Using Instagram effectivelyNEW

This resource is a summary highlighting helpful tips and insights, from a webinar presented by social strategist Hannah Ray to AOI Members in April 2020.

[hidden title ="Creating your Story"]
At the heart of Instagram is storytelling. It’s really important to think about what story you want to tell and consider how will people read it.

Ask yourself:

  • Who is my community?
  • Who do I want to reach?
  • What’s my purpose?
  • How can I encourage people to connect with me?

One important ingredient for success is being authentic, and to do that you can tap into your personal ‘origin story’. What story is yours, is truly authentic, and will engage people?

When you know the answer to this – it will help you find your place on Instagram and grow that community and visibility. As your community grows, you’ll have an increasing sense of ‘belonging’ on the platform and your profile will grow.

You can use this model to think through your questions:

_________ are my tribe, my account is @_________ – we connect to _________

So, an example Hannah gave for a ladies surf club Instagram account was:

Beginner women surfers are my tribe. @ladiessurfclub – we connect to feel confident in the water and learn together.

You can choose which aspects of your life to bring into your profile page. For example, sexuality or heritage are parts of your identity, therefore could be important to share and can help build community. A general rule is what feels good for you, will feel good for your community.

AOI example:

LGBTQ+ Illustrators are my tribe. We connect to celebrate sexuality within the illustration community and advance the profile of LGBTQ+ illustrators.


[hidden title ="Writing a good bio"]
A good bio should be simple and break down into two aspects. It needs to tell people who you are, and then tell people what your purpose is – why it is you do what you do. It will signal to people what they can expect on your feed, so they know what they will get by following you.

An example:

@ Vogue India ‘Before it’s in fashion, it’s in vogue’ (who they are: fashion trendsetter)

Join the vogue India community for the latest on beauty, lifestyle and community (what their purpose is).


[hidden title ="Standing Out"]
Success is not based on your number of followers. Instead, success should be based on your own personal goals. So for an illustrator, you might want that to be the volume of professional enquiries coming in through the platform.

When you know your community, you need to make your platform a place that people feel they want to come to and connect with.

Take time to consider what makes profiles stand out – look for other accounts in your community, and work towards building a strong bond with others. That said, a common myth is “if it’s working for them it will work for you”. Take inspiration, but be authentic to yourself – tell your story your way.


[hidden title ="What to post and how much time to spend"]
There is no set recommended time. Just think about how much time you have to spend/invest, perhaps 10-30 minutes engagement every other day. It’s not enough to post every three to four weeks but it shouldn’t take over your life/work.

Use your time on the app wisely. Don’t post irrelevant or low-quality content which will make you more at risk of losing followers. Use Instagram stories with reserve and save posting for a time you have a really good story to share.

Quick tip: Keep a series of posts to a specific day of the week and build a content calendar. Consistency is important -so you might want one post every Tuesday, for example.

Think about bracketing your content into 2-3 categories e.g. your work, your interests, and yourself. The final one can be slightly more personal but should be relevant to your work.

Then, think about diversifying the content in each bracket. Consider showing how your work is made in different ways, give insights into process. Contrast from finished design work, to more human aspects of the process. Work in progress, time lapses or different angles all work well. This variety gives you a much more well-rounded picture of who the artist is and will encourage more meaningful connections than a flat portfolio of work might.

Every so often stand back and consider your content. Are your working to tell your story, or are some a bit off topic? If so, consider moving them to a separate page.


[hidden title ="Perfect Grid"]
A well curated grid can be important, but it is not everything. Think constructively about how your post will appear in someone else’s feed, consider how you frame your caption writing, location, who you have tagged. All of these counts as the furniture of the image – and add to the quality of the post. Each post will be digested in a separate way.

It’s advised to avoid mosaics i.e. – a single image across multiple posts. Mosaics lack engagement, they become stale and static and don’t clearly communicate the message in a single post.


[hidden title ="How to effectively use Hashtags"]

There are three ways hashtags can be effective to connect with other users:

One to be discovered – these should be more specific and refined than generic tags (i.e. LondonIllustrators)
Two, to create your own identity tag – these create a niche hashtag for your own content (ie hannahraytravel)
Three, to be participatory and get others involved – these might focus on a time limited period or project (ie inktober)

There are no set number of hashtags in a single post that are ideal. Too many generic hashtags (i.e. a paragraph of tags) appear spammy and can devalue a post. Know who you want to reach, and be consistent.


[hidden title ="How to harness 24-hour Stories"]

Instagram Stories were invented by Instagram as they started to see a ‘feed freeze’ when users wanted profiles to feel perfect. 24-hour time limited stories were made to feel more informal and fun.

When using these it’s encouraged to think in a narrative format: have a beginning middle and end. Always give context to your story.

Bear in mind your stories will sit within other user stories running seamlessly from one to another. Don’t have too high production values as you can risk making your stories look like an advert.


[hidden title ="Understanding the Algorithm"]
The algorithm is not a complex as it appears. It’s changed from chronological (recent posts shown first) to an ‘ordered feed’ which is there to help people see more posts from friends / family / a likeminded community – i.e. the profiles we have most engagement with.

– Don’t comment furiously, but comment meaningfully. There is a spam filter.
– You don’t get ranked higher if you get verified or hit any number of followers.
– Videos may get stronger engagement, but this is based on your audience, so this dictates how it will appear higher in feed.

You get back what you put in so think about the circle of generosity. A Direct Message on Instagram is a signal of engagement and the more you engage the more you will get back. Seek out your community, like posts, respond to stories, send DMs, make your comments interesting. This will contribute to strong and meaningful growth and these actions may see you appear higher in other people’s feeds.

Follow other accounts similar to your immediate community such as Art Directors and Commissioners. Research them, then follow and engage. With customers/clients take time to respond to comments and direct message – you don’t necessarily have to follow them back. But be active and recognise engagement.

The best time to post is personal to each user and their community. Look at analytics, look at community and see when your audience is active. Generally, people use the app more at weekends, and before and after work (commuting) but if your audience is also freelancers this schedule might be different.


[hidden title ="When it’s not fun"]
Take the pressure off when it comes to building anxiety when posting – and avoid comparing yourself to other accounts. Let creativity thrive and bring the fun back to the platform and concentrate on things you personally enjoy!


[hidden title ="Final tips from Hannah Kay"]

Be community driven: find ways to notice, bring in and involve community in all parts of the platform.

Stay radically-focused: Try not to let your Instagram become a catch-all. Stay focused with a few stellar content types which can be translated in series to attract your core communities.

Be consistent & repeatable: Try new posts types then allocate them a weekly slot and get into a regular cadence. Stick to posting times to build familiarity and routines.

Be data led: If something isn’t working, try a new format or axe it. If something is working, do more. Use analytics to see if something is doing well, try something for a few weeks and assess.

Give as much back to your peers: Like accounts tend to follow like accounts, so it’s likely your peers are following you and if you give back to them the circle of generosity will reward you both.

Optimize intelligently: video should be cut with consideration for vertical and sound-off users.

Aim for your best content for each feature: Behind the scenes works well for Stories, episodic for IGTV.



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