From its inception in 2010 through its $1 billion acquisition by Facebook and beyond, Instagram has been a hit. Founder Kevin Systrom believed these mediums would become dominant in communication—and he was right. With over 300 million daily active members and 500 million monthly users, Instagram has become a banner force in the way we communicate, share experiences, and ultimately perceive the world online.
Part mobile photo-sharing app and part social network—and second only to Facebook in terms of active users—Instagram is a visually charged way to share moments.
From deftly edited glamour shots to video Boomerangs, Instagram is a masterclass in visual communication. Here are three ways to take your ’gramming game from apprentice to ace.
Know Your Apps
“I wanted the whole world or nothing.” – Charles Bukowski
Gone are the days of simple, vaguely grainy images. Today’s users have an overwhelming supply of shiny new tools at their disposal—and with this much variety literally at your fingertips, visual acuity is just as important as content in crafting a successful and engaging post.
Introduced first in 2014 with subsequent “add-on” apps added to the fray later, Hyperlapse allows users to capture time-lapses that are then automatically stabilized within the app—which leaves you with content that previously required high-end production equipment.
Layout incorporated many features available within the iOS marketplace under Instagram’s brand hood. An easy-to-use interface for combining multiple images in a collage to share in one post. Think of it as an easy way to tell a story and a new way to up your Instagram skills.
Boomerang is described like this by its creators: “It’s not a photo. It’s not a GIF. It’s a Boomerang.”
Similar to Apple’s Live Photos, reminiscent of Google Photo’s animation feature, very similar to a GIF… I hope you’re catching on. With this app installment, Instagram took a fun feature found elsewhere on the web and dropped it right in to Instagram’s feature set. Seemingly mundane actions, like bouncing a ball or blowing a bubble, can be transformed into dynamic, engaging content.
But where's the Story...
“There's always room for a story that can transport people to another place.” – J.K. Rowling
If you’re not sharing a Story here and there on Instagram, you’re missing out on a powerful feature and an audience of over 200 million daily users.
In addition to its large audience, an Instagram Story’s most valuable offering might be its potential to interrupt someone’s day with a 1- to 15-second step into yours. While Instagram posts might be the platinum moments of your content campaign, Instagram Stories help build and sustain your engagement between those moments. Presented as temporary additions to your profile, they expire after 24 hours and no are no longer viewable. Stories appear in users’ Instagram Feeds and are algorithmically ordered by the likelihood of a user to engage—so try different approaches to content and posting schedules to see what your fans like.
Just be sure to watch your timelines, as you can only post a story using content you captured in the previous 24 hours (but, if you forgot, there’s an app for that).
Search and Explore
"Look out honey, 'cause I'm using technology.” – Iggy Pop
Instagram places a significant value on finding and engaging with new content. The Search & Explore tab makes finding great content easier for both brands and users—and maximizes your ability to reach new audiences on the platform if your content is featured. Finding the best hashtags to use, engaging your fans, and finding influencers to collaborate with are all possible from the Search & Explore tab.
Be sure to add a location and any relevant hashtags to your posts! Beautiful, engaging content won’t go far if people can’t find it. Because much of the Search & Explore content is automatically selected, those kinds of metadata help Instagram’s algorithms find and curate your content.
Not only is the Search & Explore tab a desirable location for your content, it’s also a valuable tool to help you discover new and trending hashtags, engaging with possible fans, and locating related influencers.
Content in the Search & Explore tab is selected automatically based on the types of posts you’re engaging with on Instagram, so it’s a great source for locating users with similar interests and affinities on the platform. Searching for people, hashtags and places allows you a great cross-section of your audiences and opportunities within the space.
Where Do We (You) Go from Here?
There is no “one size fits all” approach to Instagram, so be sure to test, record, and optimize from your learnings. Know your brand and develop content that narrates your strengths to viewers, show (don’t tell) them a story about how your brand augments or improves their lives, and you’re well on your way to a winning strategy on Instagram!