I really don't like lists that make things seem quick and easy. And so it is with some trepidation that I write this blog post. That said, there are just some basics on Instagram that you need to master. And that goes beyond loading a photo and adding search hashtags.
#1. Know Thyself!
This is advice from Ancient Greece and still holds true in the era of Instagram. You have to figure out your whole purpose on Instagram.
- Why are you there?
- What do you want out of it?
- What "wins" on Instagram will translate into more money for your business?
- Who are your people?
If you don't have this basic down, then you will waste a lot of time on Instagram when it comes your (don't feel bad if you do, I did this for like a year when I first started).
#2. Know Your People
You first have to REALLY REALLY know yourself in order to know your people. So make sure you are honest and really nail #1. Once you have that, you can start to think about the people who naturally gravitate to you.
- What are their interests and how can you find those on Instagram?
- What accounts on Instagram do they follow?
- What hours do they keep (so you can know when to post)?
- What kinds of photos do they like?
- What kinds of messages do they respond to?
#3. Know Your Competition (and Like-Minded Accounts)
I hate it when people spend too much time comparing themselves to others. This is not (really) what this is. It's about thinking of who else is your audience already following and crushing on? Go to those competitors and like-minded accounts and look at who follows them. Scroll through for people that look like your people and just say hello to them. Like their photos. Don't be creepy, but people like people who like them. So it will be obvious if you are just liking everything out there or are genuinely being a fan of what they are up to.
I also think it's good to monitor your competition just to see what they are up to. Don't copy them, but if they are getting a lot of followers, what types of practices are working for them? Do people respond to questions they ask? Are they running a community hashtag that their followers are participating in? If their people are your people, there's a chance when you apply those same tactics your audience will respond. Like I said, don't be a copy cat, but use it as research then do what works for you.
#4. Master the 5-Second Rule
So now you have it down who you are, who your people are and where they are hanging out on Instagram. You can now start wooing them to your account. BUT WAIT! When someone new clicks over to your account they see a jumbled mess of personal photos, pictures of other people's product and whole lotta other stuff that doesn't scream "I MAKE ______."
When you're a maker and operate an Instagram account as your business, it is CRUCIAL that it is extraordinarily obvious what you make. This is probably the number one mistake I see when I am looking at maker profiles. If I come to your account as a new person, there should be at least half of your first six photos as either your product, your product in process or your product in use... even it's part of a larger "still life" your product should get heavy representation in your photos.
If it's not, then it's going to be a harder decision to follow you OR when you do start posting photos of your lovely product people will unfollow you because they thought you were a food blogger or a cat enthusiast or just love selfies (note: these are the top three offenses I see when it comes to photos on maker accounts). It's also not good for you, because I assume you want to sell you stuff, so that should be front and center. I realize there can be a shyness about being overly salesy. People love beautiful photos of beautiful objects and some of the most successful makers on Instagram (such as Ariele Alasko) have an Instagram feed just dominated by photos of their product.
BUT, BUT, BUT, you say: I don't have great photos. Well, then you need to fix that ASAP. Because you will never kill it on Instagram without those. I'm not saying all photos are professional (your product photos should be on that level though), but you really need to understand how your photos are reading.
BUT, BUT, BUT, you say: I don't have product that's cool or trendy like Ariele's. Who cares. You have people that love your work and will want to see great photos of it. Just because your product might not be "on trend" like certain other objects doesn't mean that "your people" won't love seeing it show up in their feed!
#5. Buy My Stuff!
Oh, this one is so obvious but often forgotten. How will people know how to buy your stuff? Instagram essentially allows only one hyperlink and it's in your profile. THIS NEEDS TO GO TO YOUR SHOP site by default. If you have a giveaway or something else where you want to do the old "link in the profile" it better be good because you are now making it that much harder to go to the place to buy your stuff.
You will also want to try to have a link that very easily goes to your shop. Consider creating a custom shortened URL like one from bit.ly that will be easy to remember or something like your website.com/shop that people can easily find.
Give Yourself Time
Now that you understand your foundations for success, don't think it will happen over night. Figuring out all of this will probably take you a couple months. So don't get discouraged if you feel like it's not working enough right now. Please feel free to let us know about your "Instajourney" in the comments below, on our Instagram or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to know how it's going. We also have our Instagram for Makers ebook and Find Your People worksheet for those who need some outside help getting their head around strategy.