In today's world social media is such a huge tool in everything you do as a person, business or entity. It's unavoidable and a really good community to get your digital self marketed. As a photographer, sharing your experiences or some of your day to day work builds a brand and following that leads to other opportunities. Along with all the benefits of starting and growing your social network presence come along the challenges and the pitfalls.
First things first, the biggest piece of a social network are the people you follow and the people that follow you. Having a social network that is stale or has a small presence does not make any sense at all, so regardless of your end goals we all need to grow the number of people we have in our network. This leads me to the first pitfall that I see in usage of Instagram today, the follow/unfollow technique.
To quickly summarize the process, the follow/unfollow technique basically is to follow a person on Instagram to entice that same person to follow you back. You wait for a period of time and eventually unfollow that same person. All the while, that person has no idea that you are no longer following his/her Instagram. This method gives you a technique to grow your following count tremendously while leaving the people you follow down to a minimum number. There are a huge number of people that go by this technique, and a good number of people you see with 1k+ followers likely have been using this process.
My personal issue with this process is I like to grow my following organically. If you decide to follow my work, it was because your have seen the output of my photography and like the photos without bias. Building a true following of people that appreciate the time you spent on it. The follow/unfollow methods puts pressure on people to think that there is this unwritten rule that if you follow me then I should follow you back but behind closed doors your are unfollowing them without any awareness. It just feels like a sneaky process that if it were in real life with tangible exchanges, I would associate this process as a shady deal.
Everything is in a want it now and as soon as possible day and age with digital networks, but my advice is to take it slowly. Great work does not happen overnight, for things to be truly appreciated it takes time and effort.
"Post what you want, when you want and follow when you feel like it warrants it."
If you dedicate and believe in your work, it will eventually get the praise and following it deserves. Nothing in life happens overnight unless you win the lottery, but what are the chances of that happening?
Peer Pressure All Over Again
Is it just me or is social media a tool that has just enhanced peer pressure we would get in school? It really is a social tool that puts so much pressure on you individually or as an organization. When I first started on a network like Instagram and I am a 100% sure this happens to everyone, there were so many factors pressuring me to keep posting:
- You need to post at a specific time
- Post daily due to the posting algorithm of Instagram
- How many likes did I get?
- Forcing myself to engage and replying to all comments
- Organizing photos to be a consistent brand
- Thinking about what hashtags are important
As you can see you can really get serious heartburn just managing these thoughts on a daily basis. It really gets overwhelming. Then I thought to myself, why am I doing this and started to pull back and just do what I wanted. That is really is all that is important, just do what you feel best, when you are ready to post and you can just grow your network at your pace. Doing this you will get the most authentic group in your network without all the fluff and pressure.
The biggest addiction in Instagram is the # of likes you can possibly try to get with your post. Oh boy, how hooked was I to following this. The very first time one of my photos was re-posted by a fairly large community I was on this high. Thinking that this was the way to go, seeing thousands of likes for a photo I had taken that day. From that day on, there I was trying to get as many like as possible, finding the hashtags that can potentially get me another re-post for exposure. Whenever I would post a new image, there I was waiting on my phone to see the likes as they come in. Really this is such a waste of time and a useless process. Why do we do it? Its human nature to want praise and likes sent your way and Instragram and these social networks know it. Honestly, nowadays I still do keep an eye on likes but its an addiction that I advice you to stay away from. Rather than posting something to get likes, post your images for your purpose. I often times found that I was looking at my photographs thinking "hmm which post can generate the largest amount of likes?".
This is again peer pressure to appease your crowd. As Russell Westbrook said it in his commercial.
"Don't do they, do you!"
Its so true with Instagram or any other social network. Instead of worrying about what to post next, worry about your project or the series your are trying to portray in social media. By doing this you start to grow an organic thought out brand of your photography. Not a random list of photos targeted to generate likes.
In Summary, this blog post is not a whole laundry list of how to succeed in Instagram or a social network. But rather a guide on how to be an organic person and to grow your presence organically. Once you start to just be yourself and portray a purist message you will begin to be more at peace with your following. Also by doing this, you assure yourself that the people that follow you are appreciative of your work as they have stuck around, followed your work over time and given you honest feedback. That is really what we want in today's world is an honest and real experience and less superficial fluff.