April 10, 2024
The ultimate guide to getting started with Instagram for dog trainers

blog post on Instagram for dog trainers

Are you on Instagram? If not, why? Social media is the #1 way of getting your business in front of new eyeballs — and Instagram is particularly good at it.

Before we get started diving into the nitty gritty of using Instagram, let’s take a brief look at the three main reasons to use social media for your business marketing.

The long game is to have someone sign up for your email list (or contact you to become a client) but having them follow you and engage with your social media content is a step in the right direction. 

However, posting willy-nilly, whatever comes into your head, may result in a lot of posting without any tangible results, so you need to be a bit strategic about the content you create.

Ideally anything you post will satisfy one of the following three goals:

  • New exposure (get your business seen by new people)
  • Engagement (encourage your audience to interact with your content)
  • Take action (stimulate your followers into taking some sort of action)

When planning your posts aim to have 1/3 of your content cover each of these three goals. Why set goals? Because if you know what any one post was supposed to achieve, you can assess whether it worked. Or not.

Not sure what I mean? 

Let’s take a peek at some examples…

Susan Garrett 

This post (above) is designed to get follower engagement. It poses a question that almost every dog owner can answer.

In contrast, this one (below) is clearly aimed at getting people to sign up for something — in this case a virtual dog training program.

Mahdi Woodard 

In this post Mahdi Woodard is aiming for engagement — he wants people to comment on his statement and get into a discussion about it.

Talking Shrimp 

This example just screams “share me!” It’s quirky and fun; perfect for engagement and widening her audience.

Kula Cloth

Compare the post above, which is all about engagement, with this:

Which is totally about sales. “Mare will personally telepathically infuse it with good vibes. Swipe for some Holigay art by…” translates as “go buy the thing’.

You can learn more about attracting new clients using social media here.

Now that we’ve established some frameworks for what to post and why, let’s take a closer look at one of the most popular social media apps around today…

How is Instagram different from other platforms? 

For a start, it’s specifically designed to be used on your phone, not a computer. Many of the functions just don’t appear on the desktop app version. 

This means your audience is going to be scrolling in some pretty distracting environments — often in short bursts in between doing other things. Bear that in mind when you create content. Your stuff needs to grab attention and get your message across fast.

Instagram isn’t great at reaching a local audience. If you’re looking to only increase your geographically local audience, using Facebook and optimizing for local SEO on your website might be more efficient. But if you want to increase your exposure more broadly, Instagram is a fun (and effective) way to do it.

How to use the Instagram app

So now you have an overview of Instagram. Time to take a deep dive in how to get started with using it. I’m going to walk you through the various post types, what they do and how to create them. Let’s go…

Instagram home screen

As you’d expect, Instagram looks a bit different to all the other social platforms:

When you very first get started with Instagram your feed will be full of all sorts of weird stuff — much of it pulled from the sort of things you might have viewed on Facebook. Mine was full of cooking and food posts — and I hate cooking! Go figure.  

It’s easy to tweak what you see. Spend a bit of time searching for people you know, or follow, on other platforms. Click “Follow” on their profile and pretty soon your Instagram feed will feel a lot more familiar. 

In addition to your faves and follows, your feed will also contain posts chosen by the algorithm that it “thinks” you may like.

If you get fed up with seeing posts from people you’ve never heard of, clicking on the Instagram logo at the top left gives you a dropdown to choose to only view people you’re following or your favorites. 

What type of content can you post on Instagram?

Instagram allows three types of content: posts, reels, and stories. They all behave slightly differently and allow you to do different things.

Posts

Posts are square images/videos. You can do minor editing, add filters, and write captions to your posts. You can also add multiple images/videos to a post — this is called a carousel.

Reels

Reels are portrait-oriented videos. You can edit your video, join clips together, add text overlays, stickers, and captions, as well as do other fancy stuff. Reels are limited to 15-90 seconds unless you use a third-party app. 

“Reels” is the only place on the app where you can choose to view content posted by people in your local area. (But it’s not exactly clear what Instagram means by nearby!)

Your posts and reels appear in what’s called a “grid.” (Sorta self-explanatory as they appear in, well, a grid.) Content appears as cropped squares. 

Stories

Stories are temporary posts that only last 24 hours on peoples’ feeds (you can also choose to save them as highlights that live on your profile). You can add text and stickers (including links!) but can’t include captions with your stories. 

Viewing content on Instagram

You can view recently added stories by clicking on any of the images at the top of your home screen that has a colorful ring around it:

Scroll through your feed to view posts, or click on the little video clapperboard icon in the bottom row to watch reels. 

To view all the content you’ve posted (other than unsaved stories), click on the little person (or favicon) image to the far right of the bottom row of icons on your home screen. You’ll end up on your profile page:

Now would be a great time to load Instagram on your phone and spend some time playing around with its viewing features. Once you know where to find what, it’s time to get started with creating some of your own content. Let’s dive in!

How to create content on Instagram

If you want to use Instagram for your business, you need to actually post stuff — not just lose hours scrolling your feed and watching puppy reels. (Although it’s a bit addictive, so you’ve been warned!)

I’m going to walk you through the creation process for each type of content; let’s start with Posts.

Create a post: 

On your home screen you’ll see a row of icons at the very bottom. Tap on the “plus” icon:

This will take you to a screen like this…

Here you can choose the content type you want to create (in this case, “post”). Then select the photo or video you want from your camera roll (scroll to see everything you have there). Hit “Next” to go to the edit/filters screen:

Here you can adjust the brightness, add filters, and tweak your post until you’re happy with your creation.

Hit “Next”…

Here you add your caption and music. You can also tag people and change your “share” and “view” options for the post. Scroll to see more options.

Once you’re done. Tap “Share” to post it to your grid.

Create a reel:

After hitting the “+” icon at the bottom of your home screen, choose “reel” from the list on the right. You’ll be taken to your phone camera library:

Choose the video you want to use, then hit the blue “Next” button that magically appears on the bottom right of your screen.  

You’ll be taken to the first editing screen where you can trim your video’s length, crop to a tighter view, add music and change the playback speed:

Hit “Next” to go to the next editing screen:

Here you can use the icons at the top of the screen to download your video, add music, effects, stickers, and a text overlay. Hit “Next” once you’re done:

Here you can add your caption, tag people, and select your audience, among other options. Scroll the list for more. Once you’re done, you can save your draft for later tweaking or hit “Share” and get that little rush of adrenaline…

A note about links

Because you can’t include links with posts and reels you need to add them to your personal bio and direct people there. Most people use a link tree to list a variety of their recent links. A link tree is a page on a separate platform that allows you to have a list of links for your Instagram content. It’ll will look something like this:

Over at Hootsuite they have a good post about using link trees if you want to learn more.

Create a story: 

To create a story using a photo or video already on your phone, tap the little blue “+” on your profile icon at the top left of the screen. You’ll also have the option of creating a video from scratch here.

Select the image or video you want to add to your story…

From here you can add text and a snazzy effect:

You can also add a sticker (including a button or link) and music. The sticker range is worth exploring (scroll to see them all) — lots of fun stuff here:

You can also create a story by hitting the “+” icon on the bottom of your screen and choosing “Story” from the list at the bottom right. However, this initially takes you to your phone camera to record, rather than to the camera roll of videos you already have saved.

Sharing content

But what if you want to share someone else’s content? On Facebook this is easy — you just hit “Share” and you’re all done. 

Instagram isn’t quite so “share” friendly…

Posts and reels CAN be shared to your stories. You can also share people’s content to other platforms and privately to individual people. 

 Let’s say you want to share a post from Click and Repeat…

Tapping the share icon take you to the following screen:

From here you can search and select an individual to send to, or you can scroll along the options at the very bottom of the screen.  Here you can choose to either add it to your own story or share it to a different platform.

If you want to share a reel you have all the options above plus the ability to download the video so you can repost it. (Note there are some restrictions around downloading video content. Check the Instagram reels help page for more details.)

Sharing stories works in the same way. Click on the round story image at the top of your home screen. Once the story loads you can share by tapping the “share” icon at the bottom right of the screen:

Note – depending on the background of the story image/video, it’s not always easy to find! Also, depending on folks’ individual privacy settings, you may not be able to share their posts at all, or only with people who also follow them.

And that’s a wrap!

That’s the end of our quick ‘n dirty guide to getting started with Instagram. I hope you enjoyed it and it’s given you the confidence to get started on a new platform. 

Now you have the basics under your belt you can go play around and get comfortable before holding your nose and diving in later…

There’s a huge amount to learn from this point — especially about using Instagram for dog trainers — but it’s impossible to cover everything in one blog post. If you liked this and want to learn more, let us know!

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