Instagram has been at the centre of my latest Masters degree module since September. And, needless to say, I’ve learned some stuff. So, in the spirit of sharing, here are a few tips, tricks and complimentary apps that you might find useful…
Airplane mode has its uses
Instagram’s a great tool, even if you don’t want to post to Instagram. So if you want to use the filters and editing tools available on Instagram (I’m a big fan of the radial and linear tilt shift myself) but want to post your image somewhere else, you can. This great little trick comes courtesy of my pal Jennifer D Begg and is as simple as this: pop your phone on airplane mode and then follow the steps as if you’re posting to Instagram. When you post, however, it will say ‘failed’ but it will still save a copy of that image, filters and all, to your camera roll. When you come out of airplane mode, just delete the failed posting icon in Instagram and you’re done. Oh, but remember to have ‘save original photo’ turned on in your settings.
The above applies to videos too. Instagram is great for making cute little videos by pressing on and off the record button to jump to different scenes. Have an experiment and do it in airplane mode so you can save your videos to your camera roll and watch them back before having to post anything to Instagram. Even if I’m making an IG video this way, I’ll still do it in airplane mode, save a copy, watch it to check it’s okay, and then reload into live Instagram.
Scheduling WILL save you time
I struggled with the issue of scheduling, which is now second nature for most of the channels I work with, be it blogs or social media. You can’t schedule natively via Instagram, although you can now save drafts which could be turned into a scheduling system of sorts. For work I use Social Sign In and while it does retrospectively pull in the metrics from our corporate Instagram account after we’ve posted, we can’t schedule content (because Instagram’s API won’t allow it). Creating and posting live was taking me a lot of time. I cut this down a little bit by emailing posts to myself, along with images but this was fiddly – it meant copying text from my email, saving an image into my camera roll and flitting manually between all of these apps. All a bit messy and it left plenty of room for error, especially when you’re trying to do something at speed.
So, I hopped over to Buffer, the scheduling tool I use for my personal social media accounts (free version). I unhooked my personal Instagram account and added the OU’s account – the free version of Buffer only allows you to add one account per channel. There are a few options for scheduling – you can set your peak times for posting, say 5pm every day, and ‘buffer’ your post to schedule them, just by hitting the ‘buffer’ button. Or you can schedule more specifically and press ‘schedule’ allowing you to enter an exact time and date as far into the future as you want. Buffering will just drop your post into the next available slot and you can pre-set more than one post-time per day. You can find out much more about this directly via Buffer. I prefer to scheduling as it gives you a bit more control. For personal stuff, my content is less time sensitive so buffering works well, but for corporate stuff, I could be posting around a TV series so timing is essential and I might need to post twice in an evening in quick succession and then nothing for a day or two.
While Buffer won’t post directly to Instagram (another API issue) it gives you a reminder on your smartphone. So if I want to post at 4pm on Tuesday, up pops a reminder on my phone at 4pm on Tuesday. I click it and go through to Buffer where it shows me my scheduled post and I just have to follow the steps – Buffer then copies the images and text for me, opens up Instagram (make sure you’re in the right account if you have multiples on your phone) and away you go. If you miss your Buffer reminder you can still go back into Buffer and look at past reminders and post from there. It’s saved me so much time and while I don’t always post when the reminder tells me to, I’m not far off, and the amount of time it takes me to post is much quicker. Of course, this relies on some sort of organisation and pre-planning posts ahead of time. Buffer really came into its own when I scheduled content, one post per day, for the Christmas period when no one would be in the office. And I scheduled everything using the desktop version of Buffer which is more comfortable than the app when using for long periods (but the reminders will come up on your phone only). One downside I did stumble upon is that the free version of Buffer only allows you to schedule 10 posts at a time.
For me, Buffer also serves as a kind of library – a place to store your text and images. Even if you schedule them, you don’t have to post and can just ignore the reminders and save the content, shuffle the order if something else takes priority, and you’re free to edit the posts as little or as much as you like before they go live, so nothing is final.
Think outside the box
I hate that term but I’m using in in reference to thinking outside of Instagram for your Instagram posts. And now that IG accepts more than just square photos and videos, you don’t need to be boxed in creatively. Literally. Enough of the cheesy analogies. Don’t be afraid to use other apps to enhance your IG posts These are some of my recommendations:
Great for helping to create a brand, look and feel, and style. Great for creating templates which can be adapted time and again. Great for sharing those templates with work colleagues and if you have Canva for Work ($12 per month per user) you can load in brand colours, fonts and logos. Canvas has just added infographics features too and there’s an app too, although this isn’t as smooth as the desktop version.
Short videos which play start to finish, then finish to start and back again. Kind of like an eternal rewind and if the timing is right, they look excellent.
Speed up that video content. (turning boring queue into something more engaging).
This is a great app if you have multiple photos but don’t want to clutter your Instagram feed with all of them. You could, of course, post them as an Instagram Story but if you want them to live beyond 24 hours, take a look at InstaFrame and choose from a huge range of frame layout for both images and video, including slideshows, collages and even videos inside videos, with the option to add text, audio and stickers. Instagram has its own layout app, aptly called Layout, but it’s not nearly as advanced as this. Opposite is an example of finding a layout that suits the shape of the images and here’s how we used it to show off a ‘shelfie’ in the library.
This enables you to really manipulate your photos with some pretty advanced features, all on your smartphone. There’s a timer so you can take photos on the go and a set of frames, filters, crops and ‘the lab’ where you can doctor your image as much as you like, from vignette to exposure to rotation, tints duotones and soft focus.
This turns your photos and videos into works of arts with some really excellent filters. If you’re going for a natural look, Prisma won’t be for you, but if far-fetched is your thing then you’ll love it. You can tone down the filters by sliding your finger to the left on your image before saving. I used two apps on the image here: ColorSplash to turn the background into black and white and Prisma to highlight the colour in the original image.
This is a filter app but they’re pretty cool ones, ranging from a variety of black and white options, to scratches (like you get on old photos), textures to make it look like your photo is printed on material, space effects and light effects. It’s worth playing with.
Make the colour in your images stand out by highlighting it. Choose which elements to turn mono and which to highlight using the tip of your finger. This one is a lot of fun.
This app doesn’t look easy to use when you go in (it looks a bit unfriendly and unreliable) but it works. Want to spread your image across more than one square in Instagram? Then use this – load up your photo, decide how many squares you want it to take up (in multiples of three, of course) and it will slice the photo and number the pieces so you can post them in the right order, each with a unique caption if that’s what you want. Asda use this kind of feature incredibly well on their Instagram account.
A quick note about apps and filters – when a new app comes it it gets over-used. Prisma pix were ten a penny when it first launch but now they’re not. Experiment with apps while they’re new and get a feel for how they might work for you and your brand, but maybe wait a few weeks until you start using them on your posts so the impact will be greater.
Community management: And for my next post…
Tune in for my next post (coming soon) on tips and tricks for immersing yourself into an Instagram community, engaging with your followers, sharing third-party content on Instagram, collaboration and IG etiquette. This was an eye-opener for me and, spoiler alert… it’s very time consuming!