Instagram Insights from Fife

John Murray (@johnmurrayjnr) is a Scottish Instagrammer, moderator of @scotland_greatshots and Tourism Officer/Oifigear Turasachd at Fife Council, which is responsible for @welcometofife.

With a combined 120.8k followers, it’s safe to say that he’s doing something right on a platform which has many other in the sector stumped.

In February 2020, John kindly shared his tips for taking amazing photos for social media and explained how his team curates content for Fife’s marketing brand:

1. Tap into User-Generate Content

By sharing photos taken by other users, you can cover a larger geographical area and you’ll be posting content which is considered more trustworthy than any other form of marketing.

You can either ask users for permission by commenting on their photos or by spreading the message in your bio: “use #loveFife or tag us to give us permission to repost on our social media channels.” If people start asking travel questions, you can also ask them to tag your account and use the hashtag.

To avoid offending the photographer, John recommends using Downloadgram when sharing their photo to get the highest resolution possible (rather than screenshots) and not editing the photograph.

Screenshot of the Welcome to Fife account

2. Figure Out What Works for You

Play around with content and keep an eye on the response (and Instagram’s built-in Insights) to figure out what works and what doesn’t for your accounts.

In this case, John’s learned that portrait-style photos are more popular (it takes up more of the screen) and the @welcometofife audience prefers content that covers Outlander, the Fife Coastal Path and heritage (such as National Trust for Scotland properties). 

It’s also helpful to remember that people have a short attention span. They’re flicking through quickly and you have to do anything you can to make them stop: tell a story, push Scotland as a destination or use hotspots to get people through the door.

And whatever you do, don’t post the exact same thing on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can have the same call to action, but tailor each post to each platform.

3. Make the Most of Hashtags

You can (and should) use up to 30 hashtags in posts on your grid and 10 in each story. John has a set that he uses, but he switches it up to avoid being shadowbanned. Not sure it’s working? You can check Insights to find out how many people found the post through the hashtags.

On Stories, you can make the hashtags invisible by using the colour tool to pick a colour in the photo, shrinking the text and then placing it somewhere where it will blend into the background. You can also use branded hashtags (such as #ThisIsScotland) and tag popular accounts to try to get them to share your Stories. And unlike grid photos, you can see which specific hashtags led people to your post.

If you’re not sure which hashtags to use, check out Later.com’s hashtag finder and avoid ones which are oversaturated (such as #Scotland or #travel) as you’ll have a lot more competition. As a general rule, aim for 20,000 – 100,000 uses. #OnlyInScotland and #YCW2020 are new hashtags which means that it’s not too crowded yet. You can also take a look at popular or similar accounts and see what hashtags their using (for example, John follows @passionpassport in his spare time and likes to use their hashtag).

Screenshot of the only in scotland hashtag

4. Post Often and Stick to a Schedule

Although it might seem like a lot, John recommends posting two to three times each day at roughly the same time every day. Don’t expect amazing engagement on every post, but it’s good for followers.

5. Take Advantage of Apps and Websites

If you want your posts to be neat and tidy, use Hashtagie to leave a clean and empty spaces between line breaks. These kind of tools also allow you to hide hashtags below the “more” button in the caption, which could make all the difference when you’re trying to get people to stop scrolling. 

Later also has some great myth-busting answers to a lot of questions, and since the algorithm changes all the time, it’s important to stay informed.

John also recommended Lightroom for editing, Preview to plan out your grid, Werble to make photos move in Stories, StoryArt or Unfold to create templates for Stories, Social Blade for checking out the followers on other accounts (for example, if you’re considering hiring an influencer), and the Insights section on Facebook’s Creator Studio (if you link your Instagram account to your organisation’s account).

Screenshot of an Instagram text spacer website

6. Don’t Ignore Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories can be a valuable tool for reaching new audiences. Plus, you can also add the “swipe up” feature to encourage people to follow links once you’ve reached 10,000 followers.

If you’re not sure what to post, look at other accounts for inspiration (John loves @purenewzealand’s ‘Through the Eyes of…” posts).

If you’re still stuck, try appointing ambassadors and asking them to take the reins, getting out of the office, engaging with themed days (such as #WorldTurtleDay), embracing puns, and enticing people to see new posts on your grid with teasers (rather than just sharing the new post itself).

IGTV, however, is a different story. Watch numbers are low and it takes a lot of time and resources. If you’re struggling on this platform, give these vertical videos a pass.

7. Get Engaged

Ever heard of the 80/20 rule? In addition to posting your own content, you should spend 20% of your time spend engaging with other accounts (liking and commenting, but not spamming).

Schedule posts for when your followers are most active, ask questions and include calls to action (for example, “what’s your favourite beach in Fife?”) and reply to as many comments as possible to build loyalty. It’s important to engage early on with comments because the algorithm works towards this and will deliver your content to more users.  

You could also reward your followers by running a giveaway (try partnering with a business for the prizes).

8. Enjoy It

John believes that you have to enjoy using Instagram, otherwise it comes across. If you’re not a fan or don’t have the time, it might be worth creating a single image using numerous posts (similar to the @outlawking account) and leaving it for now.

Screenshot of the Outlaw King Instagram account

If you have any questions or comments for John, you can find him on Twitter at @johnmurrayjnr. You can also find out more about Welcome to Fife on their website or Instagram account.

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