After doing a little research on Instagram best practices and subsequently realizing that my side business account is a very poor example of what to do correctly, we brought in sola artist and Instagram guru, Katie Wood of Heart & Sola Coaching! Read below for her informative insights and tips. While you do that, I'm off to go and make some changes to my own Instagram account!
There are a lot of things to consider when you’re running an Instagram, especially for a business.
Don’t: Use “black hat” ways of building your follower count
“Black hat” means tactics that are known to lead to negative outcomes/things we know Instagram views as spammy behavior. This includes doing things like buying followers, joining engagement pods, or playing the follow-unfollow game.
Your actual amount of followers doesn’t help you much. Sure, hitting 10k gives you the swipe-up option on Stories, but that’s glitchy at best and really not worth the cost of using “black hat” tactics and potentially being marked as spam, or ending up with a large but uninterested following.
An engagement pod (where you and a group of others send your new posts and then all go and comment on each others’ posts) might get you a few comments on every post, but it’s always the same people. That makes Instagram show them your stuff more often, which can be a wasted effort since they’re likely only interested in your posts because you also give them comments.
Follow-unfollow is where you follow someone, then later check to see if they followed you back, and if they didn’t follow you back, you unfollow them. This isn’t a good approach. We all like & want to see different content. Just because someone didn’t follow you back doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to keep you as a follower. And you should be happy that someone who isn’t genuinely interested in your content isn’t following you.
Do: Know that slow, but steady, growth is best
Finding your footing can take a while, but that’s ok! You don’t need a ton of followers to grow an audience. And you don’t need thousands of followers to make a sale.
How do you grow? Consistency and interaction!
Consistently posting 3-5 times a week (same days, around the same time, for each post) will show Instagram you’re reliable for new content. This also helps you get a lot of content out of a few events. So, instead of posting every day, or spamming your feed when you get photos back from an event, plan a bunch of posts over the next few days/weeks/months.
When you post on Instagram, you’re essentially telling the algorithm that your last post is old news. You don’t want that!
To encourage interaction, be sure to include a call to action on every piece of content. This can be anything from asking a question - in a video or in the caption - for people to comment with their answers or telling users to click the link in your bio for whatever it is you have to offer. Make sure you always leave your audience with an obvious next step for them to take.
Interaction keeps people on your profile, which tells Instagram you share useful information.
Don’t: Only post photos of flowers
People don’t open the Instagram app to shop - no matter how much Instagram wants that to happen. Maybe it will be that way eventually, but right now? No. So don’t post only sales posts! This isn’t limited to actual sales or discounts you’re running. I mean any post that is trying to get people to buy. Mix in some posts about you, generally about your business, your process, etc.
Do: Mix up your content
This even goes for sharing photos from events. Spread event photos out, and use a mixture of photos. Don’t just share the close-ups of your flowers. Share photos of the couple, the overall event, etc., and use those other photos to talk more generally about you & your business. I like sharing couples’ photos along with their testimonial.
Plan your content ahead of time so it’s easier to make sure you are incorporating all of your content pillars, instead of just showing off pretty flowers in every post. Doing this will get your audience’s attention and encourage them to follow you more closely.
What are content pillars? They’re 3-5 topics that you touch on over and over again. Some people call them content buckets. Regardless of what you call them, your business needs them! Some examples would be: about the flowers, about you (inside & outside of the business), and then 2-3 topics that are unique to you and your audience. They don’t all need to be flower-related. The more variation you can add in, the more relatable and targeted your content can be.
Lots of people struggle with the thoughts like “no one wants to hear about ME” but trust me - they do! Social media is for being social. Connect with your audience! Varying your posts will help you grow from your followers knowing you, to liking you, to trusting you. They will become your foundational, loyal followers.
Don’t: Use your logo or a product as your profile picture
Instagram is a social media platform. People want to connect with other people, not a logo or photo of a flower. Remember this isn’t only shown on your profile - it’s also under everything you post, and next to all comments you leave around the platform.
Do: Show your face on your profile
Use a clear photo of you as your profile picture. It’ll help people connect with you more. This doesn’t just go for your profile picture, either. Try to share a photo of yourself at least once within every 9-12 posts. When someone goes to your profile, they shouldn’t have to scroll too far to see a post with your face on it.
And no, you don’t need a professional photoshoot. A clear picture of you - even just from the shoulders up - can be done with any modern cell phone and good lighting. To prove this point, my profile picture on my Coaching Instagram is a selfie I took, on my phone, in my bathroom.
Don’t: Use hashtags in your bio
Including hashtags in your bio (the paragraph of text on your profile) is a waste of characters! You only get 150 characters, don’t use those up by adding hashtags that do nothing but encourage users to leave your profile.
Do: Use effective hashtags in your posts
Hashtags are their own beast. But I can tell you a few things to keep in mind when using hashtags.
- Choose hashtags relevant to your audience. Posting with only hashtags like #WoodFlowers, #WoodFlorist, etc. will likely get your posts seen by other sola wood artists. Think about your ideal customer. What might they be searching for? Farmhouse home decor? Try that as a hashtag (#FarmhouseHomeDecor).
- Capitalize your hashtags. See how I wrote #WoodFlowers above, instead of #woodflowers? Not only does this make your hashtags easier to read by your audience, but it also makes it easier for screen readers to decipher them for visually impaired users.
- Mix up your hashtags! Having a core 5-10 hashtags that you use on every post is fine. Ones that are specific to the craft, your business name, etc. but make sure you’re mixing up the others you use - and what order you use them in! Copying and pasting the same 30 hashtags on every one of your posts is a great way to get flagged as spam.
- Never use more than 30 hashtags on any single post. Any over the 30 hashtag limit won’t apply or have any impact. And that includes the ones left in comments. Some people put all 30 in the caption, some people put all 30 in the first comment, some people split them in both the caption and the comments. There is no right or wrong way, and different approaches work better or worse for different accounts. Play around and use the Insights feature to see which may work best for you. Tip for using them in your caption: put 5 dots (periods) to separate them from your actual caption.
- Use location-specific hashtags to target specific places. You can hashtag specific venues, restaurants, etc. but you can also hashtag cities, counties, and states! Hashtags like #AustinTX or #MaineWeddings could be really helpful to reach potential local customers.
Don’t: Think that Instagram is a closed-off bubble
Instagram isn’t its own world, though it may feel that way. It’s part of a bigger world of social media. Just because you posted a photo on Facebook doesn’t mean you can’t also post it on Instagram. And just because you posted something on Instagram doesn’t mean you can’t post it on your website.
Do: Cross-promote on your other platforms
Do you have a freebie to grow your email list? A Facebook group? An Etsy shop? Mention them in posts, Stories, Reels, everywhere! You can’t put a link in any of your captions - it won’t work - but you can always say “click the link my bio” or “linked in my bio” so people know they can go grab/see whatever you’re mentioning by using the one link you’re given on Instagram: in your bio. Use your own domain to create a page with buttons, or create a similar page with something like LinkTree, LinkInBio, Canva, etc.
These do’s and don’ts for Instagram aren’t the end-all, be-all, but they’re a fantastic way to start your profile off strong, or get an existing account back on track! For more tips - about Instagram and general marketing for your business - follow me, Heart and Sola Coaching, on Instagram.
Coming soon: Tips & Tricks for Creating Instagram Stories and Reels!