You know all those stories of people who suddenly take Instagram by storm? Have you ever wondered why your Instagram hasn’t fully taken off? I have on several occasions. But I also learned that there isn’t a short cut or one strategy that works. Instagram is an ever evolving platform that needs you to pivot whenever needed.
That being said, there are ways to optimize your Instagram that will help you in the long run. I have experience with the platform and social media strategies. And although I don’t have 10k or more followers — mostly because I’m not on it enough or engage enough, two tips already! — I do indeed know how the platform works.
Below I want to share 5 ways to optimize your Instagram game and keep the platform creative and fun to use.
YOUR INSTAGRAM BIO & PROFILE
The first thing anyone will see when they visit your profile is your Instagram bio, your highlights and the first three images — or half of it. From the first second it needs to be clear what your profile is about and set the tone of what they can expect. People will decide in a couple of seconds whether they think your profile is worth following or not. Make. It. Count.
Here are some ways to update your Instagram bio:
• Make it clear in one sentence what your Instagram profile is all about.
• Do use user tags (@) for any of your other profiles — like your account for your business — but don’t use hashtags (#). They do work but it will mean someone will leave your profile. If you direct them to your other account they will at least go to an account that is owned by you.
• Create a link in bio that is hosted on your own website. You only have to create a page and fill it with buttons that link to where you want to direct them.
DECIDE YOUR NICHE
You’ve probably have heard about it before but you need to have a nice. Being just a traveller, foodie account or fashion blogger is not enough anymore. You need to dive deeper and decide what will set you apart within that group.
My account @fionagobbo is focused on fashion and the ambitious women lifestyle. My niche is personal style. And to take it even deeper, my values are ‘quality over quantity’ and ‘personal style to strengthen your personal brand’.
You need to define what your niche is and the values you have. Especially the values will set you apart — which I learned through the audience attraction method, check this video for more information. To give an example, within the niche ‘personal style’ you can have the values per type of personal style (example: work wardrobe) or creating a capsule wardrobe.
What do you value and what will help you make a connection with others on Instagram? Defining your niche and values will also help you with creating content. You have a set of defined rules that your content needs to comply with.
DIVERSIFY YOUR INSTAGRAM CONTENT
If you want to make an impact with your content and earn Instagram points, you need to diversify your content. In other words, you need to use all the different types of content. And yes, this is confirmed by Instagram.
But before I even get into the types of content you should be using, you need to ask yourself a couple of questions:
• What does my audience want to see?
• What are questions or remarks I get a lot?
• How can I make the content entertaining?
• What does my audience want to get out of it?
When you know what your audience wants, you can write down per type of content what you can share.
The OG way to use Instagram is to post images on your feed. How you images look, how much you edit them and what you post about all the depends on your niche and values. Think of creative and entertaining ways to visualize what you want to add to the conversation.
You have many ways to create video content for Instagram. The regular video is the one you post to your feed. A video on your feed can be no longer than a minute and you can post it in square, portrait (4:5) or landscape (5:4) mode.
If you chose one of the last two options, make sure that the most important part of the shot is in the middle. Your video will be shown in square formate on your profile and you want to keep it in style with the rest. Use the video option for short clips you want to share like an unboxing or how you use a product — find a creative way within your nice to use this option.
I personally love to use burst mode on my camera to take a couple of images back to back and create a video (example). It is an easy way to create a short but impactful video.
For more specific information on technical specs, read this article by Later.
You can post one image or video but you can also use a couple images in a carroussel (example). Not only can you use more images or videos to share, your post will be shown multiple times in the feed. So you get more chances to connect with your audience.
Instagram Stories attracts millions of daily users, so using this feature is a must these days. Stories are a way to share your personal, daily stories in an unfiltered way. Think about how you can use Stories that connects with your audience and are within your niche.
Even within Stories you need to diversify your content to keep your audience engaged. Use static images mixed with video or a boomerang. Talk to your audience — something I’ve been trying out but still feels a little weird — or share templates with your latest blog post. Oh, and don’t forget to cluster important stories together in a highlight.
A lot of people used to resist using IGTV — myself included — but it will definitely help you optimize your Instagram game if you use them. Ever since bloggers use it to showcase how they wear certain items, it seems IGTV officially exploded and is now part of the content mix on the platform. You can find my IGTV videos here.
IGTV videos can be between 15 seconds to 10 minutes but I would suggest to reserve the IGTV video for anything longer than one minute. To share an IGTV on your feed — which is a must to get viewers — it needs to be longer than one minute anyway. For more technical specs, read this article by Later. I’ve also found this YouTube video to be very informative if you edit your videos in Adobe Premiere Pro.
I personally like to stick with content that I can easily make and edit — just like with all my Instagram content. Also think about ways to use IGTV to promote other content you’ve already created for your own platforms.
Last, and definitely a form of content that scares me a little bit, is live video. I do think live video only works when you’ve build more of a community — which is why I don’t use it.
However, if you do, it’s a great way to connect with the people who follow you. You can do a live Q&A on a certain topic or give a webinar — whatever fits your niche. Make sure that you promote your live video beforehand so you have people tune in. Tip: ask your audience via a Stories poll when you should go live.
MAKE IT ON BRAND
Obviously it is important to create content your audience wants — they are the people who will consume it — but it is also important to make your content on brand. What this does is:
• It will create brand awareness — people will get to know you and your brand or business better,
• and brand recognization — they will instantly know that you are the source behind the content.
This will result in brand loyalty — your followers will come back and engage with your content because you are providing what they want to consume. As a brand designer and social media strategist I find that keeping everything on brand is the best way to make an impact that will help you grow.
There are a couple of ways to make your content on brand:
• Filters, editing and photo composition: create content and edit it in a way that people will instantly recognize. You can also shoot your content in a certain way or pose in a way that is recognizable for your followers.
• Your face: show your face! People not only feel more connected when they see a face, you are also the most unique part of your feed.
• Copy: write as you talk and stick with copy that fits your personality. It has to feel — I know, I know — authentic. Quotes are fun but you can show a little more personality.
FOCUS ON CREATIVITY & ENGAGEMENT
Instead of the numbers. I know, I know, if you want to grow and monetize you do need the numbers but it kills the platform and fun real quickly.
QUIT THE NUMBERS GAME
We also tend to forget — thanks to Facebooks monetization — that Instagram is also a SOCIAL platform. It was created to share instant content with others and create connections. So it is no surprise that engagement is the number one way to create buzz around your feed. Unless you are Beyoncé, you can’t just send out content onto the platform. You need to engage with others. Personally I see a big difference between the days I do engage with others and the days I don’t.
That’s also why you need to focus on the creativity behind your feed instead of numbers. Some days I just don’t feel like engaging, I just want to share what I created. And that can result in getting fewer likes, comments or views. That does not mean that my content was crap, I just didn’t engage enough for it to show up in the feeds of followers.
Not going to lie, I do think numbers are important. I do love it when I break my own record. However, if I just focused on numbers I would not be as happy with my feed. Certain types of images just work better, certain filters will get me more engagement or likes and certain aesthetics will make you grow a lot faster. But that is not what I want. I want to create content that I love and that I think will add value to an oversaturated platform.
MONETIZE & DIVERSIFY
My number one tip for anyone who wants to use Instagram to make money and keep it creative and fun, is to diversify your income streams. Don’t make yourself depended on one platform. Depending on one thing you are selling — your influence and numbers. If I look at the OG Instagrammers in the fashion industry, they all have different ways to monetize beyond Instagram. They sell products, do paid panels or talks, use their owned platforms to make money — they don’t just depend on Instagram anymore.
That is also why these — mostly ladies — have become real business women. It’s business 101 to not focus on one channel or service to bring in the cash. You need to scale and extend your brand. Not only will your bank account and future you thank you, it will keep Instagram fun and creative. You have a bigger playground to test and try new things. You have breathing room to pivot when they decide to change the algoritme or when the platform crashes again. Depend on yourself, your creativity and not the platform.