In the last couple weeks, I’ve had a couple people tell me that they don’t *get* Instagram, and they don’t understand how to use hashtags on it. Clearly it’s time for a Q & A blog post about it!
Q: How should I use Instagram as a brand?
A: If you’re using Instagram for your personal use, it’s just all about taking and posting photos of anything you want. If you’re using Instagram for brand purposes, however, you’ll want to strategize with your Instagram account.
My Instagram account is, at this point, a mix of personal and branded images—which is why you’ll see that I don’t post consistently, and the photos are a real mix of all sorts of different things. However, if / when I start using it with more of a branded lens, I’ll be coming up with a strategy for regular, consistent posting; I’ll also have specific things which I will / won’t post images of, and a certain style of image and filters to use.
If you’re using Instagram as a brand, ultimately it should reflect that brand and have as much of a strategy behind it as any social media platform.
One of my favorite businesses that ROCKS at Instagram branding is Tiny Feast—go check them out to see some beautiful examples for using Instagram for brand purposes!
Q: What’s the right way to use hashtags on Instagram?
A: Use hashtags as a way to share your photo with a group of like-minded Instagrammers. For example, during National Novel Writing Month, you might use #NaNoWriMo or #amwriting with a picture of yourself writing. But you can also use other hashtags of “secondary” relevancy or a humorous nature, such as #paperandpen or #needmorecoffee.
The main purpose of hashtags is to help other people who have the same interests to find your photo. Think about what you would search for to find your photo and use that as a starting point for hashtags.
Q: How many is TOO many hashtags on Instagram?
A: This is highly debatable. Some “experts” will say to post no more than three hashtags per post; others will suggest up to 30 hashtags.
It comes down to personal preference. As long as your hashtags are relevant to the image, post as many as you like! I often add a cheeky #hashtag or #allthehashtags when I type in a lot of hashtags.
If you’re new to using hashtags and you’re concerned about annoying your audience, I recommend sticking with five or fewer hashtags to start with. Adjust the amount as needed—and as always, make sure your hashtags are RELEVANT to your photo / caption.
Q: What’s with #nofilter?
A: The hashtag #nofilter just means that the person hasn’t added any filter to their Instagram photo—it’s usually used when someone takes an especially pretty photo of a sunset, for example, and they want to showcase just how gorgeous nature is. Only use #nofilter if you aren’t doctoring your photo.
Q: If I want to post a photo on Instagram after the fact (rather than in the moment), is that okay?
A: Absolutely! The most common hashtag when posting something later is #latergram. If you’re posting on Thursdays, you can also use #TBT for Throwback Thursday.
Q: How often should I post photos on Instagram?
A: The million dollar question! Again, this goes back to YOUR personal brand and your audience. But as a general rule, I’d recommend aiming to post no more than twice a day (unless you’re at an event or something similar), and no less than once a week (your brand won’t stay top-of-mind to your audience if you don’t post frequently).
Don’t just post photos for the sake of posting pictures. At the same time, if you’re using Instagram for your brand, you should have a strategy in place so that you don’t run into the problem of “needing” to update your Instagram account without any photos to publish. Try starting with posting three to five times a week, and see how it goes for you. And don’t forget to interact with your followers in between posting photos.
Get more engagement & followers on #Instagram by BRANDING your images. #socialmediatip
Q: Can I take photos with a different camera besides my smartphone and still post them on Instagram?
A: Yes! Some purists will tell you not to do this (after all, the original idea of this social media platform was for regular people to take photos and share them instantly—not for professionals to carefully edit photos taken from expensive cameras). And I do actually recommend taking photos with your smartphone and post them instantly, too—but there’s nothing wrong with occasionally taking a professional photo with a high-quality camera and sharing it on Instagram. Depending on your brand and your audience, you may have more or fewer professional photographs on your Instagram account.
By the way, one of the easiest ways to do this is to upload the photo to your computer, email it to yourself, and save the photo from your email app on your phone.
Q: How do I increase my followers and engagement on Instagram?
A: See above notes on branding your Instagram account! When you’re all over the place with the types of things you choose to photograph and the style that you use for your images, followers won’t always know what to expect from you. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing—if that’s what you want from your social media account, that’s great!
However, if you’re trying to promote your brand on Instagram, you’ll see more followers and more engagement from those followers if they know what to expect.
Notice that this means that, just like with hashtags, there is no one “right” way to use Instagram. Depending on your brand and your audience, you might do better with longer captions or shorter captions, with bright photos and lots of white space, with primarily selfies or food photos, with just a couple hashtags or dozens of hashtags. Do what feels right for YOU and YOUR brand, and you’ll nail it.