As far as I’m concerned social media is all about what you make of it. Yes, there’s etiquette, and yes, there are things that people do that are really annoying. But we have to live with that – if they’re happy doing social media one way, then that’s their prerogative.
With Instagram, it seems everyone is now on the bandwagon. I’ve been using Instagram for 3 years now, and I love it. The bit about it I don’t like (apart from all the algorithm changes all the time and instagram stories – just why?!) is the politics about it.
I started using Instagram because I wanted to practise my photography and have somewhere to store it (I didn’t get on with Flickr), then had a photography group who tended to be on Instagram. I got hooked, and then the rest of the blogging (and business) world got hooked as well. Hence why my feed is a mish mash of what I like to take photos of.
So I thought I’d share my thoughts on Instagram and how I use it. Take them or leave them as you will, as I would do with anyone elses.
My rules for Instagram
I follow who I want, when I want
As with any social media, I don’t do follow for follow. If I like your feed and want to see more of it, I will follow. If after any length of time I want a change, or get bored, or don’t get any engagement at all, then I’ll check the feed, and unfollow. It’s not personal, I’d rather just have only the feeds I want to see.
Follow / unfollow is rude
Mostly it’s businesses (see my point below), but just don’t follow people to get them to like you and then unfollow. It’s annoying, it gives people false hope that they’ve gained followers.
Comment pods don’t offend me
Some people are against any type of reciprocal comment or liking deal – whether that’s a facebook group, or instagram comment pod – but if you want to find people with similar feeds, and see their photos regularly, then why not. It means you get more engagement and chat, and let’s face it, that’s what social media is meant to be about. They’re also a good way to see people’s photos where you don’t want to follow their feed.
I get bored with themed feeds
Yes, I know people do themed feeds for a reason and see huge growth with them. But they bore me hence I don’t follow many people who only photography one thing. Or only have white feeds. Or any other themed feed. I like to see a mix of photography, I don’t enjoy seeing just photos of flowers or just photos of kids.
I prefer pretty, well taken photos
Ok, so I work harder at my photography nowadays, but not every photo is perfect. Sometimes I like a photo and want to share it even if it’s not the best photo in the world. But if your feed is dark (and not intentionally moody), blurry, full of babies or quotes, and just generally a bit boring because it’s of things going on in your house, it’s not my cup of tea….unless you’re my best friend then I might let you get away with it.
Keep captions short
Micro-blogging, waffling, huge quotes. Call it what you want, it’s just not for me. It’s become more popular to write lots and use ‘lovely’ quotes, but to be honest, who has time for creating that? If I want to read a blog, I read it. On Instagram I want a short caption, so I can quickly look at the photo, read the caption, like and comment if relevant. It’s my short quick social media where I can get to lots of people’s photos quickly.
Instant over curated
Related to themed feeds, I much prefer to follow feeds with more instant shots. Yes, I do sometimes post photos a bit after I’ve taken them because I’m out and about or have no wifi. But a perfectly curated and scheduled feed is not my idea of what Instagram should be about. 4 days of photos with kids in the same outfits or a week of shots from the same day out just makes me want to unfollow and duck out. If it’s a bit less obvious, then I’m not so worried, but I prefer following feeds that feel more spontaneous than planned.
If you’re taking using your camera that’s your choice. I tend to take camera shots, and then phone shots of the same picture for Instagram, but occasionally I’ll wifi from camera to phone if there’s a phone photo which wasn’t as good. But it’s the week later shots – just don’t feel forced to add a photo because you always do at that time if you don’t have one, is my view.
Don’t feel forced to follow someone
I have a couple of people who seem to follow me, then a week later I have a notification that they’ve followed me again. It just winds me up. I know they’re there, I know I don’t follow them, and it’s making me even less likely to follow their feed. Having said that, there is one person I followed and have never unfollowed, but when I try to follow it won’t hold it. They probably think I’m that annoying person – trying to follow them multiple times.
I don’t follow businesses
If you’re a blog business and are just wanting me to follow to sell me something it’s doubtful that I’ll follow you back. Even if you have pretty pictures, there has to be something of interest for me to follow you – personal stuff behind the scenes, no pretending to be a personal profile when really you’re a juicer or wrapper. But mostly I’ll just not follow. I don’t want to be sold to on Instagram.
Follower vs following ratio does, and doesn’t, matter
Some people are evangelical (especially businesses) in saying that it looks spammy if you have similar number of followers to those you follow. They say it looks like you do follow for follow and that doesn’t look good to others. Personally I think they’ve got it the wrong way round.
When I look at someone’s feed and see they’ve got similar levels of followers I’m more likely to follow them than I am someone who hardly follows anyone. If you have tens of thousands of followers then it’s fair to expect you can’t follow that many back, but if you’re under 3-4k level, following 100 back, it’s telling me that either you’re an amazing photographer who everyone loves, or you’re someone who doesn’t care about their followers and doesn’t want to be social. If I’ve got the choice of following 2 similar feeds, 1 interacts and looks like they follow a decent number, or a feed who hardly following anyone, I know which one I’ll follow.
I rarely follow private profiles
Sorry, but unless you’re a real life friend, or a blogger I know and recognise who I really like and want to follow, there’s not much chance of me following you. Mostly because I have no idea who you are until I follow and I don’t want to have to unfollow you again (it’s really annoying when people follow and unfollow straight away). Plus I think if you’re on social media and don’t personally know the person you’re trying to connect with, then why be on that platform. For me, it’s the same as getting friend requests from random people on Facebook who I’ve never spoken to, met or even recognise their name.
These are the ways I use Instagram. I love it for commenting and liking, seeing a whole lot of new people and photographs but when it comes down to it though, it’s horses for courses. Yes, I’d like my Instagram to grow, but it’s growing slowly, hopefully with people following who want to follow my feed. And those who I’ll hopefully like their feed (or won’t be offended if I don’t like it back).
P.S. If you’re someone who does all or several of these, I may still follow you because I like you, your blog or your photos. As I said, we all use Instagram in different ways. Hopefully this shows people they don’t always have to do things the way people tell you to do it just because you’ve read it works.
If you want to try a good free course (and paid ones, although I have to admit to not having
finished started the one I’m meant to be doing yet), check out Alex Tooby‘s (businesses angle) and Sara’s from Me and Orla (more general Instagram and photography).
How do you use Instagram? What rules do you follow? Are you offended by any of mine?
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