The Instagram Guide: No. 1 — 3 Steps to Staying Consistent

People_Watching_In_Florence_Italy

Here's the TL;DR (Too Long;Didn't Read):

Staying consistent with your Instagram posts creates affinity with your followers. Engagement results from familiarity and trust that you build with your audience as you make a habit of having a consistent 1) posting schedule, 2) subject matter and having 3) an identifiable aesthetic. Consistency doesn't grow out of having expertise in social media, or figuring out what Instagram users like—it results from knowing your brand, staying grounded to your mission and vision, and offering your value to your audience.

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Here's the long version:

You're probably here because you want to know how to get more followers and more engagement with your Instagram accounts. You might be frustrated at the over-saturation of content that you have to compete with on a daily basis. The fact is, there's just too much stuff to wade through to even get to your target audience. You just can't seem to find that one formula that gets you noticed and lets you stand out among your competition. If you're here for that formula, I must warn you now that you won't find it here. I've been an Instagram user for 6 years, and I can tell you that building an audience requires a lot of time and a lot of effort.

I'm sharing some best practices that you can apply to your Instagram accounts that will solidify your brand's identity and your followers' engagement with your content. This series is about the longevity and identity of your brand on Instagram. This isn't going to be an overnight formula, so allow yourself to take off some of that pressure that somehow you have to produce results immediately. 

On top of Milan's Duomo in Italy

I want to go over consistency as the first topic for this guide. It requires the most involvement with time and effort, and social media admins tend to forget about this quickly. So, what does it mean to be consistent? 

acting or done in the same way over time, especially so as to be fair or accurate. — google dictionary

For social media, and Instagram in particular, consistency encompasses three values: 

1.Posting frequency

Do you remember before Netflix, Hulu or HBO Now when you used to have to wait for that day of the week when your favorite show came on? You cleared everything for that evening just so you could sit back and enjoy the fresh, new episode. If the show is really, really good, you'd even planned to have your friends over—you hurried home from work to make your famous cheese dip, you even cleaned the living room. Imagine if your followers treated your posts like that. That would actually be worrisome, or you make really great content. They know when to expect the next post because you've made a habit of posting on a schedule. It's not as dramatic as someone waiting for a TV show; but it can plant seeds in your followers' subconscious mind that will keep them coming around the same time everyday*. 

Make your habit become their habit. 

If you post erratically (which could either mean that you post once a week without any pattern, or you post ten photos in one day and disappear for another 6 weeks), your followers won't form any affinity towards your account. This results in low, or no, engagement numbers.

*I recommend posting at least once a day on Instagram.

2.Subject matter

It can be tempting to appear edgy, or funny, to your audience. If your account isn't directly trying to be edgy or funny, then you probably have no business in posting those kinds of content. What I mean is, if you have a wedding photography page, you will do well to keep the wedding content coming. I've seen some wedding pages post funny memes to try and elicit comments. To be frank, that kind of content ruins the image of your brand. On the other hand, a funny Instagram page doesn't have much leverage when it comes to serious issues. While a satire can be appropriate at times, handling serious content for these pages will come off irreverent and disrespectful. At the very least, users will be confused about what emotion a serious post might try to evoke. 

This isn't limited to funny versus serious accounts. The main goal is to stick the subject matter of your brand or business. Engagement comes when followers have familiarity and a level of comfortability with your content. Your followers should know what they're getting from you every time you post.

3.Aesthetic

As an artist, having a signature style is the ultimate goal. I've spent years trying to get as close to the look and feel that I want with my images. I don't think I'm quite there, yet.** Staying consistent on that end is, honestly, the hardest challenge when dealing with visual media. 

So you're not an artist, and you don't really want to be one. You don't have hours to spend to find your style; you might not even have to time to learn how to be an expert with a DSLR. You just want to make beautiful posts that pertain to your brand. So what do you do? In the same way that your subject matter always talks about the same issues, then so should your images. If you have an information oriented page and all your pictures have words in them—keep them coming. If you're all about graphics and animations, make them entertaining and educational. 

It's not so much about having the original look, but having an identifiable one. 

**The look and feel of the three images in this article are consistent with my passion in people and their stories, and the warm feeling of being in Italy. This is the closest I've come to accomplishing my desired aesthetic.

Street Player in Milan, Italy

 

Figuring out a schedule to post will take time. Luckily, Instagram provides analytics for business accounts that will help identify follower demographics and behavior. I recommended taking advantage of that. Lastly, staying consistent with posts is not about the level of artistry one has to make content on Instagram, or the knowledge about what's the most trendy content to post. It's about knowing your brand's identity, staying grounded to your mission and vision, and offering your value to your audience. The results? A passionate desire to take care of your Instagram page and keeping it live for a long time to come.

Speaking of consistency—check back next Thursday on the next installment of The Instagram Guide. Next week, I'll be discussing how to be confident about your posts. See you then!

This article also appeared on LinkedIn.