How to Use Instagram Effectively

500 million users are actively using Instagram every day. So if you don't think your target is on Instagram, think again. In fact, I recently met a great-grandmother who's regularly on Instagram to follow her friends.

Now, does this mean Instagram is necessarily the best way to reach your audience? No. (More on that in other posts and my webinar on Refining Your Target.) But if you do decide to use Instagram as part of your marketing strategy, you'll want to make sure you're not wasting this opportunity to reach millions of potential customers.

Here's how to use Instagram effectively:


When someone finds your post through a hashtag or location (you are adding 30 hashtags and tagging your location in each post, right?), they'll probably Like your post, and then check out your profile if your username suggests something interesting or relevant to them. Then, they'll see if the rest of your feed is any good. That's how they decide whether or not to follow you.

Okay, this sounds pretty straightforward so far, right? But here's the thing. Users are subconsciously looking for one specific thing when they check out your profile: Consistency. Say you posted a picture of an adorable bug-eyed French bulldog. You added hashtags like #dog #frenchie #cute #torontofrenchies etc. Say someone found this post through the #torontofrenchies hashtag. They found what they were looking for, and they'll probably double-tap the photo. Then they'll see your username, "6ixFrenchies" so they check out your profile. They are now going to experience one of the two following scenarios:

A) They find a couple pictures of Frenchies, a bull terrier, and a blurry picture of a Siamese cat. Plus some vacation pictures of you on a nondescript bridge, your brunch from last Saturday, a selfie with some bad camera flash, and an inspirational quote or two.

B) They find similarly adorable pictures of Frenchies, some in the park, some on the city sidewalk, and some in front of Toronto landmarks! All equally high-quality photos of Frenchies. However, there are no duplicates – there aren't three pictures in a row of one Frenchie chewing on a stick. There's just one picture of that.

Which account would you follow (assuming you love Frenchies as much as I do)? Probably the profile from scenario B! The thing is, people don't like surprises. They don't want to take chances that perhaps when they're in the mood for some Frenchie photos, they'll suddenly fall upon a gross selfie of some rando eating yogurt. They want to know what to expect when they follow you. That's why consistency is one of the absolute most important things to have on Instagram.

Overall Visual

After consistency, the next thing people are checking for is overall beauty. Remember how I mentioned that people aren't interested in a profile with duplicate photos? Here's a trick: You can post multiple similar-ish photos (or at least from the same shoot) and still entice people. You can also post completely different, but similarly coloured and composed photos, and repel people.

What I'm getting at is the overall visual of your profile. Since people first see your profile in Instagram's 3-column grid format, they're seeing multiple photos side-by-side, whether you intended for them to be shown that way or not. So you better intend for them to look good that way! How? Spread things out a bit. Remember, it's not a science, it's an art. Someone who has studied design will be more skilled at this. But you can do it too.

Generally speaking, mix things up. Don't have similar photos beside each other. Similar photos can be those that have similar colour schemes, compositions, subjects, backgrounds, typography, etc. Try to give them breathing room of at least 1 square, and remember that the order of your photos will shift around every time you post something new.


But how do you ensure you're not posting duplicate-ish content too close together? What if it's been a while since you posted an overhead shot of a coffee cup? (Hopefully your photo is crazy beautiful, or something more original than that example.) Well, you could accidentally post that photo right on top of a similar photo. D'oh! Darn you, revolving Instagram placements!

That's why I use an app called Planoly. It has a paid version, but you can do enough with the free version that it's worthwhile. You can drag and drop your future posts to see how they'll look together on your profile. Once you're happy with the layout, you can schedule them to post in that order, and suddenly you have a beautifully arranged Instagram profile without the hassle.

Instagram's Algorithm

There once was a time when Instagram's algorithm was pretty simple: Followers saw everything posted by those they followed, in chronological order.

Today, the algorithm looks a bit more like Facebook's. Basically, users see content posted by the accounts they follow, but they see more stuff from those whose posts they've actually Liked.

This means you can no longer rely on a follower seeing your posts automatically. Getting them to follow you is only half the battle. Once they follow you, they have to double-tap your posts in order to keep seeing future posts. If you don't get the hearts from someone, you might as well not have them as a follower at all. This means every single post has to be amazing and Likeable. You can't slack off. You've gotta get the hearts. If you're thinking about posting a promotional, self-absorbed image that won't provide value or excitement to your followers, do not post that thing. It's better to post nothing at all. The name of the game is quality over quantity.

Now Go Post!

So remember: Be consistent. Be beautiful. Be likeable. Keep these things in mind and watch your followers grow!

Bonus: Remember not to get discouraged. Followers tend to "snowball," so the first ones are the hardest to get! Your number of followers will grow faster as you build up a loyal following.

Double Bonus: Want more tips? I made a whole course on Instagram Secrets, check it out now!