Aime Cox and Stephen Barnard
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Three new Instagram tips for Summer 2018

I swear I spend half my life discussing tips for small business Instagram marketing. It’s my favourite social network, filled with my favourite people, and Facebook’s love for algorithm changes means there’s always new best-ways to play the Instagram game.

Today I’m covering my best new tips, but that doesn’t mean you should abandon previous advice. As ever, nothing here will work unless you are posting high-quality, original content on a frequent basis. These tips will help you to get more out of Instagram by understanding recent feed changes, and how you can manage your actions to get the most out of your Instagram investment.

Time Well Spent.

Ok, this one isn’t a tip. It is crucial to understand how Facebook sees their product (Instagram) in order to make sure we’re being the best possible users we can – and 2018 is all about Time Well Spent.

This change has made me very happy, as it makes just so much sense.

The number of likes, comments and followers is meaningless, and it always has been. The numbers obsession has always been about vanity, a little bit of showing off, and a measure that is super easy to quantify. But likes doth butter no parsnips. Comments don’t shift stock and followers don’t pay the bills. We don’t need numbers, we need attention.

We need conscious seconds focused on our lovely small brands and our amazing creative products. We need Time Well Spent fully engaging with what we’re saying, and so Facebook switching to this new metric is ruddy awesome.

Tip 1: Reply, or Spam & Scam.

Most post likes are given without valuable attention to your brand. When I use Instagram, I find myself double-tapping some pics without really looking at them. I also double tap some lovely posts without noticing who posted them.

Some, I double tap because I genuinely like the post. I expect that you’re pretty similar when you browse Instagram too. Unfortunately, as a business owner, when people like my posts I have no way of knowing which of those 3 categories earned that reaction, let alone those pesky robots. That’s why the number of likes is poor indicator of success.

Comments are where it’s at. Well, genuine comments. Again, those gosh-awful pesky robots leaving gosh-awful pesky comments aren’t helping anyone. A well meaning comment is a great indicator that someone has engaged with your brand, a virtual hand held out that waves “hey grrl, this is interesting stuff’.

Now the worst thing you can do, is leave that comment unanswered. Every time you leave a comment unanswered, Instagram sees someone who has found something they care about being ignored. Now that’s not very nice. It’s much better to give a little “heyyyy grrl, that’s very kind of you, and your hair looks ace today”.

That’s why it’s important to reply to every comment. It tells Instagram that you reward Time Well Spent with your own attention, and helps start conversations which are so much more valuable than throwaway likes. It also makes your commenter feel even more loved.

This is also where small businesses have an incredible advantage over big brands and high street retailers. We can add so, so much value and have authentic conversations because we are right there, representing our passion.

As for those dang gosh-awful pesky robots, they don’t deserve your attention. Swipe left on their comment, hit that exclamation point in an octagon, and mark as spam. This way you’re not showing Instagram that you’re ignoring a fan, and you’re letting them know that someone is being a dang gosh-awful pesky butthead.

Tip 2: Momentum

I think Momentum is the most widely shared new tip for Instagram this year. The theory is that Instagram is using some sort of threshold to restrict reach, e.g. if you get 10% reactions from the first 1% users, it’ll show your post to the next 10% – if you get fewer reactions your reach will stop.

Now I’m taking this with a pinch of salt, as pretty much any time an arbitrary threshold like this has been mentioned the social giants have laughed it off in a menacing ‘You’ll never defeat Andross‘ kinda way. But I do think momentum makes sense.

In real life, a conversation is something that takes place in real time, allowing you to share experiences and ideas with natural reactions. It’s not an exchange of comments over days (unless it’s me and my old bezzie Steve who is utterly, utterly useless at replying on WhatsApp. SORT IT OUT, STEVE).

Aime Cox and Stephen Barnard
Aime & Steve, best friends c. 2009. WHY DON’T YOU REPLY TO MY MESSAGES STEVE?!

This suggests that a conversation via Instagram comments that occurs over a short period of time is more valuable. Now I don’t recommend spending all day with your app open, jumping on every interaction – just try to reply within a couple of hours. If you can feel a conversation starting, try to hang around and play it out.

If you’re posting something valuable and interesting (which should really be every post) try to do it when you know you’ll be able to check for comments within the first 30 mins-1 hour.

Most importantly, if you’re Steve, just reply to me. Hold me. Hold me. Take me with you ’cause I’m lonely.

Tip 3: Stop using specific locations

This one is from my personal experience. A few months ago I was on such an Instagram roll, crushing it from post to post – having lovely conversations with even lovelier people and boosting my vanity with some new followers too.

Then is basically stopped dead. I shared 3 posts in a row that according to the numbers, just sucked compared to those that came before. One number though told a different story – my reach was waaaaaaay down. The only difference – I’d used the specific location ‘Studio Cotton’, and the last few had been more generic, ‘Bristol’, ‘Southville’, and various London tourist traps.

As soon as I started going more generic, I went back to crushing it. There’s a chance that the location itself is an issue, 95%+ posts located at Studio Cotton are from me – so naturally the interaction is limited. The location ‘Bristol’ is bound to be attached to many more conversations, and the London locations are filled with lovely holiday snaps filled with well wishes.

So even though I don’t have any concrete, statistically significant stats to back this up, I recommend tagging more popular locations for the time being. Unless of course you’re visiting me here at Studio Cotton, in which case please help me make my office popular.

Facebook (with it’s baby Instagram) is always changing things up. It’s so important to keep taking on board the latest advice, as well as your own experiments, to get the most out of this platform. But, more than anything, make sure you’re using your social media to be social. Share interesting things, have interesting conversations, and REPLY TO MY WHATSAPPS, STEVE.

Aime & Steve visit Clifton Down
Aime & Steve visit Clifton Down, c. 2007. I miss you bbz.

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