Insta-Friday: What is Instagram?
I know I talk A LOT about Instagram and I use hash tags in my posts, A LOT. I thought I’d try to do a weekly post (short and sweet hopefully) to provide my perspective on Instagram and hopefully share some of my excitement about it with you. I’m a teacher at heart and if I find a tool I love I just want to share it with EVERYONE! (Check out the podcast called Compulsory, I think it’s episode 3 or 4 which talks about the compulsion to share something exciting with everyone you know). I thought I’d frame these posts as a question/answer sort of format. This is only from my perspective, and I’m not an expert, I just obsessively use Instagram almost every day for at least an hour so I feel like I can easily answer questions about the program.
What the heck is Instagram?
Instagram is a form of social media where people can connect through images and words. We use our phones to take pictures all the time right? With Instagram, the focus is on the image, with a short description (which is actually optional). So you can take a picture (either within IG or with your camera on your phone) and then immediately share it on Instagram. People who see the picture (or post) can instantly provide feedback by leaving a comment or liking the picture (tapping the Heart icon). It’s a lot like Facebook, but without the “noise” on the sidebars. The one drawback of IG is that it is primarily APP based, meaning you’d need to download the app to your phone (iOS, Android and I think Microsoft has one now). There is a web based option but it doesn’t function the same way that the app does so you don’t have the same options and functionality.
Why should I use Instagram when I finally just figured out Facebook?
There isn’t any rule that says you can’t use both. I think of Instagram as a fast way to see lots of pictures and see what people are saying and doing right now. It’s a feed based on the people you follow, so if you have IG friends in Australia who post when you are sleeping, you might not see what they post, unless you search for them and view their feed specifically. (Facebook is the same way, if you aren’t checking your feed when someone posts, you might not see their update)
You can actually post a picture and whatever description from Instagram over to Facebook in a couple of taps. I think of IG as a super micro blog, just post a picture or 20 second video and a few words and you’ll get almost immediate feedback from the people who follow you. In fact, I think a lot of bloggers have moved away from blogging because IG is so easy to use and the feedback is almost always instant.
How do I find people to follow?
Just ask your friends! Or find one friend you know on IG (You can follow me @sewgoodsewfar) and you can look at who that person follows. OR when you follow a new friend, IG will give you three recommended people to follow based on similar posts! Once you start to follow people, you will start to see the pictures they post in your feed (that’s the House looking icon on the bottom left side of your phone inside the app).
What is the purpose of those annoying hash tags?
Hash tags, when used correctly, make it easy for people who aren’t directly connected to post about similar things and share those posts with others who are looking for that similar subject. The hash tag (#) symbol preceding a word tells Instagram that you want to let people search for that term and see all posts with that same hash tag. For example, the big Modern Quilt Conference called QuiltCon just wrapped up last weekend. Folks who attended used the tag #QuiltCon2015 or #QuiltCon at the end of or in the middle of their description of the image.
You can search for that tag by clicking/tapping the magnifying glass icon in your menu at the bottom and searching for the tag QuiltCon2015 or QuiltCon (I don’t think the words are actually case sensitive but you do have to spell it correctly) and all the posts that anyone tagged with that word will appear in one long feed. The last time I checked, the tag QuiltCon had more than 7000 posts (but that was including 2013 as well).
If you want to try this out, and you ARE NOT on a fabric buying diet like I am, check out the tag #thegreatfabricdestash which has more than 60000 posts of people who are SELLING their own fabric stash for whatever reason.
If someone you follow adds a tag on their post, you can also tap the tag and it will take you to the same feed that you would get if you searched it.
I like to use tags for things that I think I will be posting about multiple times so I can keep track of them in one place. For example, I used #5kby35 when I was working on finishing the Couch to 5K app before my 35th birthday. I just started one called #findthejoy2015 so I can look at the posts I created that I consider inspiring. I also used #quilt15February and several other people have joined in that one to share what they were doing every day in February to quilt or create something for 15 minutes a day! Hash tags are a good way to connect with others on another level because you know they specifically share your same interest.
There is a trick to using hash tags that I sort of learned the hard way. If you are going to tag one of your posts, try to make it very specific. Instead of using #accountability because you want to keep track of your projects try changing it to #quilteraccountability I used #accountability on a post and because my account is public, people were liking my post who I thought had no “reason” to like it in the first place. I always check the profiles of the people who like my posts (out of curiosity) and these people were fitness people and were not quilters and not people that I knew. I realized that I needed to be more specific in my tags from that point on.
Because IG has oh a few million users at least, there are always going to be people who use it as a marketing tool which ends up becoming SPAM. You can make your account private, but then if you use a hash tag, your posts in that tag will only be visible to people who are your IG friends/followers. I opened my account up to be public probably around a year ago and if I notice that people are following my account who don’t seem appropriate, I will block and report them.
OK, well, I guess I could keep rambling about IG but now I just want to hear from YOU! Do you have any other questions about IG? If so, please comment here and I’ll answer them in next week’s post.
Next week I’ll talk about using Direct Messaging, how to Repost something you want to share and a great app to help crop your pictures.