Social Media Speak: How to Avoid an Instagram Faux Pas

By Emily Grenen

Increasingly, Instagram is becoming a popular platform to connect and engage with new audiences. Unlike other domains – article commentary, obligatory birthday wall posts, and lengthy status updates are (almost) done away with. With Instagram, you’re focused on photos that anyone with the app can create, right from their smartphone. The platform is novel not only in the way it reaches people, but also in who it reaches. The vast majority of Instagram users are under the age of 35 – a demographic that ICF’s social media team is eager to reach with smoking cessation tools and information.

So, over the past several months I’ve been helping to develop content in the form of small, polaroid-like images intended to convey a quit tip, motivation, or piece of advice. In the process, I’ve learned about more than the difference between an “Inkwell” and an “Amaro” filter. Despite the ‘photo-focus’ of Instagram, the opportunity to engage with the community beneath that image should not be undervalued. But, as with any social media platform, there are certain do’s and don’ts that you should keep in mind when engaging in Instagram speak:

Do interact and be social! If someone posts a question beneath your post, answer it. If someone compliments the post, thank them. If followers know that there’s a real person behind that account – someone who talks to them like anyone else would – they’ll be more likely to engage.

Don’t reply to an @mention to someone else. Doing so is like interrupting a conversation that you weren’t meant to be a part of.

Do use relevant #hashtags. Hashtags are a great way for people to find your content. But, if you’re using the hashtag #glutenfree alongside a photo of your recent office meeting, your users might be turned off.

Don’t respond to an @mention that seems like a spam post. Plenty of Instagram users are trying to sell a product or service from their account, and they’ll post on any picture they find under a vaguely relevant hashtag. Often, these are one-line compliments or exclamations that don’t have to do with the actual content you’ve posted. Check out that user’s profile to see if they’re legitimate, and if not, don’t feel the need respond.

Do find and engage with the posts of other users by searching relevant hashtags (take note: “relevance” is a reoccurring theme here!) and adding a brief comment. This kind of outreach can help you gain followers.

Engaging in conversation on Instagram is a great way to reach your target audience, as well as to keep the people who are already in your community interested in your content. So, let’s talk about talking! How do you engage on Instagram?

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