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Really, this blogpost should be called “What is Instagram and how do I do it… and Should I do it?!?”. I say this because there are just some cases that Instagram isn’t a good fit. I’ll explain more on this later. First, let’s look at what Instagram really is.

Instagram in its simplest form is an image (and now video) sharing social network. Its purpose is to allow users to upload their photos so that other users that “follow” them (subscribe to get updates from them) can see them and like/comment. Now, you might be thinking “what does that have to do with SEO?”, and you’d be right! In the simple aspect of photo sharing, there is no real SEO benefit. But, there is a small feature of Instagram that makes a world of difference, and is what has elevated them to the third largest search engine (yes that’s right, search engine).

#hashtag… This simple feature, taken from Twitter, totally changes the game in terms of how you can utilize Instagram. The hashtag in Instagram is used for two things, searching and for what’s trending. So, let’s say that you post a picture of a super cute puppy. Without a hashtag, it’s pretty much guaranteed that the only people that will ever see your photo are the people that are already following you. But, the whole world needs to see how cute your puppy is! Queue in the hashtag. With a few simple words added to your picture with a “#” in front of them, you can open up flood gates of “awwwww, how cute!” and “I want one now!” comments. Words like “#cuite”, “#instapuppies” or “#cutiestpuppyever” can mean the difference between 5 people seeing your picture and 5000 people!

So, now that you know the basics of how Instagram works, I know what you’re thinking again! You’re thinking “Why does it matter how many people see my photos?”… There are a few different reasons why this is important, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that viewing your “photo” is all that important. What’s important here is:

1. Brand awareness – Brand awareness can go a long way with Instagram. If used properly you can help to shape what type of company you are, and that you’re not just a company. You can show the not-so-serious side of your business and help people to better connect with your brand on a more personal level.

2. The following – People will follow you on Instagram if they like what you have to show them. With 200 million+ users, this is a good thing. Like making the “up sell” you’ll have plenty of time and opportunities to convert those followers into subscribers (or buyers).

3. The marketing – You’re not limited to just the photos with Instagram. Each time you post, you have a chance to say something; to speak; directly to your followers and would-be followers. Want people to go to your website? Give them a link. Have a new product you want people to know about? Tie it in with the photo and tell them about it, maybe give a short link to buy it. Running a special… You get the point.

I must be psychic, because I know exactly what you’re thinking, again! “Ok, so I know why it’s important and what it is, but how do I know it’s right for my business?” That’s not such a simple question… and there’s not a black and white answer.

Really, the key thing to think about when determining if Instagram is right for your business is: will I be able to have a constant pool of images I can use, that people will want to see, that for the most part have something to do with my business (doesn’t always have to be about the business), and the time / manpower to keep it up to date?? I know, a very hard and broad question. The best advice I can give you is to look up some Instagram accounts for businesses that would relate to your own, and see how they’re using it. Does it seem like something you could do? Could you get enough content? Ultimately you’ll have to decide if Instagram is right for you and your business.

Finally, the good stuff! Now that you’ve decided it’s time to jump on the #Instawagon, let’s look at how we use it and what tools are out there to help us.
First thing is first, and I say this first because it’s super important. Do NOT, ever, use any software or websites that will automate posting content to Instagram. In fact, don’t use ANY third party tools that say they work with Instagram. Why? Because they will ban your account… and you might not even know it when they do. If Instagram picks up on you automating things, or using third party tools (not approved for Instagram) they will block your account to where you can still use Instagram, but none of your posts show up in trending or searches. This means that only your current followers will see the things that you post, making your Instagram account useless.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s get to the fun stuff. The first thing you’ll want to do if you haven’t already done so, is create an Instagram account. The only way to do this (as of when this blog was posted) is to go through the Instagram app. You can’t register though the website. So, download the app (you can, however, download the app from the website) on whatever smart device you’ll be using. Once you’ve done that, simply follow the wizard steps in setting up your account. One important thing to note here is your username. You’ll want to pick a username that keeps consistent with your brand and that isn’t crazy long. For example, the username for the TillerPhish Instagram account is, TillerPhish. You’ll also want to pick a profile image that is appropriate for your business or yourself. If you’re a band, or public figure, or personality, it’s fine to use a picture of yourself (yourselves). If you are, let’s say, an automotive shop, I’d stay away from using a picture of yourself and upload a logo, or photo of the shop instead.

Now that you’ve got your account all setup, you’ll want to make sure your posts are also feeding to your other social media accounts as well. Instead of a long drawn out explanation of how to do that, here are some screen shots!

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Now that we’ve got it all setup, now really the only thing left is to use it! Feel free to play around with all the filters and tools you can use to make your photos pop and stand out, and make sure that the text that goes along with your post makes sense and has a point (refer to the three “what’s important here” topics from above).

One last thing you need to do, and manage, when posting to Instagram, is properly using your hashtags. You’ll want to make sure you are using them to boost your reach while also not making your posts spammy, and also not affecting the other social networks you post to. Here are some rules/steps we use:

1. Only use between 1 and 3 hashtags in the main text that goes along with your post. The bulk of your hashtags can and should be put as a comment to your post. This makes your posts not come across as spammy as well as not affecting the other social media outlets your content is posting to. It looks horrible to see a Facebook post that has 30 hashtags attached to it!

2. Don’t use 10,000 hashtags. Instagram limits the number of hashtags that a person can use in a single comment and for good reason. If you want to go #hashtagcraycray keep it within reason. Let’s say, 30 hashtags. Total.

3. Don’t just guess at what people are searching for. You’re not everyone and everyone isn’t you, so there’s no real way to guesstimate trends. There are websites out there that show hashtags that are trending on Instagram and Twitter. The one we use will allow you to input a word or words and will spit out a list of hashtags that are trending in relation to the words you entered! Check it out here | http://top-hashtags.com/hashtag/

4. Use it for content on your website. You can either feed Instagram directly into your site, or you can embed a single post. Either way, it’s great for added value! It’s easy to embed a post, just login to Instagram from your computer, and then click your name at the top to go to your profile. Once there, click on the image that you would like to embed. Once you do that it will pop out, and you’ll see a text box where you can leave a comment. If you click the button that has the “…” on it, it will give you the option to click “embed”. Once you do this a window will pop up with the code that you can copy and paste directly into your website (or WordPress post). Integrating your Instagram feed however, is a little more complicated… and something we’re not going to cover in this post. Maybe another blog? If you’d like us to make a post on integrating a feed into your website, let us know in the comments below! You can see an example of an integrated Instagram feed in the footer of this website :)

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