So, Instagram. Instagram was the first app to make me feel old. I’m actually not that old by regular standards, I’m only 34, but by social media standards that’s starting to feel pretty old. I was a die hard facebook girl, with no interest in learning Instagram when it came out. I had a personal account that I updated, probably a few times a year, and then more recently I got an account for my business. Begrudgingly. And when I actually started trying to use the app I was so completely lost. Like embarrassingly lost. Couldn’t figure out how to do anything. Even with my clumsy use though, I was getting a ton more engagement, and lots of dm’s from people looking for a photographer. That was all the motivation I needed to start learning, and as I learned I started to love the app more and more. It makes sense, it’s a visual platform and I’m a photographer, I’m not sure what my resistance was before.
I started posting pretty regularly from my business account and seeing some growth. Nothing crazy, but I also was only trying to get local followers. It’s a service based business, I’m not selling products that I can ship and I’m not travelling around the world taking photos, so I really just needed local followers. I think I’m sitting just under 800 followers for that account, with VERY little effort put into growth and focusing more on engagement and regular posting so that people can scroll through a portfolio of my work.
When I started this podcast though I decided I wanted to use Instagram to reach more people, and I started getting lots of questions from people on how to use Instagram, how to grow a following, if I could do an episode on it and so on. So here’s the thing. I don’t have a huge following. As I type this my Updraft account (which is annya.miller if anyone wants to check it out) is still a wee little account in the realm of Instagram. Not exactly feeling like an Instagram pro over here, and I honestly felt a bit weird about doing an episode on it. But here’s the OTHER thing. I am insanely crafty and resourceful. I’m a research nerd. I love it. This is the girl who was kicked out of high school for poor attendance (I had serious social anxiety, but that’s a story for another day) and figured out how to make the school turn around and pay for homeschooling. Also the girl who figured out how to build a photography business through the school of google. I have zero formal education in business beyond 1 11th grade course. In the last couple of years I have started investing in courses and workshops because I have seen how much more quickly they move the needle, but previous to that it was all research, googling and trial and error. I never even actually graduated from high school, I don’t have a diploma. Technically I completed all of the required courses through correspondence, and should have graduated with honors, but I never bothered to apply for the certificate. I was accepted to University at one point too, I planned to go to school for either psychology or to become a fertility specialist, but I never actually made it to day 1. I decided to take a chance and run with photography instead. Honestly, I’m glad I did. It was probably a messier path, and possibly a longer road but I am so happy with where I am right now, and I have learned SO much.
All of that to say that while I don’t have a massive Instagram following I did feel confident that I could do the research and figure out how to create one. And I did. I followed a few key players, listened to multiple podcasts on the subject and took an Instagram course. In the last 24 hours I have gained 50 new followers and am getting great engagement. Prior I was getting a few new people a day, so this is a huge jump. I debated just waiting and then producing this episode when I actually do have a following, but quite frankly I don’t think it matters, and I don’t want to keep you all waiting and struggling just so I can have more credibility or have less imposter syndrome. I also record these in advance so by the time this episode is scheduled to go live I will no longer have this miserable cold and sound like a boy, and I will have a much better idea of how well this works – so If I decide I was wrong I can always pull it and give you a different one.
Starting from the top. The first thing I did was to look at my name, and my username. These are both displayed at the top of your profile and they should be different. Previously mine was just my first and last name, with my user name being @annya.miller, so basically the same thing, but I learned that these two names are the only thing outside of hash tags that are actually searchable on Instagram. So you need to make them different to expand your searchability, and you should include key words about yourself or your business that your ideal client might use to find you. For my Updraft account I kept my username the same, but updated my name to Annya Miller Updraft Podcast. Which means that people can find me either by searching for me by name or by searching for the Updraft Podcast. It also immediately tells people who are looking at my profile a bit more about who I am and what I have to offer. You can apply this however it makes sense to your business or online personality. You can also change your name from time to time if you have a special event going on or something else that you want to make searchable. As an example, I will probably change my photography name profile to Annya Miller Christmas Sessions or something like that come October/November when I start to book those, because that will make me searchable for that term.
The next thing you need to check is your profile picture. We have a VERY brief amount of time to catch someone’s attention when they click on your profile. Personally I want to see a nice, high quality head shot in that little tiny circle. A full body picture is going to be too tiny, in fact most types of pictures are too tiny to really see in that little circle, so I like a headshot because our brains easily recognize smiling faces. If you really really hate using a picture of yourself you could also use your business logo, but I want to urge you to use a picture of yourself if you can as it will contribute to the know like and trust factor that is so important when it comes to getting people to invest in you as a personality or your business. It’s also a good practice to use the same photo across all of your social media channels so that people can easily recognize you. Once you are verified and have that little checkmark then people will probably know right away that it is you, but until then it can be a bit confusing trying to find the “right” Sarah Johnson in a sea of Sarah’s. Even my name which I don’t think it particularly common – there was already someone who had the user name @annyamiller which is why I had to put a dot in mine.
Once you have you username, name and profile tweaked to make you searchable and easy to recognize you are going to want to take a look at your bio section. This is that wee little blurb of something like 150 characters where you get to tell people about yourself and what you have to offer the world. Again you have seconds, maybe milli seconds to get your point across and get someone’s attention so in this section my research tells me to use bullet points, with attention grabbing emojis. It allows the brain to process the information WAY faster than if it is clumped together in one big paragraph… a paragraph that honestly most people aren’t going to bother to read. This section should be targeted to people who have no idea who you are and needs to very quickly tell them how they are going to benefit by following you. Are you providing funny content? Motivation and inspiration? What is your business? Once you have established that (preferably in just a line of two) you want to add in other personal things that people might be able to relate to. Are you a Mom? Do you love sports? Are you a Christian, a Muslim, Buddhist? Do you love coffee, or wine, or candy? Add things in that will help people get a feel for not just what you have to offer but the package that it comes in, and give them a taste of your personality.
While testing these theories out I gave my sister some tips on how to spruce up her profile for her account and she nailed it. If you want to see it for yourself you can check her out at @fledglingstudios but her profile goes something like this. “Made with love, and some cursing” Pottery Painting Cats Canada (and then lists her city) and then she says simply “Shop local, support artists, don’t be a dick”. Now if that doesn’t show her personality just perfectly, and let people know what to expect I don’t know what would. It’s also attention grabbing and lets them know exactly what they are going to find on that page – lots of her creations and art work, and lots of cute pictures of her two adorable cats.
This little bio section also happens to be the ONLY place on Instagram that you can put a clickable link. This means that you need to be very careful about what you are linking to, and how you use that link. If you are constantly posting “see link in bio” to get people to click through to your products, services, offers, etc. then you need to make sure that you aren’t always changing where that link will take them. The last thing you want is for something to be scrolling through old posts after discovering you and then finding that they can’t find any of the offers you have talked about. You can simplify this a couple of ways. You can use Linktree, which is a super popular way of being able to have one link that will take them to a page with multiple offerings so that they can select why they are there, or if you have a website of your own, an even better way it to create a super simple landing page on your own website that has links to all of the offers. The reason I loved this tip (thanks Jenn’s Trends!) so much is because you then own that traffic and you can track where they are coming from, how long they are spending, which links are being clicked and all the rest in google analytics. It will increase your views, which also brings up your SEO authority rating. Maybe not a huge deal on the SEO front, every little bit helps and its great information to have so you can better understand your audience. Even more importantly, if you have a google pixel on your site (which you should, just google it if you don’t have one) then you can retarget all of the traffic later with Facebook and Instagram ads, giving you an awesome source for warm traffic!
I promise I will get right back to all of the Instagram
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Ok, so now we have pretty much covered how to revamp your profile for the best chance of conversions and gaining followers. Now let’s quickly go over hash tags. Yes you want to use them, yes you want to use all 30 that you can, and no you do not need to put them in the first comment. Sometimes people say that it is spammy or annoying if you have too many hashtags. Personally I’m not bothered by them. It makes sense to me to do whatever you can to boost your reach when you have a positive and helpful message to share, or a product to sell that is going to make people’s lives easier. Why wouldn’t everyone want you to get it out there when what you have to offer is amazing? If you find it looks cluttered on your post just move it down to the bottom so that people would have to click to see more before they would see them. Statistically speaking, posts that have 27 or more hashtags, in the main post do better than posts with less hashtags or posts with the hashtags in the comments. Obviously as with anything, I want you to do what works for you. But if what you are doing isn’t working all that well then I would suggest giving the hashtags another shot.
The next thing to consider with hash tags is that there are three levels of popularity and you want to hit all of those categories when you plan your hashtags. Be creative in finding hashtags that will be searched or used by your target audience – not your colleagues and peers. You want the people that will be helped by your services or products to find you – not other people that are offering a similar thing, so you need to be creative in thinking about what those people are doing online. Create enough hashtags that you can use different ones on a regular basis. Using the exact same set of hashtags over and over is not only ineffective but could also get you shadow banned, which means your post will no longer show up in search for those hashtags.
Once you have your hashtags selected you need to make sure that they fall into different popularity groups. Generally hashtags that have millions of uses aren’t going to move the needle for you. They are more likely to attract spam bots, and it’s going to be VERY hard for anyone to find you among that many other posts. The three popularity levels you want to aim for are 500k – 1 million uses, hash tags with tens of thousands of uses and then the very niche specific ones that are so super specific and relevant to what you are posting about which likely have a few thousand or less uses. This strategy of using different levels will give you a quick but short lived bump of engagement from the most popular hashtags, a longer lasting bump from the mid range hashtags and then this combined could potentially cause it to become a top post for your super specific hashtags, where you could potentially stay for months. This means that you will continue to pop up at the top of the list under those super specific hashtags for weeks or months to come, which is exactly what you want because the people searching for those are the most likely to actually want what you are offering and convert to real clients or customers.
Now obviously there is more to Instagram that this, and in
future I’m planning to another episode on how to create posts that bring in
engagement and serve your audience as well as how to engage with others on the
app in a way that creates meaningful connections and growth, but for now these
tips are going to give you a great start on growing your audience and
connecting with people that need your products and services.
I know that you are all super busy and have lots on the go just like me so I have pulled all of this together into a quick reference worksheet that you can download for free at annyamiller.com/Instagramfreebie.