Get started: from zero to Instagram hero

Instagram is perhaps the most fickle of social media beasts. Even talented photographers who spend days choosing a subject and hours lighting, framing and Photoshopping their images can find themselves stuck on 15 followers for months. Meanwhile, some chancer’s blurred snap of their dog chewing an old sock goes viral. Yes, even a dedicated social media consultant can be vexed by the Instagram puzzle…

From Zero to Instagram Hero - Lucy Lettersmith

Luckily, if you are prepared to put the work in, there is a clear three step process you can follow to gather an organic following on Instagram. I say organic, because there are plenty of (paid) ways to accrue 11,000 followers incredibly quickly (if you’re that way inclined). As always, I’m an organic content marketing gal only – so here’s the lowdown on how to build real followers, and keep them…

1. Take at least 20 great (and I mean great) photos

When it comes to Instagram, appearances are everything. Users looking for somebody to follow will want to be wowed when they click on your profile, so be sure that, before you start putting yourself out there, you have a world-class homepage.

For this, a good 20 or so high quality images will be a necessity. Resist the temptation to just post everything you snap, limiting yourself to only the best of the best. Be your harshest critic – posting nothing at all is preferable to posting a low quality pic. Don’t have anything you think is good enough to post? Then keep snapping until your skills improve.

From now on, when you post something new, users will follow it to your profile and see that you are well worth a second look.

2. Make some noise

Now you’ve got a profile to be proud of, it’s time to get noticed. Start with your other social sites: get existing followers to sign up for your Instagram by posting a few of your best pictures to whet their appetite.

Next up, it’s hashtag time. There’s two ways to approach this. You can either see what’s hot on Twitter and then take some images that are relevant to these trends, or you can look through your existing images and see if there are any pictures that can be made relevant to the popular hashtags. Either way, make sure that you are marking all your best images with a relevant, popular hashtag, to give them the best chance of meeting a wide, interested audience.

Knowing what images will be hits is not always easy, but sunsets and reflections have a tendency to strike a chord.

3. Engagement

Don’t just worry about getting new followers. It is essential that you are equally interested in maintaining a strong relationship with your current followers. To do this, be sure you are positing consistently and replying to questions and comments. Even a simple ‘thank you’ here and there can make a big difference when it comes to user engagement.

The status of Instagram hero is not an easy one to attain! Yet, with some hard work, a strong self-editing system and plenty of socialising, it is within your grasp. My final bit of advice on this is if you’re managing a business account, think about the filters you’re using. I tend to use one particular filter exclusively, just to keep the overall presentation of my Instagram account consistent. I do this because although I showcase 99% personal pics only(!), the account is linked to my business and the pinky hue applied to pictures of my kid, amusing snippets of copywriting, a nice cocktail etc etc, blends well with the tones of my Lucy Lettersmith branding.

Anyone else got any tips for Instagram? It’s become HUGE in recent months and definitely taken over as my favourite social media platform these days. Starting from August 1st, I’ll be joining a number of other users worldwide and doing a daily update which is hash-tagged #augustbreak2015. This one’s been organised by the writer Susannah Conway and she’s given us a post theme for each and every day. If you’re in charge of telling a brand story via content marketing and you’re NOT on the Instagram bandwagon, you need to be. If you’re already a user but are lacking a little inspiration, refresh your approach and join in with us!

How to Pin like a Pro on Pinterest

Using Pinterest to promote your business? There are a few things that I highly recommend as ‘best practice’ – plus I want to tackle some misconceptions. Yep, the type that need smashing up and thrown away (sorry, that almost sounded violent, didn’t it?)

Pin like a pro

As with practically every other social media platform, Pinterest has undergone a lot of developments in the last year – one of which is its enhanced search facility. This gives users the ability to input terms into the search bar without any hashtags. Pinterest picks up all words in the title and description of a Pin – they are all allotted ‘keyword’ status of equal importance, rather than individual ones being defined as more important. The big thing to note here is that this is different to Twitter and Instagram – on these social media platforms a term has to have a hashtag inserted for it to be visible in search results. The search function on Pinterest is a cleverer than these other platforms – it instantly breaks down topics into smaller sub-topics with clickable links.

On Pinterest, hashtag searches are considered pretty unpredictable – which is why many people don’t tend to use them. General hashtags are too broad and tend to invite a range of ‘interesting’ search results. Unfortunately, many of these don’t feature the hashtag you’re actually searching for in their descriptions. It’s why I don’t recommend using Pinterest hashtags as a definitive search facility. It’s not a reliable way to help to increase awareness of your brand or service. An example of this? Do a search a hashtag, such as #kittens. You’ll see that pins with the word “kittens” in the description show up in your search results. Unfortunately, so will pins that have the word “kittens” hidden in the URL/Photo name/product page tied to the Pin.

It’s also worth mentioning that hashtags are only clickable in Pin descriptions. They are not active in profile descriptions or board names, and if they are included, this can have a detrimental effect on your website’s Google ranking! Worth steering clear!

Whilst I’m a massive fan of using them on other social media platforms (you can see that post here), I don’t typically use hashtags for clients on Pinterest as I find they don’t impact on results any more positively. That said – if you’re itching to hover and use that #hashtag, remember: less is more. As a rule, stick to 2 hashtags within each of your pin descriptions.

As an Instagram user, you can insert up to 30 hashtags alongside each pretty picture. On Pinterest, it’s not advisable to include more than two per pin. Anymore, and your Pinterest boards begin to look seriously spammy – which hugely puts people off engaging and re-pinning. A stat for you: pins that feature three or more hashtags have a detrimental effect and see a drop of 17% in engagement.

Make your boards consistent. Ideally, every time you pin, include:

1. Pin description. No more than 200 characters and should include your web link.
2. Geographical location
3. A link that refers straight back to a website and wherever possible – the blog post (or, if applicable – the services page) which refers to the pin in question.

Pin like a pro on Pinterest - Lucy Lettersmith

You could also consider using a pin scheduling service – such as Buffer (you already know I’m a big fan). It’s a great idea to avoid saturating your followers’ feeds with your photos, and instead releasing them onto your boards at optimum times (use their handy beta wizard to work this out, too).

Do you have any Pinterest pinning advice you’d care to share? This content marketing gal would love to hear from you!

How to improve customer experience: in minutes

For small businesses, social media platforms can still sometimes be dismissed as unimportant and not worth engaging in. That particular viewpoint only takes them at face value – as a group of online platforms created for people to put forward their opinions for the world to read. It also still leaves some small business owners asking, “where is the value in that for my company?” If you’re one of those people, here’s one thing I think you should be considering – that often gets totally overlooked:

Twitter as a Customer Service Platform-Lucy Lettersmith

Social media platforms, and Twitter in particular, allow you to connect directly with your customer base. They also gives you the opportunity to both expand and enhance the reputation of your brand. Twitter is a communication method that has the fewest obstacles between you and your customers; there is no need to pass through a switchboard or press 1 to speak to a particular department. It is an instant communication channel, which makes it an ideal candidate to form part of your customer services.

Just look at some of the major brands out there that already use it to its best effect: ASOS, in the retail sector, and London Midland, in transport, are both shining examples of companies making the most of Twitter to provide a great customer service experience and to deal with any issues swiftly.

This approach works for these companies on two levels. Firstly, it genuinely improves customer experience, which is of course more likely to encourage repeat business because of the ease of contact and speed of resolution. It also shows the wider online community that they are proactive in dealing with issues, painting them in a good light and helping make them brands that customers are more likely to trust.

If this Twitter approach works for major companies like these two, and many others like them, you can be sure that it will for small business too. Commitment to great customer experience and proactivity in dealing with problems are universal positives that will work in favour of any business, regardless of size.

In the modern marketplace, where even the smallest of businesses are dealing with customers from all over the world, Twitter is a perfect tool that reaches every area of the globe and allows you to be available to both existing and potential customers at any time, no matter where they may be. It can really help you keep the wheels of your business turning.

Need a hand with your content marketing? Whether you’re a small business or a more well-known brand, I can help you get the most out of your Twitter and other social media campaigns.

3 inbound marketing techniques anybody can use

Inbound marketing: if you’re running an SME or start-up business, chances are you’ve heard those two words quite a bit already. You’ve probably been assured, by numerous blogs, experts and business associates, that inbound marketing is the future of branding and every second you’re not involved, your business is losing money.

Unless you are a content marketer or social media manager, this has probably left you with a pretty crucial question (and one that I get asked all the time): how does a business owner who doesn’t know digital marketing from a hole in the wall utilise inbound marketing techniques?

Unlike traditional outbound marketing strategies (advertising, promotional campaigns etc.) the great thing about inbound strategies is that they generally don’t require much knowledge of marketing. Here’s the thing: inbound techniques will usually revolve around making you and your team expert voices in your field. Once this has been established, customers will organically come to you when they need your service, as they will identify you as an innovative, reliable company. Good news, eh?!

As long as you have some sort of expertise in your field and are prepared to put the work into transferring that expertise into content, there are lots of inbound approaches you can take.

3 inbound marketing techniques anybody can use- Lucy Lettersmith

1. The free guide

Create a free guide that is relevant to your industry, packed with accessible, compelling information that will be of practical use to your customer base. Then offer it free of charge and promote it like crazy. If you’re short on time or hate the writing bit, hire a copywriter. If you’re going it alone, get it edited, checked and re-checked by someone who is blessed with a touch of tough love – plus an eye for detail (I offer editing services too btw). The thing with written literature that’s either totally indigestible, dull or littered with spelling mistakes –  is that just conveys a lack of brand quality. Avoid mistakes; they undermine the greatness of your product or service from the outset – and that is not a good look.

2. Make yourself the brand

Marketing in the internet age is driven by personalities. If you can associate yourself, your face and your name completely with your company, than any good press you can get will directly benefit your product’s branding. I’m a firm believer in the anti-salesy approach. As a consumer, it’s something that massively turns me off – whereas a non-pressured, friendly approach gets me hooked. You don’t always need to be pushing your products – just putting yourself out there as an engaging, interesting personality will help create better awareness.

3. Become a guest blogger

As well as producing relevant content for your own sites and blogs, it’s a smart idea to get involved with other sites that hold sway over your target market. If you can make a name for yourself as an authoritative voice on the websites followed by your demographic, you will be drawing more and more good attention back to your brand.

Inbound marketing opens up a lot of doors for the business with a small advertising budget and lots of ambition. If you want to get involved, these three simple strategies are a good place to begin.

5 free tools for making the most of your social media

It’s an all too familiar story for many SMEs out there. You understand the importance of social media for representing your business and so, feeling all gung-ho about it, you get yourself set up. But then the pressures of running a business just get in the way. Now you’re struggling to keep the channels updated frequently, let alone think about your social media management.

Let’s be honest. Just the phrase ‘social media management’ can sound dull and daunting in equal measure. Thankfully, it’s none of these things as long as you have the right tools.

Top 5 Free Tools for Social Media - Lucy Lettersmith


Allowing you to plug in and track activity across LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and more, this intuitive dashboard is pretty nifty – and it would seem over 6 million users agree. You can also share and schedule posts across multiple networks.


If you want something simple – both in usage and design – this is your best bet. Used to preschedule posts to social platforms that you choose, there’s also a metrics dashboard to see what posts are getting the most interaction. It’s great for image posting on the fly too.

P.S. I’m a massive fan of Buffer. I’ve been using them for a while as a business user (an extended version of the free tool, crammed with analytics, which I pay for). It’s worth mentioning that their customer service is absolutely top-notch; the team are super nice and incredibly proactive about resolving any queries.

Twitter lists

There’s most definitely still a place for good old-fashioned Twitter lists. You can organise followers by industry, group or theme, meaning you can keep an eye on them more closely.

It’s just as important to stay informed on the news and trends within your industry. That’s where comes in. It’s great for collecting rss (content) feeds from blogs or updated websites that are relevant to your industry, and organising them into your own digest website. I have a list on which is relevant to every client I represent. It’s my little bible of constantly updated, topical information for each of their industry sectors.

Rival IQ

Want to keep an eye on what your competitors are saying? Then Rival IQ is for you. Enter your company along with your competitors and they’ll do the rest for you. Expect to see vital info on their website, social media activity and search engine optimisation efforts.

Don’t be afraid to trial all these free tools and see what works for you. Oh, and when you’ve exhausted this starter list, head over to this article, which is a gold mine of free stuff (300 awesome links, in fact!) designed for entrepreneurs like you and me.

What are your favourite business-boosters online? Does your ‘can’t live without it’ resource appear on this list? Is it a free tool or do you pay for it? Let me know – we’ll get sharing!

7 Powerful Ways To Improve Your Twitter Marketing

Twitter marketing is a key part of social media management. Sometimes, getting back to basics can offer a fresh perspective. Often even advanced users can forget this – you should make the very most of Twitter’s basic features so that you don’t miss out on any potential opportunities for engagement.

Here are seven straightforward tips for getting the very best results:

1. Understand how Twitter search results work.

Twitter will only search for tweets containing all the search terms used, as though there were an invisible “and” in between your keywords. To avoid this, use “or” in between your search terms, and Twitter will look for tweets containing any of those terms, not tweets containing all of them.

2. Use Twitter lists to group different people together.

So, for example, if you are organising a conference, you could have all the speakers in one group so you can interact with them specifically, and monitor their tweets.

3. Make sure videos and lists show up.

Having a photo boosts your chance of a retweet by more than a third, while adding a video boosts those odds by over a quarter. Twitter can also be integrated with video-sharing websites like YouTube and Vine.

4. Acknowledge wisely.

If you have a busy Twitter account or a big brand, favourite tweets as an acknowledgement for every mention you get. But beware. Twitter can suspend your account if it suspects you’re over-favouriting, and be wary of automatic favouriting programmes – you need to read the tweets first before you favourite them!

5. Reply to the right audience.

Not every tweet you send will appear in all your followers’ feeds. If you want to reduce numbers of people who can see a thread, begin replies with @username. This will only go to that person and common followers.

6. Retweet efficiently.

Remember users will be told their tweet has been retweeted, but can’t respond in any way unless they find the original tweet. It may be easier to copy and paste the original text placing RT at the start.

7. Try Analytics.

Use the new Analytics feature to measure engagement. You need to sign up for ads to be able to access this Twitter marketing feature, but can use it without buying any ads.

7 Powerful Ways To Improve Your Twitter Marketing - Lucy Lettersmith

How to know if your hashtag has purpose

Hashtags are like Marmite: you either love them or hate them. Whatever your opinion, they should be an essential part of your social media strategy.

Hashtags are largely perceived as youthful, informal and occasionally humorous, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them if that doesn’t fit your brand. Youth-orientated brands may choose to use them more liberally to relate to their audience, whilst other brands may only use a few select hashtags when relevant to get more impressions on their posts.

#Hashtag effectively - Lucy Lettersmith

Think carefully about how hashtags fit with your brand’s tone of voice and, if you have a social media manager, make sure you communicate this with them. It also depends on which social media platform you’re using. Here are my top tips for using hashtags effectively across Twitter and Instagram:


Due to the character limitation, it’s usually only possible to use one hashtag in a tweet. Try to keep any hashtags you create short to make it easier for others to use.

Try finding brand-relevant conversations with potential followers through hashtags and join in by using it too. Look at your competitors’ feeds to see which hashtags they use that are popular. This is a great way to share your expertise on a subject. However, only use generic hashtags and be careful not to infringe on a hashtag created by another brand as this can be seen as rude and a conflict of interest.


The quickest and easiest way to get ‘likes’ on your photos on Instagram is by using hashtags. Instagram allows you to use up to 30 on any one picture. Most common nouns and geographical locations are likely to attract visitors to your post.

However, the majority of accounts who find and like your posts through a hashtag won’t follow your account. As such, they aren’t very valuable engagements and it can be seen as tacky or ‘desperate’ to use a lot of hashtags to gain ‘likes’.

To be more discrete with your hashtags, submit them in a separate comment underneath the caption of your photo. This still works the same and makes your posts look neater.

Basic social media statistics every business needs to know

Familiar with Facebook? Is your business getting stuck into other social media platforms, such as Instagram and Pinterest? Taking the first leap into the social media whirlpool can be a bit scary – especially if it’s something you aren’t used to and you’re using it to represent your business online.


Even though all professionals and businesses should be on LinkedIn for networking purposes, it isn’t a time-consuming social medial platform. Thankfully you only need to check-in occasionally, instead, focus on the platforms that will generate both business and interest, such as…


Great for those in female-focused businesses, such as fashion, design, jewellery, travel and photography. Users of Pinterest are predominantly women and 70% of them say they use the site to help them decide what to buy.


This is the social media site that everyone is on – but there are ways to get noticed. Firstly, short posts with photos generate a lot more interest than long text. Posting on Thursdays and Fridays attracts more attention, and asking a question doubles the amount of interest a post receives.


News, marketing and sports businesses do well because they can provide the ‘in-the-moment’ posts that are great for Twitter. If you can be the go-to source for developments in your sector, this will generate interest in your brand.


Great for image-friendly businesses including fashion, luxury brands, food, retail and restaurants. Users are predominantly in the 18-29 age group so anyone wanting to target that audience should post items at evenings and weekends.

You may feel that you don’t have the time, or resources, to maintain your business presence on every available social media site. The best thing to do is decide which social media platforms pair up best with your business. When you have done this, concentrate on presenting yourself well on them so that you can engage effectively with your audience.