I guess I like hipster things, and go to hipster places. But I wouldn’t call myself a hipster.
Back when I surfed, they asked me if I was a “surfer.” I said, “no, but I surf.”
Same when I paint, sing, snowboard, run, bike… they say, “are you a [insert label]” and I say, “no, but I do those things.”
I won’t call myself an instagrammer, but I do Instagram, all over the place. I stop my dog (Gambit) on walks and catch that victorian facade in the sunlight. I play with sunspots and colorsplash. I eagerly count the hearts that stack up with each image I post to my feed. I get thrilled with every new follower that decides to keep themselves apprised of what I choose to post.
My boyfriend and I experiment with hashtags, and filters, and frames and such. I’ve made friends with people across the ocean, upstate, down the street, all over the map. (Forged new friendships in the physical world with people I never would have thought of or had connection to meet were it not for a shared love of photography.)
But hey, how’s that so different from Facebook? How does this standout? With Facebook, we usually connect to people we already know, as it shares so much of our lives with people. Instagram allows you to get to know someone through one thing: their pictures.
I’ve now made scores of new friends through Instagram, who previously had no personal connection to my own life, save an Instagram account, and a shared interest in similar photo styles, subjects, locations, and then sharing more… We congratulate each other on features and posts that stand out. We ask them how their car is when we see a photo of it totaled. “Are they ok?”
"You and your sister look so much alike," on a photo of a family visit.
"Your dog is so cute, we should meet up and have our dogs play together." Less than a month ago, I actually met up with more than a dozen frenchie owners from Instagram who we all followed each other, but had never met once, in this tiny 7x7 city. It was a bedlam of squished faces.
These accounts barely scratch the surface of the positivity I’ve seen come out of my own experiences on IG, and it all breaks down to this simple formula: Your life (the way you see life) in a sometimes square format + hashtags + compliments + replies = Instagram success.
Anyone can post a picture, other anyones can make a good picture, and even other anyones can get celeb status because… honestly, who the heck knows. We’re not those people. We’re not going to be. But we’d still like to feel successful in our undertaking of this new medium.
I’m going to give you a couple of tips that I’ve found to not only boost likes and response to posts, but also the quality of interactions with the community.
Step 1: Post Regularly & Sparingly
Sure you took 20+ great photos at the Japanese tea garden that would be great to post them all, but not at one time. One of the most annoying thing I see, besides the other annoying things I see on Instagram (and we know I’ve seen a lot, if you’ve read my previous posts) is having to scroll through the latest offering from Tigerbeat. I love the guy and what he’s trying to do, but no matter how much I like the idea, 15-30 pics in a row get monotonous and floods my feed.
There are groups out there like @gang_family that limit you to how many posts you can do in one day (4), in order to be a part of their sub-community. Because we all know that you only have so much time and we want to give that to every photo we can.
Treat each image like it’s your best and the one you want people to focus on, and they will. Save the pics you like and space out your posting throughout the day or week. Give people one thing to focus on at a time, or within an hour or two.
Step 2: Use Hashtags… Thoughtfully
Hashtags really are the bee’s knees when it comes to interacting on Instagram, and for several reasons. We could spend an entire write-up on this one, and we will, in my next article. But, for the time being, there’s a few things you can do now that can take the community exposure of your images to new arenas, immediately.
Follow this rule of thumb and you’re golden. When choosing hashtags start with your locale, city, state, the time of day (sunrise, golden hour, sunset), what you’re doing, what you see and how you feel.
The image at the top of this article is a decent enough example of this ;).
#sanfrancisco #igerssf #sf #ca #slantfrancisco #morning #victorian #hayes #caligrammers #california_igers #frenchbullys #instafrenchie #gambitthefrenchie #blue #stairs
As well, the instagram community has created a number of “catchall” tags that will throw you in the mix with millions: #instagrammer, #iger, #ignation, #instagramhub, #instadaily, #instamood, #instagood, #igscout… and slew of similarly “insta-prefixed” tags.
There’s also a number of groups that exist expressly to feature other instagramer accounts. Adding these tags, with respect to each accounts style, theme and feel, can help get you noticed by an additional audience on top of those searching the tags. #justgoshoot (love these guys as they feature igers with less than 700 followers) #top_masters / #unsung_masters #instagood #instaaaaah #jj_forum #jj and more.
Theres’s no all-encompassing resource for keeping track of all the hashtags out there but a few services, like Statigram, keep the most recent contest hashtags at the ready for you to access. And the @instagramers app for the iphone has a functionality that helps you search out a tag, the @username of the creator or “first user” of a tag, and how many photos are presently using it.
*** IMPORTANT NOTE: You don’t want to overpower people with your use of hastags. I recommend only posting one or two in the description of your photo and then adding all others as a separate comment, after your photo has been published. You don’t want to overwhelm people with a description full of tags, and no one likes scrolling through a paragraph of tags, they want to get to the meat of it.
ALSO - Instagram limits you to 30 tags per post, so choose wisely my friend…
There’s so much to say about this one – soon.
Step 3: Search Hashtags to Like
So again, this is social media, don’t just scream into the void. Don’t just use the tags to get found, search out ones that you are interested in as well. Search your city, a band name, venue, event, person, color, pet, TV show… anything. Just enter a tag and see where it takes you. I promise you could get lost for days.
As a small extension of that last point, when you see pictures you like from a particular instagrammer, all you have to do is touch their name above the image and it will link you to their feed. Swim through their image stream and pick a few that catch your eye. Trust me, they will gladly return the favor, and if they don’t, you probably didn’t want to interact with them anyway.
Step 4: Find a 3rd-Party web service to help you keep track
One con of Instagram: you can only post using the mobile app on your phone and although they recently launched profile pages and built-out interaction with the program on the web (instagram.com), The web platform is lacking for keeping track of hastags, new followers, who you follow vs. who follows you, etc.
However, there are services that not only aggregate and keep track of all your photos through Instagram, but allow you to like and comment, provide stats on your account, and event build out a coverphoto collage made from a selection of your most recent insta-posts.
My three faves: Statigram / Webstagram / Ink 361
Again, another article on this will also be heading down the pipes in the future. But just go check out the three I mentioned above and see which might fit your fancy.
Step 5: Join a Challenge
Have you heard of JJ yet? If you haven’t, you’re one of the few who haven’t. This ever expanding community of now 300K+ has one purpose, to set themes for the day, and get people to interact with each other on the photos submitted, hopefully introducing igers with similar interests to one another… and eventually, at the end of the day, feature a chosen few of the thousands submitted each day.
JJ is not the only one. There are so many new challenges out there. #BW_demand, #16X9ForDays, #5shotchallenge, #flowerstalking, #eclectic_photos, #implusdaily, #bnw_captures, #photowall – just to name a few. Search out tags with the word “challenge” in them and see what pops up.
Finally: Experiment & Find Your Style
Don’t feel you have to fit into a mold to get people to like you. This is a tool of self-expression as much as it is a community of “amateur" photographers, and I write that in the original meaning of the word. This is a true "love" of imagery, photography, and exploration. Embrace it, roll with it, try something crazy, it just might get 100 hearts.
You won’t know till you try.