Instagram just released in-depth information on how they organize feeds and value engagement. I’ll take you through a sample right wing Instagram account and show you how to attract an audience.
For a quick breakdown of the information released by Instagram, please read this excellent short piece published in TechCrunch by Josh Constine.
“Instagram has never explained exactly how the algorithm chooses what to show you until today… even if you follow the exact same accounts as someone else, you’ll get a personalized feed based on how you interact with those accounts.“
Instagram is very personalized, so it’s hard to speak about how to use the platform generally without speaking directly about a particular account. So later in this post I’ll pull up my own Instagram account and talk about what should be changed and why. By explaining using an example, I hope you are able to glean some ideas to improve your own presence.
But first, why Instagram?
According to Pew Research’s March 2018 study, 71% of Americans in the 18-24 demographic use Instagram, and 35% of American adults use the platform, up from 28% of adults who used it in 2016.
Americans ages 18 to 24 are substantially more likely to use platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter even when compared with those in their mid- to late-20s.
As well, a majority of Instagram users visit the platform every day with 81% of that 18-24 demographic visiting daily, many of them doing so “several times per day.”
Facebook Is For Old People, Instagram Is Young
Read more about how that 18-24 demographic uses social media in an article published earlier this year by Forbes.
“Gen Z lives on social networks. YouTube, SnapChat, Instagram, Musical.ly, and Twitter. Social media is how they communicate with friends and get their entertainment and news. Gen Z is also passionate about social media stars. If you look at the engagement rates a Gen Z social media star such as Baby Ariel or Annie LeBlanc receives, it’s far higher than the engagement rates of traditional celebrities such as Beyonce or Taylor Swift.”
That is, the people who are most likely to visit Instagram several times per day are the same ones who give more attention and interaction to social media stars (people who made their name online, not in radio or television.) Gen Z knows that a social media star is more likely to be the one reading comments, whereas a traditional star will have publicists managing all social media.
Read more about how Facebook is dying: June 2018 edition.
Approach Instagram Like An Influence Marketer
Instagram is heaven for influencer marketing, where you buy things based on the plush lifestyles and slice-of-life photographs of attractive people with interesting lives. In order to best optimize your account, you first need to examine what you’re selling to your audience in order to figure out what sorts of lifestyle you should be promoting.
You might be selling people on visiting your YouTube page, or selling people on financially supporting your gun rights group, or you might be selling Made in America t-shirts about building the wall. If you were selling a traditional product, you’d take a picture of the product in a catalog. IKEA shows you what a new furniture set might look like in your bedroom. Even though you’re presented with the entire set, you might only pick out one thing you want in order to bring some of that style into your own life.
Influencers have a similar function. They show off the whole bedroom set knowing that you’re only interested in buying the desk. They’re doing yoga poses in Venice in order to get you to buy the sports bra they’re wearing.
Generally, influencers show off their product in their daily life. If you’re a consultant like me with confidential clients, you can’t show off your work, so you have to show off your social connections, your work ethic (which is why gym photos are so popular) and your engagement with the accouterments of work. For example, I’m seeing a Facebook developer speak tonight. If I’m clever, I’ll put on lipstick and take a selfie next to one of the signs at the event, or with the guy presenting the talk.
In the real world, value is all about location, location, location. But location doesn’t matter online, because all you have to do is pull out a phone.
Online, it’s all about engagement, engagement, engagement. And if you’re not equipped to personally respond to every single message, then you need a community of followers who are happy to talk to each other while you work your bespoke lifestyle.
So let’s use what we learned here to discuss specifically how we conservatives can audit our own Instagram feeds to sell our MAGA merchandise and get people to listen to our podcasts.
Optimizing a Right Wing Conservative Instagram Account
Since Instagram’s algorithm is laser focused and personalized, it’s difficult to talk about “conservative accounts” in a broad sense, so let’s focus on my Instagram for an example. It’s not optimized the way I would recommend to a client, so we have lots of constructive ways to improve it. My writing and creative digital strategy jobs have largely been offered to me through word-of-mouth recommendation, but it would still be valuable to me to use my Instagram as a funnel for more work, or to pump up the number of visitors to this here blog.
Never start a project without a goal, so here’s the hypothetical goal for my Instagram account:
Use my Instagram account to convince conservatives to hire me to develop their digital marketing strategies.
Broken down, my account needs to be about:
- Me and my conservative-friendly life and work ethic
- My understanding of how a good conservative should interact with others and the world
- Knowledge of trends
- Why you should visit my site to read my right wing social media funnel
- Why you can trust me as a hired hand to explain where baby memes come from
So here’s a screenshot of my account as it is right now, with photos taken in the last week.
Here’s my bio:
” Canadian tech/political copywriter with no large intestine. Right wing social media funnel. Former bellydancer. #ostomy twit @margaretsbelly.”
From that, you know:
- My nationality
- One aspect of my professional skills
- My unique health status
- The point of this here website
- My former professional/artistic skill
- How to follow me
My last six photos are of a plated autoimmune-friendly dinner, a poorly-lit feminine selfie, a hipster beer garden, trendy color theory, my biceps and cleaning makeup.
Investing Money Into Your Photos
Let’s say I have a goal of getting to 10,000 followers instead of the approximately 1,500 I have now. Out of those followers, I know many will be in the position to recommend me for digital strategy, or to give training on how ideas flow in the right wing sphere.
But an Instagram lifestyle that represent my skill set costs money. Let’s say I am willing to spend $2,000 Canadian to pad out that lifestyle for the camera. Here’s how I’d spend that money to promote my brand:
- $400 on hiring a professional makeup artist and photographer for a new profile picture. Mine is several years old.
- $200 on new hair products so I can take more photos wearing vintage hair styles to underscore that I’m conservative.
- $700 on new dresses. Conservative women wear dresses!
- $600 on bright new gym clothes to show off my pursuit of physical fitness despite a disability and for general cheesecake
- $100 to bribe a friend with dinner and drinks so they can take iPhone photos of me in casual outdoor settings to show that I leave the house sometimes
Then, I’d plan to post at least once a day, following this breakdown:
- 40% photos of me.
- 5% videos of me not interacting with the camera (eg working out).
- 5% videos of me interacting with the camera (singing a song, explaining a bellydance move, talking about Trudeau or Trump or technology, playing 30 seconds of a Bach piece on piano).
- 10% on trends conservatives should know (for example, my post about on how to take advantage of the trendy color Ultraviolet).
- 10% feminine, hands-on stuff (cooking, makeup, patting cute animals, my repressed knitting/sewing/cosplay hobbies, my bird feeder).
- 10% content related to my autoimmune disease and living with an ostomy.
- 5% conservative content for conservatives — posing with conservatives, starting positive conversations about what conservatives do right.
- 5% not-quite-exotic travel to conservative or tech events — someone please send me to Prague or to Singapore or somewhere cool, I need a vacation and I’m great at figuring out which hacker you should hire for analytics and general mayhem.
- Remaining 5% — “Slice of Life” vintage bellydancer pictures hanging on my wall, pictures of cute new jewelry, unflattering selfies in the dentist’s chair, the pile of books on my to-read list.
That is, at least 50% of my content should pictures or videos of me, me, me. If you’re a female on Instagram, at least half of your photos should be of you. If you’re a business, check out this piece by Sprout Social on how to divvy up your posts.
Exploiting the Instagram Algorithm To Encourage Engagement
Your position in another user’s feed depends on their engagement with your posts, and with other posts that are similar to yours. Here are a few things to start doing to encourage the kind of engagement to ensure your posts are being seen:
- Post photos and hashtags that are similar to the ones posted by successful users who offer similar content.
- Post daily.
- Encourage interaction between your followers on your posts.
- Interact with users who offer similar content.
Instagram is about fostering engagement with your followers, not with starting fights. For example on how I should apply this, I should start leaving more comments on the accounts of other conservative women, and I should post photos similar to what they post. Instagram is able to use machine learning to understand the content of what you post — so while I’m not at the range that often, it might be valuable for me to post photos of firearms if I want more attention from the people who like firearms.
There are still dozens of fixes I’d have to address before I could hit several tens of thousands of followers. But this would be a good start. Let me know if you’d like me to work out a plan for your own Instagram feed.
Time to start shopping for more dresses and brighter yoga pants.