So you want to use Instagram as an adventure rider? Great idea! Instagram isn't as big as Facebook but the demographics aren't as old, it's growing very rapidly (Facebook has plateaued) and most importantly the engagement rate is as much as 58 times higher than Facebook. We've been using Instagram for just over a year now and have reached the 41,000 mark (as of this writing) so we must be doing something right (we don't claim to be experts though). I haven't verified this 100% yet but we appear to be #1 on Instagram in the ADV space. There are a few gear manufacturers like Alpinestars and such with more followers than us but we are more media/community. We're much larger than ADVPulse Adventure Bike Rider and ADVMoto magazines combined.
However, how you use Instagram will be very different than how we use it. About 20% of our content is original and 80% is reposted. "Anyone can copy and paste" you might say but we only share images of those who tag us. If someone gives us a shout out then I'm going to return the favor if it's a good image. That's community right there. I'm also looking for elements you'll learn more about further down like composition and a story or quote to accompany the image. There's another account that does nothing but share images; it seems the most popular images he can find, but he's a third smaller than us with twice as many posts it took to get there. We passed them a long time ago. We also try to direct traffic to this online forum and I'll periodically talk about an article, review or interesting how-to piece. I also use Instagram to give shouts out to the sponsors of our project bike.
If you have a personal account already that's fine but consider setting up an adv-specific one if you plan on using it extensively and perhaps to attract new or reinforce current sponsors. Instagram has made it easy now to toggle back and forth between multiple accounts in their app.
Hashtags? Sure, but don't go overboard. Here are some category type ones : #xladv (of course!) #advrider #dualsport. Many companies have their own hashtags they promote and try to own, like #nodirtnoglory (ADV Addicts), #makelifearide and #rideandshare (BMW Motorrad), #readytorace (KTM) or #sizematters (XLADV). Hashtags help your photos get found by others.
The most common hashtags I've used/reposted: advrider, bmwmotorrad, adventure, dualsport, motorcycle, adv, enduro, makelifearide, ktm, advaddicts, moto, bmw, offroad, advlife, travel, dualsportlife, r1200gs, touratech, rideandshare, motorrad, wanderlust, bmwgs, sizematters, nodirtnoglory, motolife, etc...
Some hashtags bug me. #whyweride I don't like because that documentary film never featured any adventure motorcyclists yet they use us to market their film by sharing photos of us and in many cases do NOT attribute credit. They've been caught many times and still do it after photographers have told them they may not use their photos. I'm also growing a bit tired of BMW's #makelifearide and #rideandshare because they aren't readily associated with solely BMW (like #unstoppable) and I think they kind of take credit for the popularity of its use when it's by riders who have no idea it's BMW's. However they are a good way to get noticed by that company if that is your goal. I regularly search for the latest #xladv hashtags to see which photos I want to re-post.
Some still baffle me like #rideandwander. That's an actual account but it's kind of taken on a life of it's own and people use I guess because they like it. Just remember not to over do it.
Feature your sponsored gear
If you have some gear that's been sponsored then give that manufacturer/vendor a shout out with a tag so it will be easier for them to find it and be found by others. Many times I have searched for a tag hoping to find a photo/story of someone using that product. Make it a point to photograph or video the sponsored item so people can see it up close and see how it's used.
Your post ideally should have the first 155 characters be text (because that's what's seen in feeds). Have something to say! Instead of "rode some trails today," tell a story or give an inspirational quote. Pikipiki_overland_blog does a great job of storytelling and Sjiriki_Jess does really well with the quotes. Chickamotorunner and FeralCat2Wheels are also doing a great job with the stories recently.
Try to engage your followers (remember Instagram is 58 times more engaging than Facebook). Ask a question. But also monitor your responses. Instagram doesn't do a good job of making it easy to track so be sure to look at past photos you've posted to answer any questions, delete offensive comments or report spam posts. Tools like Iconosquare can help you there.
Put your hashtags after the text or consider even posting your hashtags in the first comment after you've posted the photo. That keeps it cleaner but you risk losing those hashtags when someone re-posts your photo. You can put a short link in but they don't work well. It's best to say "see link in profile" and put a link there that you want people to click on.
XLADV Content: Photos
This photos is our most liked at XLADV. It's received over 7,000 likes!
For content, I'd say what works best is pretty simple: photos of your bike! (insert photo that has gotten the most likes on xladv) Look at the like counts for our account and you'll quickly start to see a pattern. People want to see a bike either just sitting there looking awesome or doing something awesome like on the ground, in the air or on a bridge or narrow path. Put yourself in there too but let's see your face and see you smile/laugh. Landscape photos might look good on a big screen but without a bike in it, they're useless. Don't forget most are viewing on their smartphones. Photos are posted in Instagram's own square format so give some thought to how you frame your photos. You can add a filter effect but not a lot of people use that anymore. You can also put up a grid of multiple photos. MichelDelCourt does photos very well. It helps to start as a good photographer but it's not hard to simply look at popular adventure riders to see how they are composing their photos. Think about the elements they choose like a road, bridge, rut, mud puddle, etc... Think about the time of day for their photos; most likely in the morning or evening when you have the best light and not mid-day. You may also want to consider watermarking your photos with a logo of some kind given how many like to "borrow" them. I use iWatermark for that.
XLADV Content: Video
Video works well too, especially video with music. Instagram recently extended the limit of video from 15 seconds to 1 minute. But try to avoid the boring helmet cam footage of you riding down some highway; it's just not that interesting. I think the one post of ours with the most views (about 65K) is the one of KatePeckMe lifting up her R1200 GS Adventure at a training camp. It helps to be a thin beautiful model too! When you post a video you can choose the initial image so do that instead of putting up a video that has a black image. Why would anyone click on that?
Which XLADV accounts to follow?
Find a few accounts you like and then go through who they follow. You can click on "follow" right there. If you'd like to get someone's attention, consider tagging them in a photo (different from using a hashtag) but don't do it too much because it can get annoying. It's best not to message someone asking them to repost your photo. Just use their tags for awhile as well as like and comment on their posts and if they don't follow you/repost your stuff, move on.
Easier to work with those who want to
Chances are you will find "Instagram buddies" where you may like and repost each others' stuff. If someone reposts your photo then thank them and then share one of theirs. You will find a lot of new friends that way and it will matter less if that one account you are after isn't following you. I use the Repost app and have seen the Regram app but that seems to be available only outside the US. XLADV is a unique type of account that uses Repost a lot but you may not ever use it yourself. When you have such great content like Great_World_Trek then you don't have to bother
Don't even think of buying followers. That's just cheezy and pointless. There are however a few tools out there that can kind of assist you in gaining likes and followers in a pseudo-organic way. I tried Instagress for a few days and could see how that can help someone looking to gain followers. What it does is you program it to automatically like and/or comment on photos with certain hashtags, certain accounts, etc... Those people think you're actually following them so be sure you're on top of it should they respond to your comment. It can be easy to spot when you see someone commenting with the same thumbs up icon on accounts they're not even following. We already gain a few hundred followers a day so it wasn't something I really needed to do after the three day trial but I know a handful of accounts who've used it to great success. One went from a few hundred followers to over 10,000 in two months! Organic is best though.
Make sure your Instagram account is listed on your website/blog (if you have one) and/or your other social media channels so people can find you.
So you've become an expert in adventure motorcycle use of Instagram and have a huge following! Congratulations! That's an end unto itself but it's also handy if your aim to to seek sponsorship. If I'm a gear manufacturer then I know I need to sponsor riders to get the word out about my product. I'm going to have a budget and will want to choose riders who already have a solid presence on Instagram (and FB, YouTube, etc...). I'd want someone who takes good photos, tells a story and has a following. Your strong following will help you command better sponsorship agreements and perhaps even cash on top of free product. Consider that product that retails for $400 may only cost them $200 or less and you're essentially going to give them free exposure indefinitely?
Stay tuned for more articles like this. I'll be covering How to Facebook, Google+, etc... in the near future. How to gain sponsors and negotiate contracts is something I'll be presenting at Horizons Unlimited Yosemite this fall.