So my new office is a little pink and orange box filled with about 400 million strangers. Bricks and mortar are so retro, so Microsoft Office 2001; the digital sphere of Instagram is good enough a place to plonk my derriere and try and make a vague dime.
But this little square of pictorial activity is anything but easy – she (definitely a she) seems simple enough: post divine photo (politely hoping it’s a plus 123-liker), wait for flood of love peppered with occasional spammer and sit back like a little gurning emoji.
But gosh she’s a cruel mistress; she takes and she turns on a sixpence – the wily sort – and she’s a little OCD (the ‘cleaning’ thing). It’s a bit like digital top trumps out there, too: your pixelated skanky laundry is hung out for all and sundry to see – “Ah poor lamb, she only got 23 likes on that one, bet she thought that was a 124-er”.
Instagram is not the squeaky-chaired, coffee-humming, nylon-carpeted office space I’ve been accustomed to in all my years of poverty-striken publishing. So I went to the HQ last Friday to work out what the dally is and how we can, perhaps, wield a slither of those 400 million lurkers to our profitable gain. Here’s some stuff from my grey matter, qualified by The Gram folk:
Don’t ignore the ‘social’ element
Liking, commenting and following is the digital equivalent of saying “you are great, so great I’ll tack on a dancing chick in a red frock”. If someone you want to work with consistently gets that vibe from you, you’ll get some lovin’ back – an email that starts ‘I REALLY love your Instagram. Help me now’ will only touch the sides if it’s backed up with a regular Instathumbs up. It’s vanity-feeding, sure, but that’s not too off-the-mark in real life too – ref. Tinder.
Chat some folk up
When it’s digital tumbleweed in your neck of the filtered woods, don’t just wallow forlornly, silently wishing anyone with an abundance of followers gets shat on by a particularly incontinent seagull. It’s time to act. Whack a DM (Direct Message) to someone you think is great. I got in touch with Fearne Cotton on one of my pitiful, feeling a bit cystitis-ey days and she ended up launching our parentfail campaign, which I reckon has bagged us approx 3,500 followers (and of course the charitable donations – **prepares Pride of Britain speech**). The great thing is, people can’t really escape on DM: it’s cruel to leave a DM with a solitary ‘seen’ message and no response. Use that to your advantage.
Follow until you have RSI
I used to do this in my old social media manager job at SuperTrash in Amsterdam and would like to add the disclaimer that Instagram hasn’t said this is a way forward. But if you are having desperate times, just follow as many folk as you can. For every 1,000 you follow apparently 90 will follow you back – not terrible odds. If you realise after following them, they’re not your bag, then unfollow. Not entirely sure on the ethics of this one but when you are looking for bums on seats, this does sort of work.
We are too old/knackered for competition
Do not fear if a rival sets up stall next to you; befriend them and grow together. When I launched, I saw that Zoe from Dress Like A Mum was doing some fun stuff; I initially was, like, whatevs, I’m cool with that, we’re totes different. But really, if I search deep, there was a hint of the green-eyed monstrosity back there. So that was quickly knocked on the head with a quick ‘n’ dirty lunch when I was working at Stylist Magazine and a squidge that ended up with us being friends and poncing about on camera for Mamas & Papas. Some mate of mine who went a bit Buddhist said: “where your energy goes grows” or summat.
The golden retriever principle
Your vibe brings/ elbows away your tribe. Be ever-enthusiastic, a little slobbery and always gonna get that ball. Focus on what you want, go for it in a nice manner – Instagram is more emotionally transparent than you think. Also people who don’t like golden retrievers are few and far between. Or Jason Donovan, apparently (he hated Bouncer; although he is a Labrador). So you are safe with this principle.
The power of three
Have three main USPs you always stick to in your posts. Consistency is key. So don’t be all smutty on one post and then angelic on the next; your audience will scarper if they aren’t sure where you are going or who you are. My USPs are: humour, colour and… can’t think of a third but you get it.
Get all appy
Do something a bit different to jazz up your feed. Reckon you are a shit photographer – do some research on apps that make your shittery look somehow passable. Not sure you have enough content for a post every day that depicts you enjoying avocado toast, sipping a soy latte while aloofly pushing your products, then whack a quote up that fits your brand. Get a library of content together when you have some reprise from the eye twitch and wheel it out as and when. Not everything has to be to-the-minute accurate. It’s a story – your story – told as and when you can.
Cross over the road my friend
A little bit of cross social channel referencing goes a long way. If you can’t be arsed to keep Facebook up, just link your Instagram posts to Facebook to at least people can find you and, perhaps, follow you.
Say it as it is
Instagram has seen a huge move away from perfectly polished images that require a ladder to be slotted above your porridge for the perfect shot. Real content is what sticks at the moment – that’s why I’ve been playing around with my feed at the moment; it all got a bit poised back there [insert bashful monkey emoji]. That doesn’t mean it can’t be impeccably shot – it’s just about capturing moments – good, bad and ugly. Life, really. There’s a reason Celeste Barber is gaining 20,000 followers a week.
Tick that off the list
If you are an influencer or blogger with over 10,000 followers and you reckon you’ve got some chat, some OK photos and, perhaps, an agent, then it’s worth hankering for the tick. The tick is a bit like the seal of I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here; It means you’re vaguely Z list and serious about making a career out of your shambolic life. It’s also quite elusive – the only real way in here is through an agent or talent manager and few businesses get the tick, only humans. Be prepared to wait, too; It took me 6 months of enthusiasm and slobbering until I got that ball.
Image: Miles Aldridge