How to get more out of Instagram

No, I’m not talking more followers or more likes. Sure, those things may or may not come as a natural part of this but all in all these are just a few things I’ve been doing more recently and finding that my enjoyment and satisfaction from Instagram has increased. I find I’m engaging with people who feel like they’re ‘on my wavelength’ and I’m having a lot less of those ‘eugh why don’t I look like her/why am I not there/why don’t I have that’ moments. All in all, a more positive way to be day to day I think most will agree?!

First and foremost – this is NOT about me telling you who to follow or who makes you feel good/bad. This will be different for everyone. It will depend on where you’re at in life, what you enjoy seeing and what sort of content you personally find inspiring and creative. It’s a very subjective thing. But that’s the joy of Instagram – there’s a hell of a lot of stuff out there and when you look in the right places you can find the bits that will bring a little joy to your daily scrolling habits. Yes, there’s a lot of samey stuff and Instagram cliches galore. But if you don’t like that style of content then it’s in your control to remove it. Following on Instagram isn’t compulsory – if what they share isn’t for you, even if they’re a friend or family member – you don’t have to follow. I always use this example, but my younger brother unfollowed me on Instagram. Sure, I was offended at first but as he simply explained – he doesn’t care about makeup – that’s fine. He has the right idea. You don’t HAVE to follow anyone.

Curate your own following list – and update it

I’ve built a list of people I follow since I first joined and frankly it’s a bit excessive. It includes ‘real life’ friends, ‘blog’ friends, people who I’ve never met but feel like I know from following them, brands I have liked over the years, accounts for hotels or places I’ve stayed, accounts I’ve followed because they’ve been recommended, clients I’ve worked with, people I’ve met at events… the list goes on. I try to go through once or twice a year and unfollow any accounts that I just don’t feel fit what I want to see every day. Sometimes these will just be brands I’ve outgrown or ones I followed for work projects. Sometimes it will be people or bloggers who I do really like but perhaps their Instagram content makes me feel a bit pants. Not their fault at all, but for my own sanity I’ll unfollow if I feel it will make me happier. For example there are some bloggers I follow on Twitter but not Instagram because I like their tweets and keeping up with their content that way, but for whatever reason – their Instagram just doesn’t do it for me. Shaking off the ‘guilt’ or feeling that you ‘have’ to follow certain people is definitely step on in getting more out of Instagram.

Use Instagram stories

Ever since I’ve started being more active on Instagram stories I’ve been really enjoying the conversations I’ve been having. Not just in terms of me updating my own stories but in watching and replying to others too. Respond to polls, answer questions and share opinions. Don’t always expect anything back – some people do get a tonne of messages and it’s hard to respond to everything (if they don’t follow you for example it won’t end up in their main inbox). But it’s worth it as when people take the time to do the same with you it’s just really nice. I’ve been talking a lot and asking a lot of pregnancy related questions on Instagram stories and the helpful and advice and tips people have been sharing with me have been amazing. I already know I’m going to be SO grateful for my little internet bubble when it comes to being a little outlet on the 3am feeds and general sleepless nights.

How you use Instagram stories is totally up to you. There are some gorgeous stories out there (see THIS blog post on Wish Wish Wish for the perfect tips on how you can make yours gorgeous too) but if you don’t want to, that’s great. I like that for me stories can be a bit more rough around the edges. It means I’m not under pressure to make them perfect, so I do more of them. That works for me.

Don’t obsess over the grid

Or do, if that’s what brings you happiness. But if you find yourself saying ‘gah, I love that photo but it doesn’t fit with my colour theme’ or whatever, then maybe obsessing over the grid is bringing you more stress than it’s worth. Sure, having a gorgeous grid is #InstaGoals but if you love the photo then share it! If you *really* want to keep your grid looking Insta-perfect you could always share it and then archive it once it’s been live for a bit so you get to share and put it out there, but still keep those grid goals going.

Personally, a perfectly cohesive grid is not something I will ever achieve. I keep my edits to photos pretty minimal and my life isn’t all one colour so it does end up a bit all over the place. Sure, I try to keep the photos I share varied – so I wouldn’t post two sausage dog photos side by side. I try not to do too much of any one thing. But beyond that, I like to just share photos I like and want to put out there. Taking that grid pressure off and just looking at each image on it’s own!

I think it was Eva Chen (who works for Instagram) who said – NO ONE CARES ABOUT THE GRID – at a recent conference in London. It’s pretty much true. Sure, it looks great in a screen shot but it’s not going to be make or break for someone to follow or unfollow you – that will be down to what they see in their feed usually. A grid can still look really appealing even if not every photo ticks the same visual boxes.

Be generous with your engagement

YOU get a like, YOU get a like and YOU get a like too! Don’t hold back! If you think someone has taken a nice photo – like it! Comment on it! Respond to a question! If you’re own engagement is down – you can’t 100% blame the algorithm. It can sometimes be as simple as people being a bit stingy with likes. Or be ‘too busy’ to comment. But how long does a little comment really take? I love taking the time to leave a little comment or like on a post of the people I follow. It does actually help the old algorithm learn what you like too. Sure, it doesn’t always get it right and there will always be a pesky big-brand that advertises managing to get it’s way through in front of Bob who you went to uni with. But it’s worth a try. Just think how much you like it when you get a bit of feedback from people following you and share the love a bit.

This does especially apply whenever you see a blogger or instagrammer share a sponsored post – these notoriously plummet engagement and I can’t tell you how much we appreciate it when you see the likes pop up. Especially when you start to see familiar handles of people who routinely support you. So if you’re one of mine who take the time to like and comment on my posts (ads or otherwise) THANK YOU – you rock!

Share the love!

Speaking of share the love – I LOVE finding new accounts to follow. Especially having been firmly in the beauty bubble for so long and now branching out and finding loads of home and mum type Instagram accounts to stalk. It’s opened up a whole new world. The best way I’ve found is when people I’m following share the love and post some of their recent discoveries and accounts they’re enjoying. I’ve been doing the same – sharing on stories a few accounts I think deserve a follow (some of which that baffle me at not having 1000’s more followers already) and simply including their handle. It might just mean a handful of people head their way to follow them or just check out their latest posts. But every little helps in terms of sharing the love. Plus when someone does the same and mentions you it feels pretty darn amazing.

Take photos on whatever kit you want

Rumour has it that photos taken on iPhone ‘perform’ better than those taken on cameras and imported. This may very well be the case and if that’s your priority then whip out that phone and get snapping. I like to use a mixture of photos I’ve taken on my iPhone and on my camera (Olympus Pen EPL7 currently – but planning to upgrade when the 9 is apparently due to be launched later this year). This comes down to a similar point to the ‘don’t obsess over the grid’ and simply sharing what I love. If I have take a photo I’m chuffed with on my camera, I’ll share it. I’m not going to reject it from the grid just because I have a feeling it might not be ‘liked’ as much based on Instagram’s preferences. In some ways this and the grid thing go even more hand in hand as chances are the camera photos might be a touch better quality and so overall you might feel a bit more proud of your profile as a whole and find your own satisfaction that way.

Decide what YOU want from Instagram & what YOU want to share

Yes, there are a TONNE of Instagram cliches to be found out there. But you don’t have to follow them or aim to recreate them. For example, for me – whilst I love a flat lay image in my feed. I just can’t seem to quite master them myself. Occasionally I try and manage to capture one I’m happy with – but most of the time it just looks like I dropped a bunch of stuff on the floor and took a photo of it. So going forward, on my feed – flat lays will be few and far between. Selfies – others seem to manage to get their angles just right. Mine only count as ‘right’ if my aim was to see ALL my chins in one photo. So they rarely make an appearance on my feed. Dog photos on the other hand – I have in plentiful supply and happy to share! For me, I want the photos I share to essentially showcase a bit of everything from my life. So they end up as a split between dogs, house, baby-planning and beauty. With occasional bursts of travel thrown in where possible. I want it to be lovely photos, but not overly edited or artificial – just capturing a bit of the different elements of my life so share. I want to use it as a channel to share my latest blog posts too – both across stories and the feed. But that isn’t the number one goal as I know no-body like a link spammer. I want to use stories to show a bit more of ‘me’. Not something that always comes naturally but I am keen to do more of!

Do you want your Instagram to be curated and gorgeous and stick with a theme and showcase your life like a glossy mag? Then go for it – if that’s what makes you happy! If you feel that’s what it *has* to be but actually you don’t feel happy doing that. Then don’t! If you find yourself saving and trying to recreate others photos then you might struggle to ever feel satisfied with your own because you’re always walking in someone else’s footsteps. At the end of the day, unlike a blog – Instagram will always but ultimately controlled by someone else. BUT you can decide how you use it. So take that control, don’t feel you need to stick to the ‘norms’ of posting (i.e. it’s totally fine to post a non-blossom shot in Spring, or eat a burger without taking a smiling ‘gram first, or EVEN use your make-up before you take a photo of it!). I find that once you make your call on what you want from Instagram and what you want to share you can focus more on that than an endless quest to grow followers and the knock-on is that you will feel more focused and positive as a whole.

What’s your end-goal on Instagram?

I’m sure for many the ultimate goal of Instagram is to become Insta-famous and amass a tonne of followers to get those lucrative teeth-whitening ad deals. But being realistic doing that in today’s market is a stretch at the best of times and pretty much impossible at others. So my view is you might as well (as I’ve touched on in THIS post) take it back to basics and remembering why you enjoyed it before the idea of making money from it all became a thing. Remember those days when blogging and the internet wasn’t all about money? Yep, that’s right – they did exist! But I really believe that sometimes enjoying the process can get you towards that goal – i.e. embrace Instagram for what it is, use it in a way you enjoy and take it from there.

Essentially, when it comes to Instagram – yes, the algorithm sucks. But there’s not much we can do about it is there? We can either whinge or we can change how we use the platform every day and rather than fixating on growth and numbers galore. Focus on creating a community that you enjoy their content, engaging with it and in turn creating and sharing images that make you smile. Maybe being a bit ‘overly positive’ on the whole thing as I really am well aware that many people generate income through their Instagram profiles (myself included) but I hope that by taking these steps the natural knock-on will be that my little Instagram bubble will be a positive and engaged one. Which is all I want really!

If you want to give my Instagram a little follow and see how I’m going to be putting the points in this post into action: https://www.instagram.com/beautyjunkieldn/

All photography by www.bangonstyleblog.com

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5 Comments

  1. January 13, 2018 / 7:32 pm

    Loved this post! I’m really into Instagram at the moment, but I need to take more of these tips on board!☺️ Really enjoyed reading your tips!

    Chloe xx

    http://marblebeauty.co.uk

    • Jen
      January 13, 2018 / 8:28 pm

      Thank you! I’m really enjoying it at the moment too. I think following the tips is making me enjoy it more so spending more time on it!

  2. Catherine
    January 14, 2018 / 7:25 pm

    This was really interesting, thanks.

    I like Instagram but hate the algorithm.

    • Jen
      January 15, 2018 / 12:01 pm

      Agreed, so I’m just trying to embrace it for what it is and enjoy it regardless!

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