Since 2012, when it was acquired by Facebook, Instagram has grown by 400%! It may be relatively new to the social media game, but candidly, I barely remember a time when I didn’t have an account. Here’s why:
First, Instagram is easy to use. That’s a plus in anyone’s book! Also, since it’s not as ad-driven as Facebook (at least so far), it’s much more budget-friendly if your marketing budget is limited and you prefer to allocate those funds elsewhere. It’s much easier to capture someone’s attention on Instagram than on Facebook because it’s so visual. In fact, it drives 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook, and 120 times more than Twitter. If you like statistics, you should really like these numbers!
10 Ways to Get Creative on Instagram
By its very nature, Instagram leaves lots of room for creativity. You can do just about anything with an image, and tell any story. That said, it’s a really good idea to build a strategy before posting. There are some obvious things to consider, like a complete bio, your website, a great profile photo, and connecting your account to Facebook. So beyond those obvious items, here are a ten ideas you may wish to consider:
1. Choose a theme – By theme, I mean develop a plan for what kinds of things you’ll post. This gives you a more focused account. Ideas for themes might be your core message, or related to one or more topics you’re promoting or passionate about. A theme could be as simple as a color too. Whatever you decide on, be consistent. And, let your followers know right up front what they can expect.
2. Your Instagram Bio – Your Instagram bio should be different than your standard bio – here’s how. Develop messaging that sets you up as an expert. It should focus on whatever you’re promoting, which ultimately can help drive traffic back to your site.
3. Your Website – While we’re taking about driving traffic to your site, make sure it is optimized for mobile browsing since the large majority of Instagram users are on mobile devices. Your URL should be in your bio, and on every post, both as a watermark and in the description.
4. Simple, Meaningful Images – With an average attention span of 8 seconds, you must grab your audience quickly with clear, meaningful images that don’t require a lot of thought. They should be interesting, inviting, and completely simple with minimal text overlay.
5. Posting Frequency – More posts equate to faster growth. Big accounts as much as 10 times a day. At minimum aim for once a day.
6. Hashtags – Hashtags, while recommended on Twitter, are almost required for Instagram success. 11 hashtags per post seems to be the magic number, although you can have as many as 30! Plus, you can use them in the comments section!
7. @Mentions - Tagging another Instagram user who is authentically connected to your post is the perfect way to use this feature. Don’t use this to tag random people or Instagram will flag and/or deactivate your account, but if the person is truly connected, it’s a great feature!
8. Location Sharing – Just like @mentions, turning on your location is a great way to boost engagement!
A word on photos – for Instagram and all of your marketing!
The saying that a picture is worth more than a thousand words is even more true today with our limited attention spans. Images are used in marketing EVERYWHERE – not just social media. So, it’s more important than ever to have strong images that share your message.
With that said, your Instagram photos must be particularly great! Your own photos may work sometimes, but in keeping with your theme, stock images may be the way to go. There are two types of stock images – paid, and royalty-free, and both have their merits. Often paid images may be more specific if you’re looking for images that fit your theme. If you don’t have a subscription to any one site, here are a few great options:
When it comes to free stock photos, you must download images from a reputable source. This means you cannot just download any image you like directly from Google or any random website. Instead, just like the paid stock photo options, there are a large number of royalty-free stock image sites that you can use. Some of our favorites are:
- Librestock.com (a catalog of dozens of stock photo sites)
Customizing your photos
In addition to the wonderful stock photos, you can also use solid colored backgrounds with language on front. However, the most powerful image-based messages start with a photo. Regardless of which options you choose, it’s important to watermark your images with your URL and brand name, whether it’s your name, book title or series, or something else you’re focused on building a brand for. This way, if and when one of them goes viral, your newfound audience will know where to find you.
Most of the time, you’ll want to take image customization to the next level, especially with stock images. This way, you can really make the image your own, even if others are downloading and using the same images. Some popular ways to modify images include:
- Zooming in on a particular area
- Creating a collage
- Adding a quote from someone famous
- Including your marketing message directly on the photo
Worth noting: if you’re adding a significant amount of text and planning to use the image as an ad on Instagram (or its parent company Facebook), the rule of thumb is that less than 20% of an image-based ad should be text. If you’re just planning to share the image as a regular post though, as of now, it’s still ok to have text-heavy images.
Apps and web-based programs to customize images
A quick Google search will give you pages of apps available to customize images from the convenience of your phone. Some may not have the same functionality (or in some cases, be available) on both iOS and Android devices, so take a look in either iTunes or Google Play to confirm for your device. Many also have paid and free versions, and often the free versions are pretty robust, so it’s worth checking this version out first to see if you’ll need the added features in the paid service.
- Adobe Spark Post – This is another great free app that, in their own words, allows you to “turn ideas into impactful social graphics.”
- Typorama – With Typorama, you can create images for a wide variety of social networks, and you can shadow text so it’s easy read against varying backgrounds. You can also easily watermark all of your images
- Wordswag – With lots of great type styles, and the ability to easily swap between styles, and even variations within each style, this is a fun app to use. It also has the option to use a few basic backgrounds, instantly search royalty-free stock images from Pixabay, or use your own photos.
If you decide to use your own photos taken from your smartphone, or you are almost entirely mobile, then you’ll almost certainly prefer to use these apps. That way you’re not trading images back and forth between devices. However, if you’re doing the bulk of the work on a computer, then it’s definitely worthwhile to look into a few web-based image editing programs, as well. You may also find that you use a variety for different types of tasks. Some of the most popular sites are
- Canva – a web-based design program; the main difference between the free and paid versions are the ability to categorize with folders and collaborate with teammates. Additionally, Canva has its own stock image service – where premium images cost $1 per download. You can save all of your work for future uses and download high-res images for print as well as the web-based resolutions.
- PicMonkey – this is another great option. You can get most of your work done with the free options, but the paid version is ad-free and includes premium overlays and fonts.
The selection of apps and programs may seem daunting, and with good reason – there are lots of great options out there! But, each has their own pros and cons, and everyone has their own preferences. Regardless of which option(s) you use, take some time to play with the program, and in no time you’ll be creating picture-perfect images.
Ultimately, Instagram is a great place to be for anyone looking to market anything! It’s a spectacular tool for reaching new audiences and new demographics. Plus, there is room for so much creative thinking, that it’s almost certainly worth your while to give Instagram a shot. With a little strategy and some great photos, you’ll see what it can do to boost your marketing efforts.
Penny C. Sansevieri, Founder and CEO Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. She is an Adjunct Professor teaching Self-Publishing for NYU.
Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most innovative Social Media/Internet book marketing campaigns. She is the author of twelve books, including How to Sell Your Books by the Truckload on Amazon and Red Hot Internet Publicity, which has been called the "leading guide to everything Internet."
To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, you can visit her web site at www.amarketingexpert.com.