my first Instagram photo, November 2010.
At first, it was a place to store iPhone photos, as well as a place to make them look pretty. There was very little “liking” or commenting on photos in the early days; a sense of community was yet to be discovered. Most of us just linked our Instagram images to the other big social networking sites, like Twitter and Facebook. But the site blossomed and grew, and now there are very few people unfamiliar with the app. Of course, Instagram is a place to share your life, but it’s become much more than that. I use it as a place to meet friends and a place to learn new things. I use it for visual stimulation, when I want to retreat for awhile and take a peek into what folks are doing all over the world. It can serve as a source of encouragement and inspiration.
Occasionally, I run into people who ask me questions about Instagram. I don’t boast an epic following by any means, but I have created a community there, larger than any of my other platforms. That can be interesting to some. How do you get followers? How do you edit your photos? Do you post things as they happen? Questions of this nature led me to some research and contemplation so that I could eventually write on the topic. I’ve been able to whittle it down to two main categories of ideas. These ideas are merely suggestions, of course, but things that I have found helped me retain a sense of satisfaction and mutual engagement when using Instagram.
1. Make the effort. You’re creating (potentially) beautiful content when you post a photo to Instagram. In the same way that I would try to avoid wearing my pajamas to the grocery store, I choose how my photos are presented on Instagram. There is nothing wrong with moving a pair of shoes out of the way, or waiting for a car to pass. This doesn’t make the moments you share any less authentic. Staging a shot is merely a part of telling the world your story. Get down on a child’s level. Move around to grab better light. Ask a stranger to take a photo of your family. Save the “what is in this diaper” photo for an email to your mom. Download apps that allow you to edit of the basic filters Instagram offers. If you’re serious about developing relationship online, put a little elbow grease into the photos you post.
2. Engage the community. I haven’t always been the best at this, but recently I’ve put forth more effort. It takes a little work to get out of the habit of just following the same people, or just posting photos and closing out of the app. Consider scheduling time to respond to Instagram comments, and time to let yourself get lost down the rabbit hole of different accounts. Be on the lookout for new inspiration, whether it be through hashtags that interest you or recommendations from folks you already follow. Become more intentional about leaving a comment on a photo you like, especially if it’s someone you want to get to know better. Simply clicking “Like” or “Follow” isn’t enough if your goal is to get deeper. When people ask questions on your photos, answer them. When you see a photo that makes you want to stop and chat, slow your scroll and do it!
Again, there are all sort of opinions and tips regarding Instagram that might not fall into these two categories. Should I keep my account private or public? Should I use the same filter each time, or switch it up? Is it okay to post a bunch of photos from the same event? To each their own, when it comes to this stuff. But the internet is real. It means something. So as silly as the whole thing might seem, these questions and discussions are important to explore if we’re serious about creating and retaining community online.