How To Be Successful On Instagram

You might want to grab a cuppa and a notepad and pen for this deep-dive into the world of Instagram. Thanks so much to PR member Hannah Statham of Media Mortar and influencer member Monique Ceccato for taking the time to help demystify ‘the ‘gram’ for us.

Do I really need Instagram? What possible advantage could it give me? 


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Instagram, like Facebook, is a non-negotiable in this profession these days. From the perspective of a brand, your Instagram is becoming one of the first touchpoints (even before Google), for a customer to find you and choose to buy your product or service.

From the perspective of a PR or writer or anyone in the industry, Instagram is an invaluable piece of personal branding.

It’s where people can quickly find out more about you, what you write about, your passions and what you stand for at a quick glance.

Whether I want to hire someone, work with someone or collaborate on a project, I always check out their online footprint. HS

Nobody really needs an Instagram account, but you’d be silly to not take advantage of the platform. You might not be the world’s best photographer, but as a travel writer, sharing your photos on Instagram allows you to showcase the destinations you have been and share your written work through another medium (yes, you can put multiple links to your work in Instagram). Plus, building a strong Instagram presence helps to persuade certain PRs and brands they should be working with you as opposed to someone else. MC

What to post on Instagram and what should I stay away from?

Social media is meant to be fun, not a chore, so post about the things that light you up and interest you.

If you’re stuck on what to post I’d recommend creating yourself a mini content strategy. It doesn’t need to be a tome – just a dot point list of things you could promote or talk about – which will help when you have social media caption/content block.

If I was a writer my content strategy might include: stories I’ve written (linking out to them where possible), trips I’m about to go on to create hype and build anticipation, trips I’m currently on, what to pack, how I pack, funny things I see and life behind the laptop. If you rotate your content through these themes, you’ll have lots of variety and never wonder “what should I post again”.

When it comes to what not to post, steer clear of anything illegal (obvs) and anything that promotes unethical practices. Remember that social media is just a megaphone for your voice – so use it wisely. If you wouldn’t say what you’re about to say on the street corner with a megaphone attached … don’t put it on the internet for the world. HS

Aside from the obvious “don’t post anything vulgar or illegal”, there’s only one rule about what you should be posting – “post what makes you happy”. Just make sure what you’re posting is a reflection of yourself and what you love. The more authentic you can be, the more your audience will resonate with what you’re putting out there. The simplest of photos can attract a lot of engagement if you accompany it with a fantastic, thought-provoking caption. MC

What’s the best way to attract and build followers?


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The first thing to call out here is that Instagram is both a push and pull channel. What I mean by this is, you have to push your content out, and then you need to engage on the platform and pull people back to your account. Let’s talk about push first – it’s easier. When I run social media workshops, I tell people there’s only three secret ingredients: consistency, frequency and quality content.

If you post good quality content, that’s consistent for your audience (e.g. don’t interrupt your nice travel photos with the kid’s birthday party) at a regular frequency, you’ll start to attract and build followers. To pull people to your feed – that’s a bit harder. You need to engage with other members of the IG community. This means responding to their photos, liking other people’s content and asking questions on other feeds. If you really want to grow your feed, I’d suggest spending more time pulling than pushing content. HS

Engage, hashtag, engage, engage, engage. If there was an easier answer, we would all have hundreds of thousands of followers by now. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple and building an audience takes time, effort, and a whole lot of authenticity. The more conversations you can start with accounts that you love, the better.

Try searching the hashtags that you use regularly, and engage with similar accounts. Don’t forget to geotag (the location) and tag other accounts (e.g. the tourism bureau you worked with on a famil, or the restaurant you’re eating at) either. There is a good chance they will share your image, exposing your account to even more eyes. MC

What about photos? Should I use only my own images? 


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Highlight #9/2019 – Becoming a billboard! You can just call me (BossHan) Miss Wynnum Road. Big love @hw_photography for the pic!

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I think this depends on what you want to achieve. I personally only use my own images as I’m trying to use my personal Instagram account to promote full-service content (words, images, videos) so it makes sense to use my own content rather than promote someone else’s. For a number of destinations’ social media accounts that we run, we only use user-generated content (UGC). If you’re using UGC, it’s important that you credit the photographer correctly and use their images with permission. HS

If personal brand-building’s not the aim of your Instagram-game, then #reposts are fine (so long as you credit the original photographer). Just remember that having a feed full of other people’s work is far less personal and while it may get a lot of likes because you’ve chosen great photos to share, it isn’t necessarily doing anything for building a super-engaged following. MC

How often should I post and does it matter what time of day it is?


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There are no hard and fast rules. If you’re new to social, I’d suggest starting slow. Posting once a week is better than no times per week. You can build (if you want to) from there. What’s arguably more important than how many times you post is when you post. To find out when your audience are online (if you are a business profile): hit the three lines in the top right-hand corner of the app. Tap insights, audience. Scroll down and then you’ll get a graph of when your followers are online. If you can, time your activity with them. HS

The more you’re posting and engaging on the app, the more your posts will be seen and the better chance you have of building an audience. That’s not to say you should be posting multiple times per day – nobody has time for or wants to see that.

If you don’t want to make the switch to a business account, plan your post for a time when most people would be sitting around checking their phone. Like after dinner but before bedtime or when most people would be commuting. It’s best to avoid Friday and Saturday nights. MC

What’s the best scheduling tool to use then?

Ha! I’ve used them all and to be honest, they all have pros and cons. For personal use, I think ‘Later’ or ‘Plan That’ are the best. If you’re running an enterprise account it’s hard to beat Falcon. My biggest tip is to plan your content. We plan ours fortnightly, allocating around 30 minutes each to plan 3 posts per week. That way we can get on with our work rather than scratching around wondering what to post each day. HS

Scheduling tools vary in features, ease of use, and price. But be aware they can severely impact the reach your posts have. The key to getting more people seeing your post (and therefore engaging with it) is to make sure you spend some time scrolling and engaging with other accounts right after you have posted your own image. When you use a scheduling tool, you miss out on that vital interaction. MC

Some Instagrammers seem to get lots of comments when they post, how do I get conversations happening? 

Just ask your followers a question and you’ll start to find the answer. For example, if you posted a carousel of Japan in summer vs winter – you might like to ask “Which is the best season to visit?” or “When is the best time to visit?”. If you give people something to respond to, you’ll start to see your comments and engagement spike. HS

Post something that gets people’s attention – be it the image itself, or a fabulous in-depth caption. You don’t need to be a world-class photographer to get conversations happening on your post. Be clever about what you post in your caption, and watch the comments come in. Heck, you can even ask a question in your caption to pry the comments out of them. MC

Hashtags. What are they, and why and how should I use them? 

Hashtags are just search words. So just as you could search “coffee Brisbane” to find a list of best coffee shops in Brisbane, you can do the same with hashtags. On Instagram you have 30 hashtags you can post with each picture, which I see as 30 opportunities to be found. You can put 10 hashtags on stories too, which I think is a lesser-known IG fact. When we do stories for clients, we bury these behind a gif so the story doesn’t look cluttered with text. Just pinch the text so it’s really small and move it around on the picture to a place that’s quite obscure.  HS

Hashtags basically help to categorise images into aggregate feeds. Say, for example, you want to see images of Fiji, you can search the #fiji hashtag and see any image that has been posted with that hashtag. This means your work becomes more visible when you use hashtags too. Just be careful about what you choose to hashtag with. It’s all well and good to use #fiji, but with thousands of posts using the tag each day, it’s easy for your image to get lost in the pile. Choosing more specific hashtags – e.g. #fijibeach – can sometimes end up being more fruitful. Using an irrelevant hashtag just because it seems to be performing well is also a no-no. MC

What are Instagram ‘stories’ and why should I use them? 

Stories started out as an add-on feature but they’ve become so powerful, many people are using them over their Instagram feed as their primary content. Consider them a bit like a visual diary of what you’ve been up to. Given they ‘die’ after 24 hours – the style can be more rough and ready, which I think makes them more accessible and appealing to people new/nervous to Instagram.

Stories offer a great opportunity to show the behind the scenes of life on the road. I’ve seen writers use them incredibly well for room walkthroughs, showcasing a meal and tourism experience. I’ve also seen writers save a destination to their ‘highlights’ reel, so you can refer back to their tips and tricks whenever you like.

Interesting statistics for Instagram stories:

  • 6% of Instagrammers post on Instagram Stories.
  • Brands now use Instagram Stories and posts almost equally
  • 6% of Instagrammers prefer watching stories rather than Insta posts.

Therefore, it’s not just about getting rid of posting on Instagram altogether but spreading your message across posts and stories as they continue to grow in popularity.  HS

Instagram stories are 15-second snippets, a photo or video) and are a great way to share a more ‘real’ side to your Instagram account. Think of your Instagram feed as a portfolio, and your stories as a ‘behind the scenes’. You might post the hero shot in your feed, but then followers can get a behind the scenes look at that shot in your stories. They’re also another great way to interact with your audience, with poll, quiz, and Q&A functions. The best part? You can add swipe up links to your stories, making them a great way to showcase any work that’s been published online! MC

Any other tips for anyone just starting out? 

It’s really important to know your ‘why’ – that is, why you’re sinking time into Instagram. Everyone’s why will be different – maybe it’s to win more work, outperform competitors, establish a personal brand or just share funny travel moments – you’ll be able to measure your success if you know your why.  Your ‘why’ should never be “to have more followers than X person”.

The biggest mistake I see people make is they get frustrated they aren’t growing their followers fast enough so they a) buy them b) create ridiculous cross-promotion competition posts which spike their followers quickly and drop them just as fast. If your ‘why’ is to acquire new business, you’ll be able to accept the fact your growth is slow but steady – and measure your success not through Instagram itself but its conversion of customers. HS

You can follow hashtags in your feed! Just search the hashtag (i.e. #astw) and hit ‘follow’. Explore other accounts this way. Don’t stress about numbers. The worst thing you can do is get caught up in the numbers game and forget why you were there in the first place – to share things that you want to share. Follow accounts that you love. If you realise an account is making you think negatively, unfollow immediately (or hide their feed) and connect your Instagram to your Facebook feed (in your settings). You can post on two platforms with half the effort! MC

1 reply
  1. Briar Jensen
    Briar Jensen says:

    Thank you Hannah and Monique for putting this together! I have a couple of questions. What is your opinion on whether a writer’s Insta page should be personal page or a business page? What are the advantages and disadvantages for switching from personal page to business page? Many thanks, Briar

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