Instagram is pretty much my favorite social media platform. It’s like auto-tuning for photographers – it’s definitely cheating, but I’m not selling it, so it’s okay. Continue reading “#JanuarySlumber”
Jen Rosenstein, you can use this Nintendo-playing Goodtimesaurus as your logo if you want. No offense taken if you would rather pass. No money need change hands. It’s not even copyrighted.
I drew it for Draw A Dinosaur Day last month, and I was going to do something interesting with it, but giving it to you for a logo is much more interesting than anything I would have done.
Let me know if you want it. If not, I’ll give it away to starving children in a developing nation somewhere. Maybe Bangladesh?
NaNoWriMo and Movember are two exceptionally great things that come about each November. This year, I’m not participating in either, but I know people who are, and I want to do everything I can to cheer them on.
To kick off this cheerleading racket, I would like to lead the cheer for one Devon MacGregor, who is participating in her very first NaNoWriMo! Devon, as you may or may not know, is my illustrious wife and mother to my daughter Aliena, and Devon claims she is not a writer. This may be the case, if you count being “more of an editor” the same thing as “not a writer.” But she’s got the skills, and she’s got a graduate certificate in publishing from the University of Denver, so don’t think for one moment that this lady can’t put down 50,000 words in a thirty-day window.
Her novel is unexpectedly science-fictiony, and because I live with her, I’ve had some sneak previews. I love what I see so far. When she hit 15,000 words, I high-fived her so hard I shattered my hand.
Let’s give this girl all the cheer she can get! GO, DEVON, GO! GO, DEVON, GO!
I’d really love to link to her author page, but she doesn’t really have one, so instead, I’ll encourage everyone to go visit her Instagram feed. She’s really talented visually, as well.
Instagram is, without a doubt, my absolute favorite social media outlet right now. This may change in the future – that’s just the nature of the future – but for now I am wholly addicted and I can’t go anywhere without my iPhone lest I find myself looking at something interesting and have no cameraphone to capture it. This love of Instagram, combined with my love of search and social media, drove me to painstakingly hand-type three hundred photos’ worth of data into a spreadsheet just to answer a couple questions that we probably already all knew the answers to anyway.
So just in case my drivel is meaningless, I want to provide a few links to useful blog posts regarding Instagram and social media marketing and whatnot.
- The Instagram Blog – Tips
- Instagram and SEO: Is This Phenomenon Worth It for Your Company? | HigherVisibility
- The Ultimate Instagram Marketing Guide for Rookies, Pros and Veterans | Servula Blog
- Statigram – where better and more complete data comes from
Before I stop analyzing old data and waxing poetic about this social app, I want to just jot down some final thoughts.
- Style matters. Every photo tells a story, and, as anyone who’s ever asked about my tattoo can attest, I’m all about letting people make their own stories using what I offer up. I strive for clarity without context; the human brain does a wonderful job of creating its own context.
- Technique matters. It’s true, some photos are better than others in terms of visual appeal. If there’s one piece of advice I have to give other than “use hashtags,” it’s make sure that horizon is straight. Nothing distracts me more than a slightly off-kilter line of sight. I try my best, but I don’t always succeed, and the follower engagement definitely dwindles the shittier my photos get.
- Location matters. I’ve never understood the appeal of geotagging Facebook status updates or Twitter updates, but Instagram pictures? Absolutely. It’s nice to be able to look at a map and see what that spot looks like through the eyes of a human being, using the imaginative photo effects Instagram provides. Because the filter you use helps determine the kind of story your photo tells.
So now that I am so friggin’ smart about Instagram and stuff, what will I do, you ask? I’m not a company, I’m just some guy, so “marketing” isn’t going to do me any good other than feed my insatiable narcissism.
Glad you asked. As it just so happens, I do have something to sell. More on this later.
Lastly: if anyone is planning on writing a blog post about Instagram, here is a word cloud created from keyword research. Hope you find it useful!
UPDATE: Massive editing failure has been corrected.
Do more hashtags yield more followers on Instagram?
LET ME BE CLEAR UP FRONT: For this post, I may talk about follower “quality.” This is only in terms of trackable data. Believe me, I appreciate each and every single follower I have on Instagram. You guys make me feel talented and awesome, and that means that YOU are talented and awesome.
For the second installment in this non-sequential series, I wanted to focus on Instagram followers rather than Instagram likes. There’s a clear correlation between Instagram hashtags and likes, and likes are something that show engagement from those who view your photos. Followers are slightly more elusive.
Again, whether you’re a brand or just a person, you’ll have to know your exact reasons for wanting likes or followers on Instagram. If you’re a brand, it’s most likely for marketing and sales purposes. If you’re just a person, and your reason is vanity or fame, that’s fine. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, I’d just ask that you not be obnoxious.
So anyway – followers. There are varying degrees of follower quality: human followers who know you in real life, human followers who don’t know you, and spam followers who don’t know you but want something from you.
Human followers are always preferable, because those are the followers who don’t tend to leave when you don’t reciprocate the follow, and by and large they tend to “like” your photos more than those that don’t. Also, they will do this more than just once, usually, so in all ways, they are preferable. See the manic chart below – clearly, the numbers tend to favor actual followers.
When just starting out on Instagram, the followers who know you will tend to like your photos more than the ones that don’t – this has been my experience, anyway. For the first 300 photos I posted on Instagram, I received a total of 961 likes, 577 of which were from followers and 384 were from non-followers. That’s a ratio of about 60-40. According to my data, of those 577 likes from followers, only four likes came from followers I don’t know in real life.
Using hashtags is a great way to get people who don’t know you to follow you, though, and though they are lower “quality” followers (in a strictly-data kind of way), higher quantity of followers of any kind will tend to yield more likes.
As is the natural order of things, more followers come with time. Without any hard data to prove this, I can (at a quick glance) see with the naked eye that more and more likes are coming from followers I don’t know since collecting that information on the first 300 photos. The obvious point is that I do indeed have more followers than before.
- More followers leads to more likes. Followers on Instagram are a very, very good thing.
- The obvious marketing advice is to ask people to follow your feed. Your profile might be a good place to do this, or perhaps the comments of the photo would do. This, of course, is tacky as hell, and I hate it. I might have more followers if I had less shame.
- Again, I cannot stress enough the importance of photo quality. Innovative, interesting, well-framed, in-focus, and clear artistic voice are what really get you followers. There is a lot of good competition on Instagram. Hashtags are your foot in the door, but your photos are what will sell it.
I decided to answer some burning questions I had about Instagram – namely, what’s the deal with likes and followers?
More specifically: how does one optimize one’s Instagram feed for likes and followers?
How a company can use Instagram to improve their business is something that will vary from company to company, so I thought I’d stick to general but universal advice.
What Instagram data was used?
When I created my data set, I used the first three hundred photos I posted on Instagram. I broke out the photo content by category, so I had subjects like cats, books, coffee, wine, nature, Aliena (my adorable baby) and so on. I also marked how many hashtags were used, and I broke down the hashtags by category as well. Finally, I marked how many likes and comments I received on those photos, and I broke those down by real-life friends who follow me vs. strangers who follow me on Instagram vs. people who liked my photo but don’t follow me at all.
Once I had this data set, it was relatively easy and relatively fun to create charts and averages and all kinds of crazy insights based on the data at hand.
Wait, back up – who the hell are you, anyway, and why do this?
I’m just some guy. I have less than 80 followers on Instagram at the time of this blog post, so I’m relatively inconsequential, and more importantly, I’m hardly an indication of what can be accomplished on Instagram. So, as a case study, my own Instagram feed may not be very useful, but the data is pure and accurate. This data is entirely centered on me and my followers and likes and my photo feed alone.
It’s completely narcissistic, but the better reason for doing this was that the insights gained from this little project will still have value because they’ll be as universal as I can present them. We’ll get to those momentarily, just keep reading.
Okay, so…Do More Hashtags Yield More Likes?
The short answer is yes. I didn’t want to bore everyone with Excel’s lame-ass data charts, so I drew my own on my clunky iPad in order to achieve “more character.” See below.
The longer answer is not necessarily, but pretty much, yeah.
Hashtags on Instagram are like hashtags on Twitter. They provide groupings of different posts from different users’ feeds into one easy-to-see stream. It’s genius.
So then, the point of leaving hashtags on your own photos is to get those photos into different groups. On Instagram, you can have up to thirty (30) hashtags per photo. Each unique hashtag creates its own unique grouping, so singular and plural forms of the same root word will yield two separate groups.
Ergo, the more hashtags you use, the more opportunities your photos have to be seen by others. If they see your photos and like them, they may choose to “like” your photo on your feed. Furthermore, there’s no real penalty for using as many hashtags as you can think of. So theoretically, more hashtags should provide more opportunities for likes.
Is this the case in reality?
The data shows that higher counts of hashtags on the photos gets a higher average of likes. This data set is somewhat incomplete, in that I didn’t really get into the hashtags game until close to the 300 mark, so most of this data comes from my early days of Instagram when I wasn’t curious about the data.
Here, I removed clear outliers and worked with averages, meaning six hashtags tends to average the same amount of likes as the photos with nine hashtags. These are averages, and the general tendency is an upward slope from one to ten. Except that I’m so awesome that this graph goes to eleven.
The tendency shows a confirmation of the idea that more hashtags gets more likes. I am confident that if we experimented with even more hashtags and photos, and then zoomed out, we’d see a nice, upward slant on that graph.
Of course, what I expected was that it would be more directly upward with no dips, but the reality is that in my averages, dips are there.
The dips in average likes – for example, two hashtags yielding fewer average likes than one and six yielding fewer than five – can be explained by a lot of things that I don’t have any data for. Primarily, timing and photo quality. I don’t have data for timing because Instagram doesn’t show me exactly what time of what day of the week I made those posts, so I can’t speak to the exact science of timing for optimum likes. I also don’t have any data on photo quality, because that’s an intangible. I also didn’t record my subjective opinion of those three hundred photos, because I’m not getting paid to do any of this, so the hell with that.
But there’s something that needs to be said: quality matters. It’s nearly impossible to quantify how good one’s photos are, but if you appreciate photography, then you know what’s good and what’s bad. It’s not hard.
Something that’s trickier is hashtag quality. There are so many factors involved there that I couldn’t even contemplate investigating the various factors for three hundred photos and typing in numbers. So we all miss out, but I’m okay with that.
I’ve been noticing since the initial gathering of the data that timing DOES affect the likes each photo gets. I’ve also noticed that hashtags are good in quantity, but you have to be smart with what hashtags you use. Without actual data, insights have still been made that would be extremely difficult to refute using data, so I will happily record the insights here.
And now, the list…
- Hashtags provide the opportunity for people to see and like your photos, and potentially follow your feed. Whether your business is more interested in likes than followers (or something else entirely) is up to you. Followers show brand loyalty, but likes show human engagement. The important thing is that using more hashtags will tend to yield more likes.
- Timing matters. I’ve found that around laying out hashtags at around 7:45 PM local time is pretty effective. Further experimentation might reveal a more optimal time to post those hashtags, but further experimentation might also detract from my quality of life.
- Hashtags can be added later. You can post your photos any time, and whether you add the hashtags immediately or much later doesn’t matter. The photo gets added to the top of the hashtag grouping when you add the hashtag, plain and simple. It doesn’t automatically get pushed down the feed just because you added the photo hours (or days) prior. So, because timing matters, and especially because of the new “maps” feature, I’ve taken to adding the photo where I take it and waiting till about a quarter to eight to tag it. More on this in a later blog post.
- The quality of hashtags matters. Some of the most likeable hashtags I’ve found are #cloudporn and #skyporn – photos of clouds in the sky, or clear skies, or whatever. People LOVE those shots. Other hashtags like #instafood are incredibly popular but don’t automatically produce a bunch of likes. Likes for food shots are incredibly competitive. However, in fairness, food shots are regularly taken in dark restaurants, so higher-quality food photos are rarer than high-quality sky shots. Sky shots look great on smartphones. And this leads me to the most important takeaway of all…
- The quality of photos matters. This is the primary lesson of Instagram at work: post high-quality photos. If your photos are crappy, hashtags may get you SOME likes, but if your photos are seriously kick-ass – and if your hashtags are appropriate and well-timed – then yeah, you’ll get plenty of likes.
This feels like kind of a long blog post just to confirm the obvious with half-assed data, but if you read the list above, I’m happy. There will be a few more posts about this data, and if you don’t like my drivel, just look for the list of important insights. When it’s all done, I’ll have one final post of nothing but a list of all the insights together. Then…I guess I’ll move on. Right? Probably.
Maybe. We’ll see.
@BilGaines on Instagram – Follow my feed! See these insights put into practice!
Don’t have a smartphone? Desktop Instagram here.