Social Media

Social Media How-To: Instagram

As part of the on-going Social Media How-To series I’m doing on the blog, I thought I’d take a look at Instagram. Instagram is one of my favourite social media platforms, and it seems I’m not alone. 399,999,999 others are enjoying it too. But whilst the app itself is relatively self-explanatory, getting any traction can be difficult with such high user numbers. So here are a few tips.

Starting on Instagram

Much like the Twitter post, make sure your profile image and biography are filled out. Mostly so people know who it is! For brands, this is prime real estate as it’s the place where your only clickable link is placed. Instagram How to Fino Hood For individuals, finding an audience immediately is made a lot simpler by being able to follow all your Facebook friends that have Instagram, on Instagram. You can be selective, or just mass-follow. It works on the same premise as Twitter in that you follow and have followers who see your Instagram content.

Photos (or videos)

The key to Instagram is, naturally, the quality of your photos. When one single image takes up all the screen’s real-estate, you need the images to really pop. That can be difficult when you’re relying on a mobile phone camera.

Fino Hood Instagram post

The biggest insight I can give you is that you don’t have to use your phone’s camera.

Now, a lot of people say the tools don’t matter, and that it’s about the creative eye etc.


Use a point-and-shoot or a DSLR, then email the photos/videos to yourself to your mobile and upload . It’s fiddly but the difference in image quality is immense.

Photos display at 1080*1080 pixels maximum, so anything larger than that will be great, anything less and you might start to see pixellation; the antithesis of Instagram.

Instagram Filters

Instagram have a tonne of filters you can use to ‘enhance’ your photos. That being said, I tend not to use any. People want real-life images as much as possible, not vastly airbrushed or photoshopped. Instagram have moved away from the lomography/polaroid style photos and tread on VSCOCam’s toes a little with their new filter additions.

Apps You Can Use

I have a few apps that I use to either track my followers and my Instagram’s performance, to help enhance my photos slightly or to post slightly different content types.

VSCOCam: I know I said people want real-life images as much as possible, but that doesn’t mean a little editing doesn’t go a long way. VSCOCam can help change your iPhone photos into professional-looking images with a few slight tweaks. They do have filters but I tend to just stick with changing the contrasts and shadows/highlights. Check it out here.

Crowdfire: Probably the best Instagram-follower-app. It gives you daily updates on unfollowers/followers, allows you to mass-follow user’s followers and so in order to grow a brand’s following quickly, that can be a useful starting point. As always though, if you follow and the content quality is shoddy, the followers won’t reciprocate. Take a look for yourself.

Boomerang/Hyperlapse: The new kids on the block from Instagram allow you to slightly alter the content types posted. Boomerang gives you little one-second GIF-style videos, and Hyperlapse gives you timelapse capabilities which are usually the reserve of photographers with more than just the basic DSLR gear. Playing around with these can break up the solid feed of photos that are easy to skip by on the platform. Like the sound of Boomerang, or Hyperlapse?


I’d say hashtags are the second most important thing on Instagram. This is really what gets you noticed by people, and can help grow your audience organically. Finding targeted hashtags based on the content or the industry you’re in means you’re not just getting any old person commenting.

That being said, there are generic hashtags that can be really popular and are certainly something to watch out for. ‘#vscocam‘ for example has over 108 million photos tagged with that, so people are looking at the hashtag and engaging with it.

Instagram Tips and Strategy

Strategy on Instagram is like strategy for an social media platform. You should really have one. And you probably have one without thinking about it. In terms of little tactical points:
  • Don’t post random content that doesn’t really make sense to your brand, be it personal or company. For me, I post pictures of cityscapes and my travels, or of my dog. Rarely are there photos of me.
  • Try out different content types: video, boomerangs and hyperlapses. Few people use these and  engagement can be better on these posts.
  • Watch for timings. 5PM GMT (noon ET) seems to be a sweet-spot, as people return from work or go on lunch. Test it, play around and see where you get peaks in engagement.
  • Going hand-in-hand with the last point… what day to post? Will people be checking their Instagram on a Tuesday morning whilst or a Saturday night? Maybe yes, maybe no. Test, test, test.

Advertising on Instagram

Instagram advertising is relatively new. They were reticent about introducing an advertising model for so long for fear of overwhelming negativity towards advertisers and Instagram as a platform. And there is a lot of negativity towards brands who have just gone in like a bull in a china shop, but gradually the quality of ads is improving and it doesn’t feel quite as invasive as it did when they first opened up advertising to everyone. If you make an advert on Instagram look like an advert, you’ve already lost. Keep your eyes peeled for a few examples in another post, which I will eventually like to here.