This week’s Blogging Basics topic with Lindsay and I dives into yet another social media platform. Last week we discussed using Twitter. Today we are discussing one of my favorite platforms, Instagram. I am going to be upfront and honest with you. My opinions on using Instagram as a blogger may differ greatly from other bloggers’ views. To each her own though right? Even though my views may be in the minority I will still be sharing how you can use Instagram as a blogger and some pointers and tips that may help you grow your following.
My Views on Instagram and Blogging
To me, Instagram is the most personal of all social media platforms. On Instagram we share snapshots of our lives. I have two Instagram accounts; one is my personal one where I follow family and friends and the other is the one for my blog. Maintaining two accounts is not something that everyone wants to do and it is not something that can easily be done. Instagram does not allow for you to toggle between two accounts (please be in a future update Instagram!). I use an app that allows me to do that.
Many bloggers use Instagram to promote their posts, giveaways, or products. When I first created my blog’s Instagram account I thought this was what I would do as well. I quickly rethought that. I do lots of promoting of my posts on Twitter and Pinterest. I decided early on that my Instagram would be a way for my readers and followers to get to know me better. How so? They get to see snapshots of my daily life, my home, and maybe even some pictures of my family. I wanted to be able to connect with them outside of my blog and show them a sort of behind-the-scenes (or blog)-look at my life. Each photo is an authentic view of my daily life….the good, the bad, and the in between. To me it’s a refreshing change from the constant push of self-promotion that you tend to see on other social media platforms.
There is no right or wrong way to use Instagram although “they” may tell you there is (the elusive group of THEY…you know the ones that tell you have to do THIS to double your following overnight etc). Feel free to use it to promote or not to promote. It can be a great tool for that and can drive traffic to your blog. Whatever you do, as in all social media and blogging in general, be real, be authentic, and be you.
Now on to the Instagram tips!
How to Use Instagram as a Blogger
As with any social media platform, consistency is the key. You don’t want to be the sporadic Instagrammer showing up once every week or so. I get it though…life gets in the way. That’s why you may want to check out a scheduling tool. You may question whether or not scheduling tools truly make your photos “authentic” if they are scheduled in advance and not posted in the moment. You can schedule a photo as a back up and delay the posting time if you want to share something else. I like to use these tools as fillers. For example, the holidays gave me plenty of posting opportunities. Who doesn’t love seeing holiday decor? I could schedule a photo of an ornament and share the story and meaning behind it at any point on any day. That way if I didn’t have anything else to share that day I could use that as my backup.
Instagram does not allow you to post from a third party app. You can do the next best thing though. Upload a photo and a caption to an app and get a notification that reminds you to push your photo to Instagram. There are a few options that I have used to do this.
Simply upload your photo to Latergramme, create the caption you want and schedule when you want to post. At that time you will get an alert or notification on your phone. Simply open Latergramme and with the swipe of your finger, you push your photo and caption to Instagram. Your photo is now posted.
I recently discovered that Hootsuite offers this same scheduling option. Upload your photo and caption and get a reminder when it is time to push it to Instagram. The Hootsuite option is nice if you are already using it to schedule all of your Twitter and Facebook posts as well.
I used Iconosquare for a free trial period and basically for one purpose only. That purpose? To figure out when I should be posting photos to Instagram. Icon0square analyzes your account and produces a schedule of your prime posting times. Using this info hand in hand with one of the above scheduling tools can really increase your interactions on Instagram.
Edit Your Photos
The photos you post don’t have to be taken with a DSLR camera. You don’t need perfection. In fact, all of my photos are from my iPhone. What you do need tough is decent quality photos. With anarsenal of editing apps at your fingertips any photo can be made to look amazing. Take some time to practice with editing apps and to find the look you are going for. Many apps allow you to save a “recipe” of filters so that each photo is edited the same. This provides consistency across your Instagram account.
Afterlight is my go to app for editing my Instagram photos. I love brightening up my photos and using the frames to border each of my photos. I love the cohesive look it gives my feed.
This photo shows just how well the Afterlight app can brighten your photo.
A Color Story
This is the new app taking the Instagram world by storm. I can see why. Filter after filter after filter for a reasonable price too, I might add. This is one of the aforementioned apps that lets you save your filter recipe making your editing consistent.
VSCO has lots of great filters and editing tools. Its a powerful app in my opinion.
Pic Tap Go
Pic Tap Go has been around for a little bit. In fact when A Color Story was released it reminded me quite a bit of this app. I love how Pic Tap Go is set up. You can add filter after filter, adjusting the strength of each one as you go. The best part is that you can see the photo in each and every filter so you get a great view of all of your options.
Pic Tap Go also allows you to save your editing recipes. This app is well worth the $1.99 price tag in my opinion.
Using hashtags on Instagram can be beneficial. I do recommend using them but not going overboard too much. If you use them I do recommend checking out others using the same hashtag and interact a bit. You can even create your own hashtag, as Christine and I have done for our monthly link up Love the Everyday (#lovetheeveryday).
How Can I Keep Track of Hashtags?
Luckily there’s an app for that! I highly recommend using Tag for Likes. It may take some time setting up your hashtags but once you enter them you are good to go. The app does come with hashtag suggestions but I opt to create custom lists of hashtags that pertain to certain subjects, holidays, and times.
Once your custom list is created you simply copy the tags (the blue button) and click on the arrow and it will take you to your Instgram. Paste the hashtags to your photo and you are all set.
Admittedly you do not need an app for this. You can simply create a note in your phone and simply copy and paste your hashtags there too.
Much like other social media platforms interaction is key. Explore your feed. Check the popular page. Explore hashtags. Interact! Comment on photos and be sure to reply to comments that others leave on your photos.
Private vs Public Accounts
Here’s another place where I have an opinion that my differ from others: if you are a blogger and have an Instagram account for your blog then keep it public. I understand keeping personal Insta accounts private. When someone new follows me I click on their profile and browse through their feed. I may follow them back and I may not, it truly depends on what their feed looks like and if it seems like we have similar interests. However, if you are private I do not ask to follow you. I am 100% guilty of window shopping through feeds before I follow them. What are your thoughts on this?
Speaking of Following….
If you are one that likes to keep track of who follows you and unfollows you you can use an app that will let you know exactly that. Followers for Instagram also lets you know if you have been blocked, who’s not following you, how many new followers you have, and who you aren’t following back. Where this may come in handy is after participating in giveaways on your blog. If you add a “Follow Me on Instagram” entry option you may gain lots of followers only to lose them once the giveaway has ended. This lets you track that. If you are also a Instagrammer that only likes to follow people that reciprocate and follow back this will help you monitor your followers.
I have never participated in a loop giveaway (on either end) but I do know that they can be a quick and easy way to gain followers. Generally in a loop giveaway there is a group of Instagrammers giving away a major prize (or many prizes). Each person hosting the giveaway shares the same photo at the same time. In order to participate you have to click on each person tagged and perhaps even like the photo. You are completely entered when you return to the person you started with. Be sure that if and when you host or participate in a giveaway you are abiding by Instagram’s rules.
Promote Products // Shops
Thinking of offering an eBook or course for your followers? Share it with your followers. Do you sell something in an Etsy shop? Show us your product. Get creative….show others wearing/using your product or share a review of something you sell.
Instagram is a great platform for tagging brands and businesses. If you follow me, you may notice that I have a love for Target. I’ll often tag them when I am sharing something that I own or purchase. Once they even asked if they could repost my photo! That definitely increases your exposure.
Like to Know It
If you’re on Instagram it’s hard to miss the posts that say “Like to know it!”. When you click on a photo, you will get an email detailing where you can purchase the items in the photo. You will see lots of fashion bloggers and home decor bloggers using this service.
- Be consistent.
- Edit your photos so they aren’t dark and grainy. At the same time, there is a fine line….don’t overdo it!
- Interact and be social.
- Be yourself.
- Keep in mind that as you scroll through your feed you are seeing one snapshot of someone’s life. Do not forget that out of the frame they may have a messy home, a crying toddler, and a life just like you and I. Don’t be fooled by the perfectly staged photo. And do not fall into the comparison game.
Be sure to stop by Lindsay’s blog and see how she recommends using Instagram as a blogger.