Let me start with a bit of background…
Up to April 2010 I was an Instructional Technologist for a university in Missouri. What I did was developed websites for faculty members, researched (mostly) social media and open source software and conducted software training for the faculty and staff. For a hobby, I created Photoshop video tutorials. I know, nerdy, right?!
Before moving to England I opened my Instagram account. This was in 2010. It was private with about 122 followers. Mostly my real life Facebook friends and a few blog friends from back in my paper crafting days.
February 2016 I decided to use the platform on a regular basis. My goal was to post every day in hopes that I get my love for photography back. Before January I never knew that there were many gorgeous feeds. I just thought everybody posted IG filtered daily photos of lunches or of their families (HA!!)
Despite my background, I didn’t know exactly how hashtags worked and the word “algorithm” boggled my mind. You see, in education, at least my job, for security and privacy purposes, all social media accounts used in the classrooms were private. Just amongst the professors and students.
To educate myself, I scoured Google for resources. I found lots, some good and some just meh, and I got into my software research mode. I analysed, hypothesised and tested. A few things didn’t go well but a few others did.
Just as I got the hang of Instagram, the algorithm changed. I had to make changes too but a few things stayed the same.
Last year my personal life took me on a roller coaster ride. This got me to reflecting almost everyday and I read many many self-help books. I also sat down with a psychologist.
The things I learned from both Instagram and my personal growth was: You get back as much as you give and that as humans we all long to connect.
“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” – Brene Brown.
I am in a few Instagram for business groups on Facebook and many members expressed the difficulty of getting their posts seen, being on the receiving end of the follow/unfollow methodology, and lack of engagement.
Hashtags and nice photos in Instagram are very important but as I observed people’s Instagram posts and usages, especially those using IG for business or to gain followers for financial gains, it seemed like many forgot the “social” part of social media. Many got too absorbed in wanting to gain followers fast or there just seemed too much of the “look at me” factor.
The last few months I have been receiving many messages on how my account grew fairly quickly and my standard replies have been: Engage, hashtags, photo quality, value, and consistency.
There is a lot to say for each of the five I mentioned above. Today, I will just briefly touch the engagement portion.
We all use Instagram, or any social media platforms for different reasons but if you are wanting to grow your IG organically, be it for personal or business, you need to engage. And engaging doesn’t mean liking 200 photos or saying “fab” or “?”. Now, I know I have done these types of engaging but, if the photo and/or caption touched my heart, I’d write a thoughtful comment.
In real life friendship, you wouldn’t make as many friends if you just waited around. In real life, you got to go up, introduce yourself and engage. You’d share information and try to find a connection. You connect more with folks who communicate in full sentences than just a high fives or a single “fab” word. Once the connection is there, to keep the friendship alive, you need to keep engaging. To have a good friendship going, both needs to give into the relationship.
Unless you’re famous, when you start out, you got to reach out first! Then connect regularly.
My reason to want followers (and me wanting to follow also) was so I could gather a nice group of encouraging folks to cheer me on in my journey. I wanted to be inspired also and I followed those who either inspired me on a photographic level or make me happy (like dogs, flowers, and pretties in general). My goal was to gain 1000 followers by December 31, 2016.
I got started!
When I started out, I spent about 10-15 minutes every other hour engaging. During the kids’ gymnastics, I can be on Instagram liking and commenting for an hour or two. I have never been banned! I just can’t type that fast!
I found a few hashtags that I liked: #visitbritian, #lovegreatbritain, #ukpotd, #alifeofintention, and my favourite #wisteriahysteria. I visited these hashtags regularly and I said hello to many. Many said hello back. As the days and weeks went by, I kept bumping into the same folks. We kept chatting back and forth and a connection was formed. Some followed me and some I followed back. Some I never follow and some unfollowed me too because they either got bored of my feed or I didn’t follow back. But this is ok (will talk more on this later), it’s social media.
As my account grew, I had to set some boundaries. I have a family and my real life is important to me. After I gained 5k followers or so I mostly engaged with those I follow and those who leave comments on my photos. I do also, if I happen to be online and see a follower from when I “only” had 300 followers liking my photo, I would go to his/her feed and like back. I reply to most of the comments left for each of my posts. I say most because it’s hard to catch them all. And when I reply, I also take the time to go into each of the commenters feeds to check out their photos, to read the captions and/or comment back.
Yes it’s a lot of work but they all took the time to comment (and often time read my long winded captions) and to me, it’s only nice to do the same back.
That’s my tip of the day and first proper blog post. Get out of your corner, say hello and genuinely comment on photos and/or captions that touch you on a regular basis. With millions of users out there, you are bound to find many people who will like what you have to offer. Remember: We all want to be feel seen, heard, and valued.