Wednesday, August 12, 2015

the DO's and DON'Ts of instagram

the do's and don'ts of instagram

Over the last couple weeks, I've been thinking a lot about Instagram [I should probably be thinking a lot more about my surgery shelf coming up, but that's really up for debate ;)]  But really, in recent weeks I've probably unfollowed close to 20 people on instagram for one reason or another. I, of course, also have a general idea of how many numbers of followers I have, so I notice when that number changes. It made me think about why people follow and unfollow others on everyone's favorite social media. I asked you guys on twitter and facebook on your opinions, and loved reading everyone's thoughts that I thought it would make for a fun post. So, here, in very much just my opinion, are the do's and don'ts of instagram. As a disclaimer, these are just my thoughts for those of us who have public instagrams who want to increase our following. I obviously don't have a huge following either, this is really just bits and pieces of thoughts and discussions from the past few weeks :)

DO: have a consistent way of editing pictures. Up until about a year and a half ago, I didn't do this. It wasn't until my good friend Ben really started to get into Instagram. Ben is a graphic designer by trade, so he obviously has a good eye for these kind of things, so I made him give me a little lesson on how he takes pictures and edits them. Many hundreds of pictures later, I have developed my own way of editing pictures (this post is almost a year old about my editing methods, but I've changed things recently so let me know if you are interested in an updated version). This is important for several reasons.

  • It makes your instagram cohesive, which is important for when someone first finds your page. I will decide within about 5 seconds if I want to follow someone based on the 9 pictures that show up first, and if I'm not attracted to how it is presented, I may not follow
  • It makes editing pictures quicker - I know exactly what changes I'm going to make, so I don't have to play around with it anymore. 
  • Once you have a certain way of editing, your followers will always know it's your picture. I think of Laura when I say that - I always know a picture is hers before I even read the caption because she has a specific way of editing her pictures. I love her and her page, so I almost always either like or comment on her pictures. Her consistent style of editing keeps me engaged.

DON'T: overedit. Girl, we see the blur action/slimming app going on! Keep it natural :) I definitely will erase a blemish if I have one, but that's as far as I like to go with my edits. 

DO: stay consistent with what you are sharing. I have a fairly low tolerance for following people - if I come across an instagram that at just a few glances looks like something I'd like to follow, I'll follow. If those same instagram pictures that before were of the normal instagram-like pictures (puppies, cute babies, flowers, blah blah blah, edited in a cohesive way) all of a sudden turn into a bunch of drunk selfies with your besties at the bar, I will more than likely unfollow. I don't know those people, and those pictures aren't the reason I started following you. If you want a public instagram that grows in followers, then keep those moments on your private facebook. If you use your instagram to share the prettier parts of your life with a bunch of strangers on the internet, then stay consistent. This doesn't mean you can't branch out and take different types of pictures - I try not to post the same dog / white coat / flowers pictures every single time, because I do like to branch out and try different things, but I try to same the general types of pictures instead of all of a sudden turning my instagram into a family album.

DON'T: become greedy. This is probably my number one piece of advice, and also based on reader feedback on facebook and twitter, something many followers hate. I personally don't care or not if a person uses Like to Know It. I personally don't use it on my instagram because I'm too lazy, and my instagram doesn't often feature purchasable items (Hans is not for sale!), but I think it's a smart idea for those who often feature items that can be purchased. If someone uses Liketkit, I won't automatically unfollow because there are definitely respectful ways to use it. For example, if someone asks where an item is from, don't give them the schpiel on how they can sign up and receive and email and isn't it great for everyone? No one wants to hear that. Be a normal person, and just tell them. Do you lose out on a dollar or two if they don't sign up? Sure, but you'll gain respect, and I think that's always more important than a few extra cents.

DO: think about how you come across. I was following a fairly popular blogger on instagram because she was pretty to look at and takes nice pictures. After about a month of traveling around Europe, she had an instagram picture about finally getting some time to relax. I was coming off of six straight months of being holed up at the library without a single night off studying for my boards, so that was the last straw for me. This doesn't mean you can't share the most difficult things in life - I know that one of my most popular posts was about sharing a struggle, but if the struggle is being tired after going on a trip around Europe for six weeks, maybe keep that to yourself next time ;) I can be a bit of whiner (right, catladies?), but in general, I like to keep my instagram a happy place because if you are looking to grow your instagram following, being a debbie downer is not going to make that happen.

DON'T: do loop giveaways. I get the temptation, I do. I would love to quickly grow my followers too. As a blogger, more followers = more opportunities = more money. But have you ever heard of anyone say they actually like them? I haven't. I think they are annoying and clutter my feed, and chances are that unless I really like you or have been following you for years, I will unfollow. I think growing your followers organically will always win, plus your current followers will appreciate it too.

DO: mix it up. We all know those instagrams that take pictures in the exact same pose every day (that overhead selfie that I have never figured out how to do). While I know many women have great success with this, I think sometimes it's important to try out something else, or else it becomes forgettable. I think a good example of this is Steph - while she does many layouts, she always mixes up how she presents her outfits. It keeps me interested in what she is showing even though she has a "formula".

DON'T: think you have to post all the time. I don't remember exactly where I read this, but basically, you aren't going to lose followers if you don't post something for a few days, but you will lose followers if you post something just to post something. I never thought about it that way before, because I used to think I had to post at a minimum of once a day, if not more, to keep and gain followers. Now I post five times a week, tops. Sometimes I just don't have anything to take a picture of, sometimes I don't have the time to edit, and sometimes I just am busy doing other things. Now when I post a picture, it's because I love the picture too, and not because I feel obligated to post something. Actually, many people on facebook and twitter said that they unfollow if you post too much. What's the magic number? I'm not sure, but I personally probably will never post more than three pictures in a day.

DO: stay engaged. If you ever ask me a question on instagram, I am almost certain to respond. You took time to write something on my post, and if I didn't want the conversation, I wouldn't have started it by posting the picture in the first place. I am always a bit sad when someone receives a bunch of questions, and doesn't take the time to answer them. Love your followers back :) I think a great example of this is Lynette - I love that she always takes time to write back when people ask a question. She even recently had a Q&A on her instagram, which I think is such a fun idea, and something I am definitely copying in the future.

DON'T: overstylize. We know that you don't keep all of your lipsticks uncovered on your white bed spread, and we also know you don't leave all of your jewelry sitting next to your computer while you type. Just be real...ish. I am guilty of clearing away an area to make it look nice - sure you see the clean desk here, but what you didn't see were the many boxes in the corner waiting to be unpacked. It wasn't a fake picture - that's what my desk looked like, it was just strategically cropped without being overly stylized. Styling a few items in a pretty way is definitely instagram worthy, I'm sure many of us have done so, but it's when it becomes too "this isn't at all real" that I personally may unfollow.

DO: make a custom hashtag or series. I think of Laura from Beauty and the Beard when I say this - have you ever seen her #everythinginrainboworder pictures? I think they are so fun, and I'm always waiting for the next one. I personally use the #frandoesmedschool hashtag as a way to keep track of my four years of school. Sometimes I like to look back through the past two+ years just to see how much has changed - I know others do the same, because I will receive likes on multiple old pictures under that hashtag. I think people like to see the progression too. This doesn't mean you have to start one for every single event of your life (#frandoeswork #frandoesdieting #frandoessleeping), but if you have a recurring theme in a picture, a custom hashtag is a fun way for your followers to look back through them.

DON'T: be afraid to use strategic hashtags and tag brands. Again, I think Laura does a great job of this. She is often featured on other feeds because of her strategic hashtag usage. I've been featured on a few feeds after tagging brands - Hansi is double famous since he was both on the Pottery Barn and Overstock pages recently! A bonus is that if those companies comment on your picture, chances are your picture will show up on the explore page, and you may gain a couple of new followers.

DON'T: go hashtag crazy. I won't be judgey and say keep it to a minimum of 3 hashtags (because that would make me the biggest hypocrite evaaaa), but just don't go overboard and #hashtag #every #object #in #the #picture.

DO: think about if it's instagram or a blog post. This is obviously 100% my opinion, and I'm sure many won't necessarily agree (although many on facebook brought this up), but I don't really like using blog pictures on my instagram as a way of promoting the post. If I follow your blog, I probably already follow your instagram, and if I follow your blog, I follow you on bloglovin, and I will check out your blogpost with that exact picture in it eventually. My solution to still wanting to promote a post without posting exact pictures in that post? Take a picture on your phone of a part of your outfit - this lets you not only promote your post for those follower who may not follow you on bloglovin, and it gives those who follow you on both a new picture to look at. Or, you can do what Grace does, and do a little sneak peak - I always think those are fun as well!

DON'T forget to explore. I have found some of my favorite pages to follow by looking through hashtags and the explore page. I also tend to gain a lot more followers when I'm more active - if I'm leaving more comments (real comments!) and liking pictures with the same hashtag, I tend to gain more followers.

DO: have fun! In the end, this is just social media and for the majority of us, it's all just for fun. If one of my don'ts is a do for you, then keep doing you! If you hate something I love, that's okay too.

I would love to hear your dos and don'ts have instagram! What rules do you live by, and what makes you click unfollow? And if you aren't following me already, my instagram can be found here!