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Instagram - I was an absolute beginner but now I know this!

I've been doing research on Instagram and I thought I would share some of what I've learned over the last couple of weeks. You may know all of this, but if not, it may be worth keeping in mind, so you can gain more followers, and have your posts seen by more people. I'm going to split it into 2 blog posts.


(Left) One of my Instagram posts.


A key thing is to know that it is not enough to just 'like' people's post - you have to comment.


In case you are new to Instagram (I was, only a few weeks ago) these are some basics (otherwise skip this bit - important stuff further on) - Instagram is a place where you can post photos & videos, and make/receive comments on them. It's designed to be used on a phone, but you can look, and comment on a computer, you just can't post photographs from it.



(left) My grid


There are five main parts to it  - your 'Feed'. This is where you see recent posts from people you are following, or who are using a hashtag you are following. You usually see one image at a time and scroll down to see the next one.  

Your 'Grid': this is where all your posts are arranged in squares, three squares per line.

Your 'Activity,' where people who have liked and/or commented on your posts are listed, together with those who have started following you.

A search facility, to look for people or hash tags

A direct message section - so you can send private messages.

Another option you have is to post a 'story' - a short video clip (up to 15 seconds) or a photo which only stays visible for 24 hours. Often a 'fun' post.


Now for the important stuff

Instagram started as a time-based platform - you posted something, and all the people who followed you saw it, for a while, until it slipped down the list of posts on your feed, replaced with newer posts. Now it is different, Instagram has an algorithm which means that only 5 or 6% of your posts may pop up on your followers feeds. The algorithm is looking for signs of activity and only sends out your posts if it feels they are coming from a healthy account. It's not a bad thing if you know how to use it - Instagram has grown so much that if it were the old system now, your posts would quickly get lost.


So what is it looking for? It's calculating how many people have reacted to your posts, and how long have they spent looking at it/responding to it. So it needs more than a quick 'like' on your post. It is looking at a combination of factors. It doesn't matter what anyone says in a comment, it's looking at quantity, not quality. It also needs responses to happen soon after your image is posted. That's why so many Instagram people ask questions on their posts. Our daughters have been quite useful, I've primed them to make comments, and then I will always make a comment about their comment. (usually old pictures of me generate comments!). Sue and I comment on our posts too (even if we are sitting side by side!). Facebook comments don't work like this by the way.


Another thing related to this, and I know I have been doing this, is that when you are trawling through looking for interesting people, if a post has lots of comments on it, you are more likely to click on it - so it helps the algorithm, and also you might gain new followers.




Captions and Hashtags

When you post a photo you write a 'caption.' This is intended to tell the viewer what they are looking at, and hopefully draw them in to making a comment, but you need to ensure the important stuff happens within the first three lines, or the viewer may not click 'more' to read the rest of it.

You can add hashtags here (what is a hash tag? I'll explain below), or you can put them in your first 'comments' box - if doing the latter, do so as soon as you have posted. I've tried both methods and I favour putting them in the first comments box. Two reasons - I now have my Instagram account set up to automatically post onto my business Facebook page when I add anything new. If they are in the first comments box they don't clutter up the Facebook page with meaningless hash tags. Secondly, whilst you can't put the initial photo on Instagram from a laptop, you can add comments from it. So, I find it's better to have all the hashtags saved in a Word document on my laptop, and I will copy and paste them into Instagram straight after posting the image using my phone. If putting hashtags in with your caption, it's common to have 5 dots on each line first (as in example in the image) but there is no need to do this if you are putting them in your first 'comments' box.


Hashtags: it's a means by which people find others who are interested in the same thing, so if I search for #dave for example, as I write, there are 872,896 posts where people have used this hashtag in their post. If I were 'following' this hashtag, anytime anyone used it, it may pop up in my feed. So a few words of advice:

  • Use relevant hashtags to you, for example, I may use #timetravelbooks (which has 2,303 posts, not many in Instagram terms, but I can see my posts showing up in the #timetravelbooks grid), or I may use #historicalfiction (32,8267 posts).

  • Don't use the same hashtags everytime. Instagram is looking for evidence that you are a real person - if it suspects you are computer generated (a bot), because you use the same hash tags, or the same comments, it may prevent your posts being visible.

  • Don't just go for the most popular hashtags. Many have over a million posts - #love has 1,849,133,375 posts - no-one is likely to find you if you are swallowed up in that lot. 200,000 - 300,000 max.


More about Instagram on the next blog post.






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