More than any other form of social media, Instagram is a symbiotic medium - it's about inspiring and being inspired, in equal measure. No matter what you're into, you can find talented people with similar interests to follow and you can get to know friends and celebrities alike through what they choose to post.
How do you make sure that your followers are double-tapping your posts, rather than rolling their eyes every time you pop up in their feed?
But the question arises: how do you live up to your part of that inspire/inspired equation? How do you make sure that your followers are double-tapping your posts, rather than rolling their eyes every time you pop up in their feed? Having spent the past three years in the Instagram trenches, here are my Do's and Don'ts for Killing It on Instagram:
1. DO Post Consistently
While there's no law against sporadic IG posting, if you want the people who follow you to feel engaged with what you're throwing down, you need to post often enough that they remember who you are. Otherwise, the only person liking your stuff will be your mom. (She loves you just the way you are.) Social media savvy celebrities like @lenadunham and @mindykaling are pretty good examples of this - they post just frequently enough to make sure they show up in your feed without overwhelming it. Which brings us to...
2. DON'T Spam Your Followers
While consistency is good, the fastest way to get unfollowed is to carpet-bomb your followers with posts. Everyone has different threshold for how many pics is too many, I think it's safe to say that no one needs to see all six of the selfies you took this morning before work, especially in rapid succession. Much as I love her, Rihanna (@badgalriri) is probably one of the most frequent celebrity violators of this rule.
I didn't think you could have too many Rihanna photos, but... you can.
3. No Seriously, DON'T Spam Your Followers
Even worse than posting too much of your own content is posting too much of someone else's. Constantly posting Memes or Repost-to-Win-Contests is a great way to earn yourself a spot in the Instagram Hall of Shame. I'm sure you really want to win that free swag bag from XYZ Sports, but no one else cares. Likewise, just because you have that one bikini pic from the time that you tried to start a modeling career does not mean that you have to post it every week for #TBT. Be judicious.
4. DO Curate Your Content
Pay attention to the themes that arise in your photography. While there's no law that says you have to stick to one or two subjects, your followers (especially people who are looking at your profile for the first time) are going to be seeing your account as a whole body of work. One of the best - and most extreme - examples of this is Murad Osmann (@muradosmann), whose account is dedicated almost exclusively to his "Follow Me" series. (See also: One of the many dog-themed accounts out there.)
You don't have to travel all over the world recreating the same shot over and over with your model girlfriend (you do have a model girlfriend, right?), but a little consistency isn't a bad idea.
5. DON'T Give Into Gimmicks
Phone manufacturers and app makers alike are constantly looking for new gimmicks to peddle to the consumer. Video, hyperlapse, slo-mo, and photo montages are all great, but make sure you're using them sparingly and for more reason than just the novelty of it all.
6. DO Hashtag with Intention
By my estimation, there are three reasons to use a hashtag: One, so other people can find your photos (maybe you want everyone else at #sxsw to see that sweet pic you got of Childish Gambino - makes sense); Two, so you can find your photos later (I use a couple of concert-related hashtags so see all of my posts from a particular music festival or period in time); or Three, to be funny/ironic (if you wanna throw up a #blessed once in a while, I won't stop you). But use them sparingly and with intention. It's really obnoxious - not to mention time-consuming - to post photos with 80 super-generic hashtags like #pizza #pizzanight #dinner #hungry #eatingpizza #tuesday #pizzatuesday. I got bored just typing that example.
Just... just stop.
7. DON'T Post Crappy Photos
This should be a no-brainer, but it's also a commonly broken rule in the world of concert photography. No one expects you to take pro-quality photos, but if your intended subject is about 8000 feet away and looks more like a smudge than a person, you might consider savoring that memory and deleting the photo.
8. DO Embrace An Aesthetic
Because Instagram is an solely visual medium, how your photographs look can almost be more important than what you're photographing. Look for color palettes and composition techniques that you like. One of my friends posts completely in black and white; another favors soft, muted colors and letterbox cropping.
If low-saturation abstracts are your thing, go with your thing. I personally tend to favor sharp, high-saturation photography. Find your aesthetic, and then embrace it.