Let's talk Instagram
For a long time I didn't feel like I quite "got" Instagram as a platform, and despite posting consistently I didn't see good results. This year, I finally feel like I figured it out and have been seeing some really strong growth.
In fact, since starting to implement the strategies I talk about here, I've managed to grow my Instagram audience by 470% — that means I have almost 5 times as many followers as I had last November.
I want to share the strategy that's been working for me, but with a disclaimer: Every social media marketer has different ideas and beliefs about Instagram marketing, and many of us disagree! This isn't the "right" answer, it's just what works for me — and hopefully it will either work for you, or teach you what will work for you.
The strategy itself is simple enough that it can be summarized in a sentence:
Post 2-3 varied, good quality photos a day, spaced at least 1 hour apart, during your peak follower activity hours.
Let me break down why I say this, and how you can execute it on your own Instagram.
why 2-3 photos a day?
Instagram rewards frequent posting. Of course, it's important to keep in mind that this is my full-time job — for hobbyists, it may be difficult or even impossible to produce that much high quality content without getting repetitive. The key is consistency, so pick a number that you can manage, and do your best to stick to it as much as you can without compromising quality.
what counts as "varied"?
By this I just mean, make sure you're not posting too many photos from the same shoot too close together, or the same photos too frequently. People don't want to feel like they're following a broken record. If there's a recent shoot, I'll post one image from it a day for a few days or a week before I feel like people get tired of it, but for older work, I try not to repost any one old costume more than once or twice a month.
I've been managing this lately with the app Trello, which is free. Basically, I went through my Instagram feed for a few months back and created "cards" (list items) for each costume in the order I had posted it. Now, when I need a repost that isn't too recent, I scroll to the bottom of that list and find a costume I haven't posted in a while. After I post it, I click and drag that card to the top of the list. This allows me to easily maintain an up-to-date list of what I've posted recently, and what I haven't posted in a while.
This could also be easily achieved by a spreadsheet. Or, if your total costume count is lower than mine, you may be able to do it in your head. Regardless of how you manage it, the key is making sure your feed has some variety.
what does "good quality" mean?
This doesn't mean every photo has to be a professional photo. But it does mean that every photo has to be well-lit, attractive, uncluttered... just generally aesthetically pleasing. If my WIP selfie or progress photo isn't pretty, I won't post it. If that hallway photo has too many other cosplayers in it or has bad lighting, I won't post it. I've realized that low engagement posts hurt my reach on Instagram more than just not posting, so if I don't have something good to post, I'd rather be silent.
If you don't feel like you have a good handle on which of your photos are "good quality," check your Instagram analytics (available to people with business accounts) and just look at your most popular photos of all time. All your photos should look like those. With some thoughtful observation, you should be able to pretty easily predict which photos will get higher-than-average likes.
For example, in the image to the left, you can see that almost every one of my most popular images is a side-by-side comparison. Since realizing that, I make sure around 70% of my posts are side-by-sides. You can also learn from your poorly performing posts. My least popular posts in the last month are images that don't include my face, and costumes I had over-posted. Paying attention to these things will help you develop a sense for what a good Instagram post looks like for you.
why spaced 1+ hours apart?
You want to be on people's feeds consistently throughout the day, but not overzealous. If people see too many posts from you in a short time, they may consider it spammy and unfollow. But if they don't see enough posts from you, they may forget you exist. I've found that leaving a gap of at least an hour between posts works well.
what are "peak follower hours"?
In your Instagram analytics, if you click "see more" in the "followers" section, there is a little graph at the bottom that shows you when your followers are online. My graph shows that my followers are mostly online between 11am and 3pm. If I post outside of those hours, my posts get fewer likes — not because they're bad, but because my followers aren't seeing them. I schedule my daily posts during that chunk of time.
It's a pretty simply strategy, but it's difficult to follow consistently. It's helped me to use the app Later to schedule my posts every morning. It takes me an average of 30-45 minutes, and then all I have to do throughout the day is click twice when Later notifies me. Later also has the added benefit of having its own image gallery, so when you find or take an image that would be great for Instagram, you can just upload it to Later's gallery so you don't have to fish through your camera roll when you're ready to post it. This also works as a great place to store random backup selfies and images for those times when you don't know what to post.
Oh, and Later supports line breaks, which has really helped me make my captions more informative, attractive, and organized!
Hopefully these tactics will be helpful to you! If they are, or if you make any changes to this strategy that work better, I would love to hear about it. Please feel free to tell me in the comments, or by email!
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