Instagram was created in 2010 as a way for users to share photos across social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, but has grown into a major attraction in its own right. Seventy million people use the app every day, and have shared 30 billion photos in less than five years. This high level of engagement is why companies such as Starbucks, Red Bull, and GE have been quick to embrace it. A 2013 study found that Instagram marketing increased ad recall by 32 percent and brand message by ten percent. Using Instagram to build up your brand and business requires two things: great photos and good content.
Creating Great Photos
You are not going to succeed on Instagram without high quality photos. Fortunately, creating good photos is easy if you pay attention to a few photography basics.
1. Use Natural Lighting. Flash photography makes people look oily and washed out. Rely on soft, natural light whenever possible. If you’re shooting inside, the best lighting conditions are opposite large windows. If you’re shooting outside, the best lighting conditions are during the “magic hours,” the hour before sunrise and the hour after sunset.
2. Remember the Rule of Thirds. The primary points of interest in a photograph are where the top third, bottom third, right third, and left third of a photograph intersect, highlighted below.
Framing your subjects using these points is the best way to create interesting visuals. This is known as the “Rule of Thirds.”
3. Minimize Headroom. If you’re taking pictures of people, remember that faces are interesting and dead space is not. Dead space is the area above a person’s head in a photo. Photographers recommend framing faces so that the person’s eyes are along the top third of a photograph.
4. Pay attention to Contrast, Temperature, and Saturation. Contrast is the difference between the light and dark areas of a photo. Temperature is the range of warm and cool colors in a photo (red is warm, blue is cold). Saturation is the level of vibrancy of colors in a photo. Great photos balance all of these elements to create the perfect mixture of light, shadow, and color. The good news is that all of these elements can be adjusted in the Instagram app before posting your photographs.
Keep in mind that the best way to improve photo quality is to use a high quality camera. This doesn’t mean that you can’t take good photos with your smartphone, but it does have limitations. Some of these can be overcome by cleaning the camera lens, buying a lens accessory, and using photo apps to correct color and contrast.
Creating Great Content
With so many good photos being posted to Instagram every day, engaging users can be a challenge. Here are a few tips that will help you stand out from the crowd.
1. Don’t Duplicate Content. The content that you post should always be unique and original. Don’t recycle content from your website or other social media platforms, otherwise users will lose interest.
2. Don’t Over Brand. Resist the impulse to feature your products or logo in every picture. Mix brand photos with pictures related to your customers’ interests. The more entertaining they find your posts, the more likely it is that they are to follow you.
3. Hashtags. Like Twitter, Instagram uses hashtags and they’re a great way to extend the reach of your posts. Pictures with hashtags have a much higher life-to-follower ratio than those that don’t. Check out top-hashtags.com to see the most popular Instagram hashtags.
4. Post Regularly. Find a posting schedule that works for you and stick with it. With so many photos being uploaded to the site every day, you’ll need a large photo stream in order to stay relevant.
5. Appeal to Users. The best way to connect with your customers is to engage them creatively. For example, one of the most popular marketing trends on Instagram is to host photo contests. Companies ask their followers to post photos with a unique but relevant hashtag and award prizes to the best submissions. The hashtag lets the company sort through and identify contest photos quickly and easily.
6. Be Creative. The best part of Instagram is that there are a number of ways to connect with people. Anyone can succeed as long as they’re willing to practice and experiment. Some companies post behind the scenes photos of their businesses. Some use Instagram to announce new product launches, while others use it like a personal diary or to post cool or exciting pictures. None of them approach it exactly the same way, and neither should you. All you really need to do is ask “What’s special about me?” and find a picture that captures it.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start posting!
Are you an Instagram user? Is there anyone whose content you follow? Why? Post a comment and let us know!