If you’re a regular reader of my column, you may have noticed how much I love delving into that crazy world of social media and sharing the insights I discover along the way. Well, just last week I met with Lindsay Hayes, @hoppyhayes, the amazing Instagrammer and beer influencer from one of my favorite local breweries, Catawba Brewing Co. Since I’m an independent contractor and my preferred platform is LinkedIn while she’s part of an established company and focuses on Instagram, it was interesting to note the similarities in strategy and differences based on setup. While Instagram and LinkedIn are both social media platforms, I quickly realized I was wading in with a completely different beast, and Hayes was more than ready to give me the three commandments for staying ahead of the curve and keeping content fresh.
Thou Shalt Know Thy Brand
Perhaps you, as an individual, or your business has a carefully curated branding based on your ideals or values. Or maybe your branding is the result of seeing what resonates with your audience. It could even be a mixture of the two. Regardless, it is vital to have a cohesive brand and stick to it. This creates consistency for your audience and acts as a path that guides your posts’ narrative. Hayes said that she gets the most engagement when she focuses on the 3 Ps: pour overs, pink beer, and puppies. Now while this might not be their exact branding, it is clear that Catawba Brewing Co. has found what resonates with its audience. In the same way, blogging, philanthropy, and exploration are at the center of my branding, and form the baseline of what I post. Whatever your brand is going to be — it’s important to make that a purposeful choice and be consistent if you want to draw and maintain your audience.
Thou Shalt Keep Good Practices
Instagramming is not just snapping a shot, jotting down a few random ideas, and throwing in a hashtag or two for good measure… well at least that’s not what effective posting looks like. Just like everything else in life, you need to know your craft. For example, hashtags. Hayes explained that Instagram limits you to 30 of them per post, and she wields them very carefully since it determines who sees her posts. Additionally, while some posts are written in the moment, she generally sits down and drafts a week’s worth of posts in advance. And this tip came as no surprise to me since I do the same. I have found that if you try to write a new post every morning, it can feel overwhelming and becomes too time consuming. However if I sit down and write a week’s worth, the same as I would sit down and write a blog article, it gives me time and space to edit, mull it over, and adjust as needed throughout the week without having that extra pressure each day. Also, while I track my effectiveness, the Instagramming world is a separate breed. She is able to see who among their followers are the 50 most engaged. And as the algorithm on Instagram evolves, she pays attention to whether their followers will automatically see her post or if followers will need to visit her website. All in all, her arsenal includes good habits and staying informed — which are good practices we’re all too familiar with in the techie world.
Thou Shalt Not Leave it All Online
By “not leave it all online,” I mean that engaging exclusively on a virtual basis may not be enough. I actually got to experience this lesson before the interview even started. I moved to Charlotte right before the pandemic hit the United States. Related sidenote: moving to a new city and making a whole new set of friends is never easy… and is almost impossible when everyone is in quarantine. At one point, I decided to give myself a break from my fortress of solitude and get some to-go beer from a local brewery. While there, I lamented to the bartender (spoiler alert: it was Hayes) how hard it was to make connections and put down roots during a stay-at-home order. She commiserated, saying that it was a messy time for all of us, and then went on to welcome me to the neighborhood by giving me my order for free. Her above-and-beyond approach to customer service gained Catawba an engaged follower, a loyal customer, and now a free plug for the business. So here was her first lesson and the final one for this article: your followers don’t just exist online — they are real humans outside their phones. Customers can become followers, and followers can become customers. So be sure both online and in-person, you’re authentic and treat your people right.
And so ends my epic adventure in the world of Instagram. While I think I will stay in my lane and stick with LinkedIn, her insights and perspective have helped broaden my understanding of and interaction with social media as a whole. So stick to the commandments and post on!
Jacquelyn Adams is a career development enthusiast and an award-winning CEO. She lives in a world of constant exploration, whether it’s summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, delving into more effective employee training strategies… or discovering how she’d do in a chocolate eating contest (answer: last place). Find more of her Lessons on Leadership articles here or connect with her on LinkedIn here.