Believe me when I say that I was never a fan of social media and certainly never in my wildest dreams imagined myself starting up an Instagram account at the age of 28 ( I’m now 30)…. until I did so out of perceived necessity to help support and promote my fledgling private dietetics practice.
One and a half years and a countless numbers of followers, blog subscribers and clients later, here I am preaching why Instagram and social media are indispensable activities for nutrition professionals, especially those aspiring to someday work for themselves.
In today’s article I am not only going to share why Instagram has been so valuable to me personally and professionally, but also provide you some tips and insights on how you can get started on your road to social media success.
The 5 Awesome Things Instagram Has Done For Me
I figure I would start the discussion by outlining all of the benefits and perks that I have received from growing my Instagram account.
- My Instagram Audience = My Blog Audience: If you have made it this far, there is a decent chance you actually follow me on Instagram, because that is where a great deal of my blog audience comes from. Everybody knows that I spend a heck of a lot of time writing my blogs, but for those who aren’t bloggers, you won’t appreciate how difficult it is to find an audience to read your work ( no matter how good it may be), especially when you are starting out. One of the joys of having an Instagram following is a large portion of those individuals ultimately spill over and become my loyal blog readers as well (click here if you want to know the reasons why I think ALL dietitians and nutrition students should blog). And believe me, I appreciate each and every one of you.
- Followers become clients: According to my Instagram business account analytics, about 1/3 of my 10,000 Instagram following is from Toronto. Which means, in essence, there are 3,000 potential clients that I am instantly connected with. In fact, many of my most regular clients are individuals who discovered me on Instagram , and I’d say that demographics account for between 10-25% of my total client base.
- Unlimited Opportunities: Having clients spot me on Instagram is great, but that is only the beginning. I’ve landed presentation gigs at big companies and had a variety of collaboration opportunities stem directly from my presence on social media. I’ve even been paid to present on my Instagram expertise! Other opportunities that I’ve encountered do not involve direction compensation ( nor should they, to be perfectly honest) but the exposure I’ve gained has been invaluable. I have also been, and continue to be, involved in some really amazing initiatives including two very meaningful projects coming up next month ( stay tuned!).
- Website Clicks: When you have a business account on Instagram, you are able to put the link to the website in your bio. When you have a website, the more meaningful visits you get to it, the better. That is exactly why people spend so much money doing Pay Per Click ( PPC) advertising on Google. In saturated market spaces like nutrition counselling, fitness , weight management etc, each and every website click you gain has value, and the bigger your Instagram account, the more website engagement you will get
- Other Personal + Professional Rewards: For all the tangible professional benefits of being on Instagram, I can’t deny the value it has as a place to exchange information and interact with like-minded individuals and colleagues. I became a dietitian to help people live healthier lives and I feel like I am really able to spread a powerful and insightful message through my Instagram account. I also learn a heck of a lot from the other health professionals on the platform. As for the social component, those who know me well will be aware of the fact that I met my girlfriend via Instagram. Long story short, anything is possible via social media!
With that out of the way, I will share with you some of the insights I have gained growing my own Instagram account over the past year and a half. Keep in mind, I am the type of person to do things in my own way so I did not consult strategy guides or seek out guidance from anyone else when I started this journey.
As a result, the advice I am providing may not be the most efficient or accurate, but it is what has worked for me and covers what I perceive to be the most important activities to support growth on Instagram.
Andy The RD’s Tips For Growing Your Instagram Account
1.Pick/Fall into a niche: Although it may evolve with time, I think you should figure out what you want your account to be focused on. I say “figure out”, but really your own personality, life and activities should guide your selection. You can be a superbly competent nutrition professional but not a foodie, so don’t think it always has to be about food. My account is a great example of that, although I have grown my food aesthetic skills exponentially over the last year. At the end of the day, whether you want your account to be about your life, food, fitness, or a blend of all of the above, I find that people come to expect a certain type of content from you overtime and will begin to expect and look forward to that content.
2. Find people doing well in that niche ( or don’t): Myself personally, I kind of invented my own food humour niche at the beginning and did not really aspire to match anybody else. If you personally fall into a pre-existing niche, be sure to learn from people who are successful in that niche. Look at the types of pictures they post, who follows them, how they interact with their followers, the type of captions they use and don’t be afraid to steal all or most of their hashtags either! If you have a business-related account, be sure to use some local hashtags to help draw in traffic and potential clients from your geographical area.
3. Be Consistent: I regularly visit the soccer news website Goal.com because they update their news feed every single day. If they suddenly let the same content sit on the front page for days without changing it, I would not visit as frequently. You should view your Instagram page and content in the same way.
4. Entertain, Engage & Educate: The MOST important part of being a nutrition professional on Instagram is the three Es. Make sure each and every one of your post posts do at least ONE of these three, and if you manage to do all three ( which I often strive to!) with each post on a regular basis, you are destined for greatness.
5. Birds (Dietitians) Flock Together: Leverage the loyalty and mutual fondness that dietitians and nutrition students have for each other by following and engaging as many of them as you can. Use the #dietitian, #rd2be, #dietetics , #nutritionstudent and #dietitianapproved hashtags to help get you started. If you follow them, they will follow back. Find dietitians around your level of growth on Instagram and come up with mutually beneficial collaboration opportunities and don’t be afraid to ask more well known dietitians for a shout out, I do them all the time!
6. The Golden Rule: Just as in life, it is important to be good to those on Instagram who are good to you. If you have a loyal follower who likes and comments on your photos, be sure to give them that time of day right back. Engaging your followers and, at the least, liking their photos is extraordinarily important to building strong mutually beneficial relationships on Instagram.
7. Take Nice Photos: I save the most obvious point for last but suffice to say that every other point I have mentioned here today goes right out the window if you do not take visually appealing photos. Although a decent camera would help, a new generation smart phone should do the trick. I am no photographer but the two things that I’ve learned in my time on Instagram is are:
- Take Photos In Natural Light: Taking photos in indirect natural light greatly enhances the look and feel of a photo.
- A Good Filter Can Save A Bad Photo: No one is telling you go to crazy with filters, but sometimes we all just need a little 33/100 on Gingham or Clarendon ( the two best filters IMO).
If you are on Instagram already, hopefully you are more motivated than ever to continue growing your page.
If you aren’t… well… what are you waiting for?
It takes some serious effort but it certainly is both fun and rewarding.
When you sit back on your couch at night, you could watch Netflix or you could spend 20-30 minutes engaging people on Instagram and building foundations for future success on the platform.
The choice is yours, and there are consequences to your participation that go beyond what I’ve discussed above…
At the end of the day, social media is full of polarizing and poorly thought out opinions and stances on food and nutrition. We NEED dietitians and other nutrition professionals with strong educational backgrounds to be a strong, entertaining and insightful presence to not only help combat this misinformation but to preserve the integrity and respectability of our field.
As funny as that may last statement may sound, I believe it holds great relevance.
With that being said….See you on the gram ma’am!
Andy De Santis RD MPH