Instagram for Dummies (And Me)

On Sunday, I persuaded my sister-in-law to sign up for Instagram. She wanted to know why she needed Instagram if she was already on Facebook. Aren't they the same thing? Well no, at least they shouldn't be. There seems to be a lot of overlap, and that's partly Instagram's fault. They should consider removing the option to share on Facebook because it's threatening their proprietary. . . but I will address that issue a little later. 

Instragram is different than Facebook. And my husband isn't on it. So I can post pictures that he doesn't see and talk about things, like the toilet that was in our backyard, without him knowing. Just kidding. Well, I'm actually not kidding. . . 

Instagram was launched in October 2010 through the Apple App Store as a social networking site based on photo sharing. I downloaded the app because I was interested in the photo filters. But once I saw that it was another social network site, I didn't bother setting up an account. (The filters are absolutely amazing. They can make mediocre iPhone pictures look almost professional.)

Last year, after some encouragement from a few friends, I decided to give Instagram a try. My first Instagram picture was of the treadmill. It was the first time I had run five miles since high school. 

At that point, I didn't know a thing about hashtags. Instagram added hashtags in January 2011 to help users classify pictures. When hashtags are specific and relevant to the picture, they are a great way for other people to discover your photos. They can even connect like-minded Instagramers. I came across a bunch of pictures of beautiful homes and buildings in downtown Ogden posted by therealjenfo. And then I realized I knew her from church. 

When most people think of Instagram hashtags, they think of the longer hashtags that are used ironically. (#longhashtagscanbeobnoxioustoread #butsometimestheyarefunny #sosometimespeopleuselotsofthem #thereisalimitofthirtyhashtagsperphoto)

I posted this picture with the comment: Baptism Earmuffs- purchased for the girl in our ward who has a phobia of getting her ears wet.

It sat there for a year, without any likes or comments. The other day, I added the hashtags #baptism #lds #steveisagoodhometeacher. And then it got three likes from strangers who found it through the tags. I could have also added #phobia #scaredofwater #earmuffs. 

This picture of the cupcakes Angela made for Adam's birthday party was the third photo I posted on Instagram. I posted it without any hashtags or even a comment. That's fine if you are using Instagram as a personal photo journal, but that's not what its function was intended to be. And the cupcake shot wasn't even a current picture. . . it was taken three weeks earlier. 

The idea behind Instagram is to be able to share (and experience) moments through pictures, taken with your phone, right as they happen, instantly. Get it. . . Insta-gram? Be aware that there's an alarming number of tweens and teens who participate in things like Transformation Tuesday and Throwback Thursday. I guess that's okay. But only if you are a tween or a teen. 

After about a month, I gave up on Instagram. I wasn't impressed. But that was my fault; I wasn't using it correctly, and I didn't know the rules. 

In February, Rachel became fascinated with Instagram and asked if she could join. After looking into the privacy settings, I decided that Instagram is a actually a good induction into the world of social networking. Of course, if rachelskisutah was going to be on Instagram, so was I. Rachel and Lucy both set up private accounts. That means they have to approve all follow requests before their pictures can be seen. Yes, that limits the function of the hashtag and part of the purpose of Instagram. But it's all they are ready for right now. 

Three months and 68 photos later, I feel like I have Instagram mostly figured out. I still break some of the rules. . . some on accident, others on purpose. But at least I feel like I know what I'm doing. 

In April 2012, Facebook purchased Instragram (with its 13 employees) for $1 billon. That's billion with a b. By February 27, 2013, Instagram reported an astonishing 100 million active users. Instagram is big. Even if you aren't an Instagramer and have no intention of ever setting up an account, you will still benefit from learning some of the unwritten rules of Instagram. And if you are an Instagramer, you should definitely read these rules of etiquette because you are most likely breaking some of them. 

Instagram Etiquette

1. Instagram is for photos. Not quotes. Unfortunately, millions of Instagram users break this rule. If you search #quote, you can pull up 2.8 million posts. And #quotes yields another 1.7 million. Even more disturbing, there are 1.4 million photos with #quoteoftheday. You certainly shouldn't be posting a quote everyday. 

2. Save your MySpace-angle pics for. . . MySpace. Which brings up an interesting question. Does MySpace still exist? 

3. And if you do post a self portrait, also known as a "selfie", don't tell me to double tap and like it. You actually shouldn't ever post requests because it makes you look desperate. Instagram has different friending or "following" rules than Facebook. A person can "follow" me on Instagram without me following them back. And unless you are part of the high school crowd, that's perfectly acceptable. Instagram was intended to be more about photos than relationships. You can follow people you don't like, and you don't have to like the people you follow. You can even follow people you don't know without being creepy. No obligations, no fuss. See why I like Instagram? 

4. Limit the kid pictures. Or go for it, whatever. But if you post ten consecutive photos of your newborn baby in the same pose, I might quit following you. I have kids, I love kids, but mix it up a little and make sure they are doing something cool. Like wearing dog and cat costumes. 

5. Avoid rapid fire. I have a hard time following this rule. I take pictures of different things during the day and then post later, when I have a second to actually look at them. Sometimes I tag them #latergram, but I ought to do a better job of posting instantly. Sometimes multiple pictures just need to be combined. I posted these four pictures within minutes of each other last year on Mother's Day. I was just trying to document all of the awesome food that Steve prepared for me. But I probably should have created a photo collage out of them and posted one picture. And used a hashtag.

6. Don't repost to every social site. If these rules were listed in order of importance, this would be at the top of my list. And yes, I break it ever once in a while. . . as recently as this week. But every single picture you post on Instagram should not be shared to Facebook. Let me tell you why. First of all, it gets really repetitive. If everything from Instagram is on Facebook, then why do I need to be on Instagram? This is where Instagram needs to rethink their strategy of sharing pictures. Instragram users with other social media accounts should treat it like a marketing campaign: different content goes to different audiences. Because if it's all the same, there's no reason to have both accounts. (And by the way, I really like that my circle of friends is smaller on Instagram.) Secondly, what if I like your picture on Instagram and then see it on Facebook too. Do I need to like it again? I like the picture, so it would be weird if I didn't, right? But then, what if I comment on your picture on one site and then see it on the other site and want to reply to someone else's comment. Then it gets a little crazy because you can't keep the two conversations straight. And finally, what if I scroll through my newsfeed on Facebook and am trying to figure out how far I need to read to get caught up, but I keep getting confused because I'm seeing pictures that I've already seen. . . not on Facebook, but on Instagram. These are real problems, people. 

7. If you reply to a comment left on one of your pictures you must @ the person you are replying to. It took me a while to figure this one out. And sometimes, I still forget to do it correctly. Instagram comments are different than Facebook comments. Instagram doesn't, by default, notify a user when comments have posted to a friend's photo. And nobody is going to stalk your pages looking to see if you replied to them. So if someone comments on your picture and you want to respond to them, use the @(username) before posting your comment. Then a notification will show up in the recipient's News tab. 

8. Don't say that you don't have time for social networking and then complain that you don't have friends. Connecting with friends can greatly enhance your life. Connecting with friends also takes time. Social networking actually makes it a lot easier to connect with friends. Period. 

9. Don't worry too much about the rules. . . I have broken all of them!

And as long as I'm making rules for social networking sites, here's a bonus: Please post your recipes on Pinterest, not Facebook! 

Here are some examples of how I have used Instagram: 

One of my favorites Instagram pictures. Posted to Instagram and Facebook. It's okay to share your favorite photo to multiple sites, just don't do it every single time.

It wasn't until I posted this picture of Adam and Layla looking at the ant farm that I started using hashtags. (Not the long silly ones.) It really opens up a whole new world of Instagram. 

I used Instagram to denounce the canned pears used in this "Harvest Salad" at Doolittle's Deli. I figured I was being nice by sharing my complaint with Instagram's smaller audience, rather than on Facebook.

Instagram is a good place to post a picture of something that might not be as appropriate for Facebook:

Limit the kid pictures doesn't mean you can't post any pictures of your kids. It's actually way more acceptable to post multiple picture of your kids on Instagram than it is on Facebook. 

Instagram was definitely the correct social networking site to post this photo:

This picture was probably the one that opened up my eyes to the power of hashtags. I tagged it with #conferencecenter, #youngwomens, and a quote from Elaine Dalton with #elainedalton. Her daughter saw it and tagged it @elainedalton, which sent it to her mother. Crazy. 

This picture, of Rachel and Lucy scaring Ally Milligan at work, was liked by Sam's Club in Brasil:

Instagram is a great place for food pictures:

And it's a great place to post pictures of other kids so their parents can see the super cool things they do at your house: 

I love this picture: 

And this one too. Adam might be my favorite?

Instagram is about cool things, like these share bikes in Salt Lake City: 

Instagram is about pretty pictures:

Which are made prettier with the filters: 

Instagram is for cute babies: 

And their silly parents who were trying to make them smile: 

Instagram is about finding beauty in every day moments:

Instagram is about creating moments:

The End


Mindy said...

I'll be honest, I had no idea about most of these rules and regulations! I thought hash tags were for tweets and that they somehow connected the pics to twitter. I don't tweet, obviously. I will try to start following your rules :) Oh, and I TOTALLY agree with the whole recipe in Pinterest and not Facebook thing.

Natalie B. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Natalie B. said...

Emily...you are awesome! This is a great post! I was totally against hash tags because it always bugged how most people used them for the wrong thing. However, now I can't resist, and I do it too..pretty much to say anything I would say in parenthesis. I can't help it. I am a rule-breaker-follower! Also, I need to change my settings because everything from my instagram goes to my FB. I have a good reason though. Ryan's Gma lives in a senior type place all alone in Canada and she loves following what we do through FB. I would pretty much almost never post pics and lots of that stuff on FB but I know she will never be on instagram so whenever i post on Instagram I think, oh, Gma would want to see that, so everything goes to FB. Annoying for all my instagram friends, but I will sacrifice my social networking savyness to make a Grandma happy. :) I also hate all the recipe and quote sharing. Pretty much never share a quote, unless you personally stumbled across it and wrote it out yourself. (I am talking about those cheesy inspirational quotes.) Oh, and I am also guilty of the multiple pics things,. Ok, and I am off. Peace out.

The Clawsons said...

Love it!!! Love Instagram more than anything else. Have you printed out any of your photos yet? I'm looking into it. I love looking back and seeing what was going on over the year. It's my best way of documenting, and journaling (can that really be?)