For the last few weeks, I’ve been focusing on learning how to better use Instagram. I’ve been playing around with different ideas and testing them out on my personal blog’s Instagram account. I’ve assembled these tips below into a short guide for better Instagram.
Did you know that Instagram’s base is actually bigger than Pinterest? Back in March, they declared they’d passed the 200 million active user mark. Pinterest is put at around 40 million. Twitter is at 271 million. Of course, “active user” definitions vary and these statistics could all be a lie one way or another. But it sure makes Instagram look a lot more important how, huh?
I’ll be starting to implement these new ideas over on the Bear & Beagle blog Instagram so be sure to follow!
A Word First About Instagram and Click-Throughs
Tracking mobile instagram traffic to your website isn’t an automatic thing. Try clicking on a profile link on Instagram. What happens? A window pops up and asks you whether you want to open that link in your phone’s default browser.
When users click on that box, Instagram’s programming opens a new browser window and puts in the URL. It’s not a referral. All this means that all of this traffic is showing as direct traffic in Google Analytics.
In other words, it’s the same as someone typing in your URL into the search bar and hitting enter. Unfortunately, the intentions are completely different between click through on Instagram and knowing where you want to go online and typing it in.
Without the information that the visitor came from Instagram, you have no idea if your Instagram work is contributing to your website traffic, sales, and worth all the time and dedication.
How to Track Click-Throughs from Instagram
After some creative thinking, I came up with a pretty easy fix for this:
- Use Campaign Tracking in Analytics and set up a special URL for Instagram traffic.
- Use Bit.ly or another link shortener to shrink it down to something manageable and pretty. Check out what mine’s set to for an example.
- Use Analytics reports to see how well your Instagram is performing, like any other social source.
Of course, if you’re not too adept at Google Analytics this might be really daunting. It’s not!
I promise. You can do it. I believe in you. Still need help? Grab this free video tutorial:
While it would be nice if Instagram could fix this, it’s unlikely. They’d rather keep traffic on Instagram that provide incentives to send it off platform. So I doubt they’ll invest time and money into changing that for tracking.
Capturing Attention on Instagram
Now that we know Instagram is important, if not potentially more important than Pinterest for certain aspects of our blogs, and how we can track our stats from the platform, let’s start working on increasing them.
Instagram Tip #1: Capture Moments
The idea behind using Instagram as a brand isn’t for click-throughs. The platform isn’t designed like Pinterest, the other visual social media platform, based on going off of the platform. Instagram is about sharing moments of life with others. Keeping it all that in mind, it’s not designed to be a traffic source.
Instead, concentrate on using it to attract new followers. The more eyeballs you get in front of organically, the better off your business or blog will be. So what should you focus on?
Not information. Not products. Not articles. Just moments.
When you’re crafting images for Instagram, always think about that moment of life behind the photo.
- What is it saying?
- What do others identify with in the moment?
- Is it something we all have in our lives, at some point or another, or want to have?
Taking the same blog manifesto you developed for your website plays a role here in Instagram but on an even more distilled level.
What would someone say about you if they just looked at the images on your Instagram account? What do they take away from the moments in your life?
Instagram Tip #2: Use Basic Photography Skills
You don’t have to be a professional photographer to rule Instagram but it sure helps. The top non-celebrity Instagram accounts are pretty much dominated by professional photographers who don’t use their phones to take the images. Instead, they used high quality professional equipment, edit the photos heavily using Photoshop or Camera RAW, and post them well after they’re taken.
Guess what? You probably can’t do that regularly. It might not fit with your brand either! But that doesn’t mean you can’t improve your Instagram account with some lessons from pro photographers.
- Use the right crop for the photo. There’s a good reason why cameras are in 2×3 and not square! Sometimes using squares just doesn’t work well for photos. Just because Instagram dictates square doesn’t mean you have to do that.
- Think about composition. Think in thirds and triangles. Enable the grid in your Instagram camera by tapping the grid icon above the shutter button. Put your focal point on the crosses or along the lines.
- Straighten out crooked photos by selecting the Wrench and the Adjust section in the edit window.
- Shoot in good lighting, especially if you’re taking photos with your phone. Phones don’t do well in low lighting situations and get grainy quickly.
- Think about what’s behind your focal point. Backgrounds matter in photos so don’t just ignore them! People scroll through Instagram quickly and distractions will take away from your message.
Instagram Tip #3: Instagram Specific Tasks
After capturing great photos, the hardest part is getting them in front of a growing audience. There are thousands of great photos out there no one knows about because the users don’t do two things every good account has: hashtags and captions.
While your photos should speak for themselves, adding meaningful descriptions and hashtags can really boost your account and images.
Captions serve as the only way to actually talk to your followers collectively on Instagram. If your message is more than just a simple photo, using your captions wisely is important. Long captions also give you a lot more visual real estate on the platform that short ones until they start to gain lots of comments and become amended. More real estate is a good thing!
Figuring out what other popular accounts in your niche are using for hashtags can take a good deal of research but it’s worth it. It can significantly increase your ability to gain more followers and more click-throughs. It’s how new people find your images through search, after all, so without great hashtags, you’re missing out.
On top of hashtags and captions, filters are really important to getting the most out of Instagram. Picking the right one is my biggest struggle with the platform! You can decide to only ever use one to give your photos a lot of consistency but each one tells a different story that can help you better convey your point.