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How to Establish Your Personal Brand on Instagram

Erica Moss is the community manager for Georgetown University’s online masters in nursing programs, offering one of the nation’s leading womens health nurse practitioner programs. She enjoys blogging, TV, pop culture and tweeting @ericajmoss.

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Instagram has found itself in the news a lot lately, and not for all the right reasons. Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies asks, “Has Instagram Jumped the Shark?” citing a growing number of spam accounts and a lack of real community on the platform as of late.

A recent Mashable article argues that what the app does isn’t special and points to its recent beef with Twitter, which just added Instagram-like filters to its apps.

With all that said, as a very visual platform with 100 million users, it’s still an effective way to help tell the story of you, and can help you develop a cohesive online personal brand.

As with any network, there are right ways and wrong ways to approach the content you share, whether you’re in the market for a job or gainfully employed. A few things to consider:

Keep your profile photo consistent with other networks.

This photo on Instagram is smaller than the tip of your index finger. Using a photo of the back of your head taken on a beach from 20 feet away is not an effective way to showcase your friendly face. While there are arguments to be made on both sides about whether or not your photo should remain consistent across platforms, I find it’s a great way to stay congruent, and make you more memorable and recognizable. Don’t make people guess whether or not it’s you.

Build your audience using hashtags.

This may be one of the most underutilized perks of Instagram. Like on Twitter, hashtags can be used to group similar photos, making it easy to find users with similar interests and amplify your content. For example, if you live in New York City, using the hashtag #igersnyc (short for Instagrammers NYC) will make your photos easier to find within that community.

What other popular hashtags are users searching to find cool photos? Try #sky, #sunset, #instagood, #cloudporn, #skyline and #nofilter, to name a few. Another pro tip: As you hit certain numbers of likes on your photos, add a hashtag to the comments section (i.e. #10likes), and you’ll almost certainly boost the number of hearts you receive, as some users are purposely on the prowl for photos with many likes.

Amplify your reach by sharing with other networks.

Technically, only people with Instagram accounts can see your photos. Expand your reach by sharing your photos on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. (It’s worth noting that Instagram photos are no longer displayed within Twitter, so users will have to click the actual Instagram link in your tweet.)

By publishing your Instagram photos on other sites, you can introduce your established audience to another facet of your online persona. Your photos should supplement the content you’re already sharing on those other platforms, so it’s important to constantly think about what you wish to convey through these sites to ensure coherency.

This isn’t to say that you need to obsess over each photo and debate its merits; rather, you should identify what you primarily use these other networks for, and be sure to share photos that keep in line with your established persona. If you’re into art and regularly tweeting links to interviews with artists or re-blogging photographs of innovative design, taking and sharing photos of art shows and cool pieces that you’ve discovered will only enhance the content you’re publishing elsewhere.

You should also follow prominent people and companies in your field of interest, and try to build a rapport as you favorite and comment on their photos. By seeking out other accounts with related content, you’re showing that you have an active interest in the subject matter.

Have fun.

Using common sense and exercising discretion is the best way to protect yourself and your brand. Don’t share any potentially incriminating photos of you or any friends, and try to capture the different aspects of your life on Instagram, from the social to the professional. And don’t forget to have fun with it! Instagram can flesh out the identity you’ve been carving out online by adding an intimate visual component, helping people to better understand the real you.

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