Last week Instagram (IG) made a quiet (ish) announcement that had my Facebook, IG and Twitter feeds hopping mad. Going forward, us loyal users will get the benefit of Instagram’s wisdom and have our feeds manipulated by the company to make sure we don’t miss the ‘good stuff.

To many of my business friends, this is an unhappy move into monetization. Reading between the lines, those of us who have been profiting from the wild west ‘anything’ goes nature of Instagram are about to get a little slap on the hands. Last year IG (owned by Facebook) rolled out advertising via the super effective Facebook advertising platform. So it’s really not that much of a surprise that the next step is manipulation of the IG feed that will likely end up with those of us using Instagram for marketing reasons having to shell up a bit of cash to get our pictures seen.

That’s totally a drag, and really the subject of another post. Suffice to say – while I love free advertising as much as the next person, as a business owner and user of Instagram, this might not be the worst move in the world. Yeah, we’ll have to pay. On the flip side, if IG advertising is priced anything like Facebook advertising, it’ll be not a lot of money for super advanced targeting options. And as an personal Instagram user… as much as it annoys me to have them telling me what they think I think is important… I do appreciate any efforts to weed the non-relative, annoying, I don’t’ care about you or what you’re selling posts from my feed.

In the meantime. I’ve recently done some work for clients on Instagram – how to use it, what to post and what matters. I’ve grabbed all that work and distilled it down to some great tips – usable for personal AND business users. Let’s dive in…. shall we?


Make your Instagram account look awesome

  • Pay attention to your ‘gallery view’ – While we tend to scroll through Instagram one photo at a time, new users and people just finding you will see your feed most often in the ‘gallery view’ of 9 photos or so at once.
  • Choose a visual style – To make sure your gallery feed looks really awesome, post photos that are similar in nature in terms of color, warmth, composition, etc. (some examples to come….)

{inspiration} pretty feeds

A few feeds to illustrate what I mean by visual cohesiveness.

local milk

Local Milk Small baking company

elizabeth suzann

Elizabeth Suzann Nashville-based Clothing Designer

the trotter girl

The Trotter Girl Small business/ city guides

hilary rushford

Hilary Rushford Fashion Blogger


Tip: Consider the ‘every third’ trick – Post a similar photo as every 3rd photo (a quote image, something with the same background, or pictures of your kids doing goofy things) this creates a cool effect when the gallery is viewed.

three snugbugs

Example of the ‘every third’ trick (center column) 

Connecting on Instagram

“Link in the bio”

Live links do not work in individual Instagram photos. If you are posting something that you’d like to link to (like a Facebook event, a blog post or an item you are selling on your online shop) include the note ‘link in the bio’ in your photo comment and update the link in your bio – IG users are getting to know to check your bio for a clickable link.

Hot Tip: Use to create pretty/short links. Just go to and paste in your long link and you’ll get a short and sweet one in return! Set up a free Bitly account and you can even track who’s clicking on your short links!


Instagram is super geared towards hashtags, and clever use of them means people will be able to find you and gives you a good way to find Instagram accounts you might like to follow. Always use hashtags.

Tip: Try to include at least a few and no more than 10 or so per post (10 is a lot!)

Hashtags 411

Local or geography based hashtags

Are you a local business, or on a roadtrip? Then use a local tag! Examples from my stomping grounds

  • #lovestaunton
  • #shopstauntonfirst
  • #StauntonVA

Tip: Not sure where to look for tags or which to use? IG will help you. Hit the magnifying glass on the bottom of your screen and search for something that you think might be a hashtag (be sure to hit ‘tags’ when looking at results) – IG will show you how many times your tag has been used. The more tags = the more likely people will see your IG post!

Branded hashtags

Are you a business? Then pick a few hashtags integrating your business name to use consistently on your posts. Examples from The Snugbug Collective.

  • #3snugbugs
  • #3snugbugs studios
  • #pattybrower
  • #snugbug

Tip: use these tags to start building up a following, encourage your happy customers to tag and integrate tagging into giveaways – something that’s still allowable according to IG’s terms and conditions as of March 2016.

Fun hashtags

It’s ok to use hashtags for fun commentary as well. It won’t add to your reach or people finding you, but it’s a sassy way to show your personality. Examples –

  • #mybassethoundsmellsbad
  • #PeppermintTheBassetForPresident
  • #bassetsrule

Tip: Not sure about capitalization? It’s a personal choice – tagging isn’t cap sensitive, so go with what you like. I like all lower case, but using capital letters at the beginning of words makes hashtags easier to read.

Industry based hashtags

For small businesses this is where you can really reach out and get new followers by posting your content. Choose relevant hashtags that your ideal customers might look for. Some suggestions.

  • #vintage
  • #vintage home
  • #antiqueliving
  • #vintagegoods

Notes on Hashtag use

    • Use phrases that make sense – Good #shopstauntonfirst Bad #shop #staunton #first
    • Look for hashtags with more than a few thousand and less than 500K hits. Too small = no reach, Too big = too large an audience
    • If you are a business or a blogger… watch what others are using and add to your arsenal
    • Keep a list of 10-20 hashtags you use over and over

Hot Tip for iPhone users – use the autocorrect text replacement function on your phone to ‘save’ your most-used hashtags (Settings -> General -> Keyboard -> Text Replacement. So you can set up SSS as #shopstauntonfirst)

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