Instagram arrived on the social media scene in 2010 and has been a non-stop powerhouse ever since. There are more than 800 million total monthly active Instagram users and we know 59% of internet users between the ages of 18 to 29 use the platform. Owned by Facebook, this visually driven, mobile-sharing app allows users to capture, edit, and share photos and videos with a smartphone. Users take a photo or video with their mobile phone; adjust and customize the photo or video, using filters and photo-editing controls; and then upload their photos with captions, location tagging, and other text for their followers to see.
Photos and videos shared on Instagram load in a similar manner as Facebook, via a live feed on the app’s interface and based on a user’s interests. A user can “like” or comment on photos and videos. Similar to Twitter, users follow each other to build their Instagram networks, identifying individuals and organizations whose photos and videos they want to see in their feeds. When using Instagram, consider what your audience most wants to see, and follow the tips outlined on the next few pages.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
When creating copy for Instagram posts, language should be concise and incorporate a call to action, such as asking users to “send us a message,” “leave a comment below,” “visit the link in our bio,” or “tag a friend.”
LINKS IN INSTAGRAM
URLs added to Instagram posts are not active. You may include a URL, but users will have to remember the URL, open their browser, and then type the URL, which is a lot of work. It is recommended to tell users to visit the link in your profile, particularly if it’s a link to a “Get Started” form or if you’re promoting a social campaign. You can also consider using a custom link (CID from CAMPO) to drive people to your state NationalGuard.com website.
Additionally, links are active in direct messages, which is another great way to get people where you want them. If you are having a conversation with someone and want to show them a news article in which the Guard was front and center, or send them to your state website, you can do that.
CROSS-PROMOTE ON OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA NETWORKS
A great way to let your audience know that your state is on Instagram is to share posts to your other established networks. When you create an Instagram post, you have the option to share your post to Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr. This works for some platforms when your post copy doesn’t need to be as detailed, but not every post should be cross-promoted. Instagram to Facebook is seamless, but sharing to Twitter does not show your entire post, only a link to your Instagram post, which is not ideal.
USER-GENERATED CONTENT (UGC)
One of the easiest ways to gather content is to ask your followers, recruiters, and current Soldiers for assistance. This is considered user-generated content (UGC) and can be collected by asking users to submit their photos and videos with a specific hashtag or by direct-messaging your page. If you choose to use a user-generated photo, be sure to tag the user in the photo or provide a photo credit in the copy. You should also tag other states you might be doing joint training with or that are attending the same event.
Promote User-Generated Content
It’s estimated that 85% of users find visual UGC more persuasive than brand photos and videos, which means it should be part of your engagement strategy. Encourage followers to use your state hashtags accompanied by a personal photo highlighting a topic or holiday of your choosing. As always, be sure to ask for permission to repost someone else’s image if you plan to use it on your profile.
INSTAGRAM BEST PRACTICES
Instagram is the ideal platform for a brand to tell its story and to reach users in a visually appealing and engaging way. Let’s explore tips and best practices:
ALWAYS USE HASHTAGS
Hashtags are an important tool for brands to incorporate in their content strategy, helping gain exposure among specific users based on users’ particular interests. Hashtags provide an organic way for users to search for and identify posts and accounts that interest them and, in turn, help brands to grow their audience base.
Whether you’re using a widely known, trending hashtag to join a conversation (e.g., #TBT, #MotivationMonday, #TransformationTuesday), or a hashtag your audience is likely to search (e.g., #NationalGuard, #BattleBuddy, #BasicTraining), each posts should include five to seven hashtags.
SWITCH TO AN INSTAGRAM BUSINESS ACCOUNT
An Instagram Business Account provides exclusive features and tools that will make it easier to grow followers. For instance, admins can access Instagram analytics and include CAMPO UTM code links in Instagram Stories (see below) for lead tracking. Within the profile itself, states can add a button that makes it easy for followers to contact them via direct message, phone call, or email. Learn how to convert your personal Instagram profile to a business one here.
SCHEDULE YOUR POSTS
The latest Instagram update now allows Business Accounts to schedule posts in advance using third-party tools like Hootsuite or Later. For now, Instagram has not yet announced any plans to integrate a scheduling capability directly into its app. This new feature is huge for those who find it difficult to post content consistently.
EXPERIMENT WITH TAGGING OTHERS
There are a variety of types of posts to choose from when creating content for Instagram, including photos, videos, and carousel. Try to experiment with each kind regularly and see what engages your audience the most.
Your state can and should mention influential users, such as @NationalGuard, or tag users in images that you share to achieve higher engagement. Engage with your followers by “liking” their images and videos, commenting on content, or reposting content. When you tag and interact with users, you humanize your state, which encourages others to interact with you.
The length of your post copy should be short and concise, unless you are quoting someone, sharing a story, or providing a description that may require longer text. Other ways to increase engagement include asking individuals to tag their friends or asking for comments. Additionally, by “regramming” your followers’ posts, your state can increase engagement with its audience and increase brand affinity, cultivating a more connected community.
Suggestion: As always, be sure to ask for permission to re-post someone else’s image if you plan to use it on your profile.
POST TIMING AND FREQUENCY
There is no magic time of day when it comes to posting. Your state should test different posting schedules, posting at various times each day to identify the best times to engage with your audiences. Your state should expect to create and post approximately 30 times per month on a regular posting schedule.
The higher the image quality, the more likely users are to engage. Photos should be in focus, high resolution, and relevant to your state’s audience. Your state should also post a variety of photos and videos. Although images and videos should be high quality, a newer mobile device with a camera will suffice, as long as the image is focused.
Instagram offers various filters that allow images and video to be augmented in color and gradient. Some filters offer a black-and-white look, let more or less light in, and provide a vintage look. Test and experiment with what users engage with and how your photos look.
Instagram Stories were introduced in August 2016 and they enable users to upload photos and videos to their Instagram account that disappear after 24 hours. These stories are not posts; instead, they provide an opportunity to showcase an event without spamming your followers with multiple posts back to back.
Instagram Stories allow you to add drawings, text, geotags, and emojis to your images and can be accessed at the top of your Instagram feed. First things first—
Create your Story: From your feed, swipe right and you are ready to post an image or video just as you would if you were posting on Instagram itself. If you want to share a photo or video that you took at an event within the past 24 hours, then swipe up on the screen and select what you want to share.
Give some context: Unlike a standard Instagram post, there is no copy to write. So get creative with the marker and emoji tools!
Tap the “Aa” button to add text on top of the photo or use the pen icon to draw something. When you are finished, click the “Done” button and the photo will be ready to add to your story. If you want to get rid of the photo, hit “Cancel”; to save it, hit the download icon.
Measurement: You can see how many people view your stories for up to 14 days, making reporting a breeze. Another way to measure engagement is to see how many people reply to your story. If users see a story that they like, on the story, they can reply to it through direct messaging. Make sure to follow up, even if someone says, “cool,” sending a “thumbs up” in response shows that you are listening.
Another neat feature to add to your Instagram Stories is polling. You can add a question, with two answer options, to your Instagram Story image or video. Your followers will tap on the answer they’d like to choose, and to see your poll responses, swipe up, just as you would to get the stats for any regular Story post. To create a poll, open Instagram and swipe right. From there, you can take a picture, video, or upload a recent picture from your camera. Next, you’ll tap the sticker icon at the top, and choose the poll option. You can keep the “yes” or “no” format, or type in your own answer choices.
Let’s talk about poll ideas:
General feedback: If you’re trying something new on Instagram—maybe new graphics or Soldier features—ask for feedback! An example could be, “Have you seen our new Soldier feature posts shared every Tuesday?” This engages people and promotes your content for free.
Announce changes: With new PT uniforms and ACUs being phased out, a poll is an easy way to make announcements. For example, you could upload an image of the ACU and ask, “Do you have the new uniform? Everyone will need it by October 1, 2019.”
Put it to a vote: Similar to posts you might have seen on Facebook in which users “like” for one option or “heart” for another, upload a photo and ask users to vote for their favorite. You can create a graphic for this or find an image. A few ideas:
- Ft. Sill or Ft. Leonard Wood
- Black PT uniforms or gray
- Cheese tortellini MRE or Chili Mac
Similar to Facebook, once you open the Instagram app, you will swipe right and see a screen on which you can take a picture or video, create a Boomerang, and go live.
Once you decide to go live, Instagram will check your internet connection. If you have weak service, the stream may be interrupted or choppy. Avoid that at all cost.
With Instagram, there is no title and going live happens within three seconds using a countdown so make sure you’re ready to go.
Videos can be saved to your camera roll. Click “Save” once you end the video to share it on your other platforms.
Add a buddy to go live with. Once you’re live, you’ll see an icon at the bottom of the screen that looks like two smiley faces sitting next to each other. Tap the double smiley icon.
A list will pop up and you can tap to add one person from your list. The friend must be watching your live Story to add them, so be sure to give your chosen co-host a heads up. Once you tap to add your friend, your friend will receive a notification on his or her screen, giving him or her a choice whether to join or not. If your co-host accepts, viewers will see the screen split, and your co-host’s live feed will fill the second half of the screen.