7 ways to jazz up your Instagram presence

Unsure what to do with that visually oriented platform? An Instagram expert offers tips and tools that will help you find your ‘visual voice.’

Editor’s note: This story is taken from Ragan Communications’ distance-learning portal, Ragan Training. The site contains hundreds of hours of case studies, video presentations and interactive courses.

Check out the kids jumping on a trampoline. Or the shot from an elevated train, speeding past its reflection in a big city. Or the Labrador retriever crazily digging a hole on the beach.

They’ve all been run through Instagram‘s hyperlapse, a tool to speed up longer videos and make them more compelling. Organizations should be using it, says Ethan Arpi, who works on the market operations team at Instagram.

The tip was just one of dozens offered by Arpi in his Ragan Training session, “Speak with a visual voice: Connect with your customers on Instagram.”

Instagram is an ideal platform to beef up your images amid a worldwide shift to visual communication, he says. The sheer scale of the platform is staggering. Users have posted more than 40 billion photos and videos to date, and the volume is increasing by 80 million per day.

Business are an integral part of the Instagram experience, Arpi says. Some 60 percent of people learn about products and services on Instagram, and 75 percent take action after being inspired by a post.

“It’s really all about visual inspiration,” Arpi says.

Here are some tips:

1. Decide on your objective.

Your strategy on the platform will depend on what you’re trying to do.

“What is it that you want accomplish?” Arpi says. “Are you trying to get leads? Are you trying to get people into your store? Are you trying to get people to your website?”

Tailor your use accordingly.

RELATED: Learn advanced and classic visual comms strategies including: Infographics, Snapchat marketing, VR, 3D, 360 Video and more.

2. Find your visual voice.

Businesses, like people, have personalities. For a small business, it might reflect the character of the owner, Arpi says. Larger organizations are more complex. Either way, your organization’s characteristics can be painted visually.

Consider @studiodiy, a party-planning company.

“They use bright colors,” Arpi says. “It’s whimsical. It’s playful. So you can really see how this conveys the personality of their business.”

Your mortuary company, on the other hand, might choose a more muted palate. But hey, it’s all about you.

3. Focus on relevance.

Take a look at @jellyskateboards, which produces the wheeled platforms. Lots of wacky images of people skateboarding along the beach, in empty swimming pools and even past the Lincoln Memorial.

“They’re clearly trying to reach a very specific demographic,” Arpi says.

On the other hand, a nonprofit such as @DoctorsWithoutBorders is targeting an older audience. The photos are of doctors stripping off their biohazard suits after treating Ebola patients, or of impoverished families awaiting pediatric care in a developing country.

“They’re trying to raise money for very important causes,” Arpi says, “and they’re trying to show how they’re having an impact on the world through technology.”

4. Go behind the scenes.

This is a trend in advertising and marketing, and it’s time to hop aboard, Arpi says.

“People don’t necessarily like the super-glossy images,” Arpi says. “They want to know how things are actually created. They want to know what happens when you pull the curtain back.”

Come on. You’ve got some weird and interesting things happening in your self-piloted flying car factory. Take the customer there with you.

Examples? Compare the ceramics artist @Tortus_Copenhagen, who has 583,000 followers, with the doughnut guy @PrimosDonutsLA, with 3,881 followers, all happily distracted day and night by images of sugary, deep-fried dough.

5. Use natural light.

That product you want to shoot? Get it out from under the fluorescent lighting, Arpi says.

“If you’re taking a product shot and you’re inside, maybe step outside. Maybe wait until a little bit later in the day when the light isn’t so harsh and you can get that golden color of light.”

One maestro Arpi highlights is @TheBitterHousewife, who isn’t morose about her lot in life, but rather produces bitters for cocktails. Manhattan, anyone?

6. Experiment with video.

Video on Instagram is exploding, with a 150 percent increase in time users spent watching video in a recent six-month period, Arpi says. Video adds to visuals the dimensions of motion and sound.

“These are ways to stimulate different senses and pull people into the creative process,” he says.

@ZachKing might not be your cuppa tea, but for the 20-something crowd, he’s apparently the funniest thing since Bob Hope. For a business example, how about @Airbnb, which is stitching together multiple videos.

“This is where the world is moving,” Arpi says. “The earlier you start, the better you’ll be.”

And, hey: Go easy on yourself. Experiment. Have fun. You’re not going to master it overnight, he says.

7. Try Instagram’s creative tools.

Layout is a way to stitch together a collage of images. Boomerang takes rapid-fire images and moves them back and forth for effects, as in a book flipping open and closed.

Hyperlapse —the time-lapse video accelerator—can help you cram lots of visual information into a shorter time period. It’s also good at smoothing out shaky handheld video.

“This is a way of democratizing video,” Arpi says. “You can start with hyperlapse and experiment with it and play with it, and this will help build confidence.”

@ByWorking

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