Today is part two in our Instagram 101 For Food Bloggers series. The goal is to help food bloggers grow their Instagram account to complement their food blog. We'll be covering topics like, creating an IG strategy, 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. Today we're focusing on the heart of Instagram: what to post!
In our first Instagram 101 post we talked about creating a strategy for your account. One of the first things we listed in creating that strategy was deciding what you would post.
The answer, obviously, is...photos!
Ok, that's a bit tongue in cheek but, let's not forget that at its heart, Instagram is all about the photos. You can come up with all the strategies in the world and engage all you like with other IGers but, if your photos, to be blunt, are boring, blurry or flat out aren't very good, then it really doesn't matter. You will always struggle to attract followers.
For many people, Instagram is where they go to have fun, brighten their day, to drool, to be inspired or just pass time in a pleasant way. If your photos aren't doing that for them, then they won't follow you.
Take me for example. I'm a designer by trade. I'm highly visual. I love Instagram. It's like inspirational, happy crack for me. I would happily follow 1000's of people if they all posted eye candy. No eye candy, no follow - unless you're somebody that I love in real life. Then I'll follow you even if you post lousy photos. But some random person who I have no emotional connection too and who doesn't post anything visually pleasing? No thanks - I don't want you cluttering up my happy place!
Now everyone has their own definition of what eye candy is. And fortunately for us food bloggers, food is eye candy for virtually everyone!
What To Post on Instagram
As mentioned previously, to grow your following on Instagram you do need to be intentional about what you post. You need to take into account who your audience is and who you want your audience to be.
What Is Your Goal As A Blogger?
Continuing with using FBC as a case study, when we got intentional abut the FBC account we knew who our existing audience was:
- our members
- the brands we worked with
- a surprisingly large number of chefs.
We wanted our audience to be all those people but we also wanted it to be:
- brands and restaurants who may be interested in working with us and our members
- and, most importantly: the general food loving public.
Our primary goal as an organization is very simple - to promote the beejeebers out of the work our members do and help them find more, hopefully paid, opportunities to do more of the work they do so well.
The bigger our food loving audience is, the better we can do that. If we can use our reach to increase our members' reach, then we are succeeding. If more brands are watching and seeing this awesome work our members do then that creates more opportunities for everyone. And that is also success in our books.
So what is your goal as a blogger? Is it to build a wider reaching community? Increase blog traffic? Find other opportunities outside of your blog?
Figure Out What Kind of Images Your Audience Wants
When we were investigating ways to grow our following we read a lot about how posting behind the scenes photos, photos of events we were involved in, and photos with text on them to get our marketing message across would all help us grow. We tried them all and they all failed quite miserably - very low engagement and no new followers.
We found that, for us, the answer was beautiful food. So that's what we focus on 90-95% of the time.
- When we promote an FBC post on IG, we make sure it's got a gorgeous food photo to go with it.
- When we attend events we scrap the people photos and post photos of the food.
- When we have a marketing message to get out - we try to make sure it's accompanied by food.
Sometimes we make exceptions but we know full well when we do, that the photo will not get the attention or engagement that our other photos get.
So, our number one Instagram rule: before I post this photo is it food and is it gorgeous? If the answer is no, it doesn't go up unless there's an overriding reason. The only exception? Photos of our Chief Morale Officer, SamTheDog - who seems to get love whenever he's featured! (I told you - everyone loves doggy photos!)
Start experimenting and seeing what your audience responds positively to. And then give them more of that!
Get Picky With Your Images
Once you know what works, get picky. Focus on posting images that are sharp, well lit and composed and attractive. Eye candy, remember? We'll get into tips for improving your photos and photo editing in a future post but remember - the heart of Instagram is the photos. They need to shine.
Here are a few tips when it comes to posting food photos that we've learned over the last year:
- make the dish the hero - this rule is pretty much non-negotiable for us (but easy to forget)
- food doesn't need to be overly styled to be successful - sometimes the simplest photos do the best
- lighting, lighting, lighting. Bad lighting = bad photo. Every single time.
- If you're in a restaurant and you can't get a well lit, sharp photo that doesn't look orange, do yourself and the restaurant a favour and don't post it. Orange blurry food is not appealing to anyone
One thing to note: not all the photos we post are our own. We regram member photos and we also use our contributors' photos from articles they've written for us - this does help us create a bigger pool to post from. But we'll talk more about that in a future post on community on Instagram!
Once you get intentional about what you post and you target your photos to the audience you want to have, you should start seeing an uptick in engagement. Find what works and stick to it. Once you get consistent with your content you can break the rules occasionally with a photo of your cat or something else that doesn't quite fit! But until then get tough with yourself!
There are still lots of other pieces to the puzzle that we'll cover in upcoming posts so stay tuned for the rest of our Instagram 101 For Food Bloggers series!
- Instagram 101 For Food Bloggers: Creating a Strategy
- 15 Foodie Instagram Accounts You Probably Aren't Following But Should Be
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!