Instagram: How To Stand Out


When working for a digital marketing agency you have to expect the unexpected. Projects can range from optimizing Facebook ads, to writing copy, to my most interesting task: an Instagram account for Jordan’s one-eyed dog. When I was first presented with the idea I sort of chuckled and looked at Jordan as if he had two heads, but then I started to think about it. This wouldn’t be like any other dog account on Instagram (of which there are literally thousands), this would be a feed full of inspiration, motivation and a positive outlook on life through the eye of an adorable little mutt named Squint. I was tasked with two major undertakings. 1. Craft and post photos every day and 2. Gain followers and likes. You may think you have the greatest pictures on all of Instagram, but if you can’t get followers, no one will see them. We called it @squintsadventures!

Luckily I had experience doing something very similar on a personal project of mine. In April of this year I began a new Instagram account specifically to help develop my photography skills and decided to call it @FoxBowPhotos. I wanted to capture a sense of adventure, exploration, style and American heritage and tell a story through pictures. I knew I was competing with hundreds of photographers and fashion bloggers hoping to accomplish the same thing so I had to earn my share of the marketplace. Through my own trial and error with FoxBow and my new undertaking with Squintsavendures I found the best practices for going viral on Instagram.

1. Have a Clever Handle- Instagram allows you to create a handle that’s different from your actual name. You want to pick a handle that gives followers an idea of what your account is going to be about and a little taste of who you are. When deciding the name for my photography account I made a list of words that I liked and I thought helped explain the aesthetic I was going for. I listed words like arrow, wolf, bay, sail, tie, anchor...anything that came to mind and mixed and matched them till I found something that rolled right off the tongue. @FoxBowPhotos. When deciding on the handle for Squintsadventures Jordan and I were originally toying around with things like @squinttheoneeyeddog, @squintoneeye, @squintthedog, etc. but after a fair bit of brainstorming we shifted toward something that lent itself towards Squint’s story and his positive life. We settled on @SquintsAdventures. Take the time to brainstorm a name that captures exactly what your Instagram will be.

2. Research your Space- Before you even post your first picture, you have to know what everyone else in your space is doing. For FoxBow I looked at a bunch of fashion and photography accounts to find how they edited their pictures, the language they used, what kinds of pictures they had, and the frequency with which they posted. I wanted to make sure that when I launched FoxBow I was in line with the people I wanted to compete with for likes and followers. Some of my biggest inspirations were Kiel James Patrick (@kjp), Adam Gallagher (@iamgalla), and Erick Dent (@erickdent). A designer, blogger, and photographer respectively these three guys manage to capture an entire lifestyle in pictures for millions of fans to see. For Squintsadventures I had to look not only at dog accounts, but at inspirational accounts to find the right mix of fun and motivation. Some of the accounts I looked at were @hellomrchips, @marutaro and the extremely popular @marniethedog. Squintsadventures wasn’t just going to be pictures of an adorable dog, it was going to be a place where people could come for a little positivity to jumpstart their day.

3. Hashtags- The most powerful tools on Instagram are hashtags. Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post, and although that may seem like a lot, I often use 20-30 hashtags per post for FoxBow and Squintsadventures. Finding the right hashtags to use was part of the initial research and an ongoing project as I maintain the account. There are certain hashtags that I use on every post, for example for FoxBow I always use #style #styleblogger #adventure #explore and for Squintsadventures I always use #dogsofinstagram #puppiesofinstagram #cutedog #inspiration, etc. Consistently using these hashtags allows people to repeatedly see your photos when they search the hashtag. An easy way to get likes and follows fast using hashtags is to use #likeforlike #followforfollow and when someone likes your photo, you go and like one of theirs, or if they follow your account, you follow back. This give and take allows you to gain new followers and make new connections.

4. Liking and Following Other Accounts- One of my daily tasks is to like and follow other dog related accounts in an effort to get them to follow us back. The likelihood of the account following you back decreases as the number of their followers increases. If i see an account that has 1800 followers I know they don’t need new followers so they won’t follow back, but if I see a fairly new account with 100-200 followers they will usually follow me back and like my pictures. This can be a bit time consuming but it's a proven tactic.

5. Post Great Content- At the end of the day, you can hashtag until you’re blue in the face and follow 300 related accounts, but if you don’t have good content you won’t be successful. Take high quality, feed-stopping-pictures, take the time to edit them on third party apps, and craft clever and creative captions. For editing apps I recommend VSCO and Afterlight. They both have a ton of great features that will boost the quality of your posts. Taking the extra time to make sure it looks exactly how you want it to could make the difference between 30 likes and 100.

Instagram is my favorite social networking app. Because I am a visual person I love seeing stories told through pictures and it’s an opportunity to not only see what my friends are up to, but to connect with people I may have never encountered otherwise. I follow fashion designers, actors, magazines, cute dogs, and everything in between so my feed is always full of amazing photos. Making FoxBow and Squintsadventures stand out is not an easy undertaking, but I get to be a part of a network of a million stories and bring everyone a little adventure and positivity.