Sunday, November 29, 2015

Arbitrary "Points": Getting Over 10% 'Likes' for Instagram with Hashtags

I am not "Instagram famous." It might be amusing to, perhaps, get that sort of trivial notoriety eventually -- but I am not counting on it. On Instagram, I am following more people than people are following me. On Twitter, the ratio is about the same. It's about the same with Tumblr, the last time I checked. So, no, I am not a social media wizard or whatever.

My Instagram account, currently, has transformed into the adventures of a LEGO minifigure that vaguely resembles yours truly -- my "sigfig." It's become less of a communication with people that I know (that's for Facebook, apparently) and more of a communication with total strangers.

With hashtags.

Let me back up this train of thought concerning Instagram accounts. When opening an Instagram account, one of the first things a person does is to identify his or her target audience, whether consciously or subconsciously. If one's target audience consists of friends, then the likely content of the Instagram would most likely be selfies, food photographs, pictures of pets, pictures of ever-growing children, throwbacks to inside jokes, and other heart-warming activities that only a loved one can truly appreciate.

If one's target audience consists of strangers, then the likely content of the Instagram will sort of cater to -- and be a part of a conversation with -- a larger community centered around a niche topic. One of the most effective ways to tap into a niche community is by using all 30 hashtags per post. For example, my sigfig's adventures usually have hashtags relating to LEGO photography, toy photography, and whatever else is relevant to the photo at hand. For example, I sometimes pose my sigfig with real food, while carrying miniature plastic food -- #foodception.


If your hashtags aren't even remotely relevant to the photos posted, then you just might be in spam territory. Besides, with only 30 hashtags per post, it is better to keep the tags relevant. Okay, you can save a couple tag slots for #sarcastic_commentary_and_other_passive_aggressive_attempts_at_comedy. Try to put those funny hashtags closer to the top.

If you tag your photos effectively, and do nothing else, I have a hypothesis that each Instagram post will get various interactions (mostly likes and some comments) that are at least 10% of your total followers -- and mostly from strangers who are browsing hashtags. In other words, if you have 100 followers, a decently-tagged photo will get at least 10 'likes'. If you have 1000 followers, then a hashtagged post will get at least 100 'likes'. I have about 260 Instagram followers right now, plus or minus at any given moment, so my "goal" for each new post is about 26 interactions ('likes' and/or comments).

Any more than 10%, then the posted photo either was undeniably brilliant, or you did something extra (more on that later). Any less than 10%, then either the hashtags used weren't the best choice, you might have "phoned in" a photo, or the post wasn't accessible to anyone at all.

Keep in mind, my hypothesis -- theory, perhaps -- is only relevant for Instagram (or Twitter, etc.) accounts with strangers as the target audience. If friends are the target audience, then the interaction might be closer to 100% for many people. Or it might be closer to 0%, if you are an enigmatic personality, even to your friends. (Take heart: Be yourself, no matter what!)

Also keep in mind that my 10% estimate breaks down as someone gets "Instagram famous" or is a famous person on Instagram. If a "star" has one million followers, it is unlikely that every post will get a minimum of 100,000 interactions -- or maybe it happens. I'd rather follow a semi-obscure figure who has been involved in notable things than a super-famous person; a semi-obscure person will actually interact with his/her fans!

To get more than 10% interactions, without resorting to spammy apps, you'll have to explore relevant hashtags -- mostly related to your most recent post -- and 'like' what you like. Or just like everything you see. Some percentage of the people for whom you 'liked' will also 'like' one or more of your posts in return. You can even explore other hashtags, or hashtags related to the hashtags you've used (but have no more room in a given post) -- and 'like' away. A certain post might end up with 20% or 30% interactions, and you might receive some new followers along the way. (Of course, there's a sort of gamey method, in which someone follows a bunch of strangers, gets some followers in return, then unfollows everyone, in order to seem "Instagram famous." That's almost as bad as the spammers.)

Scoring 'likes' and followers is sort of arbitrary, and gaining such "points" is mostly pointless. However, it is kind of cool to feel like each and every post has communicated with someone else -- friend or stranger. Hopefully, it's a positive communication that leaves as parties a bit happier and a bit hungrier for more.

Yes, fishing for 'likes' is also kind of sad -- but let's ignore that angle for a bit, indefinitely. Social media is #fun!

And somewhat #sad.

Two down, four to go for November: Cheers!

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