Being the ninth most visited place on the web, Instagram has become quite crowded. People of the most contrasting backgrounds gather to discuss Christiano Ronaldo’s success and draw inspiration from National Geographic’s landscapes. They all have different worldviews and occasionally experience “bad hair days”. How is it possible to make everyone feel at home on your account?
That’s what etiquette was invented for in the real world. And, just like in the real world, etiquette on Instagram builds your reputation by helping you to:
Be kind and responsive
Articles on social media management tend to focus on platform algorithms. But social media — and Instagram — are about people. It is a place where users form communities, share ideas, seek gratification and entertainment. By following the norms of etiquette, you shift your focus from handling the platform to handling people. Understanding their intentions and helping them solve their issues with respect should always be at the heart of your business..
Bounce back from mistakes
People are unpredictable. You may have the most comprehensive strategy of dealing with angry customers and follow it to a tee, and still, someone will be disappointed. Applying good manners as you untwine the confusion will help you do it more successfully.
Everyone makes mistakes. However, pointing fingers as a mistake happens never helps anyone. Being able to admit everyone’s imperfection and make amends helps a brand look sincere and genuine even in the most questionable situations.
Focus on the positive image
As a brand, you are a source of inspiration and a teacher for your followers. Cutting behaviors that may distract you from setting a high standard — and hurt someone’s feelings — will help you stay awesome.
Have good ROI
Good manners reflect strategic thinking. Etiquette saves time, improves understanding, and ensures all parties get what they need. Additionally, Instagram etiquette as a set of universal rules obliges you to align your content, voice and overall tactics. At the end of the day, consistency is what’s believed to matter the most.
Ten Do’s of Instagram etiquette
Only you know why and how you should use Instagram to bring the most benefit to your brand. Yet, if you want to gain a strong following, you should reckon with your followers’ expectations too. Here are some unspoken etiquette rules that will make your profile a better place for everyone:
Do: be human
From highly professional images and curated captions, Instagram etiquette has switched to showing more of the personal side of an account owner. Looking all flawless and knowledgeable doesn’t keep your engagement high anymore. Whether as an individual or a company, you want to show your true personality. So, stop relying on characterless stock photos and start showing what you are up to with real behind-the-scenes images. Thankfully, it’s now easy to find a photo editing app that can help you make your phone pictures look like a regular masterpiece from Annie Leibovitz.
Meaningful captions and conversational tone also matter. Speaking to your audience online as you would in person is one of the fundamental chatting rules. It is so easy to go crazy with emojis or, on the contrary, adopt business jargon. However, trying to emphasize your expertise too much can make you look unapproachable.
Do: react to all comments
As someone leaves a comment under your post, it means they reviewed it and took time to react. That’s valuable, and it’s good manners to acknowledge it.
Additionally to looking nice, responding to comments can significantly improve engagement. A survey proves that users are more likely to comment on posts where they see an author’s active and immediate involvement. Moreover, a lot of users pay particular attention to negative comments and the way the company responds. So, depending on how swiftly and tactfully you tackle angry reviews, you can earn or lose customers.
Here’s a great example of how a beauty brand SugarBearHair handles their comments. A simple acknowledgement signals to the rest of your followers that your business pays attention to every single piece of feedback and has nothing to hide.
Do: post situational content in stories
Without a doubt, stories are an important tool for your Instagram marketing. Still, there are no definite rules as to what you should post in your stories and what should go in the feed. Due to their fleeting nature, stories are often seen as a place for unserious, fun content. They will disappear in a day, so why care? While posts, on the other hand, are where the face of your brand is showing through and what gets you discovered by new audiences. Everything about your brand is important, so why not make posts out of it?
First, new posts appear at the top of the feed, and no one likes to be bombarded by photos made on the go. Stories, on the other hand, appear more delicately and are easy to scroll. And while stories indeed are mostly used for casual, less official communication, they are perfect for sharing moments and engaging with your existing audience. Since they will go away in 24 hours, there is more room for creativity.
Next, while statistics show that 70% of users watch Instagram stories with sound on, proper Instagram etiquette suggests using captions in your spoken stories. This way, you highlight the most important theses and help your followers decide if they should stop tapping and listen to valuable information.
Do: your homework before advertising
If you get to collaborate with another business, think of the best way to incorporate their product or service into your brand image. Remember that more than 50% of social media users consider products promoted by an influencer, no matter mega or nano, to be better than others. So, think of your followers and whether the thing you’re promoting will indeed be beneficial for them.
Before you start writing a salesy caption, reach out to your partner business representative and discuss your ideas. Make sure their product or service really addresses the pain point of your audience.
Do: watch your grammar
Social media in general, and Instagram in particular, have gifted us with the way to share ideas instantly with thousands of people. However, one should be careful not to send a mixed message. That’s where grammar steps in. Look at the example:
A comma changes the meaning drastically. But what would happen if there wasn’t any punctuation at all? Depending on what a user is thinking, it could hurt them and provoke a landslide of negative comments towards your brand.
Good grammar is one more rule of Instagram etiquette, boosting your credibility and adding to the legitimacy of the information. Mistakes, though, can lead to being laughed at or even getting hateful comments.
The Don’ts of Instagram etiquette
The following practices are a no-no in terms of Instagram etiquette as they do good to no one.
Don’t: use other’s content without giving proper credit
Content creators spend insane amounts of time and money to perfect their work. Using someone’s image or text in your marketing would look like someone walking in your house and eating everything you cooked for dinner. Instead, ask permission to repost and always give credit. Some authors may want to get paid, while others are okay with having their work utilized by many for free. This will spare you mental health and, in some cases, reputation.
For example, Motionleap by Lightricks (iOS and Android) is an app that helps users create motion graphics from their images, so it’s no wonder that the company often showcases user-generated content on their Instagram page to provide followers with social proof and attention-grabbing examples of use cases.
To increase brand trust and connect with customers on a personal level, the company always get obtains permission from the person who originally posted these examples before reposting, and they always make sure to give credit in the caption, just like in the example below:
Source: Motionleap Instagram
Don’t: post too often
This tip goes in line with the one about stories. Instagram is all about visuals and consistency, so posting quality content regularly is a must. But even if you can craft multiple high-quality images within a short time, think about how it would feel to scroll through your feed only to see photos from the same event?
Besides annoying your followers, you also risk being penalized by Instagram for spam. So, if you absolutely must post several photos, consider combining them in one post using a carousel.
Don’t: obsess over getting new followers
Businesses know that retaining an existing customer is 5 times cheaper than attracting a new one. The same goes for Instagram followers. Additionally, seeing you tailoring all your content to enticing new followers can upset your current audience that wants to get to know you better.
Having a small and loyal community around your brand is much more valuable than a crowd of strangers who don’t know anything about you and don’t engage by any means. Your followers will only be helpful for your business if they support what you’re doing. Create a buyer persona and work on getting that person, not random people.
Eventually, the real value of your Instagram efforts are off the Instagram — it is the leads and sales.
Don’t: follow and unfollow
By an unspoken Instagram following etiquette, it is polite to follow someone after they start following you. That’s why some newbie accounts mass follow users to get them as followers in return. After some time, that business account unfollows most of those users, causing annoyance and oncoming unfollowing. Not only that’s upsetting for users, but it’s also harmful to the account itself as the Instagram algorithm punishes spammy behavior.
Don’t: use hashtags that attract spammers
Tailored, specific hashtags are a great tool to connect with like-minded individuals and help your ideal customers find you. However, posting random hashtags can attract bots that leave automated comments and apply mass following tactics. Here is an example of a post using the most popular and hence generic hashtags. The comments are probably left by bots, judging from names and the fact that their accounts are recently created.
A special word for Instagram contests. Some users live off participation in contests and specifically search for hashtags like #giveaway, #contest etc. As soon as the contest is over, they will stop engaging with your content and unfollow you. Besides lessening the chances of your genuine audience winning, having too many spam followers can actually drown your account.
Sometimes things don’t go as planned, but complaining about your customers or competitors was never good manners. Instead of going about an ungrateful audience and unfair algorithm, try to figure out what could be done better. After all, if your posts don’t get enough visibility, chances are they are not as good as you think they are.
These are the basic rules of Instagram etiquette for business, called to help you create a better impression and stand out from your competition in a positive way. Mind that social media is constantly evolving, and the dos and don’t may change with time. Yet, being kind and respectful will never get old-fashioned. Good luck!