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Instagram Essentials Social Series

Essential Guide: Instagram

Instagram is a no-brainer in our industry because so much of what we market is visual and can sell itself. Whether you’re new to Instagram or an experienced user, knowing what others do can help you out. If you haven’t yet jumped on the Instagram boat I highly recommend doing so; You’ll be joining 2 billion other users, and 200 million businesses!

This summer, as an active member of the OWA’s Digital Marketing Committee, I’ll be assembling a social series of blog posts that cover the essentials of the major social networks, starting with Instagram. This post of essentials will include screenshots with examples as well as the data gathered from my own account insights statistics. 

If there is anything you would like clarified or if you have any additional questions, feel free to comment at the end of the article or send me a private message on Instagram at @opticiannow

Profile Essentials

Create a personable bio

Many people use emojis on each line because it breaks up long sentences and adds an element of personality. Try to summarize your bio as best as you can as this is how visitors determine whether they look around further on your profile. If you have a physical brick & mortar address, make sure you add it to your profile so it can be easily seen and clicked on for directions.

Instagram profile anatomy

click for larger view

Utilize a website URL

It’s very important that you populate the website URL field. If you do not have a website then find another URL to put there – could be your Facebook page, a link to schedule an appointment online, or to an online shop. Instagram does not allow executable links in individual posts – your profile link is the only clickable link real estate, so make sure you use it! Of the people who visited my Instagram page, nearly 20% of them clicked the link to my website

Try a multiple URL option

If you don’t want to limit yourself to one URL you can go the route of multiple links! This is very popular on social media as many people have multiple things they may want visitors to see. There are many user-friendly free options to create your own, such as: 

Revisit your profile every few months to make sure it’s current!

Pro tip: Fancy fonts are not recommended. Characters are translated poorly by screen readers and hard to read for those with accessibility needs. 

The Ins and Outs of Posting

Set an attainable posting schedule

Posting regularly is my #1 recommended tip and a good habit to get into. A few reasons why, the first being, how will anyone see you if you’re not posting! Also, when someone visits your profile and you have no current posts, they will see inactivity, be less interested, and less likely to convert to a follower. Another big reason to post consistently is because of Instagram’s constantly changing algorithms, which are somewhat of a mystery, but we do know that the more regularly one posts, the odds are more in your favor to be seen.

Set a reachable goal for the minimum amount to post. It doesn’t matter if it’s once a month or once a week, just make sure you can meet the target you set. Get in the habit of following through with this and it will guarantee consistent activity on your page.

Decide what to post

Define a scope of what you will be posting. Some post only super professional stock looking photos, some post real life photos, some make their photo grid super aesthetic, and some do a mix. The only rule I set for myself was that it had to be related to my professional brand as that is what the point of the account is. Whatever you choose to do, setting some sort of guideline can give you that direction in the back of your mind. 

We are not all graphic artists, thankfully there are tools to help make posts better looking! A few of my favorites are:

  1. Canva – This cloud based helper can be used on a phone app and desktop browser, which makes it accessible wherever you want to work from. It is a super robust encyclopedia of predesigned templates, image libraries, font pairings, you name it. Most folks can even get by using the free version. 

  2. Word Swag – This iPhone app is superb for typography needs. There is a large variety of options for eye-catching designs, and my favorite, “roll the dice” option randomly picks for you and you can keep rolling the dice until your favorite layout appears!

Use Instagram’s filters to fine tune your photos, zoom in and lay out as best as you can. Try to stick to a perfectly square image for optimal viewing or it can get cropped in certain places. 

Make the most out of hashtags

These clickable clustered search results can get your post seen by the people who are looking for your niche. 

In the body of a post, the first part of the text area should be the caption or description of the photo and what it’s about. Do not start with hashtags first, it immediately loses the reader.  Hashtags can be added to the end of the content, or a line or two down, or in a comment after you post. Use hashtags that are relevant to the post! For example, if you have a photo of a dog wearing glasses then the hashtags should be related to the message you’re relaying. Don’t use hashtags for clickbait. Each post is limited to 30 hashtags. 

Pro Tip: If you’re on the Instagram app on your phone you can’t copy & paste hashtags, but if you go to an internet browser on your phone you can copy from there and paste into your post copy! 

You can #hashtagwhateveryouwant – create your own branded hashtag and add it to every post. Before long it will get higher use count and other people will follow it or use it themselves! 

Hashtags in my own posts allowed me to reach 2x more non-followers than followers! Hashtags in my reels reached 3x more non-followers than followers! 

Follow people & hashtags

Discover more of the niches you like by following hashtags. I have found a countless number of accounts by their hashtagged post appearing in my feed, because I follow that particular hashtag. 

Reshare others’ posts

I love to share things that other people post, there are some gems out there. Since you can’t reshare a post like on other networks, proper etiquette is to credit the original source. There are apps that can add the original poster’s username to the photo or you can mention their @username or tag them. I try to do all of the above. 

Mentions vs. Tagging

Mention @username in a post and it will show up in their list of notifications, but sometimes these can get buried. Anyone can mention anyone in a post or comment but it’s a good rule of thumb to mention the username in the body of the copy – it’s easy reading and proper “instagrammar”. 

When you tag someone directly in the photo/post (not just in the caption) it shows up in a different type of notification with higher odds that they’ll see it. The tagged post will show up on that users “tags of you” tab on their page and vice versa when someone tags you. 

Tags aren’t automatically visible on a post, you have to tap the photo to reveal who is tagged, which means scrollers won’t see who is tagged. Sometimes it is best to both tag and mention but you can use your judgement for applicability. 

Tag appropriately. Do not spam-tag others; Keep it appropriate and applicable. If someone tags you and you do not wish for that photo to appear on your tab you can untag yourself. You can tag a maximum of 20 people per post. 

Other than photos

Add to your Stories

Stories are what appear in circles above all other content at the top of your feed. These are mostly for fun short updates or for things you may not want to live on your profile grid forever. Some fun options to create a story include polls, quizzes, countdowns, fundraiser donations, and more. Stories have a 24 hour lifespan and then disappear. You can also double-dip and share your posts to your stories. My analytics show that my stories reached mostly followers over non-followers. 

Save Stories to Story highlights

These re hand selected, previously posted stories that can be saved into collections and displayed on your profile. Highlights are actually quite a prominent section of your profile. Figure out how you would like to categorize these and it can really liven up your profile page!

Use videos and reels

Both of these fall under the video category, rather than photo, and both can be posted to your main profile grid but they also have their own tabs on your profile. Posting videos can be intimidating or seem daunting but you can find videos to take that don’t involve your face 🙂

Reels are between 15-60 seconds and offer tremendous discoverability. From my own reels, they have had a much larger reach than my average photo post. Granted, I do post less reels than photos, but the reach is consistent and I see great potential. 

Videos are between 15 seconds and 60 minutes in length. They can be used for longer video messages and can be organized by series. If you post an animated image, perhaps made in Canva, it will post to the videos tab. My own videos have reached mostly followers over non-followers.

Live video is also an option but less common. When you begin a live video it sends a push notification to all of your followers letting them know. Once your live video is complete, it posts to the video tab on your page.


Be engaging

Engaging with your followers, and those you follow is one of the best things about Instagram. Having this common ground can allow conversation between two people that would be extremely less likely to meet under any other circumstance. 

Like others’ posts and comment on posts. If someone comments on your post, do your best to ALWAYS respond to them! It could be a response as simple as a like, a response with an emoji, or more than that. The person left the comment for a reason and replying shows that you value your followers.

Instagram alerts
Pro Tip: Get alerts when your favorite accounts post

Visit the profile of who you wish to get notifications about and Instagram will give you a special notification when they post! You can select which type of posts you would like to receive notifications for. 

Well, there you have it. I realize that there is much more to Instagram than what I included in this article, but this is what I deemed “essential” with a few extra tips. If you’re newer to Instagram and think that this is an enormous undertaking, try to learn one item at a time. Try one new thing per day or week and you’ll know everything here in no time at all. 

Want to help the OWA with our Instagram presence? Consider joining the OWA’s Digital Marketing Committee

Follow the Optical Women’s Association on Instagram: @opticalwomen

Written by: Carissa Dunphy

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