A while back, I wrote about how we’re over-thinking Instagram, by obsessing over “themes” and follower numbers, at the expense of simply using the platform the way it was designed – to record little “instant” moments of our daily lives.
Now, I stand by that opinion, and I just want to preface this post by saying there are no “rules” to using Instagram (Well, other than the ACTUAL rules they lay down, like no nudity, etc), and everyone has the right to use their account however they like. With that said, there are some basic mistakes which I see a lot of people making on Instagram, and here are just a few of them…
// POSTING BAD PHOTOS
Yes, I KNOW it’s obvious, and I also know you want to use Instagram to document what you’re getting into, but ultimately, Instagram is a visual platform – and that means that only the very best photos will be seen. This is particularly important now that the Instagram algorithm doesn’t show you photos in chronological order, the way it used to: instead, IT decides which uploads to include in people’s newsfeed, and it typically selects the photos that are the most popular. (No, it’s not fair…). What that means for you as an Instagram user is that you have to carefully decide which photos to include. I’m not personally a fan of sticking rigidly to a “theme” (I do have one, but I don’t mind disrupting it now and again, and I often find that the photos that DON’T fit in with the theme are the ones that get the best response – go figure!), but I AM a fan of good photos – by which I mean clear, bright ones, which are in focus, and which show me something. It stands to reason that these are the kinds of photos that will be most successful on a photo-sharing platform, but I still frequently see people posting dark, blurry shots, some of which require me to peer at the screen to see what I’m supposed to be looking at. There’s just no point in uploading those photos to Instagram – they won’t be seen by many people, and most of the time, they don’t even tell a story. If you must share them, save them for Twitter, which doesn’t rely so heavily on aesthetics…
// NOT USING HASHTAGS
If you want your photos to reach a bigger audience, hashtags are still one of the best ways to do it. Some people prefer to post their hashtags as a comment, rather than putting them in the image caption, just to keep things neat, but however you use hash tags, just make sure you use them!
// NOT TAGGING BRANDS
Another great way to build your Instagram audience is being regrammed by a brand. How do you get brands to re-gram you? Simple: by tagging them in your photos. Of course, you can only do this on photos which actually feature the brand in some way, but I’ve seen some of my best growth on Instagram when I’ve tagged a brand in a photo, and they’ve responded by re-gramming it to their followers. It works.
// POSTING TOO MANY PHOTOS OF THE SAME THING
You know when someone goes to a concert, or a party, or a sporting event or whatever, and all of a sudden they decide they just have to Instagram EVERYTHING? Cue 15 photos of a blurry band standing on a far-away stage, or endless selfies featuring the Instagrammer and every single one of their friends, all in a row? That makes for a REALLY boring feed, and is a great way to guarantee a few unfollows. If you want to Instagram that event you’re at, choose one or two of your very best photos of it, upload those, and save the rest for Facebook.
// TOO MANY SELFIES
I have no objection to the occasional selfie, but have you ever come across an account that’s JUST selfies? And where the person is posting multiple selfies, every single day? Honestly, it looks super-strange to see all of those close-ups of your face: maybe just buy a mirror if you’re THAT into looking at yourself?
// KEEPING YOUR ACCOUNT PRIVATE
Is it just me who finds it a bit odd when you start getting comments and likes from someone, only to discover their own account is private, and you can’t follow them back or see their photos? I know some people probably have very good reasons for having a private Instagram account, but when I see that an account is private, I’ll only request to follow it if I know the person: otherwise, I’ll assume they don’t actually WANT me to see what they post. If you want to build your following, you HAVE to have a public account: and if you’re worried about the photos being post being in the public domain, chances are you’d be better off not posting them at all than taking the risk of someone seeing them.
(And, obviously, if you’re not remotely interested in growing your following, you can totally disregard this piece of advice, as it doesn’t apply to you!)
// TAKING IT TOO SERIOUSLY
As I said at the start of this post, at the end of the day, there are no hard and fast rules for using Instagram, and it’s up to you to use your account however you see fit – regardless of what I, or anyone else, might think of it. One of the biggest Instagram mistakes people make is taking it too seriously: fretting over lost followers, stressing about whether that photo they just took will work properly with their “theme”, and so on. While I do think you get most out of the platform if you post your best photos, and follow the basic etiquette described above, I also think taking it all too seriously is a great way to take all of the fun out of it – which would be the biggest mistake of all.
What are your biggest bugbears on Instagram?[Image]