Hello! And welcome to week two. Today we are going to be exploring my very favourite social media platform, Instagram. 

Instagram has enabled me to change my career, grow Makelight, publish a book and have the most wonderful and inspiring creative place that I can go to several times a day. It is one of the best things that has happened for my work over the past few years and I am really passionate about helping other people to both use Instagram to grow their businesses and also to enjoy its creative potential. 

Let’s begin with my video.

Images & Your Gallery

The first thing that is important when you use Instagram is to post great images. Practising all the things I taught you last week as often as you can will really help with this. 

Thinking about your gallery and what you want to use it for is also really important. This will help you to build a gallery that looks consistent and cohesive. Your visual style and story telling will really grow from this. 

It is really important to remember that Instagram is about more than just one image, it is about your gallery. People will decide whether to follow you or not based on your top 12 images, so it is really important to think about how you post your images and which one goes with the one you last posted. 

Planogr.am can help you to plan your gallery, so that it looks beautiful. 

I sometimes have an image I really want to post but it doesn’t flow with my gallery, so I have to create another image to post before this one. It is usually about the colours in an image. 

What to post when

Certain times of the day will work better for your audience engagement than other times, so it is really important to think about this, especially if you are only posting 1 or 2 images a day. It's important that they have the biggest impact for you. 

There is no one time that works best for everyone because you will all have different audiences. I have students all around the world for example but the cafe at the end of my road might just want to be targeting people in my local area, so their consideration about timings of image posting will be different to mine. 

Generally though commuting times in both the morning and the evening work really well and so does lunch time and the evening. 

You can use Iconosquare to gain more insight into your own account. 

Bio & Profile Image 

Make sure you choose a good profile image. If I see an interesting/beautiful/happy one next to a comment left on one of my images I often go and take a look at that person's gallery. 

Take time to think about what you are writing in your bio and regularly check it. 
Instagram only gives you one opportunity to provide people with a link and that's in your bio. So use this, change it regularly to fit in with anything you might be promoting. If you post an image that says you've written a new blog post, make sure that link goes straight to that blog post and tell people in your image text that they can follow the link in your bio. If you are selling something then do the same. Just having your website link will not get people to the right place. They might get distracted along the way or just not find what you are talking about and leave your site. Make it really easy for people and put the direct link in your bio. I change mine at least 3 times a week and often every day. 

Community 

If you want to grow your following on Instagram you have to remember that it’s not just about great photographs but it’s also about the community. Posting great images and then running off to hide won’t grow your following very quickly! 

Set aside some time each day (it can just be 5-10 minutes) to leave comments on images that you like, to find some new people to follow and like a bunch of images too. Reply to comments left on your images. I know that can take time and sometimes we don’t have time but try your best. It will not be time wasted. 

I try to post an image and then spend 5-10 minutes looking at images in my feed, exploring a hashtag, leaving some comments and liking images. I know that when I do this I get more new followers, likes and comments. 

Hashtags

Hashtags are a really important part of Instagram. They help people to find images that they like and new people to follow. There are millions of images on Instagram. Lots and lots of them won’t appeal to you but if you search in certain hashtags then you will find images you like. 

These certain hashtags will be the type that fit into your particular niche. There are hashtags for pretty much everything, so it’s really a matter of searching for the ones that suit you. It can take time but it’s definitely time well spent. 

One way to find them is to see which ones people you admire are using. Take some notes, save them on your phone. Keep researching. 

And then using them! I recommend posting your hashtags in the first comment and not in the caption when you first post the image. I think you should use no more than 10 for one image and I personally very rarely use more than 5 and usually it’s more like 3. If you use too many it looks like spam and will put people off following you. 

If you forget one, don’t worry because you can always add it in later. 

In addition to hashtags that are used all the time there are some that are for particular days. For example for the past three years I have been running #floralfridaycomeptition where people all over the world post a floral image on a Friday. The following week I feature my favourite 4 images in a grid with links to the people. This really helps people gain new followers. 

There are lots more of these. Here is a little selection. #mystillsundaycompetition, #mondaymoodboard, #byarrangement #frommykitchencompetition #making_winter #aquietstyle

My weekly newsletter always contains some that I recommend. Please feel free to share ones that you like on the Facebook Group. Perhaps we could all challenge ourselves to find a new one to share with everyone!

When you have found a hashtag that you like and posted an image for it, make sure you take time to look for some images that you like in that hashtag group. Like some, perhaps follow a new person, leave some comments. Engage! 

Creating Your Own hashtags

As well as using other people’s hashtags it can be nice to make your own. For example I have #makelightstudio #makelighthome and #thequinskislibrary. This is a nice way to group your images together and for people to look back at older images you’ve posted. 

Or you could make a hashtag and invite other people to join in with you. A lovely way to build your community. But wait until you are feeling happy with your Instagram stream. You want your hashtag to bring you new followers, so it’s important to make sure you are ready for them! 

I hope this lesson has given you lots to think about. Please don’t forget to use the hashtag for this course #makelightsocial, so that I can see your images. We will build a lovely gallery like this one for it too. It will help you to all find each other and stay connected as well. 

As always please ask me any questions you might have in the Facebook Group. xo