Instagram Essentials: Hashtags, Captions, and Geo Maps

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Unless you’ve been asleep for the past year or so, you probably know that Instagram was the fastest growing social media platform of 2014. Instagram now has over 200 million active users, and it’s obvious that this filter-enabled photo-sharing mobile app shows no signs of slowing down.

However, it can be a challenge to find creative ways to increase brand awareness with Instagram. You can’t really link out to external websites, so you have to use your imagination and tell a compelling story with you photos. But beyond the images themselves, you must take advantage of the few tools at your disposal to get your account noticed.

Instagram Loves Hashtags

Hashtags really matter on Instagram, maybe even more than on Twitter. And unlike Twitter, you can load up on the hashtags on Instagram without being annoying. People expect it. In any case, if you don’t like the look of too many hashtags in your captions, just add them to a comment line—it has the same effect as far as Instagram’s search engine. As a general rule, you should use at least four or five with every photo, but don’t be afraid to use moreScreen Shot 2015-01-28 at 3.12.08 PM if they are relevant.

The use of hashtags is fundamental for businesses that aim to be associated with industry-related keywords and trending topics. At first, try to use the most popular hashtags that will draw visitors to your account, and hopefully increase your following. Later, get creative and invent your own hashtags that speak to the personality of your followers or a specific promotion that targets them.

It’s fun to add a hashtag within the photo itself, either placed there by photo-editing, or better, by actually holding up a sign with hashtag written on it.

The Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Keep captions short and fresh–never forget that Instagram is all about the photos and any text should only serve to enhance the search visibility of the picture. If you do write something, ask questions as often as possible to engage with followers.

Like with any social media platform, you should always try to respond when people comment of your content. But on Instagram, a simple “thank you” is enough, because again, it’s all about the photos, so keep the conversation to a minimum.

For interacting with your followers, it’s much easier to do so with a third party app like Iconosquare rather than on the native platform. For one thing, you can do this on your laptop or desktop using your full keyboard instead of your smartphone. Also, they give you some cute emoticons to use for fun.

Where in the World Are You?

shutterstock_115334389Include the location of your photo or video with a “geo-tag” when it helps tell the story of the image, or to create a buzz around your event. Your smart device likely has a GPS feature built into it, so by activating Instagram’s geo-tagging option, your followers will know exactly where you are located. This option is turned off by default, so you must activate it in order to use this feature.

Instagram will also save your geo-tagged images, and will use them to create a photo map. This way, people searching for a location will be able to find your business when they search the geographical area.

Use the “Add People” feature to tag accounts in your image when they will help you to reach a broader audience—assuming you have permission (i.e. partner brands, celebrities, etc.).

Timing Your Instagram Posts

Give some thought to the timing of your posts, and remember that Instagram is a bit like Twitter when it comes to the “lifespan” of a post. Sure, all of your videos and images will be saved on your profile, but unless they go searching for you specifically, some of your followers will not see every photo when you share them if they aren’t on Instagram at that time.

Therefore, you want to space your posts out over the course of a day. Five images posted at the same time does not have the same reach as five images spaced out over the course of the day. Consistency is key.

It also helps if you know your target audience. Instagram users are not typically “Nine-to-Fivers.”  More likely, they are active late at night and on the weekends. But then again, perhaps some of them do not live in the same time zone as you. So do some research and schedule your posts accordingly.

Your brand’s content should enhance the social media experience for your followers, not intrude upon it; don’t bombard them with too many images. Four or Five photos a day is about right.

In Summary

Make no mistake, the photos are by far the most important element of your Instagram account. Spend most of your time and effort in improving your picture-taking and your photo-editing skills. However, with all the great photographs out there, tweaking the supplemental content of your photos might just give you that extra bump needed to get noticed.

Do you have any Instagram tips? If so, please leave a comment below.

About This Author

Ian is freelance writer and blogger covering the topics of social media, blogging, and online marketing. Originally from the Chicago area, he now calls South Florida his home, trying to keep the sand out of his laptop as he creates content for several websites and blogs.

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