Usually, when I grow very accustomed to a certain social media platform and put it through its paces for several months and try different approaches and techniques, I like to do a streamlined post for those wanting to, but not having the time and passion to find out everything you need to enjoy it. I’ve done it for Twitter before and this is the Instagram for dummies post.
What is Instagram?
Well, basically it’s the photo version of Twitter, on steroids. What this means that it can be several things depending on how you use it. You can stalk and lurk on celebrity profiles, you can build a network of your closest friends and family, you can explore different areas of the world, different interests, specific topics, events, etc. It all depends on who you follow and which tags you surf through.
The concept is fairly simple, you snap a photo of something or someone then edit it real quick and publish it. Editing is usually adding filters to your photo, altering the colors, contrast, sharpness, exposure and other stuff non-photographer folks like you and me would never be able to do on our own. Basically, it makes an ok photo look really awesome if you can mix and match properly between the effects.
Here are a few tips on how to be a good Instagrammer and get followers and follow people worth following
1- Don’t post other people’s photos
That’s just not cool. If it’s a hilarious meme or photo or something which you feel you must post, that’s ok. But no one wants to see something you screenshotted off 9gag. Also, don’t ever post a photo you googled. The beauty of Instagram is sharing the every day stuff you notice or experience, and sharing it with the rest of the world. Sure a photo from Kilimanjaro would look wicked awesome, but folks will know it’s not yours and wonder what was the point (unless of course you did climb it!)
Honestly, the frames on Instagram suck. I personally cringe when I see the burnt/torn edges one, or when someone blurs out part of the photo for no apparent reason. My advice is, never use a frame for your photo and only use the blur effect to really accentuate something, like a certain word or person in a crowded shot.
3- Don’t overdo the hashtags
The hashtag “#” is a powerful tool. When you click it, you will see every single photo tagged with that, which is one of the main ways of discovering new people to follow and photos to enjoy. The common mistake is people using popular, yet meaningless hashtags like “#instahub #instamood #instawow #picoftheday, etc.” Sure, these will land you a few extra likes, but they’re completely worthless and honestly annoying to your followers. Instead, use relevant hashtags to let people searching for a certain something stumble upon your creations.
For example, when you take an awesome shot of a nice building, tag it with things like #architecture #design #minimalism #beirut #lebanon which accurately represent your photo and it’s location, two things people would love to know. I personally get upset when I see a very nice shot, without it being tagged with the location and just the silly meaningless hashtags.
4- Post nice captions
A photo is worth a thousand words but a few words can make a photo a whole lot better and more meaningful. Write a nice caption of whatever the photo is about. Explain the situation, describe the area, write a nice quote, whatever you feel relevant to share with your followers. Also, if you’re linked up to your Twitter and Facebook accounts, it’ll make the posts and tweets a lot more interesting versus just a short url of the photo. Posting a proper caption is always a good idea, in my honest opinion, it’s best to post a plain text caption, and under it as a comment, use the relevant hashtags for the post (it’ll still work the same).
5- Don’t Instacanvas/Instagallery
Those leaching websites offer to print and sell your shots to people willing to buy them and give you a percentage. That’s cool, but come on, would you yourself buy someone’s Instagram shot? Very unlikely. Plus, if you don’t have PayPal (which most folks in Lebanon don’t have) it’s useless because even if you do sell, you wouldn’t be able to get paid. So, you’re letting people get money off your own work and that sucks. Plus, the automated “Like this photo, check out my instacanvas gallery…” comments are a real eyesore for me, cause I hate bots and I’m sure you do too.
6- Post nice photos
Ok, you’re not a pro photographer, but no one wants to see a photo of your name on a Starbucks cup… Take photos that are nice, the kind you’d wanna see on your own feed while scrolling through. If they’re not nice, at least make them relevant somehow, or funny or whatever. Don’t post ugly photos, entertain people following you, make them want to regularly check your feed for new photos instead of getting pity likes from silly hashtags for no reason and on a one-off basis. Build a following/follow environment that’s always active and interactive, which likes and comments and whom you like and comment back to.
7- Stay active
Don’t disappear for 3 weeks then post 1 photo. I hate that, and usually unfollow people who haven’t posted for more than a week. Instagram should be a minor part of your normal routine, not something you dedicate special time to. If I’m waiting for a metro and spot something cool, I photograph it, edit it and publish it in seconds. So, don’t expect me to believe there’s nothing worth posting for that long a period of time. Also, you might think I’m a spaz for being picky and whiny about this, but come on, I’m following you to entertain me, not throw a bone every now and then. This is Twitter-like, not Facebook-like, you need to always be there.
8- Link up
Let your photos get published on your other social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, etc. That’s how they get more exposure and help you find friends and share the awesome photos with your non-Android and non-iOS friends and family. I personally tweet all of my photos when published, and that’s where all the interaction happens whether it’s retweets, favorites or replies and comments.
9- Dont auto-follow
When you create an Instagram account and link it up to your twitter/facebook/etc, it shows you your friends and following who also use Instagram. Never click follow all. Why? Because you’ll automatically have for example 200 people you’re following, while only a handful following you, which makes you look like a loser which no one wants to follow, or a spam bot. Go through these lists, check who’s active and who isn’t (cause most never actually post, they just sign up “and couldn’t figure it out” and give up) check who’s worth it and who isn’t. It’s nice to have a balanced follower-to-following ratio, and it’s even nicer to have a follower-to-following ratio tipped to the followers side.
10- Choose an easy and relevant username, don’t protect your photos and write a bio
Don’t call yourself puppykiller187, unless you don’t want people to find you there. Call yourself by your name (without special symbols) because the Instagram search engine is somewhat unreliable and if you miss a few letters, you’re not gonna find who you’re looking for. Also, write a short bio, like the ones on Twitter, letting folks know what kinda person you are and if you’re what they’re looking to follow. Also, try not to protect your photos, I mean, post things which aren’t incriminating or too naughty, after all, why would someone request to follow if they can’t see what kinda photos you post? And what do you have to hide? Share with the world!
11- Follow me and let me follow you
I love going through my Instagram feed, I follow a lot of cool and interesting folks and whenever I have some spare time, waiting for the bus, waiting for my order to get done, etc. I flip through and see what everyone’s up to in the world. I also post cool photos (or so I’m told) so it shouldn’t be too much of a burden to follow me =D