photo-1467501556106-31d7a35cc25dNo one is more surprised than I am that one of my most popular posts here on Zen is “Instagram: How Lawyers Can Use it & Get Noticed.” I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I really doubt that using Instagram is going to bring you business as a lawyer. BUT, I do think it’s an important tool for you to know how to use for two reasons:

  1. It’s another tool to have in your arsenal, and one you should know how to use, especially with its staggering usage statistics (plus, it’s fun to use and engage with).
  2. It’s fairly likely that your clients are using it either as individuals or as companies, so even if you, yourself, don’t use it, you should understand how it works and the potential pitfalls, to be a good advocate for your clients (that’s true for all social media by the way).

Since Instagram is such a hugely popular topic with my audience, I wanted to take a break today from our law firm of the future series to look at a few more tips about how you can stand out from the competition on Instagram. Brands are using it, which means that it’s not just for individuals, and you can get some great advice for dos and don’ts from taking a look at their behavior on this platform.

Kara Burney shares a great piece from the Content Marketing Institute, taking a look at what some of the biggest brands are doing with Instagram, and what that might mean for you. You may be interested to know that in three short years, we’ve seen an increased from 24.6% of Fortune 500 companies using Instagram to 50% using it in 2016. Burney followed their activity for a year to get us some great insight. 

Quit Your Day Job

Most brands consider their social media activity to be something that should be part of their working day, and so they’ll post to Instagram between the hours of 9 to 5 on the east coast. But that’s not when the greatest amount of engagement is happening with the app. Says Burney:

the highest engagement with Fortune 500 Instagram posts happened between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. Eastern time. Posts published in this window saw 6.15 to 8.78% more engagement than the average Instagram post from a Fortune 500 brand.”

This is actually great news for lawyers (in some ways). Many of you worry about how you can add yet another thing to your already crowded to-do list during the day, and Burney is telling us that doing so just puts you in with the rest of the noise on Instagram instead of helping you to stand out. Really, most users of the app are probably at work themselves and too busy to invest the time to scroll through their feed to look at photos and interact with them. So your best bet is to post and engage as a regular user. This can eat into your non-work time, but depending on what you’re posting, doesn’t have to be time-consuming.

Some ideas:

  • Post inspirational quotes in the evening that help motivate you in your practice.
  • Share something that is part of your personal life, like coaching your child’s little league practice or heading out on a nightly run.
  • Post photos from firm events that happen in the evening.
  • If you’re working late, share a photo of your office with a city skyline view, or the sunset.

Sunday Funday

Similar to the above inclination to stick to posting during work hours is the limitation of posting only during the workweek. Burney’s research showed that although brands weren’t posting much on the weekends, Sunday is a hot day for Instagram engagement. Although Fortune 500 companies are competing to post and get engagement on Thursday and Fridays,

posts published on Sundays had more engagement than any other day of the week.”

Once again, the idea is about becoming the signal among all the noise. So stand out by posting on Sundays, when you’re much more likely to get the engagement that you’re looking for. Why does this matter? Burney reminds us that

This optimization is critical now that Instagram has introduced an algorithm that favors more popular content in the users’ feeds.”

So think:

  • Motivational posts to kick off the day before Monday.
  • Your preferred Sunday activity (sports, cycling, reading, coffee with friends, etc.)
  • Office softball games or an office picnic.
  • Do a monthly showcase of a spot around your firm’s city that gives people a reason to visit (and/or do business) there.

Embrace Filters

Don’t forget that when you’re using Instagram, you’re posting as a person as well as the “brand” that is yourself as the lawyer and law firm. What that means is that you shouldn’t be afraid to inject your personality into your posts, and that includes using filters. Fortune 500 companies are really missing the boat when it comes to using Instagram filters on their photos, but that doesn’t mean that you have to. The most popular one for engagement, according to Burney’s research, is Mayfair. But you can play around with the filters that Instagram offers and see what resonates with your followers.

Burney says:

Marketing teams need to remember and respect that their competition isn’t just other brand-generated content but content from the users’ friends and families. Taking and editing photos natively could prevent the jarring ‘this-is-obviously-an-ad, let-me-ignore-it’ effect on Instagram.”

You may be an individual lawyer using Instagram, but this lesson still applies – whether you’re managing your firm’s account, or just your own personal one, be authentic with your use of Instagram, and the people who follow you will feel that. As with any social media, people want to feel like they’re getting the ability to know, like, and trust you, and that’s what will make them engage with you.

Punctuation is Key

We’ve addressed hashtags and Instagram here on Zen before:

Whereas on other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, it is a bit rude to use a lot of hashtags, it’s considered to be almost required by most Instagram users to hashtag away. The reason for this is that most Instagram users categorize their images this way, and are subsequently found by other users because of it. Users won’t necessarily follow each other back because they’ve found an image that they like, but the use of hashtags will widen your exposure tremendously.”

I’ll refresh your memory on CMI’s rules for hashtagging:

  • Make the caption and the hashtags related.
  • Don’t spam hashtags.
  • Don’t make the caption too short.

Hashtagging continues to be important on Instagram, says Burney, and so are question marks. Also important, but in a negative way, are exclamation points:

Among Fortune 500 companies, Instagram posts that include hashtags or question marks saw a marginal boost in engagement over those without them. Including an exclamation mark, however, detracts from engagement by 0.22%. Inquisitiveness, it seems, is good on Instagram.

But excitement? Not so much.”

As we’ve talked about before, more does seem to be better when it comes to hashtags on Instagram (NOT true for other social media still, by the way):

From a hashtag perspective, previous research conducted by TrackMaven indicates that Instagram posts with 11 or more hashtags get the most interactions (“likes” and comments) on average.

Why is ‘the more the better’ for hashtags? Like Twitter, Instagram is a social-discovery platform. Users can easily surf hashtag feeds to stumble upon content around their favorite themes and topics. And because Instagram has a high character limit, Instagrammers can pile on as many hashtags as possible, increasing the discoverability of their own posts.”

As I mentioned above, people may not follow you back, but they’ll be able to discover posts that they like (and want to engage with) because of the hashtags you use, if you use them carefully and effectively. Burney suggests considering coming up with your own branded hashtag (we have #ILN and #ILNToday among others) to start adding to all of your posts, or all of your firm posts, so that people who want to find or categorize those can do so easily.

Next week, we’ll take a look at two Instagram accounts who are doing an amazing job of using IG Stories effectively to give you some ideas of how that might work for you. In the meantime, let me know how you’re using Instagram, what’s worked for you, and what questions you have about it!