Getting Started On Instagram and Snapchat

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So you want to get serious about Instagram and Snapchat, huh? Maybe you’ve created an account, taken a few photos and now you’re thinking to yourself “what now?” Whether you plan to use them for fun, for work or for something else entirely, the process is largely the same. I’ll try to give you some tips and tricks that have helped me along the way.

And who am I to tell you how to do things? I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m @theamateurprofessional on Instagram and theamateurpro on Snapchat. Under that pseudonym, I share my thoughts on men’s style and show off what I wear on a daily basis. This is the first time I have ever linked myself to those accounts, so let’s make it worth it.

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Instagram

Theme

The first thing you need to decide is, what will your Instagram account focus on? If you go too broad, you’ll have trouble hooking people and if you go too narrow, you’ll have a hard time finding an audience. For my account, I primarily focus on what I wear to the office, but also include my weekends now as well.

Content

Once you’ve settled on a theme, which if you’re a recruiter might be “a day in the life of…” where you show prospective employees what an average day is for a certain type of employee, now you need to start creating content. Content is key. It is the end all, be all of Instagram. If your content isn’t any good, then your account will flounder.

Good content is well-lit, interesting, often dynamic and entertaining. Now, let’s be realistic here, in the beginning there’s a good chance your content will be none of those things. I look back at my initial weeks on Instagram and feel a combination of amusement and horror. You will have to learn the best way to showcase your content and make it interesting, dynamic and entertaining. It will take time to figure it all out, but photo by photo they will improve.

Hashtags

Good content isn’t enough to grow your Instagram account though. You’ll also need to use good hashtags. The Instagram hashtags work the same as on Twitter but are arguably more important. If you don’t know what a hashtag is, go look it up, we’ll wait…

Instagram limits your captions to a total of 30 hashtags. While opinions differ on this, I suggest you use all 30, every single time. It will maximize your ability to reach the most people.

Figuring out what hashtags you should use isn’t always easy. Some will come easy, like #jobs, #career, #recruiter, and #brand. You shouldn’t be afraid to be creative though. You may want to create a custom hashtag for your account, like #brandcareers or mine #theamateurprofessional. You should also look at what your competitors are doing and try some of their hashtags as well. Experimentation and variation are important in finding what hashtags will work best for you.

Using too many popular hashtags will likely result in your photo being lost in the clutter. If you use a mix of popular, semi-popular and less popular hashtags, you will increase your chances of landing in the coveted “Top Posts” spot, which greatly increases the visibility of your content, thereby increasing your likes and followers.

Timing

When you post can, at times, be even more important than what you post. Engagement on Instagram tends to be highest between the hours of 8 AM EST and 8 PM EST. Of course, this may vary depending on what you post about, but it is a good guide. You should, at least initially, try to post within the 8 to 8 window, and post at consistent times. Your followers should know when to expect your posts. You will quickly notice what times you get greater engagement, and then you can tweak your schedule accordingly.

Also, don’t forget that Instagram is all about posting content your followers (and potential followers) will want to see. That means avoid over-posting. Make sure you spread posts out over the course of the day (unless there’s a specific reason to do otherwise). For example, I try to space my posts out by at least 4 hours and try to post no more than 4 times (but often 2-3 times) per day. At that rate, my followers will (hopefully) not get fatigued and will continue to interact with my content by liking and commenting.

Interacting

Interaction with your followers and also with non-followers will help to maintain your follower base and to grow it as well. You should, at a minimum, reply to all comments that are left on your photo, unless they clearly are not inviting a response or are abusive/nasty/mean/etc. Interacting with your followers shows that you care about their thoughts, comments and ideas. Even a simple thank you can go a long way.

You should also set aside time every day to explore hashtags that you use. Like and comment on photos from accounts that you don’t follow. You will often find that a portion of them will do the same for you, and maybe even follow you too.

Patience

Unfortunately, none of these tips and tricks are going to turn your account into an overnight success. They will, however, ensure that you grow and keep growing. I strongly caution you against using any of the quick growth schemes, like buying followers/likes/comments, using auto-like/auto-comment programs or the follow-back scheme where you wait for someone to follow you back and then shortly unfollow them. None of these will serve you in the long-term, because eventually you will be found out and the fall-out will not be good.

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Snapchat

Snapchat is a much more intimidating social media platform, partly because it is newer and partly because it works so much differently from anything else at the moment. The ephemeral quality of the photos only adds to the platform’s mystique.

Snapchat, luckily, isn’t that difficult to use and after some quick experimentation, you should be able to figure out most of it. It has three main functions: photos that disappear after 1-10 seconds, private messages, and “stories” consisting of photos that are posted for all to view for 24 hours.

Snapchat Stories

The story function should be your primary focus. It will allow you to post photos and short videos where anyone who follows you can view them. Snapchat allows you to add a lot of fun things to your photos including text, filters (showing time, temperature, speed, etc.), and additional filters that work only with faces. You can even create custom location-based filters for your brand.

The Snapchat Stories will allow you to showcase even more of your content, without worrying about overwhelming followers. I often use Snapchat to show either more of what I’m doing for the day (like the trip I took to Washington, DC) or more of what I’m wearing for the day (like the details of my outfit). You may want to do it to expand upon the themes in your Instagram account, or use it to host a question-and-answer session where you answer common questions posed by applicants about the hiring process.

When you are posting to your Story, your photos should fit into the theme of your account, but can also be a little looser than on Instagram. You don’t need to worry as much about lighting or setting up the perfect shot. Snapchat is more about capturing things in the moment, because like the moment those photos will disappear too.

Private Messages

The private messaging feature could be useful in several ways. It allows your followers to reach out to you, ask questions or make suggestions. Additionally, you can use it to reach out to someone who you would like to speak with as well, whether it’s a potential applicant or a new customer.

I use the private messaging feature to compliment people that I follow on the photos they post to their Story, and to occasionally send a photo or two to a friend to get their opinion on angles or lighting.

Using Instagram and Snapchat Together

The real power comes from using Instagram and Snapchat together, as I’ve referenced several times before. Instagram should be the rock you build things upon. It should contain your best photos and captions, showcasing your content. Snapchat should be the photo in the moment.

In order to get the most out of the tandem use, you should reference the other account. I will often remind followers to head to Snapchat to see more of something, or offer extra entries in a giveaway for following me on Snapchat. Conversely, I will often reference the Instagram account handle of clothing brands in my Snapchat story. Cross-referencing will help to create one single experience for your followers, rather than a disjointed one across two platforms.
While this may all seem like a lot right now, you will quickly settle in once you start using both Instagram and Snapchat regularly. And if you want to see some of these practices in action, head on over to Instagram and Snapchat, and give me a follow!

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