Jenn Herman is a social media consultant, speaker, and globally recognized Instagram expert.
She is the forefront blogger on Instagram marketing and her blog, Jenn’s Trends, has won the title of a Top 10 Social Media Blog in 2014, 2015, and 2016.
Through her blog, consulting, and speaking Jenn provides tips, resources, and training for small to medium sized businesses that need to structure their social media strategies.
Her business background includes Administration, Sales, Human Resources, and Marketing and she enjoys bringing all these skills together to help you grow your business.
Jenn has been featured in Inc., Fox News, the Verge, Yahoo Finance, CBS Radio LA, and numerous other podcasts and publications.
She is the author of 'Instagram for Business for Dummies', 'The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Instagram' and 'Stop Guessing: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Social Media Strategy'.
Instagram best practices, secrets and hacks with Jenn Herman of Jenn’s Trends
Ready to up your Instagram game?
For many of us we realize the power of Instagram but how to harness that power for our businesses and beyond remains a bit of a mystery.
Instagram expert and social media consultant, Jenn Herman of Jenn’s Trends shares insider instagram tips and tricks to improve your Instagram profile, feed, and Instagram story, plus little known Instagram best practices for raising engagement and leads.
Jenn has been consulting with clients in various capacities to build strategy not just around Instagram, but around social media in general for many years. She has a loyal and engaged following on Instagram of over 17k. Her book, ‘Instagram for Dummies’ will be coming out later in 2019.
Read on for 20 Instagram secrets to uplevel your Instagram profile in minutes.
How to do an Instagram live the right way
Instagram live has a limited life span
When it comes to Instagram Live, it’s important to remember it's a live broadcast. Just like you would do Facebook Live or Periscope, or whatever it is.
Thankfully, Instagram makes the process super simple: press one button and you’re live.
While the video is there in your Instagram profile, you can either share it or not. If you share it after the broadcast, it's still only “lives” for 24 hours, and then it's gone. It's not like a Facebook live that stays on your page forever.
Instagram Live is very short form content in terms of its longevity. You can do up to one hour of live recording and then it will literally chop you off. It will end your broadcast after about 59 minutes and 59 seconds. A little timer starts flashing and you have 30 seconds left.
It is one of those things where you have a limited capacity with it. So you do want to make sure you save it immediately after broadcast to your camera roll.
How to save your Instagram live
You can repurpose Instagram lives to YouTube or Facebook or your blog post or whatever you want. You’ll have the MP4 version available after recording but you have to immediately, as soon as you end the broadcast, save it.
To do this, there's a SAVE button in little white letters in the top right corner. You literally have to click that save button right then because if you don't, you cannot save it after the fact.
Also, if it’s a long video, make sure you have enough space on your phone to download it. When you see a pop-up that says ‘Video Saved’ you know it’s been added to your camera roll. From there you can save it to your Google Drive or Dropbox.
Additionally, if you had a guest on your live you cannot save the video. This may be a privacy or security concern if they haven't given permission to come on. They don't want you saving the video and repurposing it because of the type of outlet that it is with a 24 hour product.
In that case, you’ll have to use a screencast recorder. After you go live, you share it for the 24 hours. Then use a screencast device on your phone and leave your phone in a quiet room because that's the only way you can pick up the audio. Then let the screencast record the entire live video recording on a playback.
It’s not ideal, but it works.
Unfortunately, right now we can’t save videos on Instagram where they will live on longer than 24 hours. But hopefully this capacity will be available soon.
Use it to your advantage to showcase whatever it is you need to showcase -- upcoming podcast episodes, blog posts, lead magnets -- you name it. It’s still a powerful tool for getting more eyeballs on your content.
Why being consistent with Instagram live is so important
In general, you want consistency, and the reason why is people need routine in their lives.
Jen shares, “I've got 17 plus thousand followers on Instagram. And I will have on average, about 100 people show up live to a show. But at any given time, there's maybe only 20 to 30 people on a live at any given minute of that show.”
In order to get more people to watch your Instagram live its best to give them consistency so they know what to expect and when to show up.
Otherwise the only people who will see your video are the ones who are actually on Instagram at the very moment you go live -- typically a very small percentage of your audience.
Let people know ahead of time that you’ll be going live and have a set schedule in place as much as possible.
Although it may not always be the best time for them, if they come back you can get a lot of views on the replay. Additionally, you can repurpose videos to YouTube for added views and engagement.
Creating episodic content allows people the opportunity to show up. They can set reminders and will become conditioned to it. Twenty-four hours before you go live, invite your audience to join you. Share the topic of the video and the time you plant to start.
Doing this is a way to constantly build momentum and encourage people to tune in.
You don’t have to be perfectly polished in your Instagram live
Jenn shares that one of her most popular Instagram lives was actually one of her least polished.
She says, “I always tell people to this day that one of my a highest performing videos was a shit show: The doorbell rang, the dog was barking, the maintenance guy showed up, my camera fell down. Like everything that could go wrong in one broadcast went wrong in that broadcast.
I literally had to get up and leave the camera multiple times in the middle of a live shot -- it's like this is the worst thing you could do. But it was so real, raw and honest.
I stumble over my words and my kid shows up on camera sometimes. These things happen, it's perfectly normal. But that's why I love live video. You're you and your audience loves you.”
How to use Instagram live for maximum impact
Jenn suggests having a regular recap show where you go live on Instagram and recap your podcast interviews, blog posts or any other news from that week.
Use that time to give out a couple top tips from each of these pieces of content. By doing this you’ll be teasing your upcoming podcast or blog post so people want to tune in or read.
You could easily do this in a 20 or 30 minute show once every two weeks.
Why Instagram live just might beat solo podcast episodes
If you’re a podcaster who has a hard time doing solo episodes, using Instagram lives instead may be just what you need.
With lives, you get that real time interaction back and forth where you can see people throwing up the heart or emojis. They're asking questions that are acknowledging what you're saying.
It allows you to keep that momentum going in your show where it's not just you talking to a camera and trying to keep your energy up. You can feed off the energy of the people watching.
Then when you take that recording and play it back it's much more conversational and less lecturing for the listeners. Instead they’ll feel like they’re part of the dialogue.
How to use Instagram stories to uplevel your business
Whether you love them, hate them or just don’t understand them, Instagram stories are still a powerful business tool.
An Instagram story is short form content that, as with Instagram lives, last only 24 hours.
You upload a vertical photo or video component and photos will play for seven seconds. Videos play for up to 15 seconds. It runs on auto rotate going from one story post to the next automatically in a play through of that person's story.
If you upload three posts in a story, when the three are done, it rotates and goes to the next person in your queue. It will continue to autoplay through the content there for 24 hours and then it is gone. It's short form content that's meant to disappear.
Why Instagram stories are so valuable for businesses
Jenn shares, “People tell me this all the time. ‘Oh boy, on Instagram stories I can just be myself because it disappears after 24 hours, it's fine I don't have to be so polished and professional.’ Whereas on their regular feed content it's overly edited, polished and professional
But guess where people get their conversions from? From Instagram story because you sound like you normally do . . . When that happens, people are more likely to trust you, they're more likely to want to connect with you because you are a real human being through your stories, which are more raw and unfiltered.”
There's huge business value in terms of the conversion rate of stories versus regular feed content because it's a different type of content.
This is where you have to know your audience though. You can post something on your stories and get decent engagement, but you may post the same thing on your regular feed and get even more likes and comments if your audience tends to be a regular feed audience.
If you really want to capitalize on audience engagement, there's an advantage to making sure you have, not the same content, but similar content on both your regular feed and your stories.
To do this you might put something in your story that says, ‘Hey, did you check out today's post over on Instagram, you're gonna want to read this one,’ then they go over to your regular feed and see it.
Instagram story is another way to get in front of your audience depending on what type of content they gravitate towards. It's a great way to connect in an emotionally raw and real way that you wouldn't do on other platforms.
Instagram stories now and then
Another reason this is so valuable is you can now record say a 63 second long video that's automatically going to be chopped up into 15 second intervals plus the remaining three second interval. This functionality wasn’t available before.
If you upload a video, that's more than 15 seconds, it will automatically upload it and cut it into three segments. This is a huge change and super helpful. You can now get an entire thought out!
You can also add stickers, animated gifs, free form drawing, and add colors or filters to your story. That’s part of the value for businesses. You can take what is basically a simple video or photo and make it very unique and branded.
Choosing the same colors and fonts in your Instagram stories creates a consistent visual component. When people they see this they’ll know it’s your content.
Create short form content for you Instagram stories
Each slide of your story will only show for seven seconds. But if you press and hold a story, it will freeze it so you can read more text.
Unfortunately a lot of people don't know to do that. So if you have long winded text, people are going to read half of it. Then the story is going to rotate through and they’ll miss it. It can be super confusing. So be cognizant of that.
How to use hashtags and location stickers in you Instagram stories
When designing your Insta-story, you have the option of adding hashtags. This is something you should absolutely utilize to your advantage.
You can do this one of two ways, either with a hashtag sticker, which means you can put up one hashtag. Or you can use text, typing it out in the text box with multiple hashtags.
However, Jenn doesn’t recommend using more than three per post. Instagram got smart to the many devious tricks people were using and started limiting the amount of hashtags that were clickable if you use the text box.
Why hashtags and location stickers are the secret sauce of Instagram stories
Many people use hashtags or locations in their regular feed content. If you go to a hashtag search, you see all the regular feed content with that hashtag.
But up in the top of the search is actually a little colored circle which is any stories that have come up with that hashtag.
It's really easy to get lost in the nuances of all of the content that's been uploaded in regular feed. But if someone goes to the stories, there's way less content in there, so you have a better chance of showing up there and getting seen.
It works the same with the location sticker. You want to tag the smallest possible location. So if you are at a venue, you're at a hotel, you're at a store, you're at a restaurant, you're at a street corner, tag as small a location as possible.
If you just use a broad location like San Diego, Instagram won't know that you’re on a specific street corner or at a specific restaurant. If you tag a tiny location, Instagram knows that street corner is in that neighborhood, in that city, in that state or province or whatever it is.
If you tag that restaurant, you’re more likely to show up in all of those searches, not just the one search. So using location tag and the hashtag are great for new exposure and getting new eyeballs on your content.
When you go into the Instagram stories, you can swipe up to get the stickers or you can press the sticker icon. There's an actual location sticker and that one will tag the physical location.
When you’re at a restaurant or a venue or whatever it is, use the location sticker then at mention (@location) that location as well because otherwise they won't get a notification about it.
Instagram photos or video? Which is better?
In general, photos will always outperform any other content on Instagram. It was built on photos, users want photos, that's what they connect with.
That being said, people are snobby. They want pretty photos on Instagram in general. Nowadays, because there's over a billion monthly active users and you have the casual users who are used to Facebook, the graphics with bold text quote tend to do better now on Instagram than they did in the past two or three years.
It used to be that those were a big no-no. But now you can get away with them a little bit more because people are used to seeing them.
Videos typically perform the least only because it's a fast moving feed. A user is scrolling and so they're less likely to stop and watch it.
However, the algorithm has no preference. The algorithm does not give video or photo any preferential treatment.
It's really about knowing what your audience wants. For someone who has built their entire business on video content, people will stop and watch those videos. But regular photo engagements may be low because your audience is conditioned to video.
Short form or long for Instagram content? Which performs best?
Jenn explains that generally what captures people’s attention, likes and comments will be the photos and videos themselves, not the text.
In terms of the captions beneath, you don't have to do long form in most cases. One or two short paragraphs is more than enough. It could even be literally a sentence.
It’s all about what form of content you’ve conditioned your audience to expect. You may do a lot of educational type post, breaking news, and explain a topic almost like a mini blog post.
But typically, very long form is not ideal. Yes, you need a caption, but can get away with a couple of short paragraphs. Think something that says, ‘Here's what it is. Here's why it matters. Here's the value content for you.’ It doesn't need to be super long winded.
Also worth noting is that a lot of people will probably never see it. When you're scrolling through Instagram, you see only the first line or two of the caption. Users are not seeing everything else you wrote unless they click on it.
So if you're using a half hour of your time to write this beautiful long caption, if that first sentence doesn't capture their attention, you've wasted your time because they're not going to read it.
Your first sentence should be like a great blog post title, that great email subject line or bold statement or question. Something that's going to intrigue them to click for more and actually read the whole thing. If you're just rambling on about whatever, in that first sentence, it's no value to them, they're not going to click on it.
Make sure that you're talking to the point of the photo, adding context and value to it and include your call to action if necessary.
How to use CTAs in your Instagram captions
You may not always have a call to action (CTA) if you basically told them everything they need to know already in the caption.
If you’re sharing a blog post and saying, ‘Hey, I just wrote a new blog post, go click on the link in my bio to read it,’ that's your call to action.
Or you may have direct action buttons on your profile. You can have buttons for making reservations, but tickets, those sorts of things, you may say, ‘Go click on the buy tickets button on the profile to get your tickets now.’
Having a call to action can be hugely valuable. Sometimes you're not going to get results unless you get the ask in front of your audience. Make sure you say it boldly in capital letters and use emojis to make it stand out so that people don't miss that call to action.
Secrets to formatting your Instagram caption
Jenn shares a little known secret most people don’t realize when writing their captions: If the emoji is the last character or if there's a space as the last character, you lose all the formatting.
This may explain why your pretty dot spaced paragraphs don’t show up the way you want!
Be sure to have anything but an emoji as the last character. You’ll want to put your emojis in the middle of your paragraphs.
Also, if your keyboard automatically puts a space after your last alphabetical or numerical character, this erases your formatting. You’ll have to back up and be sure to delete that space.
Maybe one of these days Instagram will fix this functionality, but for right now, it’s one of the biggest glitches that people get hung up on.
Is telling people to tag their friends a good Instagram practice?
Asking someone to tag people in the comments below is entirely validated and valuable if it's not overdone.
It’s a great practice for contests where you make that a condition of contest.
What happens is, if they want to win, they're going to tag a friend. If their friend wants to win, they're going to follow you and they're going to tag a friend.
Asking for tags can mean getting that many more eyeballs on your content and growing your audience.
That's also the purpose behind it on every day content. Asking your audience, ‘If this resonates with you tag a friend below’, can be annoying, but for those people it resonates with, you're going to get the additional shares and engagement.
But again, if you don't ask you often don't get the results. Asking gets the results, people will tag their friends below. You just don't want to do it all the time.
If you have a great motivational quote or something that's really inspiring,
say something like, ‘If this touched a nerve with you today or you have a friend that could value get value out of this, tag them in the comments below.’
If it's educational content, if you have a podcaster who could get some value out of this tidbit, make sure you tag them in the comment below. In this way, when you target a specific reason for them to mention a friend, you're more likely to get results.
Additionally, there's a function now where you can actually share any Instagram post to your story. So if someone sees your post, they can use the airplane icon to share it to their story which then puts your post in a story.
Then when they upload it it becomes a hyperlink back to your post. This is a great way to get additional shares and engagement so you want to make sure you’re encouraging people to do this.
When other people see the post and tap on it, they're back on your page. Now they can go through and look at you, they can look at your instagram profile, they can follow you. It's a great way to get more exposure.
Why Instagram messages are a great way to get to know your audience
Cold, direct messages sent directly to your followers (or worse, a non-follower) often get a bad rap. But it can be a great way to connect with your audience and get to know them when done right.
People can't reply to an Instagram story. If they send you a reply it will go directly to your private messages, which is great for engaging with your audience.
This is often where people are going. If they don't want to say something publicly and have everybody see or be a part of that conversation, they'll shoot you a direct message. You can then have a private conversation.
Direct messages is your chance to talk one on one with your audience. It's your chance to build that community, to laugh and joke and say things that they don't want to say publicly.
You can get to know them, Where do they live? What do they do? What are their interests are their pain points? Ask them those questions, get those answers and really build relationships.
When you’re answering questions, giving feedback, handling customer service, and offering solutions via DMs, they're more likely to purchase from you and or stay on as a recurring customer versus something that's posted publicly where it's usually more generic.
How to set up Quick Replies in Instagram messages
Instagram is aware of the business functionality quick of direct messages. They're adding features and functionality to make it better for us all the time.
The capacity of Instagram messages is no exception. You can now do live video chat within direct messages, and you can set up automatic canned responses called Quick Replies. This is easy to set up in your settings.
Quick Replies is particularly valuable if you always get the same question over and over again. You can set up multiple quick replies. Then, when you go to respond, type in like the first word and it will automatically populate that quick reply into your direct message replies.
The downside of Instagram messages
The caveat to Instagram messages is it's really hard to collect clear data from.
It's easy to look at a post and see exactly how many likes and comments you received. But responses to your Instagram stories is not a metric you can measure. DMs are much harder to track as there isn't an analytic that you can check.
If you can use direct messages to your advantage, by all means, do it. Just realize that's a harder metric to measure, but it's also more likely to convert.
- Be consistent with your Instagram lives to get more engagement and views. Remind your audience you’ll be going live 24 hours in advance.
- Save your videos right after broadcasting in order to repurpose them. (Hit the small white ‘save’ text in the upper right corner). If you don’t, you won’t be able to save it later and it will disappear after 24 hours.
- Remember you don’t have to be perfectly polished in your Instagram lives -- your audience wants to see the real, raw, authentic you!
- Use photo or Instastory posts to point to video content and vice versa to get the more eyeballs on your content.
- Utilize weekly or bi-monthly Instagram lives as teasers for upcoming podcasts, blog posts or other news you want your audience to check out.
- Strategically encourage your audience to tag their friends, or share your posts to their Instagram story which creates hyperlinks back to your account and can expand your reach.
- Typically short form captions perform better, no more than 1-2 short paragraphs. Make sure your opening sentence grabs their attention so they’ll read more.
- The secret to getting seen with your Insta story is to use hashtags (no more than 3) and location stickers.
- Instagram’s algorithm doesn’t favor photo over video, but photos typically perform better. However, it also depends on your audience.
- Know what your unique audience wants (video or photos?) so can cater to this and increase engagement.
- Get to know your audience through Instagram messages whenever possible.
With all of these Instagram best practices, tips, tricks and secrets it can be easy to get lost in the weeds.
Jenn reminds us that the biggest thing to being successful on Instagram is just to have fun.
She concludes, “We could talk strategy all day long, but when it comes down to it, Instagram is meant to be fun. All social media is meant to be fun, but especially Instagram.
Sometimes we overthink things too much, and we try too hard, and that comes across. It's the post where you just have fun and share something raw and real that gets way better results.
So use that to your advantage and just have fun. Create fun content. Have fun dialogue, create fun stories. Have fun on your live shows. The more you're having fun, the more you can attract the audience.”
You can learn more about Jenn by following her on Instagram at @jenn_trends, or find her at JennsTrends.com, and be sure to check her book ‘Instagram for Business.