What kind of Instagrammer are you?

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Love it or loathe it, you can’t help but admire how far Instagram has come from its early bordered, Nashville filtered days. These days it seems to be changing so fast that it’s kind of getting hard to keep up (I get all excited when I log in and see a little “new” symbol glowing in the corner of the screen – a sure sign of addiction, eep!) – and yep, it’s harder than ever before to grow.

What is it that makes us tap that blue button, and why do we decide to stick around?  What drives us to like and – better yet – comment on posts?  The problem with answering that question is that we all get different things out of Instagram and follow very different accounts for very different reasons – and there are so many different accounts out there!

So, in an attempt to figure out an answer to that impossible question, I’ve broken those millions of users down into five different ‘Grammers.  Which one are you?

The Pornographer

We all follow a few of these. Whether it’s food, fashion, flatlays, fur babies or far flung adventures, The Pornographer‘s posts have made it to your feed because you know what you like and you like what you see *quirky eyebrows*. Aesthetically pleasing, they give good ‘Gram – with their flawless photography and clear style – and you’re probably going to hit that Like button before you’ve even scrolled down to read the Caption. Do you even need to read it? The picture was satisfying enough.

Tips for Pornographers (…huh, never thought I’d write that phrase…):

  • Pretty Pictures! Pornographers need to create content that’s easy on the eyes, so prepare to up your photography game!  I cannot rave enough about editing apps like Snapseed (VSCO’s good, but the amount of fine editing you can do with Snapseed is seriously in-cred-ible – plus, it’s completely free!), Color Story and Lightroom.  Whereas Apps like Prisma are great for creating special effects, and Apps like Hypetype, Fontmania and App for Type allow you to add text.
  • Plan Ahead. Apps like Planoly and Mosaico are gold dust for helping schedule your posts and see how they’ll look on your feed… y’know, if you’re one of those types who’s super serious about their “theme”.
  • Develop a “style” which – alright, yeah – is so much easier said than done.  A good starting point is to figure out what colours/filters you use the most, your favourite physical settings to snap, and which photos perform the best.  Apps like VSCO allow you to create editing “recipes(and Snapseed has a “last edits” feature) which help keep all your photos similarly styled.
  • Organise Inspo. Use the bookmarking feature to create mood boards and save pictures that might inspire your own future posts.

The Soul Mate

The Soul Mate is the total opposite opposite of The Pornographer. I mean sure, you were probably reeled in by that candid of them eating brunch or a snap of their cute doggo, but the truth is that at some point you made a connection with the person behind the account. They could post literally anything now because the truth is you’re scrolling to read their caption, nodding along to news about what they’re binge watching or how rubbish work was and then commenting “Same!”.

Tips for Soul Mates:

  • Connect! For Soul Mates, their following is completely dependent on building a connection with their followers, and to do that they need to remember that Instagram – at its core – is a social media app.  So go find your own Soul Mates; like, comment, message and work on building relationships within the app. 🙂
  • Micro Blogging is a great way of building a connection with your followers.  For Soul Mates, this means telling little stories of their daily lives within every caption.  The days of getting away with posting just a hashtag and an emoji are OVER.  Soul Mates should be revealing pieces of their soul in every caption and adding a call to action to get conversation (engagement) going; ask your followers a question, even if it’s as simple as, “What are you up to today?”
  • Micro Vlog. Instagram Stories is one of the best ways of allowing your followers to see the real you (or as much of it as you’re willing to let them see!).  Just as captions are a great way to Micro-Blog, Instagram Stories are great for Micro-Vlogging.  Take your followers on  one of your daily adventures – even if it’s just a trip to Tesco.
  • Bookmark your Besties. Because of the pesky Algorithim (grrr!) some of the accounts you want to be interacting with might not always pop up on your feed.  So, why not use the Bookmarking Feature to organise who you follow and easily keep up with their new posts.  Or failing that, turn on the notification feature.
  • Block the spammers.  Nifty little trick this, to stop all those spammy “Love this!1!” and “Cool! Check out my page!” comments, head into your comment settings and type those phrases into the box to block them (read more about that here).  Bye bye bots!
  • Instagram Live. Go Live; If you’re brave enough, it’s a great way of having a heart to heart with your followers or bringing your followers in on special moments or adventures with you.

The Insta-Famous

You can spot The Insta-Famous a mile off because most of their comments are just the word “Gooooooals” repeated over and over and over again, and they’ve probably got the social media badge of honour on their profile (the big blue tick!). You might not be able to relate to their lifestyle, but behind the eye roll you’d be lying if you said that you didn’t enjoy snooping in on them from time to time.

Tips for The Insta-Famous:

  • Schedule. The Insta-Famous haven’t got time to mess around on the app like they used to and so scheduling apps are their best friend.  There are so many scheduling apps out there all bragging different features – like Hootsuite, Buffer and Tailwind – so find one your like, and use it!
  • Insights and Analytics. Now that you’re in the big leagues you’re going to want to keep track of how your profile is performing.  Apps like Iconosquare allow you to get a peek into your analytics and better understand who’s following.
  • Use your links!  Once you hit 10,000 followers you can add swipe up links within your stories that can funnel followers to your blog, business page (or through an affiliate link – kerching).  Outside of stories you’re only allowed one link on your profile page – so be sure you add one!
  • Tag Brands and other Big Accounts. For a chance to blast your content out and gain even more followers (greedy, much?), don’t forget to tag brands both on the grid and within stories.
  • Hashtags are the obvious way to boost followers, but if you’re only using them on your grid, then you’re missing out.  Stories are a whole other… uh, Story.  Hashtag, tag users and brands and most importantly of all, tag your location.  Your story will appear within Location Stories, blasting it to a whole new group of users who might just click through and follow.
  • Be careful with Location settings.  It kind of goes without saying, but be safe!  Don’t ever post pictures of the front of your house, important documents, and never ever post your home’s location.

The Teacher

I’m not suggesting that we all start stalking our old Geography Teacher, but we’ve all got a teacher or two on our Instagram feeds. The Teacher has something to offer their followers other than photography. Maybe they know all the best brunch spots in your home town, or are always sharing their latest Primark steals (uh, not literally…), or know how to do winged liner without shoving the tip in your eye every damn time (teach me your ways!). You follow them for their wise words, hacks and tips and then do the homework yourself.

Tips for Teachers:

  • Videos and Tutorials. For Teachers, their followers rely on their tips, tricks and words of wisdom.  So teach!  Create video tutorials of recipes either for your grid, or within Instagram Stories.
  • Highlights. One of the best new features within the app is the ability to save your stories within an easy to navigate (and very easily organised) bar on your profile page (read more about how to do that here).  So if you do some DIY, bake something, film your makeup or come up with a cheeky hack, pin it to your profile so your followers can easily go back to it whenever they like!  If you have a blog and post a recipe, why not add a link to your Instagram profile within the post letting people know that there’s a video tutorial there if they want to see it?
  • Special Effects. Video editing apps are GOLD.  Apps like Videoshop allow you to speed up and slow down videos, trim them and add music and sound effects.  You might also want to download a screen recording app like AZ Screen Recorder which allows you to record your phone screen – handy for tutorials, eh? (…Or if you want to show your followers what you’re listening to in Spotify… that’s what I use it for 😉 )
  • Class is in Session!  Go Live!  Take your tutorials and demonstrations live!  Let your followers know what date and time you’ll be giving a live demo within a post 🙂

The Real Lifer

That old school mate who keeps posting photographs of their baby, Dave from accounting who posts photographs of every craft ale he drinks, or your Mum (MY Mum), who’s on a mission to turn all your old baby photos into digital ones (thanks Mum!). You follow them because they’re a Real Lifer; you know them off the grid and it would risk an awkward face to face conversation if you UNfollowed them… right?

Tips for Real-Lifers:

  • Privacy Please. So Real Lifers might not need or want tips on using Instagram, but if you’ve got a few Real Lifers on your follow list then you might want some tips on how to manage them!  You could set your account to private if you’re worried about who’s viewing your photos, and you can even block users that make you nervous.
  • Hide Your Stories. But what if you don’t want to get extreme?  Unfortunately, you can’t pick and choose who sees your actual Instagram posts unless you go private or block, but you can control who sees your Stories.  If you go into your story settings, you can hide them from certain followers.  So you can hide that story you posted when you were drunk from your Mum, or the stories of you living it large from your co workers who all think you’re off sick.  They’ll never know!  😉

What type of ‘Grammer are you?  Are there any I’ve missed?  Leave your Instagram links below! 🙂

 

Shadow Bans and Insta-Shams: Are we to Blame?

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These days you don’t have to look far to find someone complaining about Instagram (it’s even been in the news). It seems like every fifth tweet I see when I do my usual breakfast browse of the old feed is a rant about bots and shadow bans and fake birds. Between the algorithm and the recent hack that wiped thousands of accounts and caused an engagement blackout for even more, it seems tougher than ever for brands and bloggers to build a meaningful audience on an app that’s barely recogniseable from its earlier versions.

It’s true; Instagram has completely changed from the app we all fell in love with back when it first appeared. Ah, those hazy, Valencia filtered days when we only followed people we knew in real life, posted blurry snaps of our breakfasts that would appear on the feed at – yep, you guessed it – breakfast time.  The days when three hashtags was considered over-doing it, when no one had even heard of a flatlay, and Facebook hadn’t sunk it’s teeth into the app yet. They were simpler times…

Oh how things have changed! Nowadays – with an algorithm that decides exactly what we see on our feeds and when, a plague of “Love this!!” bots and the risk of being mistaken for one yourself if you’re too active – it’s easy to think that the app’s actively out to sabotage its own users. It’s so easy to blame the app when no one sees or likes your latest post, and then strop on over to Twitter to find someone to agree with you that The ‘Gram’s out to get us (…and y’know hopefully draw enough tantrum attention to bring over a few new followers in the process – yeah, I see what you’re doing there). But, the cold hard truth is that we need to shoulder some of the blame ourselves on this one.

Aside from the obviously annoying in-app changes beyond our control, we – as its users – have brought on a few changes ourselves. I mean, the way we use Instagram and what we want to get out of the app has completely changed – particularly over the last year. Instagram has become far more than just pretty pictures – after all, there are plenty of those. With feeds that are scrambled and littered with ads, we’ve become fed up of scrolling. We just want to see the content that makes us smile, and nothing else. Because of that, we’ve become a fussy bunch when it comes to following – and we seem to purge our feeds more often than we pack them with new accounts.

Think about it; when was the last time you followed someone new, and – more importantly – stuck with them?

Think of following a new account like starting a new relationship. You probably hit that follow button because you liked what you saw (I saw the complementing tones and the balance of selfies, flatlays and outfit posts on her grid and it was “like” at first sight…), but what made you stick around?

It seems like we’ve all learned that beauty is only screen deep when it comes to Instagram; these days we’re after more than just a pretty picture, we want the whole package. We follow accounts that get “real” in the captions, instead of summing up with two words and an emoji.  And we want accounts that are honest and humble instead of all those smug-face Insta-shams. A little aspiration is good for everyone, but these days – and in today’s world – we prefer to be reminded of the great things we already have in life instead of that designer life we’re lacking.

Instagram Stories has become bigger than I think anyone could have predicted and a huge reason why a lot of people stick with new accounts. We like to see real life every day moments and flashes of personality; the good, the bad and the ugly. We’re forgetting one of the main reasons why we all fell in love with Instagram in the first place, something that Stories feeds into in a huge way; we all love to snoop!

And lastly, and probably most importantly, we like accounts that talk back (and not the like for like, comment for comment accounts and pods – because that isn’t supportive nor is it genuine engagement). I’m talking about accounts that teach us something, support and inspire. Accounts that go that extra mile to make us laugh, smile and feel better about ourselves.

So, instead of moaning and getting down about the stuff we can’t change about Instagram, maybe we’d be better off putting all pent up energy into changing the things we can. Post all those random daily highs and lows on Stories, make the effort to throw positive comments around, and just have fun!

What type of accounts do you like to follow on Instagram, and what makes you stick with them (or unfollow them)? 🙂

Why it’s Okay to Unfollow

I was flicking through my Instagram feed the other day.  It’s a strange mix.  There are the sporadic posts from friends and family (including my Dad; whose Instagram theme includes scribbling lines over Google Maps to show the world where he’s been walking), random pet accounts (cute!), mixed in with some online friends, beautiful bloggers and bakers – y’know for a bit of daily inspo.  (Oh.  And unavoidable adverts.  Ugh.)  I scrolled down – liking, saving, commenting – and then, I got stuck.

Wait.  Who the hell’s that?  Oh.  The account of a friend of a friend who followed me and I – politely – followed back.  Another grainy gram of a night out with some friends I didn’t know in a bar I didn’t recognise.  Why was I still following him?  Enough was enough. I clicked through to his profile page and my thumb hovered over the The Blue Button of Doom… but then something stopped me.

I felt guilty. Guilty about unfollowing. After all, they were still following me. So wouldn’t it be rude to cut and run? A prime example of poor netiquette? A sort of virtual dine and dash? I mean, by pressing that button you’re basically sending the message to that person, “I’m not interested in you anymore. Buh-bye!” Never mind the fact that they might be a virtual stranger or that you’ve never spoken beyond a couple of comments with emojis, it feels cold and cruel to hit that button. All of us have been on the other side of this at some point, so we can relate; we know how it feels when someone blue buttons us. It stings a little, and you’re left wondering what tweet, which instagram or snapchat was it that finally pushed them out the door.

Think about it. How many people are you following on various social media platforms that you’d quite like to ditch but don’t because you feel guilty? Those polite follow-backs, friend of a friends, old school friends you haven’t spoken to in a hundred years. How many tweets and Instagrams do you eyeroll your way through every single day just to scroll to the people you actually care about, to the content that makes a difference to your day?

Social media has become such a massive part of our every day lives. Scrolling Instagram is the first thing I do in the morning (or at least it used to be pre-puppy!) and the last thing I do at night, and like it or not, those internet relationships we forge through social media are becoming just as important and as valuable as our “real life” ones. They matter. So why are we hanging on to the ones that don’t – the ones that don’t excite, inspire or interest us – just because we feel bad for unfollowing? Would we waste our time like that offline?

I hope this isn’t coming across as bitchy or cold, it’s meant to be the exact opposite. I’d rather have a feed that’s full of mutual, meaningful relationships and content that I value and feel inspired by, than one clogged up with names I don’t recognise and content I don’t care about.  Wouldn’t you?  And it goes the other way too; don’t keep me on your feed and in your life because you feel like you have to, keep me there because you want to.

We need to shed the guilt about unfollowing someone, just as we need to learn to either ignore or live with that sting we feel when someone unfollows us.  It might feel personal, but it’s not.  Not really.  The relationship never got personal.  They didn’t get you, and that’s okay.  Hitting that blue button from time to time (and being blue-buttoned) is a necessary part of finding your tribe. 🙂

Instagram Stories: Tips and Tricks

I swore never to become one of those people.  You know, the people who take Instagram seriously. The ones who shudder at the thought of posting a ‘gram that hasn’t had the VSCO nip/tuck treatment first (hell no!), or a snap that just doesn’t fit in with their *groans* “theme”. Pfft. Well whaddya know?  1 year later and I’ve gone over to the dark side. Somehow, I just got sucked in.  Long gone are the days of posting a spontaneous snap of my builder’s brunch with a bit of Valencia filter to bring out the baked beans slurping over the side of the plate. But it’s no secret that Instagram can be tough and disheartening at times. If it’s not the algorithm killing my buzz then it’s those big accounts playing the follow/unfollow game, and now there’s something called shadow blocking – where Instagram itself (the nerve!) selectively blocks use who use too many hashtags without them even knowing it. It’s true to say that I fall out of love with Instagram every day for some reason or another.

Then, Instagram Stories came along and I finally had a place for all those sloppy, spur of the moment snaps.  It’s brought the spontaneity back to Instagram – the no pressure, no filter fun – and it’s the perfect place for those raw snippets of daily life.  Through them I’ve fallen back in love with Instagram.  Like kids and bedtime stories, I tend to flick through them before I go to sleep – just to see what everyone’s been up to in “real life”; where they went, what they ate, what they made, what they wore, what their dog (or cat!) did.

It’s within the last month that I’ve really started having fun with it. I micro-vlog on days out or when I’m cooking (or need to rant about my dog ripping up his puppy pads) and I love playing around with the features. It’s tipped to be the next big thing in social media marketing and blogging over the next year, with more and more users getting involved.  So if you’re just starting out with Instagram Stories or you’re looking for a few tips and tricks to up your game and make things a little more interesting, look no further!

You don’t have to use Instagram to create your stories.  Handy tip numero uno; you don’t have to just use the app to take pictures or videos. With one downward swipe you can actually pull in recent videos and pictures you created using other apps like Snapchat.  By doing this, you’re not confined to using only the features Instagram Stories has to offer.  I’ve used my camera app to film videos and then sped them up or slowed them down (cool  little trick for making driving and road trip stories more interesting).  I’ve also used VSCO for other filters and Snapchat for selfies.  Remember though, you’re limited to using videos created within the past 24 hours (again, you can get around that by resaving or editing the photo/video).

Sick of being cut off after 15 seconds?  If you’re fed up of spilling your heart out to the world and having it annoyingly cut you off every 15 seconds, try this.  Record in your camera app and then snip the video into 15 second segments.  Upload them into Instagram Stories in order, and voila!  Each video should seamlessly run through into the next one.  No mid sentence shut downs! 🙂

Text. Unless you use another photo editing app, there’s only one font to choose from in Instagram Stories itself. You can change the colour of the font using the paint pots at the bottom of the screen, or, if you press the “A” button at the top of the screen you can add a background colour to the text to make it easier to read. Move your text around the screen, resize it using your fingers, or using the slider on the left. Hold down words or letters to change their individual colour.

Pens. Using pens is a fun way of doodling or handwriting on your videos. I’ve got a pen with a stylus on one end which makes handwriting and drawing on my phone screen a bit easier and fits easily in my bag. There are LOADS of colours to choose from; either hold your finger down on a colour pot to tweak, or swipe left for more. If you want to colour-block your screen, or give your selfie a colourful haze then select the marker and a colour then hold your finger down on the screen.

▲ Stickers. Stickers are great for adding a little something-something and are constantly being switched and updated. Click the smiley sticker in the upper right hand corner and you can access location, time and temperature tags, emojis, photo booth props and stickers related to the day of the week. 🙂

Stamp your location for a better chance of being discovered by others.  A more recent update to stories is the ability to watch “City Stories”, a collection of stories from users in one area (you can search for these stories using the search by location function).  If you stamp a location to your story (even if you make it really, really small!) it has a higher chance of being added to the collective story for your home town or city/place you’re currently visiting – meaning higher views and – you never know! – followers.  If that’s what your end goal is, of course…

Face Filters.  Another recent feature is the ability to play around with facial filters (sounds familiar… *ahem* Snapchat *ahem*).  Press the little face next to the camera button at the bottom of the screen and change up your usual selfie for something different.

Get social, or not! Mention or tag other users in your stories by using the text feature and typing “@” followed by the person’s user name. Restrict who sees your story by pressing the little star in the upper left hand corner.

What do you love/hate about Instagram and Stories?

2015 through Instagram

  

(Oh no not another one of those ‘Year in Review’ posts…) Once the last of the turkey has been carved up and slapped into stuffing and cranberry sandwiches (oh yes…) it’s inevitable that all focus turns towards the New Year and the one just gone. This time last year I wasn’t particularly enthused about 2015. After two difficult years I couldn’t see how the next year would be any different, but 2015 blew all others out of the water and turned out to be a defining year. 🙂
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