Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ten tips to win the Instagram popularity contest

Instagram is officially the next big thing in social networking. And despite some outrage in late 2012 over changes to its terms of service, Instagram continues to grow. The photo-centric social network now has 90 million monthly active users and sees more than 40 million photos uploaded every day. They also report having more than 8,500 Facebook “Likes” per second making it one of the most popular social networks around. But not everyone or everything on Instagram is "cool".

After reflecting on those I follow (and unfollow) on Instagram, I've discovered these ten things you can do to get the most likes and the most followers (and avoid the dreaded unfollow) on Instagram:
  1. One At a Time: Don't post more than 1 or 2 photos at a time. This isn't Facebook. It's not a place to publish albums of photos. And there is never any need for 2 photos of the same thing. Pick the best one.
  2. Use Hashtags: The more hashtags you use the better. And seek out some of the "secret" top hashtags. They're like The Skull and Bones, once you join the club you'll become instantly popular.
  3. Don't #TBT: #TBT, also known as, Throw Back Thursday, is one hashtag to avoid. You should only post photos you just recently took on your iPhone or Droid (there's a reason you can't upload from the web). It's supposed to be "instant" hence the name Instagram.
  4. Join the iPhone-Only Club: Expanding on the previous tip, there are a lot of people who believe Instagram should only be photos you took with your iPhone (or Droid or other smartphone) and NOT pictures taken with your digital camera or expensive DSLR. Those photos belong on 500px and Flickr.
  5. This Isn't Pinterest: Instagram is not the social network for sharing memes, inspirational posters, and quotes. That's what Pinterest is for. And don't even get me started on #instanotes.
  6. More Action Photos: Don't just post selfies and pictures of you with your friends smiling for the camera. Take some action photos of people actually doing things other than saying "cheese".
  7. Less Blurry Photos: Do NOT EVER post a blurry photo. Even if you caught Big Foot in a blurry dash through the forest, do not post it! At the same time, don't use the cool little blur tool on every photo. Though there are some cool effects that you can accomplish using this feature (i.e. miniatures), it is greatly overused. 
  8. Less Random: Try and not post random unrelated photos that have nothing to do with previous posts. Create a theme with your photos, whether it be through the content of the photos (i.e. all sunset photos) or the style of the photos (i.e. all close-up shots). 
  9. Foodies Beware: Though it is good to have a theme to your Instagram collection be careful about just posting pictures of your meals. It's become a major cliche and though it could still be acceptable as a restaurant review or recipe sharing service, there are better social media outlets to be doing so (i.e. Yelp).
  10. Share to Twitter: Now that Instagram has revoked the inline previews of photos on Twitter you should be careful what you choose to share via tweets. Having to click-through to to see the photos can ruin the experience -- especially if the photo is breaking one of the above 9 rules!
What other Instagram tips do you have? Leave your best practice suggestions in the comments below.

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