August 4, 2014

I would like to start off by making a clear (and what I think is obvious) statement: Instagram isn't like Facebook. Yes, Facebook owns Instagram. Yes, you can share you Instagram photos directly to Facebook. Yes, Instagram will allow you to see which of your Facebook friends are on Instagram. But, please understand that none of this means that Instagram and Facebook are the same thing.

And the people who are treating Instagram like Facebook are the ones who complain that it doesn't work. The people who use a Facebook strategy and Facebook content on Instagram are driving their audience crazy and themselves crazy when they realize it isn't working.

So, stop. Take a look. And realize that Instagram isn't like Facebook.

You know those people who post memes and photo after photo on LinkedIn? Yeah, they don't get it. And it annoys you. You know those people who dump tons of hashtags on their Facebook posts. They don't get it either. And what about those people who link their Facebook and Twitter accounts so that their tweets always get cut off for being too long. That's right. They don't get it.

Instagram is its own, unique, specialized, and awesome site. It's not like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, Snapchat, or any other site. Yes, there may be some similarities between multiple sites, but they are all their own - for a reason!

We don't need two Facebooks, two Twitters, or two of anything else. Each site has its own identity. And Instagram is no exception.

So, please stop using your Facebook content and strategy on Instagram. It won't work!

Let's clear up a few things to get you using Instagram correctly.

Instagram Is Not About Memes

It's about images. Not memes. Yes, if you want to put a funny caption on one of your images, please do so. But don't take a funny meme that got a ton of likes on Facebook and put it on Instagram.

Instagram Is Not About Motivational Quotes

Do you have a beautiful image that would tie really well to a motivational quote? Good, then use an app to put the quote over your own unique image. But just putting a random quote on a colored background is not what Instagram is about.

Instagram Is Not About Stealing Google Images

Oh, you found some awesomely hilarious or super cute image on Google? And, of course, you shared it to Facebook and everyone thought it was great. So you shared it to Instagram too.... Please, stop doing this. Instagram is about creating your own content, not stealing images from Google (not that you should even be doing this on Facebook, but that's a whole other conversation).

Instagram Is Not About Link Dumping

The only clickable link on Instagram is the one in your bio. Putting links in your post comments doesn't direct viewers anywhere so stop putting them there! If you want someone to go to a link, make it relevant, short, and easy to remember. Otherwise, direct them to the link in your bio - which should take them directly where you want them to go.

Instagram Is Not About Games

Call me a purist, but I love that Instagram is just about sharing photos (and videos) with your audience. There's no algorithm to beat. No tricks to increase reach. No wondering where your content will appear in a feed. It's not about games or gaming the system.

Instagram Is Not About Sharing Everyone Else's Content

Sure, on Facebook, you want to be a resource and share other relevant content with your audience - and you should. But Instagram doesn't work like that. Yes, you can benefit from using User Generated Content or you can occasionally repost someone else's post using a third party app. But your Instagram account is about you and your business, not everyone else's content. So don't fill your feed with other people's posts. Be creative and use your own.

Instagram Is All About the Images

Sure, you can add a caption or comment or include a CTA or put text on your image. But, Instagram is about the image. Your image should be the message. Create quality photos or graphics that can stand on their own and don't require a short novel for a description. People are here to look at images, not read your 3 paragraph promotional content.

Instagram Is All About Being Unique and Creative

No offense to Facebook, but very little content there is unique. The same stories get reshared over and over. The same content gets regurgitated by all your friends - and even the pages your follow. Instagram isn't about that. It's all about creating your own message, your own stories, your own content, and your own voice.

Instagram Is All About Hashtags

You've heard me say it before, I don't like hashtags. But I love them on Instagram. And hashtags on Instagram are exceptionally beneficial. But these don't translate well to Facebook. If you're going to share you Instagram images to Facebook, share the image with a regular caption and then add the hashtags in a subsequent comment on the Instagram post. This way your hashtags don't show up on Facebook and drive everyone crazy.

Instagram Is All About the Relationships

Sorry to break it to you, but your Instagram post isn't likely to go viral. That's not what it's about. If you want that, head back to Facebook, try really hard, cross your fingers, do a rain dance, say some prayers, promote the crap out of your content - and then let me know how "viral" it went. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Instead, Instagram is about relationships. It's about connecting with people in a genuine, honest, and real way. It's about having conversations - not one way conversations either. If you don't believe me, ask anyone who has seen great success on Instagram. They'll tell you, it's all about relationships.

On that note, all social media sites should be about relationships. And those of you doing it right, are doing this. But let's face it, we don't see as much of that anymore.

And I am not naive. I am well aware that people are trying to exploit Instagram. There are those trying to get more followers by tagging or mentioning other people. Many participate in follow-for-follow practices. Many buy Instagram followers.

And many people make the mistakes I've mentioned above.

And some may see some temporary success. It may look like they've got it figured out. But I promise you that if you treat Instagram like Facebook, or any other social media site, you're not going to get optimal results. Focus on using Instagram for what it is and you can see big results!

Did you find this helpful? Please share:
  1. Thank you for writing this! Instagram was meant for REAL LIFE, and as such I am SO tired of seeing quotes and memes created in Canva (love Canva, but NO.). Inspiration now and again — as I’ve said a million times — is nice, but it’s a turn off when that’s all you use. My steam is littered with this stuff; it’s rare that I see a “real” picture and that’s just sad!

    1. I agree, Brooke. I’ve unfollowed people who only seem to post graphics and who don’t share fresh, real life content. As you said, the occasional inclusion is fine, but we need to remember to use IG for what it was designed to do – share photos!

  2. Good points, Jenn! This seems to be a problem across all social media. People have one strategy they’re used to, and don’t necessarily take the time to learn about the nuances on every other platform.

    Instagram seems especially challenging for marketers, though. Maybe because it’s a visual platform, and not text based like others? Maybe because it’s not automated like many others? Whatever the case may be, I think it’s a huge opportunity and they are doing a disservice to themselves by trying to fit the platform into their existing tactics, rather than building a new strategy with new tactics based around the platform.

    1. This is so true, Anton. People are busy and just want an easy solution so they create one strategy and try to shoe horn it into all their sites. And then they complain that social media doesn’t work ๐Ÿ˜‰
      IG is a challenge for many marketers. It does have unique challenges like you mentioned – but that’s part of why I love it so much! I just want to see more marketers learn how to use IG properly so that they can really reap the rewards.

  3. Between the motivational quotes & the photos of “before & after,” I’m ready to just start unfollowing so many people. Thank you for letting me know I’m not alone in my frustration.

    1. Go for it Ann! I won’t follow people who share an abundance of graphics or memes or motivational images. And I have no shame in unfollowing someone who starts this behavior.
      Your IG feed is for you and what you like to see so follow those who provide that content!

  4. Super post, Jenn!

    My personal IG is all about sharing a tight selection of my own photos. I love that account and have made many photo friends there.

    I find IG for business a bit trickier. I honestly don’t want to see someone I think of for business advice posting boring photos of their lunches, an unending stream of selfies with their famous friends, third-rate snapshots of their outings… but I am probably in the minority. I’d much, much rather see some excellent tips graphics about their subject of expertise with a sprinkling of personal photos.

    I love what Chalene Johnson does with all of her accounts. Useful and attractive stuff!

    1. Thanks Louise! I’m so glad you enjoyed it ๐Ÿ™‚
      And I definitely agree that Chalene does a great job with her IG account. She incorporates really good videos and images that show her business – and which connect her brand to her audience.
      In general, IG is harder for business than it is for personal use. I totally feel the same way that I don’t want to see someone’s lunch or a flower just because they want to post something on IG. But when businesses can find unique ways to incorporate what goes on in their business and around them, it is a highly effective way to connect with their customers. I would argue that most customers and fans want visual insight into the companies they follow so companies need to figure out how to provide that.
      And tips, advice, or other graphics displaying expertise are welcome when incorporated into a photo-based (or video-based) gallery. It just gets to be too un-Instagram-ish when the only thing accounts post is graphics and memes.

  5. Great points Jenn. (Especially that social is about the RELATIONSHIPS) I noticed on Twitter today some people were only tweeting out their Facebook posts, that really irritated me, If I wanted to be on Facebook I’d be there! It makes no sense to me why they do that. Or add all the hashtags, I think hashtags are fine on Twitter, Instagram and Google+. No where else do they work well, right? I love using Instragram mostly for nature photos and just have fun with it. I’ve used it a litte for my blog but may save it all for my nature blog instead ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for the info Jenn. Have a great week.

    1. Ugh – that drives me crazy on Twitter too, Lisa! You are totally justified in being irritated! ๐Ÿ˜‰
      IG is great for nature photos and if you can incorporate that into promoting your nature blog, then you’re definitely on the right track.

  6. Jenn, another great post! Thanks to you and your following for the insight on this subject. A Client of mine wants to use Instagram to promote their restaurant. I agree that this tool is image based for sure. But, as I see it, it is also linked specifically to a phone user and their specific account on a specific phone. Do I have that correct. Or, can multiple phones be used to post to one specific Instagram account? Would a house cell be the best way to promote their restaurant on this platform? Thanks for any feedback! Keeping doing what you do so well…. that is, keeping helping other to be successful, I love it!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed this post, Michael, and I’m glad to hear your client is interested in using IG.
      Instagram is not tied to a specific device or phone. You can access any account from any device as long as you have the login information or the corresponding Facebook account on that device. So, yes, in theory, multiple devices can be linked to the same IG account. Depending on their plans and the people managing the account, it might be better to use one house device – this will mitigate someone posting to the business account by accident ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. Thanks for saying what had to be said, Jenn. I completely agree, and it pains me when I see people doing these meme type posts. More so, it pains me when I see them doing well! I mean, I guess kudos to them for resonating with their audience, but I think most times it looks kind of tacky. I see it really often with fitness-themed IG accounts, but others do it too. Ah well. There are always outliers. Here’s to keeping the platform creative and interesting. Great post, as always! Rant on!

    1. Thanks Rob! So glad you appreciate the rant ๐Ÿ™‚
      Unfortunately (or maybe not), a lot of the memes and graphics are highly successful. People are so used to seeing them on every other site that they still react positively to them on IG. And if it works, I get it. But to me, it seems so impersonal. There’s no emotional connection or relationship from a graphic or meme.
      An account, in my opinion, shouldn’t be about memes, graphics, and other items stolen from Google image searches. These can be incorporated into the strategy. But brands should be using their creative powers to create real, genuine, and unique content to really connect with their audience.

  8. Hey Jen

    I am not an Instagram person because mobile apps don’t quite enthrall me (silly, I know, given that smart-phones are as ubiquitous as the sky :P). BUT I still thoroughly enjoyed your post, especially the part where you stress that every network is unique. Amen, darling! #HUGSSSSS (One of my friends called me a #SocialMediaOmnivore – hehe – because I don’t believe in platform wars and simply bask in the wonder that is social media) ‘;)

    I have formed beautiful relationships on Facebook and Google Plus. Twitter is my crush ๐Ÿ˜‰ , while Pinterest is effective for driving results. Its nice to see that Instagram has a personality of its own too!

    Thanks again…

    Much love

    1. Hi Kit! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment ๐Ÿ™‚
      Not everyone has to be an Instagram person – we all like different platforms for different reasons. And there is nothing wrong with basking in all the social media wonder out there! I think that’s awesome ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Good post. I’m so annoyed by most social networks, actually, because they are becoming “self-promotion or share other people’s photos” networks. No interaction really, and that is boring. I’m even against using Instagram for professional DSLR perfect photos, I think it is for those spontaneous cell phone shapshots from life, that’s what makes Instagram special in my opinion.

    1. Hi Susanne! Thanks for your comment and I’m so glad you enjoyed this post ๐Ÿ™‚
      Unfortunately, a lot of brands choose to use social media as a billboard rather than a conversation. But I think more people are getting wise to this practice and making improvements in how they use it.
      Instagram is definitely designed for those instantaneous shots of life but I don’t mind if people want to include DSLR images. As long as they’re sharing content, engaging with others, and participating in conversations, I don’t mind too much where the images come from. But, I do prefer a wonderful, filtered effect, insta image ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. I’m the founder of White Lopez Social Media and a true fan, I wish i knew more about you and your blog 4 months ago when i started my company, but you know what they say – it’s never to late to learn and change direction. So as soon as i finish this post I will be implementing some changes across all of our Social Media platform. To you, THANK YOU! For the sincerity and honesty in your writing, you are one, of only a hand full of Social Media Expert’s out there that i trust. Keep up the Excellent work Thank you.

    1. Thanks Luis! I’m so happy to hear that the content I share is so valuable to you.
      I wish you success in your business refocus!

    1. Yes, Edwin. Motivational quotes will tend to get good engagement. And the more people post them, the more people like them, and the more we turn Instagram into Facebook…
      I think people should use motivational quotes if it works for their brand. But I think they should use their own images with a text overlay rather than a graphic or image taken from Google.

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