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14 Thoughts for Instagramming

Sherwin looks out from behind his cellphone

I really enjoy Instagram. I get joy from posting photos to Instagram and also from seeing the photos that other folks are posting. Like other social media, I’m a bit of a late adopter. I think it’s fair to say that I was skeptical, in part because I’ve had my own photo blog on the web for some time. So, I’m a little surprised by how much I like Instagram. But as soon as I started posting photos and following others, I was in.

However, there are ways to be on Instagram with more and less emotional intelligence.

Since joining I’ve had a number of conversations with people who are interested and looking for advice. I don’t have advice exactly, but I have some reflections. So here’s fourteen thoughts on gramming.

1. Remember that you’re joining a community.

On Instagram, people connect and communities form around shared interests. Yes, unfortunately, Instagram has lots of soft porn and spammers and tone-deaf businesses. But you will also find your friends, colleagues, associates and family members.  And businesses and organizations that are super fun and thoughtful.

2. Move in the direction of what’s fun and energizing and real and moving.

This is true even if (or maybe especially) if you have commercial interests in mind. People will follow you and like your photos is you are showing and sharing your real human self more than if you are only ever sharing your marketing interests.

3. Consider having a public profile.

I use Instagram publicly. But Instagram gives you the opportunity to be private. This means only the people who ask, and who you approve, will be able to see your photos. I know people who do this and they love it. Which is great. But I don’t really get it, so I can’t give advice about this at all. For me, everything is easier on Instagram if I just assume everything is public.

4. Try to keep the social in social media.

Leave comments, respond to comments, answer questions, chat, mingle, favourite people’s photos and bring your curiosity and appreciation for humans.

5. Pay attention to what other people are doing.

What hashtags are they using? How are they commenting. What are they communicating with their photos?

6. Embrace the sociology.

It’s fascinating to see the steady stream of millions of photos that folks are posting. Why are they choosing certain photos or hashtags? What are they saying about themselves? About the world? About their life?

7. Click on all of the buttons.

As far as I can tell, you can’t break it. You will discover search functionality, hashtags, and surprises.

8. Follow people and organizations whose photos you like.

Show appreciation, when you have appreciation. I love looking at people’s photos, and I love favouriting, aka “hearting”, photos. I generally follow people who follow me. It helps me feel like part of a community of sharing. But I don’t recommend this for everyone. Make sure you like the photos of accounts that you follow.

10. Share your photos to other channels.

I don’t share my Instagram photos to Facebook, but it works for some people. I do share a few of my photos to Twitter. If you want to do this, start by linking your Instagram account with Twitter. You do this by clicking all the buttons. Then, when you post a photo that you also want to share to Twitter, you can click the SHARE button and select Twitter.

11. Captions are optional, but they can be really nice.

If adding a caption is keeping you from posting a photo, don’t worry about the caption. But a caption can create mood and give context.

12. Hashtags are optional, but they can be really nice.

When you add a hashtag (e.g. #YVR) it inserts your photo into a public streams. This is kind of like mingling, and it makes your photo more visible to others. In this sense, a hashtag is like a forum. But hashtags also give meaning and context to your photo. People who read your caption will read the hashtag even if no one else has ever used this hashtag. i.e. #Ididntknowwhathashtagtouse

Don’t feel like you need to add ten hashtags. I don’t really get why people put so many hashtags on their photos.

11. Be stream and channel aware.

When you share a photo with Instagram followers be aware of what hashtags they use. Click on the hashtags that other people are using. And remember that when you share your Instagram photo to Twitter, it passes on the caption. So if you’ve mentioned someone in a caption on Instagram, it will show up on Twitter.

12. Practice consent when posting photos of other people.

Let’s create a culture of consent when posting photos. Yes, it might be legal to post photos of people who are in a public space. But it’s respectful to ask people, and in my experience, people really really appreciate being asked. There are lots of reasons why someone might not want their photo posted. So be respectful.

13. Find your posting rhythm.

I don’t like to post more than once a day. I probably average about 2 or 3 a week. This signals followers how often I post and they know I’m not going to flood their stream with photos. That said, if the occasion calls for it I’ll a post a few in a day – say, if I’m reporting from a conference or demonstration or something. Also, I follow some people who post several every day, and I like it. There are no rules here, just an opportunity to pay attention to your own flow and the posting habits of others.

14. Mention people in your community.

You can mention people on Instagram just like in Twitter. It’s nice to do this in comments to alert a friend to a cool photo or image you want them to notice. But you can also mention someone in your caption and this signals them, but it also signals your readers of the existence of this person – it’s a little like an introduction. Which is nice!

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