The ULTIMATE Instagram Guide for 2021

The ULTIMATE Instagram Guide for 2021

Instagram recently turned 10. It’s hard to believe this platform has only been around for 10 years. Instagram is such a big part of so many lives, and yet still so many find it confusing and still ignore this powerful marketing platform. There are so many new features that we thought it was time to put out the Ultimate Instagram Guide for 2021. This is a BEEFY post so you may want to bookmark this so you can come back and use it as a reference.

If LinkedIn is the serious business platform for sharing articles, finding jobs, and congratulating people on their recent promotions, Instagram is the peek behind that stodgy curtain where we get to see a more relaxed side of you, and your business.  We know it’s true that people buy from those they know, like, and trust, so it makes sense that Instagram is the platform that allows you to invite your audience a little closer to get to know you better, and hopefully they will like what they see.

If you have been dragging your feet on embracing this tool, or find all of its parts just too confusing, this guide will give you all the information you need to finally get moving. There is a lot of information in here so get comfy.

I’m going to break this into segments for you since there is so much to cover. Consider this a guide that you will refer back to over and over.

We will do a deep dive into the 4 types of posts that live on Instagram:

GRID
STORIES and LIVE STREAMS
REELS
IGTV

Next, we will explore the 3 parts to your posts:

CAPTION
PHOTOS
FREQUENCY (how often you should be posting, which is a question we get almost daily at SocialKNX.)

We’ll wrap up with the different types of content you can rotate in. You don’t want everything to be promotional and as a business owner, you certainly aren’t on Instagram to just share photos of your dogs (although if you are, be sure to drop the name of your account…I love following those accounts). By rotating in different categories or types of content you will have a well-balanced feed or collection of posts.

types of posts on Instagram

Let’s take a look at the 4 types of posts on Instagram:

 

1. Your GRID (AKA: your feed)

This is the hub, the main posts on your Instagram account. The photos here are typically a bit more staged and planned. Consider this the place for your BEST SELF to show up. Your feed is a mix of real images of you, your team, and the occasional (beautiful) stock images or graphics. A carousel post (one that has 2-10 images) can be loaded into one post and will give you more opportunities to have that post seen. If someone sees only the first photo and scrolls by, Instagram will show that post again but start on image 2 or 3 where the person stopped, so your chances are better to grab someone’s attention.  Keep this in mind when loading multiple images too. Put those eye-catching images first!

2. STORIES and LIVE Streaming

Stories are those short blips that look as if it is a visual diary of someone’s day at times. If you post only one image or short video, you will see one long continuous line across the top. Each segment of your story is a dash. When I look at someone’s story and see tiny dots, it seems like a big commitment and I usually pass but if it’s great content I will click through each one. Watch your analytics to see if you are overwhelming people with too many segments here.

Stories are where a brand can be more casual, funny, authentic, and it is where you can definitely point people to your other content. Use stories to promote your latest podcast, blog post, or even your latest Instagram post (Grid post). You can also go LIVE in your stories area. When you go to add a post from your home page, you will notice several options- POST-STORY-REELS-LIVE.

Instagram recently extended the amount of time you can go LIVE from 1 hour to 4 hours. My thought is, who is watching a LIVE for 4 hours? This happened during COVID quarantine time, so I believe it was to accommodate all of the classes and events that suddenly went online. 4-hours is also the limit on Facebook LIVES so it makes sense. When you finish your Instagram LIVE, you will be asked if you want to save or download the video. This allows you to edit it or chop it into small sharable pieces for IGTV, Stories or even on your other social platforms.

Another feature that is tied to your Stories, is the highlight button. You may notice that some people have little circles under their bio. These can be categorized and created by you to save segments of your Stories that otherwise will disappear after 24-hours. You may create a button for EVENTS, LAUNCHES, TESTIMONIALS, TEAM MEMBERS, etc. After you create some Story segments you will start to see which pieces you want to tuck away in your highlight buttons. You can always go later and clean out old segments.

Use a tool like Canva to create cute buttons and brand them with your colors.

3. Reels

Reels is the latest roll out and it’s Instagram’s response to TikTok. With fun video effects, you can create educational or just entertaining 30-second videos. The best part of Reels, at least at the time I’m writing this post, is that Instagram is giving special treatment to these video clips as they are trying to get more people to catch on.

When you record a Reel video, it goes onto your feed with a special Reels icon. People can click on the Reels icon on your profile (under the highlight buttons) to watch more of your Reels, and better yet, if someone is watching a Reels video from someone else, Instagram will prompt them to watch more Reels (from other people) and your content is more likely to be found. [Read more on the differences between TikTok and Reels HERE]

4. IGTV

This is your space for Long-form video. Let’s just say that this is Instagram’s response to YouTube. Anytime a video post goes over 60 seconds it will show the first 60 seconds in your feed and then have the KEEP WATCHING option that takes people to the IGTV section of your profile.

If you are creating long-form educational and informative video content, this is a great way to share it. After loading it on your feed and in your IGTV, you can make a short story to promote it. It creates a web of links crisscrossing from one area of Instagram to the others.

parts of the instagram post

Now we can dive into the different parts to each post.

On your grid posts, you have lots of room to write, versus your stories, you can put some text (more like a headline) across the image or video, but let’s look at these 3 parts:

Captioning

What helps you build the “know, like, and trust” factor on Instagram is your ability to connect with your followers. In your grid posts you have the opportunity to start a conversation—to share something and ask questions. This is your caption or copy.

You have a sentence and half before the READ MORE is shown, so make sure you have a strong headline or enticing first sentence.  Your content can be broken into two types–CONVERSION-focused (education or informative with CTA) or CONVERSATION-focused (telling a story). You have 1,000 characters in this section.

Start your caption with one of these:

Question – “What can you do to make up income in 2021?” “Have you wondered how to build an online community from the ground up?”

Bold Statement – “Myth Buster Time:” “UNPOPULAR OPINION:”  “This NEVER works!”

Cliff Hanger – “Last year I made $350K doing this one simple thing” “My business chugged along until I made this one change”

After writing your post ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. Would my perfect customer find this INTERESTING or HELPFUL?
  2. Are you giving them a reason to take action or respond? Have you asked for a response or call to action? Never leave the conversation hanging with “Fun time with our team.” Ask a question or tell people what you want them to do next. Don’t just say “LINK IN BIO” or worse… don’t put an unclickable link in the post! No one is going to do that kind of work! Give specific instructions: “If you’d like to join our group, click the link in the bio to get started today!” Or “To see how this actually works, click the video link in my bio and be amazed!”
  3. Does it explain who I am or what I do?

Imagery

Instagram started out as a photo editing platform with beautiful filters making even your boring backyard pics look as if it was a magical wonderland. It wasn’t until marketers got ahold of the platform that we saw the immediate decline in quality of photos.

People started posting horrific colored squares crammed with text promoting their products and services, and cringe-worthy stock images that turned Instagram into a virtual junkyard!

Images are the key on Instagram. Photos of people work best, and if they show your eyes and smiling face, you will see those get the most attention.

Look at any account that gets real engagement on Instagram, and you will notice they are filled with the person’s face or the brand’s products and users of the products up close.

I’m not saying you can’t use stock images, but make sure they are beautiful and fresh. Not the corny images of a sales team in business suits running on a track—JUST STOP THAT! [For help on finding better images, read STOP USING CRAPPY IMAGES]

We all have amazing cameras on our smartphones today so there is no excuse for not having good photos available. Get in the habit of snapping 5-10 images per week that you can use somewhere down the line on your social posts. You can load a single image or up to 10 in a carousel post. These are the posts that have dots underneath the images showing you how many you can swipe through to view.

As painful as it is, you need to take loads of photos of yourself and your team in action (drinking coffee, texting, typing at a desk, looking up at the sky or out a window in deep thought, chatting with someone). If you are stumped and don’t know what kind of images to take, download our 55+ photo shot ideas—Ultimate Photo Shot List to get you going.

Get closer than you think you should. Show the details of things- macro images on Instagram do very well. Instead of showing an item of clothing you are selling, zoom in and show us the buttons or quality stitching. Instead of your whole office, zoom in, and show us something on your desk.

We typically think of Instagram in squares. The photos that get posted on your “grid” or main profile are seen in batches of 9 squares, HOWEVER… when someone is scrolling through their newsfeed on Instagram, you can have your image show up in PORTRAIT mode (1920 x 1080 instead of 1080 x 1080). Just like posting an image to your stories, that portrait mode will take up more real estate, and hopefully grab more attention – Instagram will crop it on your grid so be sure to put your main image in the center. Since marketing is all about testing and tweaking, do some testing on this with your images and see for yourself.

Frequency

Ok, you may need to sit down for this one… When it comes to frequency of posting on Instagram, daily is not necessarily the BEST for your feed (grid). I know… mind blown right there!

If you are a professional photographer, and you have thousands of beautiful images to share, you might be an exception here, but Instagram is a very visual platform, and just throwing up junk stock images or text-covered visuals is a complete waste of your time.

If you can create better images a few times a week you will have a more beautiful and well-balanced grid to represent your brand. If you have loads of great content, then go for it, but keep in mind that the Instagram algorithm favors NEW CONTENT, so it will continue to show your post for 48-hrs+/- unless you post again shortly after, then the new post will take over. We always suggest testing things in marketing, so do another test here. For a month, post each day and then the following month, post every 2-3 days. Gather some data and then make that decision for yourself.

As you plan your content, keep in mind you don’t want it to all be promotional. Most people get stuck here wondering what type of content to actually post. We have a monthly service for folks who need caption prompts that can be customized and come with fabulous images for Instagram. Check out DIYsocial for more information.

I have 8 categories listed here that we use when writing content in our DIYsocial program as well as for our clients. These should get the ideas flowing for you. At the end of this post, I have a sample content calendar that you can copy and use if you find it helpful.

different categories for social media posts

Categories of Posts

  1. ME/TEAM – These are the nice images you either have a photographer take or you collect [download our 50+ images you need…]. They are photos of your team or yourself in different settings. People love seeing faces and these posts will generally do better than most others.
  2. HOME– Family, pets, cooking, sitting by the fire, etc. These posts are for you to share a little about yourself and things you enjoy doing on the weekend or evenings. You certainly don’t have to share photos of your kids or personal life, but if you can let your hair down a bit, it will draw people in.
  3. LIFESTYLE– Coffee, Tea, Cocktails, Food (real or stock image). You are not necessarily talking about coffee or cocktails but perhaps you are sharing something about your day, or your business. Think of these posts as if you were meeting your prospects or clients for coffee or cocktails and having a conversation.
  4. WORKSPACE– Flat-lay images of your desk, journals, computer or tablet, etc. Clean up that workspace and show people where the action takes place!
  5. PROMOTION– a clear promo post telling people how they can work with you and what you can do to help them. Promote your podcast, new product, classes or service offerings.
  6. BOOK or PODCAST What are you reading or listening to? Show photos of books and podcasts along with a nugget or two that you think others will find helpful or interesting.
  7. QUOTES– Do you have a quote that speaks to you or inspires you? Don’t fill your feed with just text, but when you have a quote or funny quip that moves you… share it with your community.
  8. EVENTS or TRAVEL– Whether you host events, attend events or just love to travel. These can be posts and images to share that love of learning.

Hashtags on Instagram

Lastly, let’s talk about hashtags!

Hashtags allow people to find content they are interested in and therefore the more you use, the greater the opportunity for more people to find your content. Here are 4 tips for using hashtags on Instagram:

  1. Use 30 on all posts…that’s right THIRTY! The more you use, the greater the opportunity for people to find your content. If you can’t think of 30 hashtags right away, start a list and continue to add to it.
  2. Create a few lists and then you can copy and paste them into your posts- don’t use the same group of hashtags on each post—mix it up.
  3. You can place your hashtags at the end of your caption, or in the first comment. There is a reason for this inconvenient action. Hashtags are hyperlinks so if they are in your post, you may be sending people off of your post and onto other people’s content. They can still see your hashtags in the first comment but by the time they are in your comments they are either commenting or at least reading your comments.
  4. Pay attention to how many people are using that hashtag—If there are too few (12 people using that tag), the hashtag isn’t going to attract anyone, and if there are too many people using a hashtag (20 million), your post will be lost in the masses. Do some research and aim for hashtags between 100,000 and 2 million.

If you have survived reading this resource post, you certainly have what it takes to persevere and the stamina to stay consistent with your Instagram marketing strategy. If your head exploded halfway through this post and you need help managing it all, reach out to our team…it’s what we LOVE TO DO!

Be sure to connect with us on Instagram @SocialKNX and let us know what your biggest take away was. We’ll share your post in our stories and love you forever!

Does Your Website Evoke Trust?

Does Your Website Evoke Trust?

The homepage of your website invites visitors to “join our mailing list” or “subscribe” and yet there is nothing on your site that evokes enough trust for people to want to give away their contact information.

How can you begin a relationship with your potential customers the moment they land on your website? We have 6  tips to help you start establishing trust:

  1. BE HELPFUL

    If you want to earn someone’s trust, offer to help them … for free. Provide helpful resources, informative articles or blog posts, and invitations to contact you to help further. This is the stuff that relationships are built on. After all, if I find you to be smart and helpful with your website content and then I decided I need to hire a team, why would I go anywhere else? You don’t have to “sell me” on what you can do if you show me first how helpful you are.

    Be sure your website copy isn’t all about you. If all the reader sees is you talking about you and how great you say you are, they probably won’t stick around for long. Often a website will look as if it were written by Captain Obvious, giving general information but offering nothing that shows that this company is uniquely qualified to help. “We are the best, most innovative solution-oriented…”
    building trust with website

    Your website copy should talk about your customers and the solutions you offer. Pack it with answers to customer’s most pressing questions about your products, services, and industry.

  2. BE INTERESTING

    Does your copywriting match the personality of your brand? Does your website copy have a personality at all? When your copy sounds like a robot wrote it (or a really bad SEO company wrote it to appease the Google gods), or if it sounds like a technical manual, it will not engage the reader and evoke trust. When your writing is more conversational and very targeted, your reader will feel as if you are speaking directly to him.

    So often web copy is written in an overly formal or technical tone. Write your website copy with a personal tone as if you are writing to a friend. I like to imagine sitting across the table from a good friend who has asked me for advice. If your friend asked you for advice, would you respond with “We set the industry standard for responsive customer service”? I hope not! Speak to your potential customers as friends. [See our recent post: Relationship Building with Your Buyer Persona]
    helpful content to establish trust on website

  3. GET PERSONAL

    Whether your business is made up of only you, or you have a team of 500, find ways to let your potential customers know who they will be working with. If your website is filled with only stock photos, and worse, most of them the corny stock images you see on every other website, the reader will question who they are actually dealing with or if you are a legit company at all. (If you have any of those images of perfectly diverse teams of smiling people giving each other a high five around the boardroom table, just know that we all know they’re not your real team members!)

    Trust is built through transparency and authentic communication. Use real photos or at least a good mix of them on your website. There are so many great photo sources today, that there really is no excuse to use those horrible and very dated images on your website. [see our list of resources on: Stop Using Those Crappy Images On Your Website

    If you feel you have to wait to share a photo of yourself until you color your hair, or lose 10 pounds, or buy a power suit, it’s time to get over that and realize that you can change out photos as often as you’d like. Stop waiting…get those photos loaded on your site.
    show your team to establish trust

    While we are talking about getting real, let’s talk about posting some video on your site of you and your team answering the most frequently asked questions or interviewing customers and other experts. Video is the fastest way to establish trust if you can’t meet and spend time face-to-face. Don’t make them too overly-produced or they look like commercials that are trying to sell us something. Customers want to get to know you and like you. Video is a great tool to accomplish this.

  4. WHAT DO OTHERS THINK ABOUT YOU?

    You can tell me all day long how amazing you and your team are, but if I hear it from another customer of yours, it’s more believable. Share client testimonials and quotes. If they allow you to share their name and photo with the testimonial, it’s best. If you are using “Jane E” alongside a stock image of a businesswoman that just might be on that web visitor’s website, you’re busted!

    Social proof comes from the mouths of others, not you. Sharing quotes, case studies, and video snippets from clients you have worked with will establish trust much faster than a paragraph of snappy copywriting about you.

    Links to your social media accounts can also add to this social proof if you have people talking about your products and services there. Perhaps you have reviews left on Google My Business, Yelp, or even Facebook. Take a screenshot of those reviews and place them on your website.

  5. SHOW WHERE YOU’VE BEEN FEATURED

    Have you shared your expertise on other websites or on media outlets? Be sure to post those videos, links to podcast interviews, or even the logos to those media outlets you have been mentioned in or had articles or posts featured in. (Pro tip- put the logos in black and white to avoid issues around copyright infringement) You want to show that others trust you and so can your new viewers.
    building trust on website

  6. BE SECURE

    The original HTTPSprotocol was released in 1995 (Secure Socket Layer, or SSL, in case you’ve wondered what it actually stood for), and it enabled companies to handle credit card transactions online by protecting your payment details and helping to prove that the merchants you visited were who they said they were. Today many of the top search engines require you to have that SSL certificate on your site whether you deal with eCommerce or not, just to help weed out the riffraff spam sites. If you get the error message warning you that a site is not secure and to TURN BACK, you can relax a bit. Your computer is not about to explode. It’s just letting you know that the site you are trying to reach doesn’t have an updated SSL certificate.

    To ensure your customers and readers don’t see that frightening warning message, make sure you have an updated SSL certificate. Most hosting companies can add that to your site for free or a small fee.

Reputation and Brand Management Starts Early

Reputation and Brand Management Starts Early

online reputation

When we grew up our parents worried if we stayed out past the streetlights or they feared us doing something stupid and the next-door neighbors finding out.

Today we have bigger things to worry about with our kids (and our businesses) online.  Reputation and brand management starts very early! Instead of worrying about what the neighbors will think, we need to worry about what the world will think when Google finds out! What will job recruiters, future customers, and college admissions counselors think when they check out our social media channels?  I have 4 kids, all grown thankfully, and as my kids were growing up in the new digital age, I was constantly teaching them how to keep a clean digital footprint. I taught them (and their friends) early about the importance of having positive content showing up when someone Google’s their name. If you have nothing out there on the web (hard to do these days) and then one negative thing is posted, it’s very hard to dilute that. When you have 20 positive articles or posts about the good things you are doing, the one negative thing get’s folded in and it’s less painful. I’ve had directors and heads of organizations who have no blog posts, media interviews, or any trace of their existence online and then someone writes a negative article about them… that stings.

Last month I got a call from a father asking if he could hire us to help his son who got into some social media trouble. I explained that we were neither a crisis management firm nor a group of attorneys but I’d be happy to offer any help I could. The entire family came in. The son and a few friends had created a mean-spirited (and plain STUPID) social media account that they thought was anonymous. They posted some mean posts about a few other students and then as if that wasn’t stupid enough, they each liked the posts from their personal accounts. This family wanted to know how they could take down all of the posts that people were spreading. Well, lesson one is, nothing is private…NOTHING! Someone told someone and screenshots were taken and spread around with their names with petitions to get all students to write to the college admissions offices that each of the boys was heading off to. The boy who sat in front of me had been awarded a full-ride scholarship for sports. Lesson two, once it’s out there… IT’S OUT THERE! I used to say, “Once you tweet, you can’t delete” but it really is “When meanness is spread, your reputation is DEAD… almost!”

I wanted to put them all on the “naughty bench” for a 5-year time out! First, what teen hasn’t been taught the lessons of online management by the time he or she is in high school? Second, what parent doesn’t stay involved in the tools of the day so they can advise and teach their children how to use them wisely. It really does have to start when kids are in grade school. Perhaps earlier.  After I lectured that boy as if he were my own son, I told them the sad truth… you can’t remove it. The posts and retweets are out there. I advised him to stay out of trouble, spend the next 6 months doing community service, and find new friends.

brand management
Today’s youth have grown up social.  They have their own YouTube channels and Facebook pages by the time they are 10 (or younger). Some have blogs and websites before junior high. They manage complex social circles and post photos of themselves and their friends EVERYWHERE.  Their parents are also blogging about them, sharing embarrassing photos with others on Facebook, and posting videos of little Johnny playing the tuba in the school play on YOUTUBE (usually not in a channel or set to private because mom and dad haven’t figured out how to do that). One study commissioned by security company AVG found that 92% of infants have an online presence by the time they are TWO! Moms post sonograms and infant pics all over their networks.

In business, we want to know where our name and our company brand is being talked about, and we even have tools to find out and manage our brands. You can set up Google Alerts, and use services like Brand Mention to send you notices when your name (or keywords) are mentioned in blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other places.  What about for your kids?  Don’t be naive and assume they are not using any of these tools.  If they are old enough to text message or type on a computer (approximately age 2 these days), they are creating Google tracks.

Remember a brand isn’t just about the information YOU put out there.  It is what your customers and others say about you out there.  When I say Walmart, what is the BRAND IMAGE you get? Low cost, cheap, yellow happy face-dude?  When I say Comcast or any other cable company, what is the BRAND IMAGE you get? And that doesn’t come from what they are saying out there…it comes from what others are saying about them.   When was the last time you Googled your name? Your company’s name? Your KIDS names? Do it…with them sitting right next to you…so you can have these conversations.  Don’t only check web results, but check images, videos, etc.

The fear of having one’s kids show up in ANY Google search can send chills of fear down the spine of most parents and cause many to pull internet cables out of the house altogether, but we can’t cripple our children by not allowing them to build a positive brand for themselves online either (after all your child just might become a gazillionaire for creating the next Facebook or Shopify).  NOW is the time to teach them about reputation management and a safe online presence.  Now is the time for YOU to learn about the importance of online brand management and reputation building.

If nothing shows up when you search your name or your company’s name (aside from the website that you hopefully have with the same domain), what can you do to change that so positive posts and threads of your brilliance show up in searches?  If you have a common name, what can you do to capitalize on your product or service brand?  Perhaps starting that blog you’ve been talking about would give you enough regular Google tracks that you can rise to the top of your name search! Offer to write articles or blog posts (pretty much the same thing these days depending on where it is shared) on other people’s websites or magazines. Creating content in any form (video, audio, written) on a regular basis and sharing it, will help you begin to build and influence the brand you’d like to have.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and any tips on how you keep your kids safe, while still allowing them to utilize the tools of their generation. If you don’t have young children in this digital age category…LUCKY YOU!  What advice would you give those who do (it is usually the child-free who give the best advice to parents 🙂

With so many tools available to leave Google tracks around town or around the globe, we must be intentional to build positive reputations and avoid any negative press.  After all…what would your neighbor’s think?

As always, let me know if I or the team here at SocialKNX can help you and your organization use today’s technology tools to build your business and manage YOUR brand!

@GinaSchreck