Content Best Practices
Let's talk a little bit about visual content. So much of this, what I'm gonna share here is relevant no matter what platform you're on. Instagram thrives because it's a visual platform. Throughout all of this, throughout any platform you're using, content is really king. People follow you because they wanna see what you're sharing. There's a certain level of like, oh I know this person so I'm gonna follow them but really what keeps people there and keeps people engaged is that they like what you're sharing so that should come before anything else. Figure out what it is you wanna share with people and be consistent about what you're delivering. You really want your content and what you're sharing to add value to the lives of those who are following you. So it could be that they learn something from you or they're exposed to new people, places, things, environments, could be that it's just beautiful work, could be that maybe it's a product that they didn't know about that they need in th...
eir lives or want in their lives. I've been using Instagram for so long, I've definitely gotten to points where I wonder why I still do it sometimes and obviously for me, I do it 'cause it's part of my business, but business aside in thinking about it, sometimes I'm like, what value am I getting from this and what value am I offering to people? And then I get comments from people randomly, like I'm not seeking this, people will just message me every now and then and say something, like one person said to me, "I had to have major surgery "and I have been bedridden, literally bedridden for months "and the one thing I look forward to every day "is opening up Instagram "and traveling around the world with you." And that's really, really sweet, really powerful, and is kind of a reminder that okay, sometimes I really just am posting fun photos and beautiful photos from the places I travel to, but those are adding value in some way to some person's life, and that will shift over time, of course, depending on what you're offering, and depending on what your audience needs. Your content should really provide people a reason to follow you, so this is kind of, I mentioned this also and wanna mention other types of social media as well because most of us, many of us are not just on Instagram, we're also on other platforms, we want followers on Instagram but we also want followers on Twitter, we want followers on Facebook and on Tumblr, wherever else we have a platform, a presence, but what's really important to remember is that you have to give people a reason to follow you on whatever platform you're on. If you are sharing the same photo on Instagram out to Twitter and to Facebook and to Tumblr, I'm probably only gonna follow you on one of those places. Offering unique content on the different platforms is really beneficial if you wanna grow an audience on each one. You wanna post consistently to keep an audience and to keep your momentum going in terms of growth, so this doesn't necessarily have to be every day, it doesn't have to be so frequent necessarily, it just has to be regular and consistent. So depending on what your capacity is, obviously all of us have many other things going on in our lives and we can't just focus our lives on Instagram, so maybe your post cadence is something like three times a week, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, you make those posts. Maybe it's once a day, maybe it's even just like every Monday, you make a post, but you want people to come into your account to look, for some reason this is just something that I've fallen into very naturally, every single time I go to somebody's account for the first time, I look at their photos of course, but I also look to see when the last time they posted was, and if it's even weeks ago, especially months ago, I won't follow them. I wanna follow people who are actually gonna deliver stuff to me in my feed that I'm interested in. I'm not gonna follow you if you're not actually delivering anything, if you're not sharing, why follow you? Create a consistent look or theme. Some people are really, really good at this, so it's not just thematic in terms of subject matter but thematic in terms of editing style. I'm not so good with that as far as the editing style, I like to feel like my images are good and interesting and edited nicely, but it's really up to you how you wanna shape that. Some people will do things like alternate portrait orientation and landscape orientation sort of in this white frame, so when you go to their accounts, I should have screen shot one, when you go to their accounts it's this beautiful grid where all the photos are spaced nicely apart. And that looks really wonderful. I personally can't be bothered, so it's kinda up to you. People do things for different reasons, so you think about what feels good to you. Make it relatable, you wanna feel approachable, you wanna feel human. I think that when I follow people on social media and I think a lot of people feel the same way, I'm interested in not just the work they create and put out there but I'm interested in them as individuals, so having it be professional, beautiful, wonderful, super curated is great, but then show me who you are in another way. Maybe through your Instagram stories, maybe through your captions, maybe break that cycle of pure, beautiful portfolio work and throw in a selfie of you and your kids every now and then. I think it's nice to see who's behind the camera as well. I know that in the past when I've gone through and tried to decide, when I've gotten overwhelmed with the number of people I'm following, I'll go through and decide who to unfollow. Generally the first people that get cut are the people that I have zero personal connection to. I have no idea, some people I don't know if it's a male or a female posting, I have no idea, 'cause they haven't told me anything that gives me any indication, so if I wanna unfollow somebody, that's the first person to go, so in reverse, if you're trying to get people to follow you, let them know who you are as an individual. Mix people and non-people images and this of course is different depending on the type of work that you create. I think this one's in there more for personal businesses who are trying to sell products, you don't want to just be my jewelry on the table or my shoes on a stand in the store, you want it to be lifestyle stuff mixed in with product shots and whatnot. And product shots if they're interesting are fine, I think there's a way to do it really well and a way to do it not so well, but that's a whole other class, we're not gonna go into that in detail. There's something called the 80/20 rule that's talked about in marketing. And essentially what that states is that 80% of your social media posts should inform, educate and entertain your audience, while only 20% should directly promote your business. So that's really in line with what I was saying earlier about you wanting your posts to provide value in some way, so whether they're informational, entertaining, inspiring, whatever it is that you're providing a value on for your audience, you wanna provide, you wanna give your audience what they want and then maybe occasionally promote your business, right, so I feel like I have to balance that a lot as a photographer who teaches a lot. So I feel like I wanna show all my incredible photos and give you guys all that, but I also teach classes and it'd be cool if I could fill the classes, it'd be cool if I could meet people one on one, like come meet me do this photo op, come meet me, take this class with me, or travel with me to such and such place or meet me in Santa Fe, I'm teaching a class there, so I have to balance me delivering the content that people are there for which is the photographs and with the sort of sell of hey, come take a class with me. So it's really important to first grow the relationship with your audience and then sell them that product. People can generally see past self-promotion if it's offset by the other things, the value that you're offering to them. Video sharing on Instagram, I mean, videos have been out on Instagram for a number of years now. So they started out being I think like 15 seconds in duration, now they're up to a minute. I hear that they're about to get longer, who knows, don't quote me on that. But whatever it is that you're sharing, you want it to be short, all of these things, you want it to fulfill all of these adjectives, but the important thing is that they're snackable. I really like that word. People are going through social media, especially Instagram, I am scrolling and scrolling and scrolling. I'm not gonna watch a four minute video. Four minutes is like an eternity on social media, it's only those really, really eye catching, attention grabbing, like oh, I wanna hear the whole story on Facebook if I see one of those four or five minute videos that I'll watch the whole thing. But it really has to catch people in the first few seconds or they're gone. Literally if you can't hook me right away, I'm gone. So hook your audience early. The other important thing to note is that I don't have the exact statistic for this but most people watch videos on social media with no audio. So your video has to stand alone with no audio. Or, you have to have subtitles, so ideally, there's a hook in the beginning and you also offer those subtitles. Most of the time, I have to admit, I brush my teeth for a really long time and I have my tooth brush in one hand and I scroll social media on the other hand. So I can't hear anything over that, it's like an electric tooth brush, so I will watch Facebook videos, sometimes when I'm brushing my teeth, and if they don't have subtitles, there's literally no way for me to watch them so I'm sad sometimes but I just scroll right by it, and I say, oh yeah, I'll remember to come to that, but I never will. I never remember 'cause there are so many other things demanding my attention that I'm not gonna remember to go back to your video that didn't have subtitles. So one other thing to mention, consumption of videos on social media has increased 40%, but engagement is actually 36% higher on photos. So I think people, I don't know what it is, I think there's a number of reasons, I'm not gonna try to explain everything, I have no idea, but one thing you get so wrapped up in a video that you watch it, cool, that's neat, and then you keep going. With photos I think a lot of people get into that scroll, double-tap, scroll, double-tap, scroll, double-tap kind of quick succession of actions, but your video kind of derails that process so it might just be that people kinda forget. And so I think that's one of the reasons why Instagram switched their displays of engagements on videos from being number of likes to number of views. Because they also as a platform realize that they need to give those numbers and those analytics to people, especially if they're getting hired for stuff like this or people are using it for businesses, so they want it to be really a more accurate representation of what the reach of that video is and that's with views versus likes. When you're writing your captions, you really wanna take time to craft them. They can be up to 2200 characters long, it's actually like, if you've ever tried it, I don't know if you've ever written a really long caption, you can, it's possible to reach the end, but you can say a lot before you reach the end. I've seen a lot of posts, not a lot of posts, I've seen some posts where people fill the whole, I feel like that's for those of us who are in college and had to write papers, you have to think it's like 300 page, words per page or something like that, it's like to put a whole page worth of text under your photo, that's a lot, but I've seen people who fill that and then say, oh, continued in the captions, so, if you're somebody who's drawn an audience who's there for your writing, by all means, please do that. In general though, the best length really depends on your audience. I think that people who follow me might wanna read a little bit, maybe up to a paragraph or two. Probably not a whole page, 'cause I never do that, they didn't sign up to follow me because they wanted to hear what I had to say in words. The caption really helps to provide context for your image. So think about when you're writing it, what you think would best engage your followers. Shorter is generally better. But you also still wanna provide enough details, so where can users find your product, what time is the show that you're trying to promote, et cetera. Relevant quotes and emojis are okay. I would say avoid cheesy inspirational quotes, I feel like those are really overdone in like the Flickr days. Emojis are good as long as you're not overdoing anything. And the other thing is, really ask questions, like by all means, ask questions, I think it does help with engagement because people then have that prompt that they can respond to, but if you're asking for them to answer your questions, you better be willing, ready and able to engage back. So if you ask them a question, don't just take in the answers and sort of take in that extra engagement that you've earned yourself, be respectful of those people who've taken the time to answer your questions and respond to them, even just to say thank you, at the very, very least, heart that little comment. I mean Instagram has made it so easy now, you can just like the comment that was left for you. So if you're busy, everybody's busy in their lives, but I can make time to heart all the comments that came in just as like an acknowledgement that somebody has taken their time to leave a nice comment for me, if I don't have time to respond to everybody or if I feel like it's just gonna be like a boring thank you each time, then just a like is sufficient. Also this is like vaguely related but also slightly unrelated, I came across this statistic when I was researching for this that I thought was really interesting that emoji is now the fastest growing language in the UK. It has evolved faster than ancient forms of communication with quicker adoption rates and speeds of evolution, which is crazy, emoji is its own language, which I think a lot of us are learning as we use Instagram and social media. Okay to re-encapsulate what I just said, if your image is successful at telling your audience the what of the story, your caption should clearly explain the how, when, and the why. So images do speak 1000 words but sometimes they need a little bit of context to beef them up a little bit, so I always like to think of it as words, image plus words, it's not just one or the other on Instagram. Encouraging growth on Instagram is kind of what we're all here to learn more about. This is a very discouraging statistic, but I read that 70% of posts on Instagram don't get seen. For whatever reason, Instagram now has the algorithm, and I think that's blamed for a lot of ills, Instagram problems. I don't know if it is the sole thing to blame but I think it's a big part of it, so the way that it kinda words with social media is that these platforms thrive because people keep coming back to them, we keep coming back, we keep opening them up, what's new, what did I miss, what did somebody post, what did they share? So every time you open Facebook, every time you open Instagram, I'm bringing these two up because now they're the same company, right. Every time you open either of those platforms, they want you to see brand new stuff, because what would happen if you opened up one of those apps on your phone, you pulled down to refresh, and it was the same stuff that you had read an hour earlier, would you keep coming back every hour? No, probably not, you would probably decrease the frequency with which you check those apps and that's the last thing they want, right, they want you coming back a couple times a day, at least every day. You don't even wanna know how much time, how many times I come back to these apps on my phone every day, but they want you to keep coming back so that's why the algorithm exists, they want you to see brand new stuff every time you open the app, so I follow like 1000 people on Instagram, which, I've connected with each of these people in one way or another, I'm really interested in what they're seeing, doing, sharing, the life they're living, whatever. When I open Instagram, I don't have the capacity to go through all of the stuff that's shown, I might go through the top 20, so they wanna show me 20 posts from the thousand people I follow. When I close the app an hour later, open it back up, pull to refresh, they want it to be 20 brand new posts, that's why the algorithm exists, but that means that hey, those 9,980 other people whose posts I don't see that first time don't get seen by me. They might get seen by somebody else who follows them, but it might not be me, so that's kind of one of the reasons why so many posts on Instagram don't get seen. That's kind of a depressing statistic, I apologize, but if you're a user, especially a business or yeah, small business and you wanna encourage more growth on your account, one of the ways to do that is to encourage user-generated content, so for example, I work for a nonprofit, I do some contract work for them and one of the things that we do is that we want people to use our hashtag. By using our hashtag, it sort of throws their photos into this feed that I then browse and then I can say, hey, may I use this photo of yours in our weekend feature because we wanna feature stuff from the community, obviously, but also maybe we don't always have enough content to populate our own feed, right, and that's not saying anything about the nonprofit that I work for, just in general. It is hard to consistently create good, engaging content over and over and over again, especially if you're a business. You have to really think critically or think creatively about different ways to get content to share on your own platforms. So user-generated content is good. Doing contests, promotions, giveaways is really good. I'm sure you guys have seen those. Earn a chance to win this camera. Say I'm sponsored by a camera company and they've donated a camera to me, for me to give to my followers. It might be, the contest might be something like, to enter this contest, make sure you're following both me and the camera company and leave a comment below, tag one friend, right, I mean how many touch points is that? I got a new follower, camera company got a new follower, somebody got mentioned in my comments, which means that that person who got mentioned is gonna come in, that person's gonna read the contest and be like, oh, I wanna enter too, so they follow me and the camera company and tag a friend. It's just this ball that keeps rolling, so contests can be really powerful. And then another thing is to partner with other brands that you respect, so, whatever that is, it could be something like the camera example that I was just giving you but it's essentially a way for each account, each company, brand, entity, to tap into the others' audience as well. And that's another advantage of doing something like the user generated content, so if I share somebody's photo that they've hashtagged with my brand hashtag, so I share it on my account, they might say, "Oh that's cool," I'm gonna screenshot it, put it in my story, say, "Hey, it's so cool that "my photo was just featured on such and such account." Therefore my name gets out there even more.