#businesspics and why using Instagram for business is my big 2014 tip

Heard me mention Instagram before? I am a bit of a fan and have been using Instagram since it was just two months old. If you need the beginners’ guide, head back to my first post on what Instagram is, but otherwise, let me tell you what I’ve been loving about Instagram lately:

  • It’s the perfect way to be personal, and personal is good for your brand. Instagram is a clean and simple app, with relatively few functions, and it’s very much focused on creativity and sharing. 
  • It’s fast, simple and done on the go on your smartphone, which is perfect for someone like me who doesn’t always get to sit down at my desk during the course of a day.
  • There’s very little overt promotion, and that means you have to think outside the box. You can’t leave links everywhere (or at least it is strongly discouraged and most users stick to this), so you need to focus on the kinds of messages you can give your followers about you and your business in a more subtle manner.
  • It has great engagement. If you look at the proportion of your followers who “like” or comment on your Instagram posts, it’s usually a much higher percentage than on any other social media. 
  • You can share it to other platforms. Occasionally, I’ll share an Instagram picture to Twitter (usually if my caption is pretty short, so it won’t be annoyingly cut off) and quite regularly, I share the images to my Facebook business pages. I find it a great way to add to the content coming through on Facebook and because it’s also very image-based my Instagram posts usually work really well there and have great engagement too.
  • Advertising is just starting up on Instagram but they are promising they’ll keep it true to the spirit of the app. It’ll be interesting to see how it works out but there could be some interesting opportunities there.
  • Heaps of social media experts are predicting that Instagram will be important in 2014. Even Forbes and Social Media Today are saying so. Personally, I hope they’re right.

    #businesspics for March 2014

    Some of you may have participated in my #businesspics Instagram challenge in 2013 – well, now it’s back! You can play along on Facebook instead if you’re not on Instagram but I would strongly urge you to try Instagram out. This month I’ve grouped the photo prompts according to some key areas I think are important to show your customers and clients: your workplace, your clients or customers themselves, your products or services, and perhaps most importantly, YOU!

    #businesspics Instagram photo prompts for March 2014

    The numbers in the prompt image are dates in March; join in when you feel inspired or try to take an image for every day of the month (that’s my plan!). If you want a reminder email each time a new round of #businesspics starts (and a mid-month pep talk) sign up to my #businesspics reminder email list. I look forward to seeing your gorgeous pictures and helping you create interesting and engaging content for your social media … remember to hashtag your images with #businesspics and tag me @amandakendle so I see it straight away!

    How to: Add an Instagram feed to your blog

    This post about how to add an Instagram feed to your main blog page is for my dear blogging friend Rae, because she asked nicely. And it’s for anyone else who wants to have a go at this. It’s funny, actually, how often people see my Instagram feed on my blog (somewhere over there —> or maybe down a little!) and ask me about it.

    By the way, there are all kinds of different ways to do this (you know, like the whole skinning a cat thing, except without the animal cruelty) but this is the way I’ve done it. I use SnapWidget because someone recommended it ages ago and it has worked ever since. (I am big on the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” theory.) So, here goes Rae!

    1. Go to SnapWidget and scroll down a bit until you can see the stuff about “Basic Widget”. I use the free version and it has been everything I need.
    2. Choose the options you want in the “Customize your widget” section. You can put in your Instagram username (eg @amandakendle) or you can choose a hashtag instead. Most of the time you’ll probably just want to use your username, and that’s what I do on this blog. Sometimes you will want to use a hashtag instead – like I do on my travel blog where (at the moment) I’m displaying photos from my Penang trip using the #amandaspenangtrip hashtag I used. If you do use the hashtag version then remember that if someone else uses the same hashtag, their pictures will show up too.
    3. You also need to choose the Widget Type; most of the names are self-explanatory really – if you want one to sit in your sidebar like mine then Slideshow works well. You might need to adjust the Widget Width (for example, mine is 300 pixels wide).
    4. Click on “Get Widget” and you’ll get a fancy chunk of html code. Copy it.
    5. Now you need to add it to your blog. If you’re using Blogger like Rae is, go to Layout, click on Add a Gadget in your sidebar, and choose HTML/JavaScript, and paste the code into it. The process is similar in WordPress.
    6. Voila! You should now have your lovely Instagram feed flowing into your blog. Here’s mine at my travel blog.
    So, fingers crossed that has worked beautifully (especially for you Rae!). I’m still all excited about Instagram and its possibilities and you will definitely hear more about it from me this year. If you’re not on it, try it out quick – it is heaps of fun and has so much usefulness as well.

    How hashtags make me happy (and how and why you can use hashtags)

    What on earth is a hashtag?

    If you’ve been wanting to ask me this question, you are definitely not alone.

    Let’s start off with the basics. A hashtag is like a topic marker, a way to describe in a word or short phrase what the topic of your post is about. And the point of using a hashtag is that people can click on it and then find lots of other posts about the same topic (usually from all different people).

    Hashtags have a few special qualities:

    • Of course, they have to start with a #. (This has got to be one of the few recent examples of British English triumphing over US English.)
    • They can’t have spaces. You can use more than one word but you have to join them together. For example, #AmandaKendleConsulting if you wanted to make a hashtag out of my business name. 
    • They’re not case-sensitive so you could also use #amandakendleconsulting and if you clicked on that you’d get the same results as the one with the initial capitals. Sometimes I use the initial capitals just to make the phrase clearer. Sometimes I don’t!
    • They are taking over the world. Okay, they are taking over the social media world. They started off on Twitter but have since spread to basically every social media platform there is, even Facebook. But if you click on a hashtag in Facebook, for example, you’ll only see other Facebook posts that have the same hashtag. (A more advanced bit about this later.)
    So then the next obvious question is why should we use hashtags? The main reason is so that more people can find the stuff we’re posting on social media. So, for example, if you post a photo on Instagram of the beach and use a few hashtags like #perth #scarboroughbeach #workathome (see, that’s throwing words together without spaces … you get used to it!) then you might get the attention of people who don’t actually follow you on Instagram. Someone who searches for Perth, for example, will see your image, and that might entice them to look around at your other pictures, and perhaps follow you. And it works the same way no matter which platform you’re talking about – although it’s fair to say that hashtags are more widely used on Twitter and Instagram at the moment, more than on other social media sites.
    The other great time to use hashtags is so that people who know about the hashtag can use it to, so that you can all see what the others are doing. For example, at the Problogger conference last month, the hashtag was advertised as being #PBevent and this meant we all posted our thoughts and updates (and pictures of cake) using the #PBevent hashtag – and could then easily see what other attendees were saying about it, too. And of course with our #businesspics challenge on Instagram, our participants use the #businesspics hashtag and then anyone can tap on it and find all of the different posts from everyone.

    I asked my Facebook page followers what their hashtag questions were, so let me answer them here:

    Can you have your very own hashtag?
    And related – how do you start a hashtag? Well, basically, a hashtag is public property. If you want to have a hashtag that gathers only your own posts together, then you want to make it pretty unique – #AmandaKendleConsulting would work here, #myhouse would not – but you can’t stop someone else from using it as well. To “start” a hashtag, you simply use it. Once you post a hashtag it just becomes one, and it’s clickable, even if it’s only that one post you’ve done that will pop up.

    How do you decide what hashtag to use?
    This gets easier with practice but there are basically three different ways I decide which hashtags to add:

    • By guessing/using a kind of common sense – for example, if I’m posting about a blog post I wrote about Japan, I would use #Japan
    • By searching to see what exists already – I might search to see if #OsakaSightseeing is already a hashtag, or #OsakaSights, and if one of them has a lot of posts, choose that, in the hope that more people will see my post
    • By watching what other people do and copying them!
    You can also research conglomeration of posts from different platforms that have been hashtagged with the same thing at a service like Tagboard.

    How many hashtags should you use?
    I tend to use a maximum of three or four regardless of the platform (often less on Twitter, they take up too many characters!). I read a Mashable report about Instagram recently which showed more hashtags are better, up to about five hashtags, and then from then on you don’t get much benefit. And yes, to answer the person who asked me on Facebook, if you use twenty hashtags every time you may lose some followers, I know I for one get kind of annoyed when there is a mass of hashtags to navigate past.

    Some other random bits and pieces about hashtags that might interest you:
    • You can put a hashtag in the middle of a sentence. This is especially OK on Twitter where you have to fit so much in to a small space. So I could say

      Not sure why but my #Germany post on visiting Heilbronn (where I used to live) is having a big resurgence on the blog http://t.co/DtQYSrznME
      — Amanda Kendle (@amandakendle) October 14, 2013

    • On Twitter, people sometimes use hashtags to be funny. Or to try to be funny. Like me.

      I just unfollowed someone who complained about having to get up at 8am. #grumpymum
      — Amanda Kendle (@amandakendle) October 2, 2013

    • You can save hashtag searches for Twitter in particular so that you can easily click in and check up on your favourite topic (especially useful for conferences too).
    • Remember this is titled “How hashtags make me happy”? The main reason is that when I’ve got a few spare minutes to surf around then hashtags take me on weird and wonderful journeys around the internet. Weird, wonderful but focused journeys! Go hashtags.

    Any more hashtag questions?
    So, hopefully that’s answered some of the questions but I’m sure there will be more. Ask them in the comments below and I’ll take care of them. #ifican 🙂

    How to: Link Instagram to your Facebook profile or page

    I started the #businesspics prompts on Instagram for several reasons, but a key one is to encourage both my clients and other Instagrammers to use the images they produce to support their business – Instagram pictures can be a fantastic way to give your followers a glimpse into the everyday life of your business, especially if you share them beyond Instagram to, for example, your Facebook page.

    And then one of our participants said – wait – how do I do that? And so of course I realised that I’ve missed a step. Fortunately it’s not tricky but it can take a bit of hunting to find the connection so here’s the method:

    The first step is to head to your profile (the bottom right button in Instagram, which always reminds me of a microwave oven) and tap the cog wheel at the top right.

    If your version looks a bit different to mine, fingers crossed it functions in the same way! I’ve updated to iOS 7 which might explain the difference if you’re on an iPhone.

     The next trick is to find the share settings – scroll down first through the Options page first (keep going!):

    Then find and tap on “Share Settings” under Preferences.

    You’ll get a few choices on the Share Settings screen but for now tap on Facebook (if you haven’t connected yet, it’ll be greyed out).

    To configure it you’ll need to tap “Share to …” to take Instagram through to your Facebook login. You’ll need to log in (even if you want to use a business page, you will log in to your personal Facebook profile and later you get the chance to choose to share to a business page if you want).

    I highly recommend NOT agreeing to “Share Likes to Timeline” – this means that every time you like an image on Instagram this action will appear on your Facebook feed – yep, that would be pretty annoying for your followers or friends!

    Once Instagram and Facebook have started talking (in other words, you’ve entered your Facebook log in details and Instagram remembers them) you’ll have the option of sharing to your Timeline or to a Facebook page you manage. You can see in the diagram below that I’ve got my Instagram feed set up to share to my Amanda Kendle Consulting Facebook page. Once you’ve selected the right page, you’re done, just hit another icon along the bottom (home, for example) and get back into Instagramming. 

    Now that you’re set up, when you post an Instagram picture, you can tap on the Facebook icon on the page where you type in your caption and it’ll then share immediately to your Facebook profile or page (whichever you’ve set up).

    One kind of annoying thing about Instagram is that there is no quick and easy way to change this – you have to go all the way through these menus if you want to change it and it’s not something that can be done mid-post. Sometimes I’d like to share some photos to my personal profile but it’s such an effort that I pretty much just leave it always set to post to my business page and only post some of my images (usually only one a day to my Facebook page – don’t want to overload people!).

    So – does this make sense? Yell if my step-by-steps aren’t clear – it’s easy to overlook mentioning something that is clear to me but not to a normal person! And finally, if you want to join us for the rest of October’s #businesspics challenges, the prompts are below. It’s never too late to start and you don’t need to take part every day.

    The first month of #businesspics (aka #bizgram!) on Instagram

    Big news … we have reached the last day of our first month of #bizgram – our fun group of Instagrammers who are posting images in response to a prompt every weekday. September #bizgram has been a lot of fun and some great images have been shared – more on them in a minute. But first – the important news is that we’re going to continue in October (starting on Tuesday 1st October – here in Western Australia it’s a public holiday on Monday anyway so it works out perfectly) – with prompts every weekday through to October 25. Then we’ll have a few days off.

    And extra-importantly, #bizgram will now be #businesspics! A couple of reasons – first of all, I suddenly found there’s a Singaporean company called Bizgram, and we wouldn’t want to get confused (not sure where they were hiding when I searched everywhere before setting this up but I will put it down to pre-Problogger busy-ness!) and secondly, Instagram recently announced they won’t allow third-party apps to use “Insta” or “Gram” in their names, and while this is no app who knows if Instagram might extend their rules in the future. So, to be on the safe side, #businesspics it is!

    So, on to some highlights from September #bizgram – I was particularly impressed with the lipstick pen from Rachel (and it totally matches one of her roles as a make-up artist in her photography business) and I just love the retro red phone Jo found recently on her trip to Canberra.

    But my favourite, despite being slightly less business-like, was from the “Cats and dogs” topic – proving once again that cats and dogs rule the airwaves in social media, even when it’s for business! Voi Skincare posted this gorgeous double-take:

    I could be biased since we’re a cat household too, but I loved it. Anyway, I wanted to say a big thanks to all the people who participated in #bizgram in September, and to give a quick shout-out to the those who posted every day or close to it (I haven’t scrutinised it precisely – but these people seemed to be there nearly every day at least!):

    Stay tuned for our October prompts (they’ll be posted on Instagram @amandakendle and on the Facebook page) for #businesspics and if you want a reminder email for this month and future months (including the prompts) then please sign up to the #businesspics reminder email list. I look forward to sharing some fun Instagram moments with you and my challenge for October is: how many different ways could you use these images to help promote your business or blog on social media?

    Oh Instagram, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways …

    There are oh so many ways I’m loving Instagram at the moment but here are two: my so-much-fun Hands-On Instagram workshop, held on the weekend, and my upcoming #bizgram launch to get people like me using Instagram more for great images to help their business.

    Our first Hands-On Instagram workshop

    I love it when one of those bright shiny ideas I have (usually in the shower) turns into something real and this workshop was one of those. I had the idea that, although Instagram is pretty easy to learn to use, it would be great to get a group of people together, tell them all the little tips and tricks that might otherwise take them months to pick up, talk about how to optimise their use of Instagram and then go out and do it. A kind of a combination of networking plus learning.

    And on Saturday, that’s exactly what we did. I had six women come along (a sell-out!) with a variety of different backgrounds and reasons for learning more about Instagram but they all hit it off famously and we had a fabulous day. We had about two hours of learning (and eating cake) first, and I was really pleased to see that even the more experienced Instagram users in the group learnt lots of new stuff (and some were beginners and learnt even more!).

    From there we went down to Hillarys Boat Harbour and three pairs of participants each had to work on some practice tasks (you can see some of the results by hopping on Instagram and looking for the #amandasworkshop hashtag).

    Of course what I hadn’t counted on was that to practice they’d all start taking photos of me but fortunately the magic of Instagram made them look not too bad. I was glad to escape down to Hillarys though where there were a lot more photogenic subjects!

    Big thanks and shout out to Jo of Wildfire Social Marketing, Vida of Just ImproviseKath MazzellaAggie Lim, Rae of I Opened My Mouth and our lovely “other” Jo for making our workshop so much fun.

    I haven’t set a date for the next Hands-On Instagram workshop but if you’re interested do email me and let me know.

    #bizgram starts next week (2 September)

    Speaking of bright shiny ideas: my idea to get lots of small business people using Instagram effectively (and to have fun with it at the same time), #bizgram, starts next Monday, 2 September 2013. There’ll be a prompt each weekday in September which will inspire a photo you can take and share on Instagram, related to your work, that will both help you build a community on Instagram as well as be a great source of images you can share on other social media like Facebook and Twitter. To join in you just need to follow me on Instagram (@amandakendle) and use the hashtag #bizgram when you’re posting. The prompts will be shown on Instagram too but here’s the first look – the September prompts for #bizgram – get thinking! If you want to get the prompts in a reminder email each month you can sign up to the #bizgram mailing list.

    Introducing #bizgram – because using Instagram for your business images is more fun in a crowd

    You may have noticed I’ve developed something of a keen interest in Instagram of late (some may name it an addiction), partly because it’s fun, partly because it’s easy to fit into the very few spare moments I have, and partly because I have realised I can also use it for my business. That last one’s the key because I’d like to help even more people use a tool like Instagram to help their business, and that’s where my shiny new idea for #bizgram comes in.

    #bizgram posts in my Facebook album

    Instagram (check my previous post to find out all about Instagram if you need) is not a place for businessy interactions – it’s social but casual, a place where blatant self-promotion is severely frowned upon. (And I do hope it remains that way.) Of course, you will meet people and it’s great for networking with like-minded souls and that can’t be a bad thing. But the reason I’m using Instagram more and more in my business is that it’s such a fabulous way to produce original images that I can use in my social media pages, be it Facebook or Twitter or whichever platform takes your fancy.

    Why I like using Instagram images for my business:

    1. I can take pictures pretty much whenever and wherever, just by whipping out my smartphone, and Instagram filters make them that much prettier with just a couple of taps.
    2. Because I can take pictures whenever and wherever, they can be an interesting and relevant reflection of what I do everyday in my business.
    3. Sharing images related to my business helps explain the work I do, shows people (clients and prospective clients) more of both my business and my personality, and helps me (hopefully) be “likeable”!
    4. I suddenly have a good source of images I can post to my Facebook page or share on Twitter and they’re original, all mine, and people love them.
    5. Oh, and it’s fun.
    Now, there are lots of groups of people taking daily photos and sharing them on Instagram, like the Fat Mum Slim Photo a Day challenge I’ve been playing along with (and loving) recently, or any number when you google something like “Instagram daily photo”. They give you prompts to inspire the kinds of photos you might take that day and provide a community to share them with using hashtags. But I can’t find one that helps business people to take photos they might use in their business, and that’s why I’m starting up #bizgram.
    When #bizgram starts on September 2, I’ll be posting a list of ideas for the month that will inspire a photo most weekdays (not weekends, of course, because business people can rest!, plus we’ll have a few RDOs – we’re just going to work for four weeks each month!). You can take a photo for each prompt or just when you feel like it, post it on Instagram and tag it with #bizgram, and we’ll all be able to see the photos – plus you can share it with your business community on Facebook, tweet it, or save it and use it in blog posts or on your website, too. It’s going to be fun, inspiring, useful and good for business. Check back here or sign up to my reminder email and please join me in Instagramming our business lives with #bizgram.

    So you want to know all about Instagram?

    Hi there! It’s me! On Instagram! I’ve been getting lots and lots of questions about Instagram lately, and no wonder, because it’s got at least 100 million users, and even amongst my circle of friends it’s used by a few people who otherwise don’t have much involvement with social media. So there must be something good about it, right? It is definitely fun. I’ve been using Instagram since December 2010 (and only just realised that it only started in October that year – for once I was right on the money!) and I know that if I had a few more minutes in each day, it’s something I’d use a lot more, mostly because of the fun aspect. So, to answer all those people who’ve been asking me: What on earth is Instagram?
    Instagram is an app – which means you need to have a smartphone to use it (iPhone or Android). It’s an app that helps you turn normal looking photos into something either more fun or more beautiful or both. You can take a picture while you’re in the Instagram app, or you can use it (on your phone) to edit a photo you’ve got stored there.
    Once you’ve either taken or chosen your photo, you can apply (just by tapping) different kinds of filters. They alter the colours, shades and style of your photo, and often add different borders too. I found it especially useful with my old iPhone since the photo quality wasn’t that great, but I could make a pretty bad photo look a whole lot better using Instagram filters. And not just better, but funkier! There are a few other editing tricks you can use like hitting the “tilt-shift” button (it looks like a raindrop) and making just one part of the picture remain in focus – like my cat’s eye, below. The other special thing about Instagram is that its images are all square – think back to the Polaroid days.
    After that you can publish your photo to your Instagram stream (so other Instagram users can see it), you can email it to people, and you can share it on other social media like Facebook and Twitter (it’s a pretty simple matter to connect your Facebook and/or Twitter accounts to your Instagram account).
    Once you’ve shared your photo, then that’s where the “social media” bit of Instagram comes into play. Other people can “like” your photo, or leave a comment, and you can “follow” other users whose images you like, as well. Just like any old social media, really!
    The big news last week was that Instagram has finally released profile pages that you can see on the internet, not just through the app on your smartphone. It’ll be interesting to see where that leads. Oh, and you should know that although Instagram was started up by some clever Californians it was acquired by Facebook this year although they say they’ll allow it to “operate independently”, whatever that means.
    If you’re on Instagram, or you download it to have a play after reading this, then connect with me so I can see the beautiful pictures you make – my username is the fairly predictable amandakendle. Happy Instagramming!