I started my Instagram account @houseofspolland in August 2017. I’d had my personal account since the beginning of scrolling and filter time. I mainly shared the flat white from my commute and tried to take a stealth selfie with Mr S (he’s still not 100% comfortable with me doing that!).
When we bought our house I decided to set up an account to document the renovation. I had seen my friend do it earlier in the year and figured it would be a good idea to keep us motivated and find inspiration along the way too.
I quickly found an amazing array of accounts that were incredible inspiration, were going through similar renovation projects to ours (and the problems too!) and I started to figure out how many and which hashtags to use, and get to grips with what to share on my stories.
The slight flaw in the timing of the account creation, was that Instagram had just started to change how you saw the accounts you follow and the order that they appeared in your home feed. The algorithm hit and terms like “shadow ban” started being used. Instagram started to crack down on bots and started to, in a way, customise our feed so that what we genuinely ‘liked’ was pushed to the top. This was based on how much we engaged with that account or particular subject.
I know, it’s riveting stuff right?!
Here are ten things that I have learned about Instagram over the last couple of years, and I asked my Instagram followers what they had learned about Instagram too. If you’re just starting out and wondering “whaaaat?!”, then get comfortable and read on.
Know why you’re here
Are you here for fun? Are you here for your business? Have you heard that people receive “free” things through Instagram and you want some too?! (Seriously, if it’s the last one then you definitely need to keep reading!)
Whatever the reason behind starting your account, get it clear in your head and remember it.
Knowing why you started your Instagram account will help you get through some of those times where you feel like imposter syndrome is setting in, or when ‘comparisonitis’ is stealing your joy and fun. None of us are immune from these either, and I’ve found that they often come in waves.
It helps you to stay focused and keep going. I know I had a moment last year where I needed to remind myself that I started my account to track and share the renovation of our house and so there was no need to try and keep up with ‘finished’ houses.
Set your boundaries
There are some things that I don’t share about my life. Shock horror!
You don’t need to share everything, if you don’t want to.
As much as it is interesting to know about the person behind a business, or see what you get up to on days out, if you don’t want to share your full name, the names of your children or your occupation, then don’t. It’s nice to keep something to yourself sometimes. Plus there is a whole other aspect of online safety to consider too, and if you decide to have a public account then it is an area to seriously think about.
As your following grows you may feel more and more uncomfortable about sharing certain personal details, so I found it helpful to get boundaries sorted straight away.
Stay true to yourself
Sometimes it’s good to get out of our comfort zone, and sometimes it can feel that we’re doing things just because everyone else is.
When I say “stay true to yourself”, what I really mean is please don’t feel pressured. This is your page and so your space to create your own style and to spend the time you can. If this means that you can’t spend as much time on it as you see others doing, then please don’t beat yourself up about it. This nicely leads onto the next thing I’ve learned…
Don’t be afraid to take a break
Life happens. The kids may be off school, you may have a family crisis or you might just be exhausted. If you start to feel that it’s all getting too much, then something has to give.
I have learned to allow myself to have a break from Instagram.
I think sometimes there can be a pressure to post everyday. Whilst that is a good way to increase your following (some have even posted twice a day!), if you’re doing that at the expense of your sanity, or something else, then is it really worth it?!
It’s not about the numbers (but you can’t help think about it sometimes!)
If you’re anything like me then you will have been surrounded by number targets for the majority of your life, so the idea of getting to “the big 10k” and receiving a “reward” of a swipe up in your stories, is a massive carrot!
I am still in the process of trying to enjoy the creative side of Instagram more than chasing followers or trying too hard to increase my following. This doesn’t mean that I don’t look at other accounts and see their following increase or that they have received accolades for their room revamp or that they have secured that brand campaign and thought, “why haven’t I?!”. I think that’s just a natural response, and some weeks will be better than others.
When that does happen (it does, and quite possibly more than I care to admit to myself!) I really try to think about what I have been doing recently.
Have I really been taking pictures that I’m pleased with? Have I been ‘engaging’ with other accounts? Have I been posting valuable or helpful content (either pictures or captions)? Have I just been posting for the sake of it?
Usually when I reflect on what I’ve been doing, I can find room for improvement. Also I try and remember that it really isn’t about what someone else is doing and that as long as I am showing up and trying my best, that’s the most important thing. There are lots of little strategies going on behind the scenes to get more followers, and you can’t compete with those kind of shortcuts!
The algorithm smells fear
Obviously, I’m joking. It doesn’t.
Behind everything that happens on Instagram is an algorithm; an algorithm that prioritises posts on your feed. It is based on a lot of factors and it tries to present you with posts that you will “like”. That will be from accounts that you follow, sponsored content and may also show you certain content on your Explore page based on your previous activity.
How may this affect what you post though?!
One example, is that on one day I could post a picture of my bathroom and it is as if the algorithm decides “Oh wow this is amazing! EVERYONE must see it!”. The next time I post a picture of my bathroom, the algorithm may decide “Meh!”, and it doesn’t get the same results as before.
I think at some point in the last three or so years, someone has tried to explain the algorithm, figure it out or try and “beat it”. Hate to say it, but it’s not going to happen!
The days of a chronological feed are gone, and the algorithm is here to stay. There are some ways that you can help your posts to be promoted by the algorithm. Read on to find out how.
This may sound like an obvious thing, but unfortunately it isn’t!
You will get out of this app what you put into it.
- Would you like followers? Go and follow.
- Would you like more ‘likes’? Go and like.
- Want comments? Go comment.
- Want shares? Go share.
Use more than just emojis in your comments and really try and get into a conversation. It really helps you to be “seen” and it doesn’t take much out of your day to do so either.
If you feel that you’re not seeing accounts that you follow, then head over and search for them.
To be known as being supportive is quite possibly the nicest way to be known.
Some accounts on Instagram are small businesses, some view it as a fun hobby and some who have previously viewed it as a hobby have been able to turn it into a small business. How amazing is that?!
At each stage it’s important to be supportive. Like, comment and share – this boosts the post for the other person and links with what I mentioned above about being a nice person too.
I’m not talking about the “pods” that have been set up in the background where a group of people just share each other.
It is important to diversify your feed.
Smaller accounts will appreciate the boost, larger accounts will appreciate the support for an AD campaign with a brand and a small business will appreciate the extra exposure too.
I learned that if I wanted to keep track of when the best time for me to post was and if I wanted an insight into what my account was doing, that I needed to set up a business or creator account.
Here are some apps that I have found to be really useful for pictures, videos, creating graphics for stories and for hashtags too:
It’s still all about the picture
I’ve learned to enjoy the creative side so much more, because you may get your timing right, you may engage and you may be supportive, but Instagram is still all about the picture.
When I look at the pictures I took when I first started and compare them to the pictures I take now, I can really see how much I’ve learned about photography, angles and styling too. Take some time out to get acquainted with all the features on your phone camera or your DSLR. I often use Pinterest for inspiration and, of course, pictures that I see on Instagram too. Some of the pictures that have received the most positive response are ones where I am showing the reality of our renovation – find your style and what you enjoy, and go for it!
View it as the creative space that it is.
I know that it has helped my mental health, my motivation and I’ve enjoyed what has gone on behind Instagram much more, instead of being fixated on numbers or on what other people are doing.
Above all, make sure you HAVE FUN!!
I’ve really enjoyed reflecting on and thinking about what I’ve learned about Instagram and I hope that what I have shared has helped you too. I also wrote a post about hashtags earlier in the year, so if you would like to have a read of that too and see how you can use them effectively then click here.