If you had told me a year ago I would be where I am now, I would have smirked at the possibility, but would have said you were absolutely mental.

A year later and… shall we say the stars aligned greatly in my favour? I have a business that is changing lives, an Instagram following of 317,000, I recently attended The Australian Startup Awards as a Finalist for the Online Business of the Year up against multi-million dollar companies, and I write this on my second last day of work EVER!

I started from humble beginnings… talking to no one and being my first follower. The journey to over a Quarter of a Million has been a massive learning curve to say the least. As a result, I have many aces up my sleeve, but I’m not going to give it up like a desperado on the first date… and neither should you. And this, Ladies and Gentlemen, is your first and most important lesson. If you are have, or are starting an Instagram account for your business, you are entering an eternal courtship with the masses. Don’t get antsy and start selling from day one. You have to create a relationship between you brand and your audience, and add value to their lives like crazy before asking for the sale.

Whilst I can’t cover everything, I can give you general guidelines in the Art of Instagramming like a Boss. Are you ready?

1. If you have it, FLAUNT it! (Create a Brand Personality)

If you’re starting out like me with minus money, Instagram is the place for you. You can engage and congregate an international following for FREE. The one thing you need (besides a smartphone) is a personality, and that’s where large businesses are struggling, and why companies like American Express have a following of 42 thousand with millions of dollars of marketing funds, whilst a punk kid like me has spent $0 and has their following sevenfold, and a higher percentage of engagement.

Instagram is a platform where you can create and develop your brand’s personality by visually storytelling. The ‘How To’ on this, stems from knowing your Branding. What is it that you want to transpire and put into the world? Once you can identify this, the rest is easy, and will fall into place.

For example; If you were a Hostel in Canada with a target market 18 – 23 year olds, you wouldn’t put up pictures of the rooms trying to sell accommodation. On Social Media, you are not a Hostel in Canada, you are a Travel Destination and a Symbol of Youth – and how you would transpose that is by putting up imagery of the beautiful Canadian landscape, images of the 18 year olds that have passed through the hostel laughing and enjoying themselves, photos of ski trips organised by the hostel.

Your business is much more than what it actually “is”. You have to put out visuals to communicate your brand in a way that speaks to the Id. The Id defined by Sigmund Freud is our most intimate, basic and primal urges. In the case of the Canadian Hostel, the goal would be to inspire wanderlust, provoke the need for adventure and evoke a sense of frivolity. When your brand personality, in other words, your content is interesting enough, you will gain a loyal following and will be able to interact with your fans, which will often result in a loyal customer base as well.

2. Picture Perfect (Don’t use Sh*t Pictures and Post Relevant Content)

We’ve all heard about making first impressions and that pictures speak a thousand words – luckily, you have a few thousand words you can express in the few seconds when someone lands on your account, as they will skim through the last 6 – 9 posts before making a decision to follow you or not.

What you look like visually can add to or take away credibility from your business. On this visual platform, it is important to storytell with unique, shareable and high quality images. Not only will this capture attention, but if people like what you’re posting, they will share your content providing you with yet another opportunity to spread awareness about your business, and lead more eyeballs to your account, hopefully turning them into followers.

By knowing your target market, your posts should resonate with your audience. If you are still working out who they are, that’s ok. Put out feelers and they will indicate which content they enjoy by the likes and comments on the posts.

3. Let’s “Bee” Friends (Create your Community & Engage with your Audience)

Feedback is vital when creating an outstanding business and social media is a direct line to your consumer. Be sure to check comments to see what your audience are saying about your business, and if their needs and desires are being met. Also, make sure to take note of the likes on your posts to moderate the content you push out – remember communication isn’t always vocal.

4. Be Consistent with Content

There is a daily average of 75 million users on Instagram worldwide. Now, it’s not a game of Pokemon where you have to catch them all, so calm down! But posting regularly is integral, not only to maintain your followers’ interest but to ensure you get noticed. Not everyone is playing on Instagram at the same time, which is why it’s ideal to spread our your posts throughout the day, to always stay at the forefront of their minds. Or as Jack Delosa intelligently puts it, “Recency and Frequency”. At Skinny Kitchen, I aim to post at least three to four times a day.

In regards to timing, knowing your target market you can figure out the times of day that are best to post to grab their attention. The frequency of the likes coming in can determine the day of time to post. However, as your audience grows, this will shift. But by this time, you would already be an Instagram guru and you’ll notice the trend change.

5. #Hashtag Cocktails

Hashtags are essential for indexing your content to relevant topics, which makes it easy for people to find you. Research your hashtags for your industry and make up a cocktail for 10 – 20 that best suit your business, which you can use regularly. Instagram allows 30 hashtags per post, so by posting 10 – 20, you will have the opportunity to add in extras specifically addressing each post.

The hashtags you should use, are the ones that have been tagged in hundreds of thousands, or millions of posts. These popular tags are also the ones people are searching. There are various website which will tell you which hashtags to use for your industry, however nothing beats stalking your audience and seeing what they are tagging. You’ll be surprised at the little communities you’ll find that may be at the centre of your target markets interests.

Lastly, to keep your posts clean, make sure you post them in the comments. The downside to using the popular hashtags is that your post will only stay in the top posts for a short amount of time. However, if you’ve posted your tags in the comments, it will be easy for you to delete and retag again, bringing your post to the top again for extra visibility and more opportunity for new followers.

I know what you’re thinking, information overload!! But when you put these simple things into practice collectively, soon enough it will seem so effortless, you’ll be writing “How to Insta” blog posts of your own.

Good Luck!

Xx Mariana