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Can You Use Instagram to Network?

While Instagram is the platform most loved by moms sharing vacation photos and fashionistas posting #OOTDs (that's 'Outfit of the Day' for those who don't know), it can also boost your professional networking when used the right way. In fact, Instagram is particularly useful for those in creative fields (think landscape designers and makeup artists) — and these are our best tips for making it work for you.

Create a polished profile

Zoom around Instagram and you'll come across some pretty impressive profiles. Some display complex photo collages that bridge several posts, others enrobe the photos posted with additional white space to really make the images pop.

But don't get intimidated! Start bringing your profile up to speed by pinpointing what you love about your favorite posts. Is it that the colors are all from one palette? Or maybe that there are quote pictures strategically sprinkled among the other content to create a pattern?

Once you've identified what you like, it's easier to incorporate those elements into your own posts. "As the saying that goes 'There are no new ideas,'" says Dorie Herman, who has worked as a designer for companies including House Beautiful magazine and Guardian Life Insurance. "So, it's OK to look for inspiration from others, and figure out how to make something your own."

Comment & (hash) tag

One effective way to boost your own visibility and drive users to your page is to leave thoughtful comments on related profiles and stories. The idea is to get users who are looking at that content curious about who you are so they'll click over to check you out. Similarly, research which hashtags are most frequently used by leaders in your industry or colleagues in your locale, and then tag your content with them so it shows up in the same streams and searches.

Geotagging your photos is another way to ensure that they show up when users search for services in a specific location. "There's no question that my Instagram feed generates more clients and inquiries than my website," says Birgitte Pearce, founder of Birgitte Pearce Design in Montclair, New Jersey. Her theory: People like to get a feel for who you are, and that's something that happens over time and many posts. "It builds a relationship," Pearce explains, which is the foundation of all networking.

Cross-pollinate and connect

If you've already established yourself on another platform but want to work Instagram into your networking efforts, create posts that link to content you've created specifically for Instagram — followers are incentivized to check you on an additional platform. Also, include links to your Instagram feed on your LinkedIn profile and in your Twitter bio.

Mentioning other accounts in your own content and captions will also help increase your audience. "I make it a habit to mention my vendors, any collaborators and clients in my posts," says Tyler Merson, founder of Codfish Park Design, a custom-build cabinet maker serving New York City and northern New Jersey. "It keeps me in contact with those I want to notify about the project, and has also led new clients to me."

Plan out your content

Part of the secret to an effective Instagram presence is planning out what you'll post and when you'll do it. That might mean thinking through a week's worth of content, or even making a plan for a whole season so you can build on previous posts or incorporate seasonal themes.

Advance planning also gives you enough lead time to create different kinds of content, such as video, slideshows, picture collages and live broadcasts — and to research how each post should be tagged for maximum exposure and interaction. "It works best if you have an idea of the Big Picture you want followers to see and experience," says Birgitte Pearce.

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Audrey Brashich

Audrey Brashich

Career Advice Contributor

Audrey D. Brashich covers lifestyle trends, pop culture, and parenthood for national publications including The Washington Post and Yahoo. She is also the author of "All Made Up: A Girl’s Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype and Celebrating Real Beauty."

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