SpatchySpatch's Tips and Tricks for an Impactful Instagram Page
My wife adores food. In fact, I think it is safe to say that she relishes food more than most people, because I often catch her flicking through old photos of meals we’ve made (yes, she takes photos of almost every dish we cook). In 2020, like most people, we spent even more time in the kitchen than usual, and the countless photos were getting lost in her camera roll. As such she created an Instagram account as a personal food diary and so @spatchyspatch was born.
One day, @spatchyspatch gained its first follower. As the intention was not to generate followers or engagement, my wife was confused and began to ask “Who is this? How did they find me? Why are they following me?”. Soon after that, another random follower joined and complimented the food we had been making, and before long @spatchyspatch boasted a whopping 8 followers.
My wife is a self-proclaimed “dummy” when it comes to the intricacies of social media, and the @spatchyspatch account became a fun little project for her to dip her toes into the online space. As a digital strategist I found it interesting to pin down what was impacting various activity on the page, and how it illustrated that what she was convinced was “random” or “coincidental” activity was actually quite predictable once the right formula was identified.
Here are a few observations we made from Spatchy’s Instagram adventure.
Spatchy did not really understand why other foodgrammers included so many hashtags in their captions but thought it would be interesting to give it a go herself. Initially she thought the use of hashtags was a way to add some colour to the posts, but when #ittastesbetterthanitlooks did not have as much of an impact as #delicious, she realised there was a bit more to it than that. This new approach made an immediate impact and the number of engagements started climbing. The increased engagement yielded a lot more comments and it was good fun to see what people had to say about the food we were making. Spatchy’s posts started receiving all types of comments, from compliments on the dishes, to advice on wine pairings. The increased engagement also resulted in an increase in the number of followers on the page, and there were always a couple of new followers when a new post went live. Spatchy also discovered how the choice of hashtags made such a big difference to the performance of a post, and she would carefully monitor which hashtags were trending in her feed so that she could use hashtags that were most relevant. After some time, she decided to add additional hashtags to old posts, and this also resulted in increased engagement on all her posts, as well as generating new followers. As a digital strategist, I knew these things in principle, but it was interesting to see how subtle changes were impacting the performance of Spatchy.
Time of Day
Some days Spatchy would post an admittedly average looking dish, and within minutes the likes would start pouring in. Other days she would post something that she thought was quite impressive, but when these did not receive the same attention, despite the use of the same hashtags, Spatchy was confused and disheartened that others did not deem her cherished dish like-worthy. Through trial and error, we started to see the patterns and to establish what times of the day generated more engagement. The timing of the post not only affected the number of likes, but also the audience, for example healthy-foodgrammers vs comfort or junk-foodgrammers. This also varied across time zones of course, and it was interesting to note the differences between European followers and American followers in terms of the time of day that they were generally active on Instagram.
Since Spatchy actually has a full-time job and does not spend all day every day in the kitchen, there are periods when quite some time passes without any posts. Spatchy was surprised (and mildly offended) to notice that during these periods of silence some of her followers would abandon her. On the other hand, Spatchy herself would unfollow foodgrammers who were incessantly posting, as she felt they were flooding her feed. As such it became apparent that while posting regularly was an important consideration for gaining followers, it was also essential to maintain the proper frequency in order to retain them.
Follow for follow
Of course, Spatchy’s food obsession continued to grow, but her ideas started to dwindle, so she started following more foodgrammers for some fresh inspiration. To her surprise, some of them started to follow her back, and again her followers were increasing. However, she seemed to gain followers almost at the same rate as she would lose them, and it became apparent that many accounts were following her with the expectation that she would follow them back. If Spatchy did not like what they were posting she would not reciprocate the follow, and she would consequently get unfollowed.
Types of followers
Spatchy noticed that there was often a direct correlation between a foodgrammer’s number of “followers” and number of “followings”. To test this, Spatchy went on a mission to follow a variety of new accounts, however this did not actually yield as much of a result as she had anticipated. Through some analysis of the emerging patterns, it became clear that a range of factors impacted whether or not the foodgrammer would follow Spatchy back. For example, foodgrammers who had more than a certain number of followers were less likely to take the time to look at Spatchy’s feed and would consequently not engage with her posts or follow her. Foodgrammers in certain countries were also more inclined to follow her than those in other countries, and the same could be said for a myriad of other factors. Once we cracked this code, Spatchy’s followers tripled in a matter of days.
It was interesting to be a spectator of SpatchySpatch’s adventure, and it reemphasised to me how powerful it is to have access to concrete social insights in real time. Spatchy was a small scale, trial-and-error project, and was a case of learning over a long period of time, whereas we have access to tools that give you these types of insights at the click of a button. Social channels are evolving so quickly, which means that it will become more and more important for businesses to consistently discover and optimise and be able to do it quickly. I have had numerous meetings with specialists who work at big social networks and even they struggle to keep up with trends and behaviours on their own platforms. It may be daunting, but at the same time it is an exciting opportunity for businesses to take advantage of the possibilities presented by the social media space.