In the ever changing world of social media it can be hard to keep moving forward while negotiating all the changes. This week we update you on what's working on Instagram for food bloggers with lots of instagram tips from FBC members.
Instagram has become a challenging platform for a lot of food bloggers in recent months with algorithm changes, figuring out Instagram Stories, new features that only roll out to small groups and the disparity between business accounts and personal accounts.
But rather than dwelling on what's not working with Instagram, we took to our FBC Member Facebook group to ask our members what is working for them on Instagram right now. We got some really solid tips and suggestions so we thought we'd compile them in one spot for everyone to benefit from!
1. Instagram Stories Encourage Engagement
Instastories are definitely on the rise and users are engaging with them! People like the more casual vibe and the behind the scenes, real life snippets that influencers share in these snappy videos and images. FBC members are seeing engagement as a result of this. Keep your actual image feed clean and curated if that works for you and then let loose with real life in Instagram Stories.
Lyndsay Sung of Coco Cake Land shared that
I love Stories because I can keep my feed "clean" and pretty (I'm anal about this, ha) but share who I am in good old Stories...I've done a few polls and yes, people LOVE them even if it's "do you like this turd brown colour?" (actual poll I made)... More recently I just posted two Stories that are now Stories highlights which are like short little cake decorating tutorials shot on iPhone. My DMs were blowing up, and I responded to each one.
People Dig Polls in Instastories
Polls in Instastories were mentioned by multiple members as being a great tool for follower engagement. Ask questions - sometimes the sillier the better! Here's some ideas:
- have your readers choose your next recipe
- ask them what they need help with in the kitchen
- ask them something mildly "controversial" but fun. The age old "raisins in butter tarts - yay or nay?" always gets a heated response for us. (so did "should pineapple be on pizza?")
- get silly like Lindsay did with the "do you like this turd brown colour?" question
But, as one member pointed out, make sure you share the poll results! People want to know how everyone voted!
Poll Pro Tip: You can see who voted for what in your polls by going to the bottom left of the story of the poll. Click on the number of views along with the profile pics of your followers. That will take you to the page of your viewers who saw the story and tell you how each responded. It's a great way to find out what your followers really like!
Check Your Instastories and DM Requests Section
Check the "requests" section of your DMs regularly. This is where Instastory comments (and DMs) from people you don't follow back hide. Responding to the people who comment there (who may be some of your biggest fans) is where you can get some of your best engagement! If you get creepy or weird messages block them or ignore them.
Post Direct Links In Your Instastories If You Can
If you have an Instagram business account and more than 10k followers, you should be able to post links in your Insastories that can drive traffic back to your site (the Swipe Up arrow will appear at the bottom of the story when activated but people will not be able to comment on stories that have a link). This is great for promoting new posts but also great for promoting older content that might be forgotten and getting a few extra page views. (this is not available to all business accounts at this time)
Post Consistently to Instagram Stories Daily
While we didn't get any hard evidence of this, the feeling amongst many who responded was that posting to Instastories consistently every day got your stories bumped up closer to the front of the Story queue and resulted in them being seen more often.
Melanie McDonald of A Virtual Vegan shared this with the group:
My Instagram has always grown frustratingly slowly compared to my other social media, then about 6 months ago I started making stories every single day. Since then it has been growing pretty quicky. I've heard that when you create stories regularly you get shown first in people feeds. Not sure if it's right but it's definitely been helping me grow pretty fast at the moment
We've certainly noticed that posting stories consistently and frequently does result in more views for us!
Use the Instagram Stories Highlight Function
You can now highlight instagram stories for longer than 24 hours on your profile page. If, like Lyndsay mentioned above, you've got a great tutorial or a story that's getting lots of engagement, highlight it so that new people can view it when they click your profile.
If you do sponsored content, you can also offer a highlight of any Instastories you do for your client as an added value. Keep the story on your profile page for a week instead of 24 hours. You can even add this to your rate card as an additional service.
Other bloggers are using the Highlight function to create portfolios of their work. Highlights is a new feature and it's early days yet for coming up with creative ways to make it work for you - check out what other bloggers are doing with theirs!
2. Share Real Life With Your Instagram Followers
There was consensus that not only does real life resonate with followers and encourage engagement but, it was also what most of our members enjoyed seeing from other bloggers too. People want to find you relatable. This was mentioned multiple times so it's worth noting!
As Emily Wight (emvandee) of Well Fed, Flat Broke shared...
I don't know that I'm *great* at Instagram, but I find the posts with the odd comments or silly stories do best. Also I think being a bit of a mess in real life resonates; I get a little intimidated by the beautiful food art instas, but I tend to interact more with the people who seem like they'd be fun to hang out with in real life.
Don't be afraid to get real with your followers. As another member mentioned, it doesn't have to be super personal. Just show the odds and ends of your day.
If you want to have a highly curated feed, add a real life element to it by making the caption a silly story or sharing a kitchen fail. Show your followers that you're a human being.
Olivia from Liv For Cake told us...
Other things that have done well is posting my very first cake in IG stories. The cake and photo were terrible, but got a ton of engagement. I often talk about various baking fails or issues in my photo captions. Sometimes I'll just post a funny story in the caption and then be like, oh btw, here's a new cake too. I feel like my audience appreciates the candor and sometimes craziness that happens in my life/kitchen and that just because the cake may look perfect now, it wasn't a painless journey to get there. I guess it's more relatable.
There are lots of ways to share snippets of real life and they don't have to be food related (these work particularly well in Instagram Stories):
- show the aftermath of a recipe creation session - what does that kitchen look like before you clean up
- show your photo/video setup
- if you're comfortable with it, share your kids making a mess in the kitchen while they help
- ok we gotta say it... puppies. People love pets. Share your pets being cute, naughty or sleeping. It doesn't matter!
- the weather - be it beautiful or miserable. People love to complain about the weather collectively
- what you're reading or watching or listening to
- have a little rant if it makes you feel better (try to keep it humorous though)
- HUMOUR!! Make people laugh - don't take it all so seriously. People love people who can poke fun at themselves.
- Show your quirks, your flaws, your goofiness - whatever makes you tick
3. Engage Quickly With Comments on New Instagram Posts
Don't post and run! It was noted by several FBC members that Instagram really doesn't seem to like it if you post a photo and then come back hours later to respond to comments (or worse, not respond to comments at all).
Try to respond to comments, particularly on feed images, within the first 1o minutes and then the first hour of posting the photo. This seems to improve the rate at which your photo will get seen, which in turn will result in more engagement.
Be Careful With Scheduling on Instagram
Now that Instagram has announced they will allow social media tools access to their API so that you'll be able live schedule posts, this is especially important - if you use a scheduler make sure you schedule images when you know you can respond to comments!
4. Hashtags on Instagram
There were lots of tips on using hashtags:
- Use Instagram hashtags but don't overuse them. Some found that hashtags don't make any difference to engagement while others felt they did so test for yourself but be judicious in your choice of hashtags and your quantity
- Mix your hashtags up - don't use the same set of hashtags for every photo - Instagram seems to like this better
- Use appropriate hashtags. This is especially important now that users can follow hashtags in their feed (yes! you can follow hashtags now - this is a great way for people to find you right in their feed!!) - and they can also now report images that don't fit the hashtag by letting instagram know they are not interested in a particular image (see photo above - and NO we did not report Oh Sweet Day's post - we love her!).
- make sure your hashtags are in the original caption
- make sure that if your post is sponsored that #ad or #sponsored appears as the first hashtag (or even appears before your caption.
Another great tip we just learned for hashtags is that by clicking on your followers in your profile, you can not only see the people you follow but you can toggle to see the hashtags you follow. In that section, Instagram will also share popular, related hashtags that you might like based on your account activity. This is another great way to find new hashtags to use that fit your niche!
5. More Great Instagram Tips That Are Working Now
Here's a collection of the many other tips we received from members that have helped them:
- video in feeds is working well right now and seems to encourage new followers
- posting multiple times a day seems to help with growth (2-3x a day was the recommended amount)
- others with more established accounts found they could get away with fewer posts as long as the quality of the post was high and they practiced genuine engagement with their followers
- know your audience and what they respond to. If they dig sweets over savoury, focus on those and work harder at responding quickly to any engagement on those types of posts.
- Comment consistently on posts of Instagrammers you admire and try to strike up a relationship with them - be genuine in your comments
- Avoid comments like "nice pic", "great shot", "yummy" etc. They make you sound like a bot and nobody wants to engage with a bot. Leave a thoughtful comment that only a real human who has looked at the photo or video could make.
- consider targeting #nationalrandomfoodday (insert your food day of choice for "random") for additional engagement
- don't always post sponsored content - mix it up. Your followers don't want to feel like they're following an ad billboard all the time. They'll be much more tolerant of sponsored content if you throw in non-sponsored content too
Another great resource we've found for Instagram is the Later.com blog. We gave them our email address to get access to their Instagram Influencer Marketing Strategy Guide but found that their newsletters were so informative with the latest tips and tricks for IG that we've stayed on the list (we are not affiliated with them in any way - we just find them helpful. But keep in mind that their job is to sell their scheduling tool!).
The Big Takeaway
Like all social platforms, Instagram is constantly evolving. This is what's working now but don't be afraid to tweak, experiment and test different strategies and see what kind of results you get.
But if there's one big item to take away from all of these tips and tricks we collected from members, it's that genuine, immediate and frequent engagement is a big key to getting others to engage with you which, in turn, will get your photos in more feeds. So set aside some time a few times a day to making sure your followers know how much you appreciate their interaction with you and to get to know other instagrammers in your niche!