How to avoid mistakes when using Instagram

It’s Thursday so it’s time for another mini Social Media Series.  Today’s topic is Instagram!  Once again, I am admitting I’m no expert.

This article is more about what I’ve learned, what works and what doesn’t.  Things that have helped me (or hindered me).  Hopefully, some of this will be useful to you guys too 🙂

The Social Media Series: How to avoid mistakes when using Instagram

What Instagram Is

Instagram is a Gallery site.  It is one of the most visual social media platforms so is great for those who enjoy sharing graphics and photographs.

What is your Instagram Purpose?

Instagram’s popularity has continued to grow.  Unlike Twitter and Facebook, Instagram does not have the same engagement expectation in regards to comments.

With all social media, you need to know why you are using it.  When I first started using Instagram, it had no purpose other than to share photos.  I’m a very visual person so Instagram drew me in.

Now there is nothing wrong with just using this or any platform without a real purpose.  However, since I want to be a professional writer I don’t want to just randomly use social media.

So define your strategy.  Do you want to gain sales? Drive traffic to your blog? Build a consistent writing brand?

Despite being a writer, I find using visuals a better way of expressing myself outside of writing a novel.

Now I am still learning to use Instagram with more purpose and have made a clear definition that my purpose is.

It would have been better to have figured that earlier, but oh well, live and learn.

Let’s look at some stats and data

As with other social media platforms, knowing who uses Instagram can help determine whether or not it’s worth your time.

So just how many people use Instagram?

The app is one of the most popular social networks worldwide. Instagram is a mobile social network that allows users to edit and share photos as well as videos. In 2015, there were approximately more than 77.6 million active Instagram users in the United States. This figure is projected to surpass 111 million in 2019.

(source: Statista – 2015)

Ho many photos and videos are shared on Instagram?

8. 95 million photos and videos are shared on Instagram per day. 9. Over 40 billion photos and videos have been shared on the Instagram platform since its conception.
(source:Wordstream– Jul 2018)
What are the age groups on Instagram?
Percentage of users
13-17 7%
18-24 31%
25-34 30%
35-44 17%

(source: Statista – January 2018)

Get started on Instagram

If you are using Instagram as part of your writer strategy then you will want to create a Business Account.  This is free but gives you extra benefits such as Insights where you can track your metrics, share links in Stories and make shoppable posts.

Profile

Name

As always it’s good to keep your username the same as on your other social media platforms.  After all, this is part of your branding.

As well as the username, you have a section for your “name”.  So if your username is connected to your blog or novel for example, you can then put in your name/pen name as well.

Avatar

Make sure you change the avatar picture.  Choose something that is eye-catching.  Since Instagram is done on smartphones, the avatar is very small.  So think about the picture you choose, make sure it’s clear and easy to see.

As always, I prefer to use the same for all my social media.  I like the consistency.

Profile Bio

You have 150 characters for your Instagram profile bio.  Make these characters count. Have fun with your profile but it’s a good idea to let people know who you are and what you do.

I wanted to make sure people knew I was a writer and a blogger.  Added in my Twitter handle to drive traffic to my Twitter account.  Finally, you can add in a link on your profile – make sure you use.

You can also use emojis and I do recommend using them too 🙂

I’ve changed my profile several times since I joined Instagram, but this is my current one.  I’m happy that it is clear on who I am, what I do and what I offer.

Screenshot of Ari Meghlen Instagram Bio

On a business account, you can also include your email and phone number.  Obviously, for some businesses, this is useful, but as writers, you may want to share your email address but I certainly won’t recommend sharing your phone number.

View options

You have three view options.  These sit just before your profile. 

The first is the grid view where your posts are laid out in the 9 squares grid. 

The second is your feed, where you can see each of your posts individually, just like people would see them in their timeline. 

The third is actually a list of posts you have been tagged in.

Menu

At the bottom, you have your menu. 

The first (house icon) takes you to your timeline where you can vie the pictures of people who you follow.

The second (magnifier) is your search option.  Clicking this gives you several videos and pictures you might like and a search bar at the top.  When searching you can search by people, tags and places.

The third (+ inside square) takes you to your gallery for a quick share to Instagram.

The fourth (heart) is all your likes, comments and follows.

The fifth (person) is your home page where you can edit your profile, see your post, followers and following counts etc.  In this view, you can also access your Insights (metrics), see your “saved” posts and discover people you may know.

To access all these you simply click the three horizontal lines in the top right-hand corner.

Using Instagram

What to post

Again, this comes down to your strategy.  From what I’ve learned it works best to have a system and a style.  If you’re a writer, then share writer things – images of your manuscript, photos of books, pictures of your characters, quotes etc.

Now you don’t have to only post writer things, throw in some other images though most experts seem to suggest you should tie these pictures into your main “theme”.  I am still attempting to do that… not quite there.

Types of Media

Instagram is obviously best for photos, pictures and videos.  There are also some great writers and poets who use it to share their work, though my recommendation is to keep the writing as small snippets with larger text to make it easier to read when scanning.

Most people won’t stop to read a long poem or long piece of prose in a very small font size, which I do see a lot.

Style & Branding

Trying to create a theme and brand in your Instagram is important.  Again, I am still trying to sort this.  I am doing a lot of trial and error (mostly error). 

Like with any branding, having a colour scheme, a theme, even a formatting system for your imagery can help to solidify your branding image.

For this, take your time to decide on not only what you are going to post but how.  There are ways to create patterns.

I post my #TheMerryWriter question every other post which has given my Instagram feed a patterned look.  It’s not the one I am happy with, so I need to review it and try again, but I have noticed creating some form of pattern does work well.

Some people post selfies every other post or quotes, others post a text image every two posts which creates a row in the centre of the feed of text posts, thus giving a specific look to the feed.

Take a look at Kim Chance’s Instagram feed, she has done a great job with recent branding.  You can see the colour palette she uses and the style of her photos.

Instagram Stories

These were created in 2016 that allows users to post videos and photos in a special “stories” area.  After 24 hours they vanish.  This content appears at the top of your timeline so is often seen more than a regular post.

The feature allows you to include text, emojis, labels and hashtags.  While I am still new to Instagram stories, it is something highly recommended to use.

From what I’ve read, posting 3 times a week to Stories is beneficial.

Instagram Highlights

Highlights are when you group old stories together into a new section.  These sections are more permanent and sit just below your bio.  People have used them to create pockets of posts and videos specific to a topic.

For example, you may have one that has screenshots of your website and the products you sell.  Maybe one that features your best poetry or artwork.

I have three highlights, one for my writing, one for my blog and one for my reading list.  To add a highlight, you create a story and there is a button on the Story that says “highlight”.

This then allows you to either create a new highlight or attach the photo/video to an existing one.

This way I can keep posts about my writing in this highlight rather than people having to scroll down through my feed.

Screenshot of Instagram highlights

How often should you post?

It’s suggested that 1 -2- posts a day is enough for Instagram and too many in one day can fill up people’s feed and have them unfollowing you.

What time should you post?

This depends on your own analysis.  Currently, my best times are 8am and 7pm (GMT).  Try different times to post and see how the engagement changes.

Some average stats say that Mondays and Thursdays are the best days, Wednesdays are good and Sundays are the worst.

So if you are aiming to post once or twice a day, make sure your best things are scheduled for Mondays and Thursdays.

Do your own analysis and work your schedule around the data you retrieve.

How to analyze

In the business accounts version, check your Insights to see your data.  Insights give you details on the activity over a period of time, showing interactions on different days.  It also reveals profile visits, website clicks, reach and impressions.

There is a tab for content that shows you how many times the posts were seen.

There is a tab for Audience that tells you about your follower numbers, locations of followers, age and gender of your audience and the days/hours they visit.

Using hashtags

Instagram has a imit of 30 hashtags per post.  Now there has been a lot of discussion about this.  However, from everything I’ve read and what I’ve seen on my own Instagram experiments.  The sweet number is 11 hashtags.

Definitely, have more than 8 but I personally would avoid using them all.

Also, don’t use hashtags such as “followforfollow” and try and make sure your hashtags are relevant to the post.  Let’s not do any clickbait hashtags.

Finally, when you are typing hashtags, it usually opens up a dropdown of similar hashtags and shows how many times they have been used.  If possible, aim for hashtags with the smaller numbers, definitely below 100,000 posts.

Other things to consider

Pointless comments

I have been receiving a lot of these recently.  I run my Hashtag game #TheMerryWriter on Instagram as well as Twitter.  So the post is a writing question.

Two accounts were commenting each time, never answering the question but saying things like “excellent” or “great post”.  These are pointless and fake comments.

Most likely by a bot or a virtual assistant paid to “boost” someone’s Instagram page by showing interaction.

Don’t do this, don’t use bots or other non-connecting ways to show interaction.  You will get blocked.  Well, that’s what I do when I see these kinds of things.  Especially from accounts who don’t even follow me.

Don’t spam

Don’t tag random people into your post especially if they have nothing to do with anything.  Due to bots and also companies/people who want to boost their follower numbers, you can get tagged copied into someone’s posts in a hope that you will a) follow them or b) will show in their stats that they had a spike in engagement.

If you find someone like that, block them.  But definitely, don’t do it yourself.

Follow Unfollow

Do NOT follow and then unfollow in a bid to grow your followers.  This is an old trick and it’s really frustrating.  You can usually tell the people who will do this.  If someone follows you and they have oner 1000 followers but are only following a few 100 people, chances are this is a follow unfollow scheme.

I use an app called Follow Cop to keep an eye out for these.  I like following genuine people and if someone follows me, I don’t automatically follow them if I’m not interested in their feed.  However, I’ve had a number of writers follow then unfollow me.

I don’t like this behaviour, I consider it dishonest.  Follow Cop connects to your Instagram and there is a section for “recent unfollowers.”  It shows you who has unfollowed you.  Usually, these are people who followed me like 2 days earlier.

Just checking it now, I’ve had two recent unfollows.  So I’ve unfollowed them.  Now I have a lot of people I follow who don’t follow me back.  But I won’t tolerate people who are just following others to boost their own numbers.  So I highly recommend Follow Cop or another similar app to keep track.

Use a Scheduler

I talk about this all the time.  Use a Scheduler for your social media.  The only issue is, most schedulers, even paid ones won’t auto-post to Instagram.  Instead they “notify” you that it’s ready to post.

You can still use it to set up your image (though often, not the filter etc) and then add in your comment and hashtags.  Then on the appropriate time, you get a notification to upload.  A quick button press allows you to add the filter, paste the comment and post.

I use Buffer for scheduling all my social media and I love it!  I do have the paid version (totally worth the money!), but there is a free version that lets you connect 3 accounts and schedule 10 posts each.  So give it a try and see what you think.

What are your tips for using Instagram? Share them in the comments below.

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Thanks for reading.  As I said earlier, not an expert, not even close.  In fact, I am still working on getting my Instagram platform to work for me.  I spent time with Pinterest and Twitter and am mostly happy with how they are working.

Instagram is still being worked on as I feel it needs more planning.  I have done better with it but I think it needs a bigger, more organised strategy to get the best out of it.

Please follow this blog if you aren’t already, I post lots of interesting content, several times a week!  

Also, how about following me on Instagram?  Go on, you know you want to!

Happy writing

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33 thoughts on “How to avoid mistakes when using Instagram

  1. Theme and brand are two things I need to figure out before I take the leap. I have this habit of jumping in without a plan. The only time I held back was Twitter and so far that has worked in my favor.

    Thanks for doing this. It’s given me some ideas.

    • I know what you mean. I can often plan things to death or jump in. I’m trying to hit a middle ground.

      I am happy with my branding on other areas, but I seriously need to focus on Instagram and come up with a better, branded look and more organised schedule.

      I think once you have it set up the way you want with theme/branding etc, it makes it so much easier 🙂

  2. thanks so much. lots of interesting info here. especially that you recommend 11 as the ideal number of hashtags. i have been using 30 and am very nervous about using less than that, but will try to take your advice. also good information re hashtags with less than 100,000 posts. very useful to know. many thanks again.

    • Hi Libby, thanks for reading. Glad you found this useful. I would recommend maybe putting up some posts with just 11 hashtags and some with 30 and see what your stats show.

      If you have 30 awesome hashtags, dropping to 11 might not work for you, so just doing like maybe 10 posts with 11 hashtags (interspersed) among posts with 30 hashtags and see how your data looks 🙂

      • yes, good idea Ari. i have tested it out briefly, but doesn’t seem to make a huge difference. 30 hashtags generally get me more attention. i could try 10 posts though interspersed on IG with only 11 hashtags as you suggest.

        how many tags do you think are ideal for WordPress? some say 15 and some say never more than 3 on any social media.

        would be interested to know what you think.

      • I try not to go above 17 and I always have at least 8. Since I instigated this, I have had a lot more traffic, I can’t say how much has been influenced by this change since I have been making a change with other areas, but I’m happy with what I am using. 🙂

  3. Great post. I still use the “save draft” option to keep my upcoming Instagram posts ready. Then I just set a reminder to post when it’s due. The save draft option saves the caption too, so I just click the saved image, then it takes me to the caption and hashtag section and the text is already there! So I just share it in a blink. It’s been a game changer for me and I don’t need to go to a planner app for that.

    • Someone else mentioned a “draft” option but it doesn’t work for me. Then again, I use Buffer for all my scheduling so it’s easier for me to use put all my instagram posts on that. 🙂

  4. The “follow then unfollow” got really bad on my Instagram. In one week, my followers would go up and down by 20+ users! I knew something was fishy, and turns out, it is automatic bots. I got a different app who shows me followers, who unfollows, who I follow back, etc. It is great!

    As a business, writer, or artists, follow-then-unfollow looks really bad! I never ever buy or read anything from those people. I also don’t like instant “Thank you, now buy my stuff” PMs.

    This blog is full of great advice, so thank you! 🙂
    Yari

    • Thanks for reading. I know what you mean, there seems to be a lot of bots around at the moment and I get so tired of my numbers fluctuating.

      I have had PMs like that, just pushing their books on me the moment I follow. I just consider that bad marketing and usually unfollow.

      So glad you enjoy my blog 😊

  5. What about saving your not-really-scheduled post as a draft? So you can get all that text/hashtags set and ready to go?

    I sometimes share my Instagram pics to my other social media, but as I’m also trying to produce content FOR the other medias, I often c/p my post onto Twitter and Tumblr, because I don’t expect much click through and I find the link instead of the image makes my feeds on the other medias feel like clickbait.

    • Unfortunately there is no draft option. The best way would just be to use a scheduler that way you can prep all your content, text, hashtag and then set them yo the dates times you want them to go live.

      • When I go into my Instagram and click to add a new image, if I scroll up instead of down, I see 3 ‘drafts’ that were never posted.

        Once you get the the ‘share’ page, if you hit back twice, it’ll ask if you want to “Save as draft?”

      • How strange, mine does not do that at all. Just tried it a few times, but it never comes up with anything about “saving as a draft”.

    • Hi Shalini thanks for reading. I am still working on getting the most from my Instagram. I feel like it takes more to develop a system than with some of the other social media platforms

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