How to Use Instagram, the New Visual Twitter

Instagram, born yesterday – October 2010 – , is already a giant, over 200 million users busily sharing pictures in that weird square format typical of antiquated Polaroid photos.

When Facebook bought it in April 2012, paying one billion dollars in stock and cash, it knew what it was doing! In 2013, Instagram grew at a fast-clip 23% while Facebook crawled at 3%.

Twitter has only recently woken up to the need of sharing pictures and video clips – hence its purchase of Vine – but it looks like it might have woken up too late…

And sharing pictures on Twitter is not anywhere as easy as it is on Instagram.The user experience is very different: with Instagram, the picture leads you in, not the tweet.

Indeed, Instagram looks like it’s on its way to dislodge Twitter – essentially because it responds so much better to the visual needs of the younger generation, Millennials and under.

Even a Baby Boomer like myself is beginning to catch on, take a look at my Instagram account (upper right corner) and my “likes” (press that heart!), like on this photo:

We’ve all heard that the future of marketing is “visual”. Hence, PINTEREST and Instagram have risen to the fore in marketers’ strategies (see articles below).

As far as I can tell, few writers seemed to have caught on – though I suspect the younger ones among us already have. Here’s an example of how one writer uses it:

A screen shot of her book on Amazon, a short description to say that this book has achieved best seller status, a link to buy it et voilà!
Sounds good and easy-to-do (if a little pedestrian)?

Yes, it is. All you need is a smartphone (no, you can’t do it from your computer) and you need to take pictures with it. Actually, it’s fun, you can play with the Instagram-provided filters and come up with cool-looking pictures in a matter of seconds.

Then, throw in the picture description and appropriate hashtags, just like on Twitter, and you’re done. Since June 2013, there’s even a video-sharing feature (up to 5 seconds clips) – presumably a move to counteract the fast rise of Vine. 

But…but, yes, there’s always a “but”. If you’re going to sell your book outright, you won’t get far.

Just look at that screen shot of the book above, it only got 9 likes (including mine). On the other hand, if you build up a reputation for good, interesting pictures that don’t aim to sell anything in particular, you get loads of “likes”, like this one (I just picked one at random):

Yes, that got over 1,660 “likes”. And some people are so successful on Instagram that they get multiples of that for some of their images…

Some Instagram users also do eventually sell what they make, for example pieces of jewelry. Selling books? Maybe, if anyone of you has managed that, please share your experience with us!

Just one last point: hashtags. 

They’re like on Twitter and since you’re not limited with the number of characters, you can just add them on and on, to get to a wider audience and obtain more “likes”. Hashtags are also fun, anything playful goes: #selfie, #pretty, #traveljunkie etc. How to behave like a teenager is beautifully explained in this Business Insider article here

Though, as pointed out in that article, it won’t win you followers if you start playing “I-follow-you/you-follow-me” then “I-unfollow-you” games just to gain followers and show how popular you are.  That’s the teenage approach: a lot of followers make you feel important with your friends. But followers gained that way are a mirage…

Also, remember Instagram is NOT integrated with Twitter: they decoupled the day Facebook bought them, now they are rivals and you won’t be able to tweet links to your Instagram photos. Ah, the joys of the Net!

Still, just like on Facebook, you can make comments:

And that’s a good way to connect – even if a little superficial. But don’t look for deep meaning, after all, these are just pictures.

You know what’s Instagram’s secret for success?

It’s just plain….fun!


One Comment Add yours

  1. rectorwriter says:

    OMG another social media sinkhole. I’m just getting to where I can function fairly well on Twitter and now it’s going down the tubes to Instagram? Holy cannoli! I hate being in the position of constantly playing catchup while billionaire geeks keep changing channels on me. I feel like a marionette puppet on their strings. Maybe I’d be a little more enthusiastic if any of this resulted in actual dollars in my bank account to compensate me for the time expended. So far, hasn’t happened. Anyway, thank you Claude for bringing this to our attention. Excuse me while I go take my blood pressure medicine.


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