Real question: is it possible these days to open Instagram without crying?
Like, part of me is genuinely asking. There are times when I feel actual, physical pain when I see the crapfest that is my current Instagram engagement. Can’t we just go back to the pre-algorithm days when my biggest concern was which filter to slap on my breakfast…?
But okay, as much as I love whining and wallowing in angst, that’s not what this post is about. We’re not here today just chant “IG Sucks” (though feel free to do that in the comments…!), instead, we’re tackling the very important question of: “WHAT are we going to do about it?”
Or, more specifically, we’ll be asking ourselves the following:
Let me warn you: this post is not one of those “how I reached 100k followers and you can toooooo (if you give me your social insurance number and ten puppies)” type posts. I wouldn’t be the authority to speak on that. Instead, it’s a post about how to not go batsh*t insane agonizing over Instagram and how to build a manageable strategy that minimizes headaches and helps you reach your overall blog and business goals.
Sound good? This post is for those of you who are tired of getting nowhere with Instagram and are “over it”. Happy Instagram users, please help yourself to a muffin on your way out. This post isn’t going to resonate with you.
The truth is, succeeding on Instagram these days is still possible… it just takes an absurd amount of effort and resources.
To succeed on Instagram in 2017 takes the following: absolutely stellar content, bucket loads of time and most frustratingly, MONEY.
I need to be real with you: a lot of people who are still growing their following are relying on things that require big cash resources (like giveaways), so keep that in mind. You don’t suck, it’s not necessarily your fault… The game has just changed, and we’re forced to adapt.
TELL US IN THE COMMENTS: What’s your Instagram handle? Let us know so we can send you some love! Feel free to also share any questions you have about IG below.
PS: This post obviously isn’t intended for those who just want to use Instagram for fun. This is a post all about strategy for your blog and business. Keep that in mind before you roll your eyes at how crazy it all sounds 😉
SO, are you ready to get cracking on that Instagram strategy? Thanks for staying… now let’s get to slaying. [Oh god that was lame, I’m so sorry I said that]
Does your social media strategy actually need Instagram?
In a time when Instagram is more soul-sucking than ever, you gotta pause and consider: is this at all worth my time?
For Slaying Social, we decided that the answer was a hard no.
Like, as much as would love to haunt your feeds with photos of our faces and pugs we don’t own, Instagram just doesn’t really make sense for us. To further our branding, maybe… in the future… but for now our focus is on building our content, traffic and readership. Instagram isn’t necessarily the best place to do that, and I am SO relieved that we figured this out early on (rather than devote precious resources to growing an account that provides zero ROI).
The other day, a blogger posted in a Facebook group I’m in “I’m thinking of starting an Instagram for my travel photos……”
And almost instantly I wanted to whack her phone out of her hand and whisper “save yourself”.
On my travel blog Instagram account, I’ve been feeling so disheartened with the platform that I’ve gone full-on weeks without posting in the past few months. And honestly? Those were some of the best, most productive weeks of my life.
Think of your mental and creative energy as a very limited supply of fuel. If you throw all your fuel into one car (aka one goal), you zip to the finish line faster. BUT, if you think of Instagram popularity as one goal, of profit as another, traffic as another, content creation, etc. etc. then you’re literally just fuelling multiple cars and as a result, each goal is met a whole lot slower.
Does that make sense?
Instagram is a car that basically drinks fuel for breakfast. It not only takes SO much time, SO much creativity and causes infinite mental anguish, it also has side effects of diminishing our self esteem and making us feel (as a whole) like trash.
That’s why Instagram is no longer my priority. I no longer spend hours liking other people’s photos for attention (yes, that kind of work is required), I am no longer slave to shallow comment pods where I’m forced to say “omg babe your dress is everything” every 2 seconds and I no longer drop my name into reciprocal WhatsApp, Telegram and Facebook groups where IGers give each other boosts in likes, comments and engagement as a whole (yes, these things are real).
Life as an Instagram influencer is exhausting. I have met many bloggers and friends who consider it their main platform, and the amount of work they put into it terrifies me.
On a daily basis, Instagram content creators are tasked with the following:
- Staging and photographing visually appealing content
- Editing said content
- Creating captions and posting
- Replying to follower comments and engagement
- Sharing behind the scenes snaps on Instagram stories
- Engaging with new accounts to grow their following
- Reciprocating on comment pods, chat groups, threads, etc.
- Trying to not have a mental breakdown
It’s a lot of work.
Instagram is good for a few things, like establishing “influencer” status, potentially scoring sponsorships and on the flipside, if you own a business, Instagram can be a powerful way of getting your brand out there and recognized by potential new customers. That said, generally speaking, Instagram isn’t amazing at the following:
- Traffic generation
- Making bucket loads of money (unless you’re really in the big leagues, TBH)
Be wary of putting all your eggs in the Instagram basket, and being tempted by the siren’s call of Instagram fame. Does Instagram help you towards your goals? If the answer is no, it’s time to direct your precious efforts elsewhere.
What kind of content will you share?
Instagram is all about sharing visual content, so logically speaking, your first priority should be deciding what kind of content you’ll be sharing.
I know: in an ideal world, we would all be sharing what we want to. In my case, that would be a non-stop stream of puppies and photos of funny signs.
Sadly, that doesn’t really help connect me to my ideal audience of travel lovers.
The sad truth is this: with Instagram – we have to make a choice.
Do we want to “professionalize” our Instagrams (i.e. Create highly curated content, plan feeds, engage our thumbs off, etc.) or do we want to simply post the content that we want (without any planning, staging, etc. – AKA the spontaneous visual diary Instagram was intended to be)?
I hear WAY too much negativity these days from both sides of this spectrum – the spontaneous “personal” users bash the curated feeds for being fake, the “professional” users hate on “influencers” with what they perceive to be mediocre content.
There’s no right way to “do” Instagram – it’s a matter of choice.
The truth you must swallow however is that pretty, curated feeds have more mass appeal. Unless you achieve mild celeb status as an influencer (as in, people worship YOU), you don’t get to post filtered photos of your cornflakes and expect fame. It just doesn’t work like that.
If you refuse to be part of the curated IG system, that’s fine – more power to you, but you do NOT then get to go complain about how you’re not gaining any followers. If you want to grow in sheer numbers (not talking about engagement necessarily), the truth is your content needs to be aesthetically pleasing. No cornflakes.
So, as we roll on with the super tough questions, we need you to ask what will make you follow-worthy?
Generally speaking, here are some reasons people might want to follow you (besides your spectacular taste in social media blogs of course):
- They find your content visually appealing: duh, pretty photos = a reason for following. The problem is, TONS of people have pretty photos these days, so often this isn’t enough
- They feel a connection with you as a person: People follow people that they like. If you’re able to win people over with your personality in ADDITION to your content, that’s a much more powerful connection
- Your content inspires them: Often, people follow others on Instagram for ideas… whether that’s ideas on what to wear, where to go, what to buy, etc. What can you offer up to your followers that will help or inspire them in some way?
Another way to look at all this is what value are you providing to your readers. What can you offer to them that others can’t? Why should they choose to follow you over someone else?
*… breaks down crying*
Now, a note on consistency. Consistency is key on Instagram. People like to know what they’re following. Imagine if you stumbled upon a feed that mixed up blurry food pics, dreamy travel pics, and the occasional snap of an awesome puppy. If someone were to stumble on your feed, they’re much less likely to follow you because they don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. This is why content and visual themes are soooo important.
If you need a refresher on what it means to have an Instagram theme, and how to create one, read this article.
How will you grow your Instagram?
Let’s face it, unless you have it just for fun, Instagram is about numbers, isn’t it? Whether those numbers relate to quantity of followers or level of engagement, we’re all slaves to the numbers game because they’re the only tangible metric we have.
The amount of growth strategies out there are endless. Some are more beloved than others, some are straight-up controversial, many take up loads of time, and all rope you followers of varying degrees of engagement/loyalty.
I’m not here to judge you on what you want for your Instagram. There are some of you who simply want big numbers, and that’s okay. I operate on a nice lil no judgey policy.
What I want though is for you to be realistic about how your Instagram goals match up with your overall blog/business goals and from there, I want you to commit to growth strategies that best help you reach them.
So, for inspiration purposes, get ready for a stupidly exhaustive list of growth strategies. Based on a lot of observation (and panic research), here are some of the ways that people grow their Instagrams:
Building genuine relationships: I sound like a Care Bear, I know. In an ideal world, this is the golden answer – the beacon of hope in the dark hopeless pit that is Instagram. When you have actual friendships in the Instagram world, that is gold. People who like and comment because they like you as a person, not because they felt obligated to, or needed to out of a reciprocal agreement… you feel me? The problem with this approach is that it’s slow, and mass growth is virtually impossible. If you really take time to cultivate your community though through genuine, personal interactions, your reward is high engagement.
Growing your audience elsewhere first: Ever see YouTubers with massive followings but literally post the weirdest, most random things? They don’t have an “aesthetic”, they can post wacko selfies and get more likes than our entire gallery combined. There’s power in that. Same goes with celebrities who post duck faces and are worshipped until the end of days. These people used other platforms to build a big base of followers who have no trickled into Instagram.
This is a very powerful way to grow, because it relies less on playing Instagram games… but it’s not easy, or necessarily fast. If you take this approach, make sure to add various calls to action to follow you on Instagram from your other channels (e.g. blog, YouTube, Facebook, etc.) People need reminders!
Engaging like crazy with other accounts: It’s simple math – the more that you engage with others, the more they know you exist. That’s it. Liking, commenting and even following is what a lot of Instagrammers do to catch the attention of potential followers. Think of it as like a tap on the shoulder “hiiii notice me”. If they come to your profile and like your content, that’s a new follow. This is a very old method of growth, and doesn’t work nearly as well as it used to, but is still one of the “cleanest” strategies one can pursue.
Shoutouts: You’ve probably noticed a lot of influencers giving each other shoutouts in their stories, saying “omg this person’s feed! Follow them”. There are actual share groups where these are now organized. I can’t speak to their effectiveness, but there has to be a reason everyone’s doing them (I think?) More on this after we’ve tested it thoroughly.
Instagram “BFFs”: You’ve probably seen this before… a few people on Instagram travel together and then feature each other heavily on stories, photos, pretty much mentioning each other every single chance they get in the hopes that their followers will learn to love the other person too. It happens a LOT, especially among the Instagram elite. You can consider these to be like shoutouts on steroids. Again, I can’t speak to their effectiveness personally, but a lot of bigger accounts do them often, so it must at least work a little.
Loop giveaways: Ohhhhhh giveaways. I could say SO many things about these, and I’ll be writing a detailed post soon debriefing my personal experience with one, but let’s be real: if you have buckets of money and are simply looking for numbers, there is no better way to grow your account. I have seen multiple people jump 40k+ followers from big, expensive loops.
If you don’t know what loop giveaways are, the basic gist is this: you pay a set amount of money to participate, then the organizer puts together a big pool of prizes and sponsors (AKA IG accounts with massive followings) and then you host a giveaway for these prizes in which the conditions are that entrants must follow every account in the loop. Essentially, you’re pooling together ALL the followers of each account that participates, which then (in theory) means massive growth.
The downside? The followers you get might not align with ideal audience, and if that’s the case, your engagement may suffer immensely (spoiler: like mine). Think about it, you’re gaining thousands of followers who may not love your content (and only wanted to win an iPhone) – it’s not the most promising for engagement, that’s for sure.
… That’s definitely not all the growth strategies out there, but it’s a start. Stop and take some time to think which one is best suited for your goals.
When will you work on your Instagram?
Is there a magical ingredient for success on Instagram?
Two actually – money (see the giveaways mentioned above), and TIME. Now more than ever, success on Instagram requires a serious investment of time. Whether it’s staging amazing content, engaging like crazy or boosting your posts through chats and groups, Instagram will inevitably take MUCH time out of your day. Unless you decide to outsource or *whisper* use bots, expect to dedicate many, many hours (daily) to your growth. That’s part of the magic formula, really.
So clearly, you need to organize how you’re going to spend your time.
Just checking, posting or engaging “when you feel like it” is a recipe for disaster… mainly because we are all lazy walrus-people and won’t do it.
In the good old days, Instagram was instant. If you were having lunch, you’d share your blurry spaghetti so people knew what you were up to. These days, Instagram has morphed. It’s now more like “take photo then agonize over edits and captions for 20 years”stagram. Which may be less fun, but on the plus side, it gives you an opportunity to take advantage of productivity hacks like batching and scheduling.
Batching is so important to productivity. You know when you’re working hard on a blog post and “get in the zone”? That’s not just an expression, you’re legitimately in the proper mental state to do the work that you’re currently tackling. So, what happens when you’re in the middle of writing an awesome post, then boom – it’s your Instagram peak time and you have to drop everything to edit your photo and think ten hours on a caption? After you’re done, it takes you time to get back in the zone again… so on and so forth. For productivity sake, that’s why it makes much more sense to set time aside for certain tasks, e.g. editing ALL your photos for an hour, then scheduling them in advance for 1 hour a week rather than taking 15 min each day to edit, prep and post.
Later is a great app for scheduling content. While it can’t post on your behalf due to Instagram’s API, you can plan photos and captions in advance, then simply press a button to upload when the time comes. I also like using UNUM to plan my feed in advance so I don’t stress for like, 8 hours over what to post next.
Remember friends, the key to slaying overwhelm is to work smarter and make better use of your time. The best would be to organize your Instagram tasks into what needs to be done daily, weekly and monthly, then plot them into your schedule so that you actually commit to doing them.
A few important things to consider:
- When is your “peak time”? When are your followers usually online? If you post when most of your followers are sleeping, then odds are they won’t see your content or get a chance to engage with it
- What is your growth strategy? As we mentioned before, there are bajillions of ways you can try to grow your account. Figure out that strategy first and then create the action items accordingly.
- How will you stay accountable? For me, putting blocks of work time into an actual (Google) calendar works best. Others rely on accountability partners or good old fashioned to-do lists. Figure out how you will stay on top of your ever-growing list of to-dos!
Sooooo with all that said and done, I hope that this post was interesting, and only mildly disheartening.
The truth is: the Instagram game has changed… and while you may feel dreadfully alone in it, just know that you are deeeefinitely not. If I took a shot every time I saw someone complain about Instagram’s algorithm, I’d be hammered before you could say #like4like. Remember to think about the big picture though and how Instagram fits into your overall strategy. You might just realize (as I have) that it’s not really worth all that stress 😉
I hope you enjoyed that read – the final chapter of our Blogtoberfest series this month! Let us know in the comments what you thought of the series and treat yourself to a giant beer. You’ve earned it!
Pssst, will you help us spread the love by sharing this post on Pinterest? *bats eyelashes*
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