Answers to Your Firm's Top Instagram Questions (and a Few Best Practices)

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Instagram is still a largely unused social media platform for law firms and that gives it a lot of potential for those firms that decide to incorporate it into their social strategy.

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about Instagram best practices so I wanted to dedicate an article to answer them. The most common question: "Is it worth the time and resources to creating and maintaining an Instagram presence?" Read on to learn the answer to this question and many more.

Q: Does my company need an Instagram presence?

This isn't a simple yes or no answer - it really depends on the size of your company/firm and its goals. Instagram is a great place to showcase the "softer side" of companies - such as culture, diversity and inclusion, community service and pro bono activities - and it can be a powerful recruiting tool.

However, you should only dedicate time and effort to those social platforms regularly used by your target audiences, otherwise your social strategy can lose its power and your internal team, which could instead be dedicating their time to more strategic and fruitful marketing efforts, may wind up unfocused.

Also if your firm is on the smaller side with limited resources, it may not be a wise idea to utilize all of the social media channels at once, especially if your clients aren't using them, as I noted above.

A much smarter content strategy would be to focus on the two top channels used by your clients and other important constituencies, track engagement, and then reevaluate in a year whether you're on the right platforms.

Q: How do I get started creating an Instagram presence for my company?

First things first, you need to set up a business account. This way, followers can click on your ‘contact’ button to get in contact with you directly from your Instagram page. You can also access Instagram’s analytics tools to obtain important statistics about the impressions and reach of your posts.

...outline your goals and how you will utilize the platform in conjunction with the other social platforms

Before you post anything to Instagram, I recommend that you outline your goals and how you will utilize the platform in conjunction with the other social platforms you are currently using to engage with audiences. Understanding your end goals will help you plan out your strategy and tailor your posts to fit that strategy. Remember one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to the social platforms and your content needs to be adjusted and maximized for each.

Think about asking yourself and your team the following questions:

  • What are our brand attributes that we want to convey on this platform?
  • Who are we trying to ultimately reach?
  • Are we trying to build awareness? Generate leads? Promote the brand?
  • How do our competitors find success on Instagram?
  • What social media marketing strategies have worked in the past?

Q: How do I create visually arresting images for Instagram if I don’t have access to a graphic designer?

Images are very important on Instagram to help your content to be noticed. My answer to this question is always to use the free online graphic design tool for non-designers, Canva.com. You can upload your logo and easily create custom images that are perfectly sized for each social platform, including Instagram. I love using headshots of lawyers and other VIPs and repurposing them with a quote in bold typeface (with a link to accompanying copy the web site). The site has tons of preexisting templates do you don’t have to create images from scratch.

Q: Can I hide a post from a particular person?

While there's not currently a way to hide your posts from certain followers, there are settings you can change to hide your Instagram story from certain followers, help limit the posts you see, and control whether just friends or the public can see the posts you make.

Q: Should I have a private or public profile?

My take on this is that for individuals, your profile should be private if you’re using Instagram for personal use since there is no audience selector to limit who can see your posts as there is with Facebook. Limit your followers to only your friends, family and a select number of others who you truly want to allow to peek into your personal life (remember anything can be screenshotted leaving a permanent record even after you delete something).

If you use Instagram for building your professional brand, by all means, make that profile public but only post content that supports your professional goals. I would limit the amount of personal things you post on that account and instead have a private separate account for posts about your family and friends.

When in doubt change your profile to private for maximum security - this way you approve your followers. Also note that you can switch a public profile to private and vice versa at any time.

Q: How do I block someone and what happens when I do?

To block someone, go to their profile, click on the three dots on the top right hand side of the page and choose “block.” Once you block someone their comments and likes on your posts will disappear as will any photos of theirs or yours in which you were tagged. You can easily unblock someone but it may take Instagram a few days to restore their likes/comments, I have found this to be a bit buggy.

Q: Should I be using hashtags on Instagram?

Instagram hashtags are truly your best friend in building a strong presence on the platform. Hashtags help your brand get discovered, categorize posts, increase your engagement, attract followers and strengthen the exposure of your brand by helping you reach out to your target audience. According to recent Instagram statistics, there is an advantage to using hashtags. Posts that have at least one hashtag have higher engagement levels than those that have none.

Some individuals create public profiles to build their professional brand and hashtags will help you do that, but only if you use the right hashtags. There are online tools such as Hashtagify and Ritetag to help you find the top relevant hashtags for your brand and trending topics on Twitter and Instagram. Include geographical tags in your photos to attract local attention and increase location-specific marketing. A word to the wise though - don’t overuse hashtags or your content can look spammy. Keep in mind that hashtags won’t work if your profile is private. Only your followers can see them and sort your content by them.

Also add relevant tags on each post and clickable hashtags in as many of your Instagram Stories as possible. Remember that all company pages should be public and effectively use hashtags.

Q: What kind of content should I post to Instagram if I’m a business or trying to build my brand?

I would advise to keep content light on Instagram. So don’t post the same things you would post on LinkedIn, which is for more business oriented content. The platform is all about photos so you must have visually arresting, high quality and correctly sized photos to capture the attention of your audience. Instagram is a great place to feature content about your people and the good works of your company as well as a look at the company culture, community service activities and anything else that can bring your company to life and differentiate it. It’s a great place to feature recruiting content that will appeal to potential new hires. You can also provide glimpses of firm life and your contributions to the community. Think environmentally sustainable practices, diversity practices or charitable contributions—and always show, don’t tell through imagery.

Instagram is a great way to humanize your brand with behind-the-scenes snapshots into company life. Your Instagram followers want to know more about the people behind the brand. You can also elevate your thought leadership position by sharing snippets from client alerts, quotes from lawyers that were excerpted from interviews as well as use industry statistics to drive home points using compelling visuals. If you don't have access to a graphic designer, make canva.com your best friend. It's an online (mostly free) graphic design tool for non-graphic designers.

Try posting informational content. These can function as mini blog posts that are actually promotional marketing copy, where you can give bulleted/key points about a main idea in an easily digestible way. Some ideas include showcasing the work/life balance benefits of your company and evergreen content (think of posts such as "why you need a will" or "five ways to protect your startup").

Seek inspiration from your competitors and follow their accounts to get a better sense of what they’re posting so you can create more engaging content.

Q: When is the best time to post to Instagram? And how often should a company post an update?

Posting content regularly to Instagram keep your audience engaged and help you build followers, but you also must be active when your followers are most active. Here’s why: Instagram posts have a fairly short lifespan because of the platform’s algorithm. If your followers don’t see them within the first few hours, they likely won’t see them at all. Think about how you personally use Instagram - after awhile you stop scrolling down your feed. To be successful at using Instagram post updates when your audience is online to maximize your reach and post updates often.

Q: Should I utilize the Stories option?

Absolutely! Instagram gives you the unique opportunity to tell great brand stories through visual content. In fact storytelling should be your guiding content principle on Instagram.

Q: Any best practices for captions and descriptions?

Research has shown that longer captions are more common, but shorter descriptions see more engagement. Also remember that you have quite a bit of space to tell your story with each post - you have more than 2,000 characters to use up in your Instagram captions, so use your words wisely.

Q: How can a company effectively engage with followers on Instagram?

Ask questions in your captions of interest to your followers. Use polls in your Stories and get people to cast their vote. Ask them to write in answers to questions and publish the responses in another post.

Encourage followers to submit photos or offer a contest and then include their contributions in your feed tagging them. Most law firms aren’t doing this yet so stand out from the pack and be the innovator!

Q: How do you measure the success of your efforts on Instagram?

Just like with the investment in other social media platforms, it often takes some time to see the ROI of your efforts. So be patient and stay the course. With a business account you can use analytics to track which posts are resonating most with your followers and then adjust your Instagram strategy to create additional content like that.

Instagram recently announced that the total number of likes on posts from others – which currently appear as hearts on the app – will disappear from certain test users in Instagram’s main feed, profile pages and permalink pages in the U.S. starting this November. It will then be rolled out more broadly. The removal of likes has been tested and rolled out in several other countries.

While the owner of the account can still see their own likes, their followers won’t know the like count. The idea is to create a less pressurized environment where people feel comfortable expressing themselves.

Your likes won’t completely disappear – you can still view the like count on your own photos and videos – just not on posts from others. While some are in favor of this change, others have voiced their opinion that this will affect engagement on the app, especially for companies seeking to use Instagram for business leads. Stay tuned for more on this topic.

Happy posting!

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[Stefanie Marrone helps law firms effectively tell their stories and find their unique voices. Over the last 17 years, she has worked with some of the most prominent and innovative law firms in the world, developing and executing global revenue generating business development and communications strategies, including media relations, branding, and multichannel content marketing and social media campaigns. She is very passionate about using social media for lead generation and brand building. She has a diverse range of experience in both Big Law and mid-size/small-law firms. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her latest writing on JD Supra as well as her blog The Social Media Butterfly.]

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