Instagram Etiquette For A Shiny, Professional (and on-brand) Profile

With an algorithm that seems to change on a weekly basis and new trends popping up nearly everyday, Instagram can seem more like a headache than a useful tool for your business. Headache or not, Instagram is a necessary platform to consistently communicate with your audience while exposing your brand to new audiences. Don’t believe us? Here’s just a few mind-blowing Instagram stats compiled by OurSocialTimes:

  • Instagram boasts 200 million active users a month, 57% of which access the app on a daily basis.
  • Engagement rates on Instagram are 15 times higher than those on Facebook, this number comes before Facebook implements it’s new algorithm change to feature less brand posts and more from friends and family. Once the new Facebook algorithm is in place, this number will skyrocket.
  • 86% of the world’s top brands are on Instagram.
  • Brands on Instagram with over 100,000 followers have grown by 163% in the last two years.

We’re not going as far to say that you have to be on Instagram to have a successful business, just that success is easier to attain when you’re active on Instagram. Despite the constant changes to the Instagram algorithm that determines how users will see posts on their feed, there are some things that never change. Here’s 7 and a half Do’s and Don’ts for Instagram etiquette you can always rely on:

#1 Smart Captioning

Don’t: Write a Novel! Instagram is a photo platform, not where your fans come to read a six paragraph discord on a the beauty of the sunset you just experienced. When you post a photo, keep the caption short and sweet–think a maximum of four sentences. You want your photo to tell the story.

instagram etiquette

Do: Use Instagram to Drive Users to your Blog. If you’re thinking “But I’ve got so much to say and so many followers on Instagram hanging on my every word!” then start a blog and use your Instagram as a platform to build a readership. You can post the link to your blog in your bio and post relevant graphics or photos while the caption directs your followers to learn by clicking the link in your bio. You can also attach blog links to your Instagram story and direct your followers to swipe up to be taken directly to your blog. Now you’ve got a platform to express yourself and more Instagram content.

#2 Photo Etiquette

Don’t: Steal Pictures. Imagine if someone walked into your store, grabbed whatever your product is, and just walked out. That’s exactly what you’re doing when you post somebody else’s photo. Many of the photographers whose work is featured on Instagram work really hard to perfect their craft and spend thousands of dollars on their equipment to produce such high quality photos. Taking their work under the assumption that it is “just a picture” is a huge slap in the face. Skateboard photographer Max Dubler puts it best on “You do not get to take my work, use it to advertise your business, then decide you don’t have to pay for it after the fact any more than I get to walk into your shop, take a brand new board, skate it around the block a few times, and put it back on the rack…” Don’t steal.

instagram etiquette

Do: Get Permission and Give Credit. If you see a photo that you want to use, just reach out to whoever posted the photo if you can repost it with a photo credit. Sure, you may have to pay for the use of the photo, but you may also get a green light with no fee involved. Either way, getting permission and being told “no” or having to pay $50 to use a photo is a much better alternative than facing the wrath of a scorned brand or photographer who can (and probably will) use their sphere of influence to tell the world about your transgression. The aforementioned Max Dubler, for example, told his followers about a company who stole his photos, his followers then sent him videos of them throwing away and burning products from that company while vowing to go to that company’s competitors for their needs. All over a $25 photo. Yikes.

#3 Be Human

Don’t: Let Emoji’s Do the Talking. If you’re already on Instagram, chances are you’ve gotten a comment from some brand you’ve never heard of that reads “🙌 😍 ”. Nothing is less relatable or authentic than an emoji-only comment or caption. It comes off as either lazy or fake. Not fake in the “she’s so fake” sense–literally fake, as in posted by an automated bot.

instagram etiquette

Do: Use your words!. You’re a person. You can (probably) spell! So use your words! Two or three emojis are fine when accompanied with a genuine comment that proves you’re an actual person with thoughts and feelings. While you don’t want to go too crazy with how much you write in your photo captions or comments, you still want to use these as an opportunity to show off your brand voice and personality.

#4 Invest in Your Photos

Don’t: Go Filter Crazy. One of Instagram’s original features allows users to alter their photographs with different filters to adjust brightness, contrast, and color. However, just because you can use filters doesn’t mean you always should. Using filters too often can present an inaccurate aesthetic from your brand and annoy your followers.

Do: Take Better Photos! If you focus on taking high quality photos in the first place, you won’t need filters. Using Instagram to make slight adjustments on your photos because you want to keep a black and white aesthetic or you’re after a retro vibe is fine, but your photos should be good enough that you won’t need to do much adjusting. If you do find yourself constantly adding filters and making sweeping adjustments to your photos, consider hiring a photographer to do a photoshoot every few months so you constantly have a backlog of high quality pictures.

instagram etiquette

#5 The Bigger Picture

Don’t: Neglect Your Grid. Your Instagram “grid” is what all your photos look like when a user clicks on your profile and is brought to your page. When posting pictures on your business page, you have to keep your grid in mind. You don’t want first time followers to be confused because your grid is a jumbled mess.

instagram etiquette

Do: Curate Your Photos as if Your Instagram is an Exquisite Museum of You. You want your grid to look like an art museum dedicated solely to your brand, with a consistent aesthetic and visual representation of your goods, services, and brand identity. When someone visits your profile to learn more about your brand and they’re greeted with a beautifully presented collection of photos, they’re more likely to follow you and trust in the professionalism of your brand.

#6 Hashtag Responsibly

Don’t: Force Feed Hashtags to your Followers. Hashtags are crucial in gaining exposure on your posts, but that doesn’t mean your followers need to see them. Don’t try to squeeze the allotted 30 hashtags into your photo caption–it’ll take away from the caption itself. A caption crammed with hashtags also makes your brand look less concerned with posting quality content and more concerned about increasing your influence. Try to limit the hashtags in your caption to the three most important to your brand or photo.

hashtag branding

Do: Hide Hashtags in the Comments. Get the most out of your hashtags without inconveniencing your followers by adding them to your comments section. Your comment won’t appear in your followers’ feeds but the hashtags will still be tracked, increasing your post’s reach.

#7 Genuine Audience Interaction

Don’t: Ignore Your Fans. Your fans follow you because they like you. They want to see and hear from you. If you’re posting rad content, your fans will let you know with likes and comments. If you ignore these comments, you’re less likely to see these people comment again. These people give you their attention, don’t take it for granted.

instagram etiquette

Do: Interact With Them! Show your fans that you appreciate their time and attention by interacting with them! Reply to their comments (with more than just an emoji), like their photos, maybe even follow them. Interacting with your fans gives them a sense of validation, that you genuinely care about them and are grateful for their support. This creates a more personal connection between your brand and your fans which turns into more brand loyalty.

#7.5 Keep Things Professional

instagram etiquette

Do: Hire a Professional Agency (like us!) to Run Your Instagram if You’re Still Unsure. Instagram takes time to execute efficiently, and it’s completely understandable if you’re too busy running your business to worry about grids, hashtags, and what emoji best conveys your excitement for a new product. That’s where we come in! Contact us today and we’ll tell you all about our social media offerings.

How many of these rules apply to Facebook? Learn more about the new Facebook algorithm and how to stay on top of the news feed.