Quick guide to the hows, dos and don’ts on Instagram

Categories Social networks
Quick guide to Instagram dos and don'ts

What pictures should I use for my Instagram?

Instagram is driven by “pretty pictures” – food, design, sunny beaches and happy faces always attract likes. Darker pictures, blurry pictures, artsy photos are generally harder for people to appreciate because they show up in their feed together with very bright, “positive” images. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use those pictures, just be aware that they’re not as common on Instagram.

Try to figure out what style works best for you, and then stick to that. Example styles can be bright colors, lots of nature, meditative zen or maybe cute pastel. No picture style is wrong, it’s about finding YOUR style!

Do use pictures you have photographed yourself! This is the best way to create something unique and to tell a story with your pictures.

Do use pictures that the photographer has sold you or told you, you can use. Often the terms stipulate you should name the photographer (but not always). Do this with an @-mention where possible.

Do “repost” pictures you find on Instagram, but make sure to mention and tag the original poster (first make sure THEY have not stolen a copyrighted image)

Do use pictures from services like Unsplash and Pexels, where copyright is not an issue. But also know that these pictures are used in many other places and therefore affect the uniqueness of your Instagram feed.

Do not Google for pictures. It is very likely that you find one that is copyrighted. You can avoid this with the right settings, but if you don’t know how to do that, I humbly suggest you just stay clear of Google for now.

Do not use copyrighted material. It is far too common on Instagram unfortunately, but it is still copyrighted material!

Do not use images with watermarks on them! This looks unprofessional. And it’s also a big tell that the picture is copyrighted.

How do I use hashtags and why should I?

Hashtags are one of the only ways for others to find your material. You can “follow” a hashtag, the same way you follow a person or brand. Hashtags help spread your pictures to new people that might be interested.

Do use hashtags that are relevant to your picture. You can use a maximum of 30 hashtags per image.

Do look for hashtags with 10K-1M uses. This tells you that other people are using the word, and might search for it (or follow that hashtag), but that the rate of new material published isn’t so fast that your picture will “drown” in a few minutes. Example #sunset vs #sunset_today

Do try different hashtags to find the ones that work best for your material. Research hashtags and group them into relevant groups to use as suitable, for instance, types of pictures you often post, location/city you are in, time of day or week or month.

Do come up with a unique hashtag if you want to. Know that this is not a way for new people to find you, but rather a way for you to group all of your pictures, and maybe for customers to use if they post pictures of you/your store/etc. Know that hashtags can’t be owned, anyone can post anything (withing IG community rules) using that hashtag.

Do not use the same set of hashtags for every picture. The Instagram algorithm doesn’t like that, and people will not follow someone who tags a picture of a cup of coffee with the word #sunset. Tag it #coffeelover #butfirstcoffee #ineedcoffee #timeforcoffee or something relevant instead.

Do not #hashtag #every other #word in your #caption – it seldom makes sense, and it makes it harder to read your caption.

Do not hashtag generic word, for instance: #we #are #happy or #great #party. It’s a waste of hashtag real estate.

How and why should I tag other accounts?

You tag other accounts simply by writing @theirname in your caption, or by using the Tag feature on Instagram.

Do tag those you talk about! Especially businesses are happy when people mention them.

Do tag other accounts strategically, if you think they would like to repost your picture or comment on it or just “should know” what you’re up to.

Do tag brands that are visible in the picture if that is something you want to do. If you take an #ootd (Outfit of the day) picture with Gucci handbag, H&M trousers, and Toms shoes, feel free to tag the company accounts in the picture. You are essentially giving them free marketing, but sometimes that’s a good thing for you too.

Do not spam people by tagging them every single day in new pictures.

How do I use Instagram stories?

Instagram stories are pictures or video snippets that are visible for 24 hours after you post them. They can also be saved in “Highlights” if you want to have them visible for longer.

Do post different pictures to Stories, than you do to your Instagram feed.

Do use horizontal pictures.

Do make use of layers of text, stickers, and gifs in stories.

Do post slightly ugly (but necessary and/or interesting) pictures to your stories. That way you do not mess up your feed. And you can make highlights out of them later.

Do not forget about the option of Stories. They create an extra layer of content to your Instagram, and are an additional way for new followers to find you.

What do I need to know about Instagram?

Instagram is owned by Facebook.

You can “pinch to zoom” pictures on Instagram. Think about what is visible if you do.

You can find new images and people to follow through hashtags, location, account names and Instagram’s suggestions for you.

If someone follows you, you don’t have to follow back. But it’s, of course, nice if you do.

A lot of people will follow you, to then unfollow once you follow back. A tell that this is what they’re doing is if they have many times more followers than what they are following themselves.

Only people you follow can DM (Direct Message) you, others will have to send “requests”. You can enable open messages on a business profile.

You can have multiple Instagram accounts on your phone app. Up to five at the same time. It’s easy to toggle between them by clicking your name at the top of the app. You can also post the same picture to several accounts. My general recommendation is that you do not.

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