One year on Instagram, 12 things I wish I had known
It’s exactly one year since I first posted to Instagram as @notaboutthekids. I’d been lurking around on the platform since 2012 (kids and holiday photos only), but the past 12 months have been different because I wanted to grow a following. Here are a few things that I wish I had known when I started….
You do not need to buy anything to take good photographs for Instagram. In the beginning, I’d think to myself ‘I don’t have anything new to feature this week’ and go and look for new jumper/book/coffee mug. It’s nonsense. We should picture the stories and corners of our lives. Unless fashion is your thing, it’s NORMAL to wear mostly the same things all the time.
Having a theme or niche for your Instagram account actually makes the who process easier. If you stick to even a broad theme (colour for me), you can mostly forget about things that don’t fit into it. In my opinion, that’s freeing rather than restrictive.
If you would like to grow your Instagram, you should actively seek out and follow the big and best (not necessarily the same thing) accounts working in your niche. It can be tempting to try and keep your follow numbers low, but it’s way more important to learn and be inspired. There’s an unfathomable amount of good content on Instagram, always be open to finding someone new.
Instagram Stories are so much fun! So relaxed. So not-there-forever. Get involved. Here’s a blog post I wrote about how to use them brilliantly.
You can photograph the same thing again and again and again. If people like you and what you do, they won’t get bored. Instagram loves repetition, there’s no need to be afraid of it.
It’s ok to use filters really quite heavily. I used to be shy about applying them to photos liberally, worrying that it made them look fake or odd. But filters just work on Instagram, they always have. This is not the Pulitzer Prize for Photography, use the tools at your disposal to make the best amateur snap possible.
Imperfections are ok. Whether it’s a visible plug socket or slightly messy hair, people don’t expect (or even want) perfect pictures on Instagram. Mistakes give you something funny to write about in the caption anyway.
Series can be a curse. It’s great to create useful content on your account (really great, I totally advocate it) but saying ‘every Friday I will do this’ or ‘each week I’ll do that’ is a bind that you do not need. When you can’t manage it for whatever reason, it’s just another stick to beat yourself will. Be intentional about creating valuable content, but don’t make promises you can’t keep.
People follow/unfollow to grow their accounts. When I started @notaboutthekids I had no idea what this was all about. Sometimes it is bots, but it’s often humans. They follow you, maybe comment and like some posts, in the hope, you will follow back. Then unfollow you. It allows them to grow their account while keeping their follow numbers at a minimum. You know what, I kind of get it, it’s tough to grow a following on Instagram using the just post great content method. But it ain’t for me.
Instagram shouldn’t be too hard. There have been some day’s when I faffed about for hours trying to get a good photo. Waste of time. Some of my most popular photos took 2 minutes to grab. I think that’s how it should be. If it’s taking too long, and feeling too tricky, walk away and try something else. That’s my new mantra.
Don’t do what’s not you. Some of my most truly cringe-worthy Instagram and blog posts have been when I am trying to be something I am not. Interiors are popular on Instagram, I should do more of that. Just say no. Or fashion? I am crap at fashion. Now I try and stick to what I know, and leave the other stuff to the experts.
It’s FINE if some posts get lower engagement than others. Pictures with my face in will tend to be popular (or a tricksy picture like the one at the top of this page), but I don’t want to post my face every day. I want my content to include a variety of image types, some won’t get as many likes as others, but I’d rather keep the flexibility.
Embrace your mistakes. You have to put yourself out there and prepare to be rubbish or have a post that flops, in order to get better. It’s only Instagram.
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