I really like Instagram.
It’s easy. A nice picture, a few well-chosen hashtags, and you’re done. Scrolling through your feed and liking posts is easy too.
Of course, there are ways you can make things more sophisticated. Adding your post to your story is relatively straightforward. You can add posts to highlights that show up in nicely organised groups on your profile. You can save posts into collections. You can follow favourite hashtags as well as individuals.
There’s no obligation to do any of those things, so you can really keep it as simple or make it as fancy as you like.
I really enjoy looking at other people’s creativity in pictures, so I’m right at home on Insta. I’m happy to look at their books, their cats or dogs, their holiday snaps, whatever. I love baby pictures. I enjoy memes. Some people want to post about their books all the time. Some people hardly ever post about their books. Either way, I’m cool with that. I like the fact that we all have freedom to post as we please, and we’re all able to get on and play nicely in the Insta playground.
I like the simplicity of responding to other people’s posts. Liking is easy. Commenting is easy.
I do occasionally think it would be nice if there were a choice of reactions like there is on Facebook. Other days, though, I consider it in terms of “a heart is a heart is a heart” and am grateful that there isn’t more value given to one response over another.
It has been really encouraging and motivating to connect with other people with similar interests through the use of particular hashtags and “follow loops”, which are basically posts where authors or other people with common interests respond and then follow one another. I’ve found so much inspiration, and received so much encouragement and feedback, from other authors and Indie creatives on Instagram. It’s a great way to become part of a very positive and proactive creative community.
The challenge of developing my own creative identity on Instagram has been beneficial in terms of incorporating my own style and branding so that my Instagram profile is consistently “me”. I want people to be able to look at my profile and understand something of my personality and commitment to what I do. There’s a lot more to that than “buy my book” posts. It’s been a bit of a learning curve, but well worth it in terms of consistency and style, and as a means of establishing some credibility.
And, of course, there are things that frustrate me.
These fall into two groups: less pleasant aspects of the app itself, and my own personal peeves.
First up: the less “user friendly” elements.
- Using the wrong hashtags – or more correctly, hashtags that have been abused by others, can cause your posts using those tags to be shadow banned. That’s a nerdy way of saying fewer people will see them. Don’t panic, though – there are ways to find out which tags are thus afflicted, and so avoid using them.
- Scammers that look like legitimate shopfronts frequent Instagram. They’re as capable of using a pretty picture as anyone else, it seems. It pays to check out any business or site before clicking through from an Insta ad – and that’s the voice of experience talking. I got caught out once, and learned my lesson very promptly.
- The challenge of gaining visibility for posts. It seems that no matter how many followers I have, there’s a natural cap on how many “likes” or views my posts seem to get. Just like Facebook – which owns Instagram – there’s an algorithm running that appears to how many of my followers see my posts. The more likes a post gets, the more visible it is to more people. Of course, they’re quite happy to encourage me to boost my posts and pay for them to show my posts to more people. Forgive my cynicism about that, won’t you?
Secondly, my “pet peeves”:
- Bookshelves arranged into rainbows. I just don’t understand. I get that it’s pretty, and I like rainbows as much as anyone… but it really gives the book nerd in me enormous anxiety. Wouldn’t that mean a series of books is separated on the shelves? And how does one find anything if different genres and categories are all mixed up on the basis of the colour of their covers? This is clearly a hard no from me.
- People who appear to be commenting in response to something I post, but they’re really spamming me with their own content. Ugh. That’s just rude.
- People who follow in the hope that you’ll follow them back, and then unfollow you. Especially those who don’t just do it once. There are a couple of accounts with a really distinctive and instantly recognisable handle that keeps on following me, then unfollowing and following again a couple of weeks later. Frankly, I wonder why they bother, but it is amusing. Do they think people aren’t going to notice that?
The verdict: Instagram is generally a very positive and enjoyable place for me. The things I don’t like are opportunities for me to practise being a grown up and just keep scrolling past them.
It’s an Insta-heart from me.