Hi! I’m new to Instagram. Will you be my friend?
Look out Instagram, here we come! In 2016, one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to leverage my social media influence to help with my professional goals.
Social Media for Personal Use
I have been accused of over sharing on social media. Friends would ask, “Don’t you work? You are always posting!” Of course I was, but as a journalism major and a former yearbook editor, I feel like social media was created just so I could have a self-publishing outlet (my other happy places include: VistaPrint, Shutterfly, Snapfish and FedEx Kinkos).
I thought of Facebook as my personal journal. I didn’t post 129 images of our zoo trip exclusively for the benefit of the world, I did it because I wanted to go back and review my year at a later point. Not everyone passed the rigors of friend requests, so I justified that I was only bombarding my true friends with a million photos and posts.
Having worked in tourism for 20 years, I know that photos can help realistically set expectations for what visitors will encounter. And, for smaller destinations, sometimes photos convince people that their location is worth the drive. So, I over-post for myself and so people can virtually experience what we experience when we travel.
If Pinterest had an “album” feature, then I would have done the same thing on that platform as well. What I like about Pinterest is that you can create Boards, so topics are organized by areas of interest or destinations – whatever categories you choose.
Instagram did not enthrall me at first. I signed up for Instagram more than two years ago. Created two posts and then forgot my username. I rediscovered my account in April of 2015 and created two posts with good intentions of launching into the platform now that my phone had a better camera on it. However, I didn’t really get serious about until a few months later in August.
Ramping Up Social Media for Professional Gains
In August, it became my goal to take over the internet. I have been helping my employers and marketing clients for years, but now it was a personal challenge which I hope will grow my marketing consulting as well as advance me to my goal of professional travel writing. Now, several people already have a head start on me, so this is a much harder task that I imagined, but I have to say that I am pleased with my progress in the last 5 months.
5 Beginner Social Media Tips:
- Accept new friends. You cannot afford to live a private life, have private settings on your personal accounts and an exclusive circle.
- Stay on message. Make sure that you are consistent in your brand. It appears that the more specialized you can be, the more interactive your audience will be. There are accounts just for waterfalls, and just for cats, and just for one specific cat. The reader always knows what they are going to get! What you are offering and the lifestyle you are promoting should be authentic and most of all, it should be consistent.
- Post your heart out, or feed the monster, as I like to say. It is always hungry and the more you post, the more you will learn when the best time is to post and what resonates with your followers. Posts with photos will always perform better than just words.
- Hashtags are here to stay. Use them liberally. I found that I picked up new followers when I used more hashtags.
- Ideally, you want to post individualized content on each platform, but honestly, I don’t have a team of biographers to cleverly write the same information in multiple ways with multiple photos. So, realistically, you can be more selective about what you do post (which goes against No. 3) or you can use the tools that allow you to cover more than one platform at a time (double posting to Facebook and Twitter or Facebook and Instagram or Hootsuite).
Growing an Audience
Read as much as you can, but chances are you will find the same conflicting information I have found. I have compiled 629 Pins all under a Board on Pinterest called “Molly Gilbert Marketing.” I try to read as much as I can, but I find that I need to determine how I want to use each platform and what my goals are before I start deleting posts just because that’s supposed to get more followers. Can you believe it?! There are articles saying to delete your least popular posts so that the number crunching analytical programs think that you everything you post is popular.
I have learned that somehow 11 Likes is magical on Instagram. Apparently, it is the generally accepted sign of a successful post because after 10 Likes, names don’t show, just a number. You definitely want to put your best foot forward, but I have decided brands should be true to themselves. Even if it is not the most liked post, if it has great content, I say leave it. It may be the time of day it was posted, or it may be that it wasn’t relevant in the moment, but I say leave it to help tell the full story of your location. It may come back to serve you later, especially if you are using hashtags and especially if you are in a growth period.
2015 Best Nine on Instagram
So, here’s how the numbers break down in our family’s new endeavor for Instagram. Each of the four members of my family joined Instagram in August/September 2015. We each had different posting strategies and I am fascinated by the results. I can’t wait to see the comparison in 2016!
On average, I posted about 50 images per month for 5 months on Instagram. Occasionally, I thought maybe I was overdoing it. I asked a few people who I knew would give me the answer I wanted to hear and sure enough, nobody but me is constantly looking at my feed. The more I post, the more likely I am to catch one of my friends also logged in and they might see my post in their feed. If they are really interested, they will flip to my page to see more. But, as far as I can tell, people are not getting a backlog of images from my moment-by-moment virtual trip in their feeds. My numbers on Instagram look good in comparison to my circle of non-travel writing friends, but I definitely have some work to do to further my social media reach in 2016!
Scott was used to using his phone for phone calls, so even though he had the best camera of us all, he prefers quality over quantity. I stand by my advice to feed the monster if you want to grow your audience!
Audrey, age 11, is just about in the sweet spot for ramping up social media. She is full of silliness and all of her friends are entering the world of social media. Our neighbor friend in middle school has more friends and followers than you can imagine. Everyone is her friend! Interestingly, Audrey immediately associated popularity with posting. And, initially, she posted a couple of “found” images that said “follow me and I will follow you.” As parents, we had to discourage that kind of solicitation because it brought out all the radically tattooed scantily clad scary adults you don’t want following your child on social media!
We learned that Finnian’s friends (age 9) are not yet on social media… so no matter what he posted, it was always being liked by strangers. This factor did not motivate him to post. Additionally, he hated always having fewer followers than big sister. “I am always the little one! I am losing the game!”
So, out of sympathy for the little one, if you had made it this far in the article, then please follow little Finnian on Instagram and boost his ego! You will be rewarded with posts about school projects (Charlotte’s Web), Cub Scouts and all things Lego!
Time to Grow
Ironically, I have a friend on Instagram who has not even made one single post and has 88 followers. So, I keep telling Finnian that he just has to give his account a little more time to grow!
If you want to leverage your personal social media or pursue social media for your business, please allow a little time to grow!
Whether you personally DIY your social media or farm it out to a marketing professional, people are talking about you and you just have to decide whether or not you are going to join in the conversation.
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