Visual Content Creation: Instagram
- [Megan] So using Instagram does not have to be complicated. So first, you just really want to think about defining your visual vibe or defining your aesthetic. You want some consistency there. Then we're going to post great content regularly. You have to give people a reason to follow you, right? Give them something good to see. And this is where it is very different because you do have to feed the beast on Instagram. And then we're going to interact to gain followers. So step one, you're going to define your visual vibe. And I consider that three things, and this is basically...when you have this solved, this is the answer to what am I supposed to post today? So it's your color palette, it's your subject matter, and it's your style. So those three things together: color palette, subject matter, and style, are going to always answer that question. What do I want to post today? Or is this appropriate? Do you guys ever feel like that? You have this image and then you're like, "Is this ...
appropriate for my Instagram account? Should I really post that?" This basically gives you your roadmap. So for me, my color palette is pretty much black, white, and gray. I've loosened that up a little bit because actually my world...despite the fact that my brand is so black, white, and gray, in my world, I am not that narrow. I'm wearing a red dress today, right? I have pink hair, for crying out loud. So I've loosened that up a little bit because it was getting really challenging. But when I say pops of color, for me, they're usually pretty muted. It's a grayed out color, so I keep that in mind, because if you can mix gray into it, it's really good, right? And then for me, my subject matter, first and foremost for me is stuff being worn. That's just really important, it's always been an important part of why I make jewelry. I make jewelry so people can wear it and so my Instagram is really a place to celebrate that. So it's a lot of necklaces being worn, it's my hands wearing a ring, holding things, that's my primary. And so when I'm thinking about subject matter, I'm thinking of what's the most to what's occasional. And then sometimes, I'll do some different variations on jewelry that's not being worn, some kind of flat lay background, interesting background, whatever it is. Then I do like to throw in a little bit of my studio work in progress. I don't do this a lot because I'm not trying to attract other metalsmiths. I'm trying to attract my customers. But every so often, I want to remind my customers that this is work made by a human, so I throw those in. I also throw them in a lot more when I'm getting ready to launch because I can tease out stuff before it's finished. Then I'll do a little bit of traveling art just because it gives me something else to post about. "Hey, I'm in a museum. Hey, I'm in San Francisco right now." That kind of thing. And begrudgingly, I post selfies. I hate pictures of myself. I know that sounds weird from a person who spends a lot of time talking to a camera, but I hate pictures of myself. But literally, selfies are my most liked pictures all the time, so begrudgingly, I throw some of those. I was like, "Okay, that has to go on my subject matter list." Begrudgingly, it's in there. And then I would just define my style as bold and modern. So if you look, it's actually a lot of simple backgrounds. It's not really cluttered. I might be holding this, but it's in front of a great background, right, or I'm cropping this end. So that's my... Let's see more examples. So, again, hands holding things, models, occasional flat lay. So that's really what I do on my Instagram. Make sense? So your color palette and your style are what give you a cohesive esthetic. Right. So even if we look at this, my model shots, my ring shots, almost all of those are on a gray background, right? They're all shot in the same room. Changes a little bit because of the lighting and I'm not super-picky on my editing, but you start to see that consistency. It's not like one day this is in front of a green wall and then one day this is in front of a blue wall and then the next day that's in front of a pink wall, right? The color palette and style give you that cohesive esthetic. And then the subject matter solves the "what should I post" dilemma. What am I supposed to post today? Well, here are my choices. And usually, I look back through, is there something I haven't posted in a while, right? "Oh, it's been a while since I've actually shown something on the bench." I can throw that in. Or like, "Man, I've been doing a lot of stuff on models lately." Sometimes I get really excited about those hands and ring things and suddenly I'm like, "Oh, I just posted five of those in a row, let's mix it up." So I'll look at that. Or, "Okay, it's been four months and I haven't posted a selfie. Let's post one." So you can go back through and use your list that way. The other thing that you want to think about when you're picking subject matter is the 80/20 rule. I would aim for at least 80% of your subject matter to actually include your product. It's not because you're trying to market the crap out of your audience, because, as I mentioned in a different conversation, I am a really big fan of this idea of professional images conversational copy. So even though, and for me, it's probably more like 90% of my content features my product, it's not like it's my product saying, "Hey, buy this. Hey, buy this. Hey, buy this." It's like, "Hey, guys..." This probably had a caption like, "Man, I'm really tired today. Definitely need more caffeine." And then occasionally, the product ones are like, "Hey, buy this," or "Hey, this is coming. You should be on the mailing list." And then every so often, you want to throw in...you can throw in something else if you want. If you're like, "I need to post something and I'm really tired of posting my own work," you can use that 20% to share other things. But the reason that you want to do this is because when people come to your Instagram, you want them to know that you sell a product. You want them to follow you because they like your product. Now, that said, if you don't have a ton of work yet, if you're in the very beginning and you're figuring things out, you might relax this rule a little bit more. But in this case, you want to still build something that's an esthetic that's going to relate to your products. So if you're like, "I think that I'm going to end up making really colorful paintings," don't start building a black and white Instagram feed, right? Also I can tell you, really colorful feeds actually do better. It's challenging to be a black, white, and gray feed, but that's my brand. It's what I like, so I'm working with it. But you need to think about where you're going to end up and build that vibe accordingly. So one of the things that you can do... And this is actually not my exercise. I was talking to Bridget Lyons a couple of weeks ago and she was like, "I need to use my Instagram more for business." She was like, "But I feel like I need to put together this visual vibe and figure something out." So what she started doing is she started going on Instagram, following hashtags, looking for things that caught her eye, and then pinning them to a Pinterest board. And what happened was, she immediately started to just see some cohesion. And so in her case, she was looking for esthetic things that worked and she was also looking for subject matter that she liked. So now, she's starting to build this Pinterest board that becomes the information that she needs to develop the visual vibe on her Instagram. And she did this as a public board, you can make yours secret, too. Sometimes when I do this kind of work, I make it a secret board because I don't want people see my work. I knew that I'd come here and I'd show it to all of you anyway. But when I'm working on it, I like to keep it a little secret. So you could go either way on that one. But even just from looking at what Bridget pinned, I was able to go through and say, "Okay, so what I think Bridget is trying to go for here is the color palette that I'm going to call Ethereal Rainbow Bright, it's the best way I can think to describe it. She's got some color, but it's that airy ethereal vibe, right? That's what she was really gravitating towards. Subject matter, she's a media person, so there's media flat lays, around the office, she likes nature, so there's an out in nature, and, because everybody likes them and she actually likes to take them, some selfies. And then her style is really just minimal, but colorful. She doesn't like a lot of clutter, but she likes a lot of color. So from that exercise, we were able to create this roadmap for her. Does that make sense? All right, so then, the next question, we've got this figured out, how frequently should you post? How often do you need to feed the beast? The ideal from hearing everyone and listening to everyone talk about it and doing lots of experiments myself, and reading a million people, is really about one to three times a day depending on what you can manage. Most people say that you should aim for three times a day. I understand it's a lot. But if you're going to post multiples in a day, you do want to space them out. Even though Instagram is now also an algorithmic feed, meaning you see things based on what Instagram thinks you should see and not in real-time, you still don't want to send out a ton of things. So if you're going to post more than once in a day, wait a couple of hours. Aim for once a day, and if you have to skip, I would say don't go more than 48 hours without posting. And that is because of Instagram's algorithmic feed. Because if you don't post for a while, then you don't have that engagement, and then the next time you post, they show your post to less people. So if you are using Instagram as your strategy, you need to be cognizant of this, right? You need to think about this idea of making sure that you're on there every day or pretty darn close to every day. But, remember we're embracing ABR, right? We're embracing Always Be Releasing. So this doesn't mean that you have to produce content for Instagram all of the time. I would say about 75% of my content is shot on my DSLR camera. It's shot on my DSLR camera, it is edited in Photoshop, and then what I do is I save everything in Dropbox. So I've saved it on Dropbox on my computer, I go into my phone, I open Dropbox, I download the images that I want to use. I do not shoot images for Instagram every day. And then when I don't know what to post, I go back into my Dropbox, okay, here's my folder of hands holding things, in the pinch it's usually, where's the picture of a ring holding a coffee cup, right? Because I shoot almost every ring I make with that holding a coffee cup image because it's just so easy to create. So in a pinch, I'm like, "Okay, have I not posted one of those in a while? Perfect. Coffee cup, say something about caffeine, done, right? Problem solved. Give yourself some default stuff you can go back to. Makes your life so much easier. But always be releasing. And this is why you also can use that 80/20 rule. So say if you're not in a studio, you're out here in San Francisco teaching a class for CreativeLive or in the audience for a class for CreativeLive, I'm like, "Okay, this is when I can throw in a travel picture, throw in a building, throw in something that's not my product, just to give myself something to post." So it reminds people, "Hey, I'm here, I'm alive." I think Matt asked the question about like, "I feel this pressure, right? I have more followers. I feel this pressure to always do something great." But really, part of this is just, "Hey, I'm alive. Don't forget about me. I'm still here. I'm still making things, right? Remember? You're probably not going to buy something today, but hopefully, you'll remember me." So it's part of this. And like I said, sometimes I post an image that I know is not going to get as many likes because I just want to remind people that I'm still here, and that's okay. Now, once you've posted at least 9 to 12 images with your new visual vibe, so if you had something and you have to transition out of it, then we can move to step two and start interacting. And the reason you want to do this is because if someone comes to your profile, they see usually your first 9 to 12 images. Some people might scroll further down, but you at least want your home screen to be filled with this. So you can actually see the point in my Instagram feed where I went from caring less to I'm going to go way black and white. Now I actually post a lot more gray, it's not so strictly black and white. But you can see that if you scroll way down in my feed, you can see when I made that shift. So you want to make sure that you're at least filling it with your new visual vibe because you're going to get more followers that way. But then from there, now you can start interacting on Instagram, and that is the best way to grow followers. So you can do this in a couple of ways, but you want to do it in a way that actually gets people to notice you. So when I find someone on Instagram... And we're going to talk about how to find them in just a second. But when I find someone, I usually do some combination of these three things, and this is what I recommend that you do as well. So the bare minimum is I like to go into their profile and I like three to four images. Some days I can't think of anything clever to say. That's fine. I just like three or four images. The reason that you do this is because when you then go into your notifications, they see your name a couple of times. They see your icon or your image a couple of times. So it makes them more likely to notice you. If you can think of something sincere and specific to say, a comment is better, right? A comment is better because it's engagement. "Hey, nice photo," not sincere and specific, because guess what? There are now robots that can actually do this process. You can tell a robot, "I want you to go to every person who uses this hashtag and say, "Hey, nice photo." Guess what? I can tell when a robot comments on my post. So if you're going to comment, comment on something that reflects that you are actually a human looking at a picture, and if you can't think of something sincere and specific, like a handful of images and move on. And really the best way to get someone to follow you is actually to follow them. That being said, I am not a fan of the "follow a ton of people and then unfollow them if they don't follow you back" strategy. That's just gross, right? And it makes you feel bad when people do it to you and it doesn't feel very sincere for the platform. That said, I'm a visual person and I love looking at stuff. So usually, when I go out in the name of liking and commenting, I end up following a ton of new people anyway, because I'm like, "Oh, it's a pretty feed. It's a pretty feed," and I start following. So if you sincerely like someone and you really think that they're an ideal client or an ideal customer for you, follow them because guess what? Now you have a chance to deepen that relationship. Maybe they didn't follow you back after the first comment, but now you see their work and you're commenting and you're interacting and suddenly they do follow you back. And I don't know about you guys, but I have people on Instagram that I consider friends that I have never met, right? You interact, you talk. "Oh, hey, how's your day doing?" Like, "Today is awesome. It's so nice to see you." That's the power of Instagram, right? That's what it does so well. Now, this does take some commitment to really grow your followers. This is not a "I do this one day and I never do it again." This is a really regular activity if Instagram is your primary audience growth strategy. So let's talk about how to find people to interact with. There are two really easy ways to do this. The first one is people your ideal audience would follow and then the second one is hashtags. So what I mean by that is, let's say you know that your ideal customer reads Design*Sponge, right? My ideal customer reads Design*Sponge, I can't get featured on Design*Sponge because Design*Sponge doesn't cover jewelry. That's a lie. Design*Sponge featured my studio. So there are ways to get around that. But she's never going to feature my products, right? But I can go to Design*Sponge and I can go look at all the people who just made comments. And I can click on them and I can like a couple of posts, I can comment, I can interact. So you want to build a list of people that you think your ideal customer is following. Who are those moms following, right? Yours is so easy. - [Woman 1] Oh, really? - Oh, yours is so easy. I am so envious of anyone who sells kids' products because Instagram is done, so easy. So make a list of those people. Check into their accounts. Interact with their audience. The other way is hashtags. Use hashtags that your ideal customer, not your peers, would use. I'm going to rant for half a second. Please stop using #instasmithy, metalsmiths. Do you know who looks at #instasmithy? Other metalsmiths. Do you know who buys your work? Usually, not other metalsmiths. Stop using it. Sorry to whoever invented that one. Use things that your peers would use. So for instance, I know that a lot of interior designers really love my work. I also know that two times a year, interior designers converge on North Carolina to attend something called High Point Market. I can't sell my work at High Point Market because I don't sell furniture. But you better believe, every time High Point Market rolls around, it's October and I now have to look at the other date because I think it's coming up, I go to the High Point Market hashtag and I interact with those people. I am liking things, I am commenting. I usually end up following a lot of people because I like pretty pictures of pretty interiors. So I end up following a lot of people, too, but I live on that hashtag for the days that's going on. Now, you can use hashtags that aren't time-specific, right? There's plenty of hashtags people use year-round that your ideal customer is probably using. And the best way to find them is to start with those people that you know your ideal customer is following, click on some of their followers, see what hashtags they're using, and then usually, when you click on them, Instagram shows you even more hashtags, it's a whole rabbit hole, right? Make a list of the hashtags because you're going to forget. Make a list or screen-grab the ones that you know you want, whatever it is, write it down because then tomorrow you're going to wake up and be like, "What hashtags was I supposed to be using?" And remember, our goal is to simplify, right? I want you to not have to think so hard about what you're supposed to be doing today. So make that hashtag list so you can go back to it. Denise, did you have a question? - [Denise] Yes. With hashtags, do you just go to the hashtag and interact with the people that you see commenting or do you... Is it a good idea or a bad idea to actually put those hashtags on your photos even though it doesn't apply to your photo? - Okay. So two things. So first, I interact with the people who are actually posting to the hashtag not the people who are commenting on it. - Okay. - Does that make sense? I'll interact with this picture. And so what I'll do is I'll click on this picture, and then I'll click on that person's profile, and then I'll go in and like, say, three or four of her images, comment if it's relevant, and then get out. But that brings us to our next question, which is, should you use hashtags on your own posts? Here's the thing. If you're the person who's using a hashtag that's irrelevant, you're going to look like a jerk. Number one rule of thumb on Instagram is, don't look like a jerk. My brother just started this new Instagram account where he's trying to sell these vintage mugs and I've been giving him advice. And I looked at his profile and I was like, "You're following nobody." I was like, "You need to follow people right now." He's like, "Why?" I was like, "Because you look like a jerk. You're expecting people to follow you and you follow no one? What, are you that special?" Right? So the number one rule of Instagram is, don't look like a jerk, right? So if you are like, "Here's the High Point Market hashtag," and I throw up a piece of jewelry, I'm going to look like a jerk. But there are plenty of other hashtags that you can use that are related to what you're doing or that are a little bit broader that you can put on your post. And the goal here is to focus on hashtags that your ideal customer, and not your peers, would use. Yes, it's the same slide I showed you earlier. The rule still applies. So I don't use #instasmithy. So the way that I handle hashtags is that I always use two or almost always use two. They're very specific to my product, right? I always use #contracollection when I'm posting the Contra collection. Anytime I'm posting my jewelry, I post #meganaumanjewelry. Use some branded hashtags. Create a couple that are specific to your brand and use them any time you're posting your product. That way, if someone lands on you and they just want to see all the stuff in the Contra collection, they can just click on that hashtag. Then, I tend to use a couple that are product-specific that I realized some of my peers are using but some of my customers might be looking at, too. So in this case, I used #statementnecklace and #artjewelry. If I'm feeling up to it, I might also throw in one or two hashtags that are funny or interesting. So this one I was talking about being badass pearls, so I used #badasspearls. No one's actually using that hashtag, I always show people that I have a little personality and then I get that hashtags can be funny, right? But then, you can also create a bank of hashtags that you might use. So I keep these in a file in my Evernote and then I copy and paste them in. You can either copy them on your initial, so this was my initial one, I did some dot, dot, dot and then posted them, or you can just post them in the first comment. Instagram allows you 30 hashtags, so don't do more than that. A lot of times, I'm lazy, so I don't do this all the time. I always do this, but I don't do this a lot. And that's because most of your followers come from interacting not from you using hashtags. I know that this is what everyone wants their followers to come from because it's easier, right? If I just use the hashtags, I'll get found. What happens is, if you use more hashtags, you'll get more likes, but they usually don't translate into followers. So you can use these and it's going to boost your engagement, which helps because that means that Instagram shows your posts to more people, but it's interacting with people through hashtags and through other people that they're following that actually gets you the follower growth that you're looking for. Questions. - [Woman 2] So when you used the specific ones for your business, where you had the #contracollection and #meganaumanjewelry, so you use those on your 80%. But when you're doing the 20% posts, you don't put anything on them. - I put relevant hashtags on them or sometimes I just don't put any hashtags because sometimes I'm a little lazy. I'm not a person who I post... If I post an image of San Francisco, I'm not going to post the #sanfrancisco. If I post a selfie, I'm not going to post #selfie. And the reason I don't do that is because those really, really generic hashtags get you lots of spam comments. If I post #sanfrancisco, I'm going to get a whole ton of spam. If I post #selfie, a whole ton of spam comments. So I don't use those really generic ones, so in my 20%, I almost never use anything. If it's black, white, and gray, I might use #blackwhiteandgray, but that's about it. Richelle. - [Richelle] For the block of hashtags that you used in the second group, do you use the same block over and over or do you mix that up? - I have a couple of different blocks. So I have one block that I tend to use more when I'm doing on-the-bench stuff and then I have one block that I tend to use more on outfit-type style. So you can absolutely mix those up and I just keep them all in a document on my phone. - Okay. Awesome. - Other questions from you guys. Maybe we have a couple questions from our online audience, so let's take a look at those. All right. So, "Do you have a recommendation for how long or often you can recycle an Instagram post? A year?" Great question, Jeanette. So first of all, you can recycle the same images. It doesn't even have to be a year. I have found that I can safely post the same image every three to four months, and if it's good, I will. That hand holding the berry bowl image, I posted that four times at least. It always gets great engagement, so I keep reposting it. Last year, two of my top nine were the same selfie. I think I posted it once in May and once in November. So I would say three, four, six months, you're usually pretty safe to repost, assuming, of course, that you're posting regularly enough that it's not like I posted and then I haven't posted for six months and now I'm going to post the exact same image. That's going to look weird. But if you're posting regularly, you can recycle a good image, I would say, every three to four months. Definitely, you can use it for sure twice a year. Great question. Next. "When you are building your vibe and your color palette, but have something that is inspiring you that day that might be outside of your norm, is it okay to post those occasionally?" Occasionally, yes, but this is where I will use an app to edit my photo to fit the vibe and color palette. So I take every photo that I post and I put it in...I use Afterlight, a lot of people use VSCO cam, which is V-S-C-O cam. I don't know why I use Afterlight, I just do. Whatever, they work the same. I use Afterlight. I take almost every photo in there, I up the brightness a little bit, I up the contrast a little bit, and I take the saturation down. And I do that because it makes everything a little more gray, right? So if I have something that's outside of...if it's not really truly a black and white and gray, first of all, I still look for things that are mostly black and white and gray, but I will take them and push them so they fit my vibe a little better. So that's what you want to do. If it's super-far off, I usually hold off on posting it. I'm not going to post a bright red apple even if that day I was the most excited about that bright red apple because it's just not what I'm posting. So within reason, you can, but use your editing tools to push it even more. I will also then... I happen to like Instagram's warm-to-cool feature better than Afterlight's. Afterlight's makes it a little green. So usually, and I will then, after I've done those things in Afterlight, I'll take it into Instagram and I will actually usually make the image a little cooler as well because I prefer cool gray to a warm gray. And these are things you're going to find out just from getting in there and playing with stuff. The other beautiful thing is, you can delete off of Instagram. So, say you have something that's super-inspiring you, try the best idea to fit the vibe, put it up there, and then if you realize that it's really off, delete it. You can even delete it and try again, right? So that's the beauty of Instagram, you can delete things if it doesn't really work. Next. "What should the following-to-follower ratio look like?" I really don't worry about that because I like to follow people. I follow 3,000 people on Instagram. It's just because I really want to look at pretty stuff, and actually, it's because Instagram's algorithm doesn't show me most people I'm following anyway, so I just keep following more people. I'm waiting for Instagram to get the message. I want to see all the stuff all the time. So I don't worry about that. I don't worry if it's like, "Oh, should I freak out that I'm following 1,000 people, but only 500 follow me?" No. To me, that just makes you look like a person who's super-engaged on Instagram. I would make sure you're following at least 100 to 150 people. I don't know how people don't follow more people. Again, I want to follow all the people all the time. But you want to follow at least 100 to 150 people because I think that's what makes you not look like a jerk. Great question. All right. So one more thing that we want to look at about here is then this idea of how to get your followers from Instagram and Pinterest onto your email list. Because remember, our email list is priority number one. And while a social media follower is usually worth somewhere between $1 or $2 in annual revenue, an email list subscriber is usually worth anywhere from $20 to $50 a year in annual revenue. So we want to get as many people from our audience on Instagram or Pinterest to our email list. So the way I do that is different for each platform. So on Instagram, I sometimes call out very specific events that encourage people to join my list. So as I mentioned, I really like this idea of professional image conversational copy. So most of my copy is not marketing-heavy. Most of my copy is not "Hey, buy this product." But when I'm getting ready for a launch or getting ready for a sale or getting ready for something that really gives people a reason to join my email list, then I push that through. So in this case, I posted this image and I said, "Inventorying for the annual sample sale always brings up such interesting finds," blah, blah, blah. "Now it's ready for tomorrow's sale. Make sure you're on the mailing list at MeganAuman.com for exclusive early access to the sale," link in profile because you have to. I still actually spell out my link because I post these to my personal Facebook page and then the link becomes clickable, but then I also put the link in profile to remind people where to go. So I'll do this every so often to try and drive people to my email list and it works. People are like, "Oh, the sale is coming. I got to be on the list." Like, "Oh, the new launch is coming. I got to be on the list." So this actually does work. On Pinterest, this is actually a slightly older screen-grab of my blog, but it's still essentially the same. What I do on Pinterest is...obviously, the goal on Pinterest is to get them back to your blog because you're creating content or your online store. If you're going to bring them back to your online store, you're hoping that they'll buy and then, hopefully, you're adding them to your email list during the checkout process. Shopify and MailChimp make that super-easy if you're using both of those tools. But when they're on my blog, I like to make it super-obvious that I want them on my email list, right? So when they land on any blog post, this shows up at the top, and it shows up on the web, it shows up on mobile. This is there. It's the first thing they see. Usually, I have some kind of call to action, it's changed, but usually, at the bottom or somewhere in my blog post, I have something that shows up that's like, "Oh, hey, yeah, you should join my email list." And then... Oh, it's not on this one. But also on top of that, there's one in my sidebar and on mobile, my sidebar slides to the bottom, so it's like, "Scroll down, scroll down. Oh, yeah, did you join my email list yet?" Super-obvious what I want them to do.