Although I’ve had an Instagram account for several years, it wasn’t until October 2014 when I decided to really commit myself to this social media platform. Before then, I was honestly mostly confused by it and decided to just ignore it. I changed my mind when I realized not only how much fun it can be, but how important it is when sharing the travel experience with others. With that in mind, I devoted myself and all of my free time to learning the ins and outs of Instagram and how to become a better Instagrammer myself. While I’m no expert – I hate that term in the social media world – I have learned a lot and so I thought I’d share both some objective as well as subjective observations with you all today so that you too can improve your own Instagram experience and have more fun in the process. These are just my own thoughts, you may agree with them or not but what is most important is that you enjoy your Instagram experience. Sure, social media is about getting information and sharing in a digital community but it’s also about having a good time. If you’re not having fun, then you really are doing something wrong.
Tell Us Where You Are
I follow mostly travel accounts on Instagram, or people who also have a passion for all things travel related. I enjoy seeing their photos from every corner of the world and it’s a great way to discover and learn about new places. That’s the key really, education; but if you don’t tell us anything, then we can never take anything away from the photo. I’m not asking for a short blog post, but a line or so explaining where in the world you are and maybe what we’re looking at wouldn’t just be nice, it’d be really helpful. I’m amazed how many times I see people post a beautiful photo without tagging the location or providing anything more than a few hashtags. I don’t want to divine the destination based on hashtags, just tell us where you are. If you want to provide even more context and perhaps a short narrative about the experiences, that’s great too but I see that more as a bonus than something to be expected.
Don’t Post 20 Pictures At Once
Unless you create beautiful mosaic photos on Instagram like my friend Lola Akinmade Åkerström does, then please don’t post 20 photos in a row. Many people I follow for some reason feel the need to flood their Instagram feed with image after image, usually of the same place and usually only a second or so apart. A well done Instagram gallery is just that, a gallery. You must curate it as you would a physical art gallery and take great care to make sure you’re posting amazing photos. Showing me 15 pictures of the plane you’re about to board does nothing except annoy me. Ultimately, I followed you for a reason – I like your content. But don’t ruin the follower experience by overloading them with images. Following many people on Instagram, it just gets to be too much if you’re essentially trying to yell over everyone else.
If you’re on Instagram, then chances are you at least have 1 or 2 creative bones in your body otherwise you wouldn’t bother. While it’s fine to emulate great work done by others, it’s also important to be creative yourself. I love the digital space because anything is possible; we truly are limited only by our own imaginations. So whether you post mostly travel or fashion photos on Instagram, think about your photography in more creative ways and dare to take risks. There is only one account that should be posting pictures of someone leading someone else by the hand. There are only a few who can get away with sharing plane wings on a daily basis and no one ever needs to see your feet ever again. And unless you’re a legitimate supermodel, it’s time to stop all the half-naked selfies and instead focus on the world around you. No one likes an egomaniac. Instead, look around you, look up and behind and capture imagery that tells a story but which also surprises us a little bit.
This can be said for any social media platform and it always amazes me to see even large, corporate accounts doing this so very badly. Social media is about community, that’s it. It’s about meeting new people, developing friendships, interacting, sharing and learning. In order to be a good member of that community, you have to be an active participant in it. That means not treating Instagram or any other platform as if it’s your center stage and you’re holding the megaphone. There are corporate accounts I love and respect but they don’t follow anyone – not a soul. That must be an incredibly lonely feed and it tells me that they don’t care about what anyone else has to say or share; they’re only concerned about self-promotion. That’s not good, but it extends down to the average user as well. It’s not good enough to share some photos and follow some people, you must engage. Like other people’s photos, leave comments, talk to them. This is a community and you should treat it as such.
I’ve mentioned it several times in this post, but it’s important. Instagram is not a zero sum game, it’s not about winners or losers. It’s about sharing your world and getting a sneak peek into the worlds and lives and many other people around the planet. Don’t worry about the number of followers you have or how many likes your photos get. What’s important is that you enjoy the experience and if you do, then that will shine through in your photos and stories and the rest will follow over time.
What are some of your best practices for Instagram?
26 thoughts on “The Do’s and Don’ts of Instagram – My Thoughts”
I cannot agree with you enough about NOT posting 20 pictures in a row. That is the quickest way to get an unfollow. Instagram doesn’t work like that! I would also suggest not playing the “follow and then unfollow if there’s no followback” game. I find that super annoying. But then again, that goes for any social media I suppose!
I totally agree and have noticed that IG has more churn – or followers unfollowing – than any other platform I’ve seen. Very weird.
Definitely also agree with posting excessively in a short period of time. When posting pictures, especially sky line shots, I’m always looking for that unique perspective. I’ll look for a spot where I can also capture plants, trees, the beach, park benches, etc. in the foreground. Places where someone can go can checkout a skyline and hanging out amongst other beauty too.
Great post! I really like your thoughts on this.
I’m curious, do you upload photos taken with your “real” camera on Instagram too, or just from your mobile/tablet? I get the feeling that many people do that these days. I decided to use Instagram solely for my mobile shots and then I use Trover for my camera photos.
I do both, it depends. When I post from the road, those shots are always iPhone or perhaps GoPro
Cool! Was just curious! :)
I hate when people don’t post where they are and I have to ask.
Agree completely with what you said. I am a bit shocked at how many travel bloggers or travel photographers that are using the hand leading someone somewhere…the rest of their photos may be gorgeous, but I am instantly turned off by the 15 or 20 that are copies.
The community aspect is what I love most about Instagram, but it saddens me when the “big” accounts do the follow/unfollow b.s. of just trying to garner new followers without following back. I’ve joined some threads where people are looking to follow new accounts and connect with users, but they only get everyone following them and never follow back. And, these are people I consider friends and see during my own travels.
The one thing I want to touch on, is the number of photos to post. I really think it depends on your audience and what they expect/want. I was surprised to see how rabid some of these food lovers are when it comes to their favorite accounts. While I used to post maybe one dish, or a collage from a big dinner event, some people are posting one of all 16 courses. They are getting incredible engagement, despite posting only minutes apart. Some of them have even started using IG more as a food blog, rather than their own website anymore.
I heard for the longest time don’t post more than one a day, or never of the same place, but I’ve found increasing my postings spread out several times a day is helping my engagement (and followers). My main account is pitiful when you’re talking about overall followers, but I’ve managed to keep it on a steady climb and increase engagement, without buying followers so I am chalking it up to a win. LOL
I have unfollowed several people because of photo bursts in my feed. It just annoys me more than anything else with Instagram. Great advice!
Churn is right. I went through my follows and deleted many that weren’t posting good stuff. (I hate selfies.) I lost about 100 followers right after that. As for what you said, I’m concentrating more on just posting what I consider good shots. Building a following though, is eluding me. Gonna have to figure out how to do that.
Great tips, Matt! And I’ve loved watching you evolve your Instagram account. You’ve made it a really great feed to follow.
For me, hashtags. I can’t believe how many people (some who even have large followings) are still cramming hashtags into their caption, way too many of them, and making words like #pretty or #nice into hashtags. My rules: no more than 3 in your caption. Always make hashtags specific and not too general. DO NOT put all your hashtags in your caption, put the majority in a comment after your caption.
You hit every point right on the head! This post pretty much described all of my Instagram pet peeves.
I follow many travellers, and there is nothing more frustrating than when I see a beautiful scenery and the only description is #China… Even worse, when I ask where exactly it is and they never bother to reply, makes the experience a little worthless.
And the half-naked selfies? How many times a day does one person need to beg for attention by bombarding Instagram with what ends up being the exact same thing over and over again? I’ve unfollowed many because I didn’t feel like I was gaining anything from the egotistical selfie experience.
I loved this post – particularly your advice to think of one’s account as a gallery and telling a story with each image.
Great post and great feed matt,
I’m kinda undecided on the whole topic, which kinda relates to the fact that i am quite new to instagram. I’ve seen account spaming, i’ve seen non-models posting selfies every day – and they all found their niches and it all works for them.
So I guess you have to be very very careful with what you personally like and expect, and with what actually works. Also you are almost 40, from what I gathered. Things might look totally different for a 14 year old girl or boy coping with the hormonal up’s and downs of his teenager years. Yet maybe they are a valuable target audience.
that being said – cocktails, feet, selfies from above and airplane wings are an instant unfollow for me :P
I totally and absolutely agree with all your points! And yes, engaging is the best way to increase your followers as well as your posts’ Likers. Like you, I never gave Instagram any importance until about 3 months ago, I thought I’d give it a go to increase our followers. In the process, I realised how fun Instagram is after all, even if it doesn’t drive that much traffic to our blog. And within that period, I’ve increased not only our follower numbers but also our posts’ Likers tenfold from where I started – all doing what you mentioned here.
I do totally agree, nice article.
Comment on hashtags: I do agree that the rest should be applied in a second comment but please do add them in better detail!! I usually find comedy in my photo experiences so have “one-liners” that would be ruined in a descriptive paragraph. When I travel, the first thing I do is search i.e. #YVR or #Paris #events (etc) so I know where the party’s at! I find hashtags can be so culturally expanding if we do it right :)
Comment on commenting: do it! If you’d like more description of my photo, I’m happy to give it! Also when you reply to my comment, give me more than a thankyou, add some facet of your personality. I know we may never be best friends but at least I’ll know you’re more than two-dimensional.
Cheers IG community! RC
Thank you for this! I love reading your short stories on Instagram and have tried to start incorporating those in mine as well.
Great tips — thanks for sharing!
Great post, Matt! Completely agree with all points. Thanks for sharing. :)
I follow you on IG (_abeautifulmind_) and I love that you reply back to each comment. A lot of people don’t I find this to be rude. Sometimes I think social media makes people feel larger than life!
I try but it’s hard when the WiFi isn’t cooperative :)
Matt, you are my Instagram hero. I like reading your captions and am always amazed that you comment back so faithfully. I have not mastered Instagram. I try not to worry about the follow, unfollow numbers, but when you’re feed numbers less than 1,500, you tend to get fixated on why the numbers grow so slooooowly…
With my recent hip replacement, I’ve been relying on #latergram pics. Curious to hear your thoughts on archive photo usage. I’m headed to El Salvador this week!! Will try not to flood my feed during “back on the road” tour. Thanks for sharing your tips!
I have had an IG account for a while but am a very late adopter to thinking through posts, if that makes sense, and using it regularly. I am all for outsourcing work but what bugs the heck out of me the most is when I get a comment from someone I know that was clearly written by an overseas VA. Yucky!
Please help! I am fairly new on I.G. I am posting my beloved cat with thousands of others what is tagging? Why did someone take one of my post? Do I have to make comments for every like I do?
I am fairly new with posting my cat on IG what is tagging and who do I tag? Why did someone take one of my posts? Do I comment with every like? Is the no.of followers important? Please help.
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