Today we start the first in a series of posts on growing your Instagram account to complement your food blog. We'll be covering topics like hashtags, improving your photos, engaging with other instagrammers and brands, defining your content, how to leverage your account to benefit your food blog and create other opportunities for yourself. Our first post is on creating and implementing an overall strategy for your account to help you build your following.
About a month ago ago, FBC reached the 5000 follower mark on Instagram (@foodbloggersca). While we're still not a "big" account by most standards, it was still a big milestone for us - in part because of how quickly we got there.
On January 1 of 2015 we had 1700 followers after being active on Instagram for a full year. Nine months later, we had nearly 5900 followers.
So, why did it take us a year to get to 1700 followers? And, how exactly, we did we then manage to jump to 5900 followers just 9 months later?
Before we start we’d like to note that FBC has never, to our knowledge, been featured on any large media lists as an account to follow. So for those of you who feel this is something you need to have happen in order to grow your following quickly, it’s not. All you need is to follow good old fashioned (!) social media rules.
Creating an Instagram Strategy
I’ll be honest, the first year we were on Instagram, we didn’t really know what we were doing. We didn’t have a focus, our posting was all over the map and we broke what we have since come to recognize as our number one rule, far too many times.
It became very obvious to us that if we wanted to grow, we needed to have some kind of strategy.
Start Measuring Instagram Results
I know it sounds very analytical but, you can't create a strategy without starting to gather information about what's working and what's not. So the first step is to start paying attention to the results you get when you post a photo.
Some things to note are:
- How many likes, comments and engagement did the photo get and what was the photo about?
- What time of day did I post the photo?
- Did I use hashtags or put it out there with no help?
- If I visited a restaurant or did something with a brand did I tag them in the photo or fill in the location info?
- Do I interact with commenters? Do I interact with hashtags? Do I follow new people? How engaged am I with the platform outside of my own posting?
- Who does my audience seem to be?
While we will be publishing more in depth future posts on each of these pieces, start paying attention to all these factors and see if you notice different levels of engagement or more new followers after you post certain photos or use certain hashtags.
Engagement on your photos: If a photo does really well make note of what it was about – you might notice a theme. Make note of what time you posted it. Try posting your next few photos at the same time of day and see if they do equally well. If your photos of your breakfast do really well start posting more of those! If your photos of your dog don't do well, post less of them (although how could anyone not like doggy photos?!?!)
Are you using hashtags? Do you get more engagement when you hashtag? If you use a large batch of hashtags it can be hard to determine which ones are getting you traffic so start trying out one at a time and seeing how images do and if a particular hashtag is worth using. The same with tagging a brand or publication - these might help you get noticed or regrammed.
Start engaging more with the platform as a whole – check out individual hashtags you are interested in and start engaging with other users who use them. Respond to comments and likes – pay attention to people who like or comment that don’t follow and engage with them – does that convert them into followers?
Look at your audience. Check out their profiles. Who are they? Are they moms looking for family friendly recipes? Are they other food bloggers? Are they people in your city who love seeing what restaurants you’re going to?
Use Your Data and Start to Develop A Strategy
Once you’ve started taking note of all these bits of information you’ve gathered, you can start to develop a strategy.
One Instagram Account... Or Two?
One key question to ask your self at this point is if it would be in your best interest to have two accounts – one for your blog and one for yourself.
While this may not be the best solution for everyone, you may find that if you’re working hard to create a standout brand for your blog, that it’s better to have a separate instagram account for it and focus on photos that have direct relevance to what you blog about.
For example, if your blog focuses on restaurants, maybe your main account should just focus on your dining out activities and consider creating a separate, personal IG account where you post photos of your camping trips and your pets.
Determine the Key Points of Your Strategy - Keep It Simple
Once we had figured out who our audience was and what they liked, we came up with a strategy that revolved around these key points:
- the type of photos we would post
- how often we would post and the time of day we would post
- creating a unique FBC hashtag for ourselves and our followers
- a strategy for interacting with our members, other followers and our hashtag users
We'll go into each of these points in more detail in coming posts but suffice it to say we're pretty vigilant (but not militant) about following these four points and it has worked really well for us!
Remember - a strategy isn’t carved in stone. Social media evolves quickly and you need to keep tinkering and adjusting. Don’t be afraid to switch things up or experiment! But give yourself a framework to work in!
Instagram 101 For Food Bloggers: Creating a Strategy was written by FBC co-founder, Editor and one half of the FBC Instagram account, Melissa Hartfiel. She's an Instagram traditionalist and believes the square should be respected. Long live the square!