks on the pics?
    Thank you sweetie! I’m digging getting to know you πŸ™‚
    Much Love,

      April 4, 2014 at 2:03 pm (4 years ago)

      Hi Zeenat darling!

      You sure do! Hashtags – and commenting thoughtfully – are key! Focus on saying something nice on at least 2 pictures of the same person’s feed and like a handful of their images at the same time to really make an impact πŸ™‚

      To answer your question: The thing about Instagram is that it’s supposed to be “behind the scenes” and more personal – it isn’t traditional advertising. HOWEVER… to promote your blog posts you can:

      1. Show your work space! Include a description of what you’re doing and what kind of business it is – just be sure it’s conversational, not “check out my website!”.

      2. Also, make sure your URL is in your profile so when you post a website/blog post related image, say in the comments “Clickable Link in Profile” so people know they can check it out easily.

      3. Lastly, don’t shy away from inspiring words/sayings as updates in picture form or more traditional ads like “Get 20% off XYZ until DATE” once in a while – just like on Facebook. But make sure you break these up well with non-ad updates. People are there to be social, not advertised to.

      Hope these help!

  4. Melissa
    April 23, 2014 at 2:49 pm (4 years ago)

    Hey, I’m trying to read this article on my iPhone and there’s a scrolling pop up that’s blocking me from reading….it looks like a social sharing widget. Thought you would like to know!

      April 28, 2014 at 12:43 pm (4 years ago)

      Hi Melissa! Thanks for the heads up! I just tried on my iphone and it’s loading fine – weird! I’ll keep an eye out though.

  5. Jayne
    April 23, 2014 at 4:58 pm (4 years ago)

    Thank you for this post, I’m having a heck of a time with getting into the Instagram groove!

      April 28, 2014 at 12:45 pm (4 years ago)

      Hope it helps your Jayne!! πŸ™‚