What Works and Doesn’t Work on Instagram
Learnings from @LeJetdeau
Two years ago I put the Jet d’eau on Instagram to give Geneva’s landmark water fountain a social media profile. On January 1, 2019, the @LeJetdeau Instagram account reached 5,000 followers — all acquired organically. Here are a few things I learnt along the way on what works and doesn’t work on Instagram.
1) A clear editorial line
It is vital to have a clear editorial line. I repost almost exclusively pictures featuring the Jet d’eau shared by visitors to Geneva: the Jet d’eau seen from afar or from close up, at night or in daylight, in rain or in sunshine, in summer or in winter, with people or without. The diversity of view points and shots has created an entertaining digital portrait of the fountain.
2) Awesome & Inspiring visuals
It is important to wow and inspire the followers with awesome visuals. The most popular posts have garnered more than 450 likes and comments and well over 3,700 impressions each. Ironically, the post with the most engagement and the most impressions is actually a frozen signpost snapped during the harsh winter of 2018 and not actually the Jet d’eau at all (turned off at the time due to freezing temperatures). Traditional beauty shots such as the Jet d’eau seen at sunset or viewed from Geneva’s cathedral or Rue du 31 Décembre perform better than posts with people.
3) Hashtags are vital
I have identified the 30 most used hashtags in Geneva and post them as a comment under each picture. Posting the hashtags as a comment keeps the description clean and has the same effect on Instagram referencing. Hashtags are vital: my second most popular post garnered 5,424 impressions, almost half of which were generated through hashtags… If I only knew which of these hashtag works best because the discovery through hashtags isn’t always guaranteed. Until then I’ll keep on posting a batch of 30 under each post.
4) Tagging & Add Alt Tags
I obviously tag and mention the original author of each repost on the picture as well as in the caption beneath. Tagging up to 20 users is a very powerful way of drawing their attention to my posts. Instagram also allows you to add ‘alt tags’ to describe images for the visually impaired. These alt descriptions can be added under advanced settings and might increase discoverability by the Instagram algorithm.
5) Engaging descriptions
Given Instagram is a visual network you might think that captions are irrelevant. However, it pays to draft engaging and inspiring descriptions, capturing the attention of your followers in the first two lines. The best captions encourage comments and interactions which, in turn, increase engagement. The posts with the most comments on the @LeJetdeau account are a result of caption competitions or questions posed to the account’s followers. Comments seem to drive engagement more than likes and it is not surprising to see that Instagram influencers have set up engagement pods (groups), consistently leaving comments on their respective profiles to stay relevant.
6) Instagram Videos
Instagram videos of the Jet d’eau do not necessarily generate the most likes or impressions, but they generate several hundred video views beyond the comments and likes and have generated quite a number of profile visits. When posting videos, it is important to make the first three seconds contagious as Instagram videos are on auto play. It also helps to choose an engaging cover shot for each video.
For videos longer than a minute it pays to create an IGTV channel. The video of the re-start of the Jet d’eau in mid-November 2018 has only been watched 123 times…
7) Artistic Posts
Artistic collages look very nice on an Instagram profile. However, in general, few followers visit your profile, even if you encourage them to do so in every caption. Suffice to say that each of the nine picture elements garner little significant engagement.
8) Sex does sell
In summer @LeJetdeau posted a series of sunbathers at the lakeside Bains des Pâquis. Contrary to popular belief, pictures of beautiful bikini-clad women sunbathing in the shadow of the Jet d’eau did not garner the most likes. However, these sexy posts did generate the most profile visits and follows, presumably as a result of leering users searching the @LeJetdeau account for more sexy pictures.
9) Sharing Instagram Stories
Instagram Stories are the best way to stay top of mind of your followers. The @LeJetdeau account consistently shares Instagram stories from other users who mention @LeJetdeau in their stories.
Every week I take a screenshot of the latest posts on the account and share it as an Instagram story to drive more users to follow the account. These highlights are quite popular, with 250 views on average.
10) Facebook, Tumblr & Twitter
The posts from the @LeJetdeau Instagram account are automatically shared on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Not surprisingly these automated posts only garner limited engagement — further proof that users should treat and service each platform separately.