Social Media Breakfast Madison
Josh Haroldson

Josh Haroldson

How do you harness the power of Instagram?

“Produce Quality Content. Period.”

Yes, it’s as easy – or as difficult – as that, says Instagram superstar Josh Haroldson (@JoshHaroldson), who shared his experiences and insights Wednesday with a captivated Social Media Breakfast Madison audience at the Monona Terrace Convention Center.

Josh – who is featured on the Instagram Suggested User List – says there are three rules for achieving that goal of a quality Instagram account:

  1. Have beautiful, authentic visuals.
  2. Tell your story.
  3. Build a community that is going to want to follow along with your experiences

Challenging, yes, but not insurmountable. You don’t have to be great at all three of those, Josh says, just at one … as long as you are good at the other two. “You don’t always have to have the most epic sunset, edge of cliff, perfect latte or cat picture,” he said. You don’t have to always have the best captions or the biggest community. But you do want to have a nice balance of those three elements.

Beautiful, authentic visuals

Instagram is a visual platform with an endless stream of outstanding photos, but don’t be intimidated by that. Yes, it is important to have beautiful, authentic visuals, but that doesn’t mean you have to consistently rise to the level of quality displayed by professional photographers.

Often, a genuine – and slightly flawed – photo of a real situation is more appealing than a carefully crafted and professionally produced slick stock photo. “There is definitely room to bring your DSLR to the table, but you don’t need it,” Josh said.

“90% of what I post is from my phone,” he said. And while that can still mean the photos are carefully composed, it also means they didn’t require the complexities of high-end lighting or photography equipment.

In fact, Josh said, “Instagram” style images have a 25% higher click-through rate than professional photos.

“Even pros are trying to make their photos look like user generated imagery.”

Tell Your Story

No matter what your story is, be bold and tell it in many different ways. The goal is simple, he said: Connect with the influencers in your community.

“I am 15% coffee, 39% outdoor vibes, 10% cats, 35% hipster or yuppie hotspots , and 1% pictures of my feet,” Josh said, adding that he posts so many pictures of his cat Basil that “he is way more famous than you or I will ever be.”

Instagram, he said, “has pushed me outside more than anything has ever pushed me outside.”

“I think of all my experiences, and all the times I went outside, all the times I went exploring and all the places I might not have gone if didn’t have that push that, hey, this might be a great Instagram photo.”

Josh cited two ways to tell your story

  1. Take them behind the scenes: Let them in.
  2. Be a source of information. Show them something they don’t know.

Josh cited the example of leatherworksmn, which uses photos of staff making products and working behind the scenes. If you are like leatherworksmn and have the capacity to consistently create quality content that’s awesome, Josh said, you are in a lucky position.

If not, he said, “influencers and your community have ability to create awesome content for you.” Airbnb, for example uses primarily crowdsourced content form its 772,000 followers.

No matter how you do it, Josh said, you want to have a consistent feel to your feed. “Having people expect something and then you being able to deliver on that is very important.”

Build a Community

Building a community takes time and strategy, and involves connecting with influencers in your target community and using and creating hashtags that help build a gathering place.

An influencer, Josh said, is a person in your market or demographic that has an engaged audience that is also in your target demographic. Once you engage an influencer, you can start reaching many more people in your target audience through that influencer.

How do you find influencers?

  1. Define your audience.
  2. See who is commenting on your accounts and using your hashtag.
  3. Search Google, social networks, for relevant keywords, accounts, etc.

Engaging with others on Instagram is a great way to draw them into your community, Josh said. This includes commenting and liking people’s photos, thereby creating rapport and relationships with people.

“Flattery goes a long way,” Josh said. “Be personal and engage often.”

You may even send a gift to someone to express your appreciation for their engagement with your Instagram account.

Josh said he was surprised to receive a message from North Face thanking him for his engagement and offering to send him a jacket. Something that simple, he said “makes you loyal for life.”

Why Instagram?

Josh shared these Instagram statistics:

  • Over 400 million users
  • 80 million posts per day
  • 3.5 billion daily likes
  • 53% of all 18-29 year olds use Instagram
  • 58 times engagement versus Facebook
  • 120 times engagement versus Twitter
  • Instagram posts have a lifetime of 3-5 days, far longer than Facebook or Twitter

Looking for more? Go to Joshharoldson.com/SMB.


Bill HurleyWritten by , (@billhurleymedia / billhurleymedia.com / beachmaniac.com) Editor, writer, social media strategist, website developer, digital publisher.  BillHurleyMail@gmail.comBill@smbmad.org.


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