Improving your Instagram Performance: Part 2
Your Instagram feed is like your elevator pitch
Your picture scrolls upon a feed for a second and is soon swallowed up by others in the scroll unless you stand out. Standing out is hard and there is so much pressure to conform with hopes of one day going viral. Slow your scroll, take some time to analyze a few things to determine if your pitch is right.
In part one of this series, I briefly touched on making goals for what you really want to gain out of using Instagram. Is it sales/ bookings, growing your email list or being an inspiration? Defining these goals will naturally create a path for you to work within so you aren’t just posting on a whim and hoping for the best.
What is good Instagram performance, actually? When you go to the back end of your account, you can see numbers (analytics) which tell you how your posts are doing overall. You can also put your feed in a single view to look at your numbers if it is easier for you that way. Less than 1% engagement is considered very low. If you find that this is the ballpark that you are in, don’t be discouraged, you just need to take some time to set a goal and put together a plan as well. 1-3.5% engagement is average, go ahead and pat yourself on the back for doing a good job but be ready to grow. 3.5-6% is considered high engagement, if this is you, you have a pretty good understanding of what your followers like and you are delivering for sure. 6% and greater is considered very high engagement.
*Make sure to stop by the merch shop and pick up Hashtags for bakers to help improve your Instagram performance
Improving your Instagram performance
Pictures & hashtags
Curating your brand is really important especially on Instagram because it is a visual platform. Not every baker has a best friend who is a photog AND is always available nor do most have a DSLR to take optimal pictures.
Creating recipes, perfecting decor and design with sugar and such is hard enough, now I have to take better and more thoughtful pictures? Honestly, that is what I thought until I had my first “good picture” and it created a new mindset. The biggest thing that I see among bakers and decorators is the lack of integration of photography into their business. Think about it, the big business that you shop with- Target, Adidas, Nissan, they all consider photography as a big part of their business so why shouldn’t you?
Photography can be time consuming, no doubt. Posting quality pictures on Instagram on a consistent basis can quickly become a time suck if you don’t use the resources available for you. Here are a few things to consider about pictures to better your IG engagement and grow your style.
Take time to decide what your photography style is. You may be going for more product pictures than styling. Recognizing the difference can definitely reduce the stress in curating your ideal feed.
Take these 4 cakes for example, I am a stylist and from my pictures, I hope it is somewhat obvious. The first picture is not a styled photo but instead more of a product photo. The second picture is just lightly styled incorporating utensils, linen and a subtle backdrop. The third and fourth pictures incorporate more props and color components. All of these photos were shot using backdrops, different shooting differences and different angles
Lori Mahoney of Lori’s Custom Cakes does a phenomenal job with product photography. Clean and well lit, her cake always takes center stage. With cake stands to compliment the design, Lori uses either a grey backdrop or a nicely finished wooden table to rest her stand. Although she doesn’t use styling props to tell the story of her brand, from her style of photography, I can tell precision and detail is of the utmost importance to her. You can see more of her cakes here to better understand product photography.
Likewise, Liz Joy of Inspired to Taste does a great job. She travels a bit off of the beaten path with her pictures lightly styled using positioned inspiration as back drops and natural occurring elements. Liz’s styling is playful and artistic capitalizing on her artistic and branding prowess.
No matter if you choose to capture your creations with product styling only, light or heavy styling, there is no wrong way to go with that. Master that space any way you can, think about the story and impression you want the viewer to walk away with after seeing your picture. With that being said, you must make sure you are putting out the best quality of pictures. Booking photography sessions or renting equipment are unsustainable for the long term, start saving little by little until you have enough.
2. Try taking pictures of your cakes, cookies and sweet treats from different angles. When I am shooting a cake, I can take 40 pictures, pick 10 favorites and only share two. I’ve been sitting on useful content for months and didn’t even realize it. Pictures shot from different angles and in macro is a great way to highlight detail and show different perspective. Not only will this give you more wiggle room with content on your feed but it is also a great way to encourage engagement through IG Stories. I learned how to shoot and recognize different angles from my time working styled shoots. I wasn’t a photographer then, just a cake provider and loved getting back pictures so I could swoon over all of the beauty! Naturally the cake didn’t get many pictures, but you know what did? THE RINGS! Second to the bride in wedding styled shoots, the rings were the star so I’ve looked at so many ring shots and gained perspective. Here are a few to see and get a better idea of how I glean from these images to improve mine.
3. Use stock photos! Stock photos are so underutilized in the baking industry, partly because there aren’t many available for the baking process for bakers to access. On a monthly basis, I release stock photos completely free to download and use without crediting to help bakers with just that problem. Another great place to get stock photos is Unsplash. I knew I hit the stock photo jackpot when I found this free resource. Using stock photos allows you to post to your account more often because you don’t always have to draw from your own well. If you choose to use stock photos, do your best to make sure that they match your brand cosmetically and the quality is up to your standards.
4. By all means, keep it clean. Not now, not ever, like never ever ever EVER post a picture in a big mess. Yes, baking is messy. Decorating can get even messier but not cleaning up your works pace before snapping a picture and sharing it is taboo. You don’t have to have a spotless place that looks like nobody lives or works in your space but what you present should give anyone who sees your picture a sense of security that you are handling cake properly. Designate a nice spot where you can hang a backdrop or put together a set for your cakes. It doesn’t have to be a permanent home if you are worried about space. I live in a small home with 3 kiddos and my awesome husband and we really don’t have much space. I decorate all of my cakes in our dinning room and when I’m ready to shoot, I move into the living room. To get ready, I have to move 2 sofas out of the way, hang up a backdrop and bring out my lighting. After testing my camera settings with the light, I bring up my prop box for a set. When I’m finished, I have to put everything back. By looking at my pictures, had you imagined behind it all there is a living room smashed into the corner so I can work?
How your work space looks in the back shouldn’t be part of the story you share. If you are looking for a few more tips on taking better pictures of your cakes, even with just using a phone, check out this post here
Add gusto to your posting and Instagram perform by using
Do you add hashtags to each of your posts? The hashtag is here to stay and it can be one of your greatest assets on Instagram.
The hashtag is a very important part to how your content will be discovered. The ability to follow hashtags has now increased your chances of reaching a new viewer. Did you know a post with just 1 hashtag will perform 12.6% better than a post with none? Furthermore, posts with hashtags are 55% more likely to be shared. Besides you being more discover-able, the use of hashtags can help you to understand your competition better.
So how exactly do you use a hashtag to get more followers and convert to grow your business? Throwing a hashtag in front of every word #in #your #post will get you seen but wont necessarily get you in front of Instagram viewers who care to genuinely engage. Find out which hashtags your current followers like and your competitors use. Don’t forget influential people in your industry and related hashtags. Don’t leave out popular hashtags like these:
#cake #Ilovecake #yum #celebrate #bake #batter #bakefromscratch #yummy #fun #love
#cakecakecake #sprinkle #baker #momlovesbaking #cupcakeproject #beautifulcuisines #chocolate
Have no idea how to start generating hashtags to grow your Instagram? I’ve got you covered! After 30 hours of research, I’ve organized over 400 hashtags for bakers. You read that right, over 400! They are all broken up into categories relevant to baking, cake, cookies, sprinkles, flavors, business and products. This resource makes it easy for you to input hashtags to your posts and keep it moving .
Hashtag rules and practices
Instagram now allows you to use up to 30 hashtags per post, that is 30 opportunities! The cardinal rule is to always use relevant hashtags and not be spammy. Although you have the chance to add thirty hashtags, you don’t have to. I generally stay within 11-22 and mix them up so it doesn’t look as if my post is promotional or inauthentic. It is helpful to look around at accounts in the baking industry and count how many hashtags people generally use to find the sweet spot.
Hashtags don’t use spaces. If you choose to create your own hashtags, make sure that you don’t have a space. Hashtags also can’t include characters like $, &, *, !,+ and ^ but they can include emojis YAY!
Character count. Even though there isn’t a limit on how many letters you can have, try not to have a lot of long hashtags in a row, mix it up. You want your hashtags to not only flow with each other but also with the picture and your caption.
As you are going through your profile and making changes, each time that you do, write it down. Make sure that your account is set to business so you can see the analytics. Do a certain number of hashtags bring your more engagement or less? Are full on cake pictures performing better than detailed shots? Keep record and that will create a clear path to what you need to focus on next to improve your Instagram performance. Don’t forget to stop by the BLK MERCH shop to grab a copy of Hashtags for bakers
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