I was a late convert to Instagram.
“It’s just badly shot photos of Other People’s Children,” I said, knowing that Other People’s Children are never as cute as my own.
How little I knew.
Yes, there are badly shot photos of OPCs (including many taken by me) but since I joined up a year or so back, I’ve realised there is a lot more to love.
There’s great interior inspiration, shots of people’s outfits, visual gags, amazing scenery from around the world, and a million moments captured every month for you to browse. But where do you start?
The mechanics of using Instagram are actually fairly simple – sign up for an account, choose a user name, fill in your profile, start taking pictures.
But if you REALLY want to get involved in what many people find is the most friendly and social of the social networks here are some extra tips – and if you’re an Instagram lover too, I’d love if you share your own in the comments.
1. Research your next Holiday
Using the Instamap app on your iPad means you can browse photos by their location tag – so if you’re heading to a Greek island and want to know in advance what the beaches look like, use Instagram to find out – and of course, adding location tags to your images helps you be found, too. Location tags are a great way to look at hotels, resorts, beaches, theme parks – all the essentials while holiday planning!
2. Explore VSCO
Adding this free app to your iPhone or Android handset allows you to play with more filters and photo editing effects, as well as having access to a library of very inexpensive new filters that are specifically designed to enhance certain sorts of photos – from landscapes to modern fashion and vintage interiors. On Instagram, look for the #vscocam hashtag to explore other users of this app.
3. Show off your Threads
Fashion is HUGE on Instagram, and sharing your #OOTD (outfit of the day) or a shot of your front taken looking down – otherwise known as #fromwhereistand – is a surefire way to meet like-minded Instagrammers, and attract new, stylish followers. Unless your #OOTD is a stained t-shirt and a pair of Converse. That’s not going to win you any new friends.
4. Take part in a monthly challenge
There are lots of communities on Instagram, just like those on Twitter, and taking part in challenges is a lovely way to find them. One of my favourites comes from Fat Mum Slim, an Australian blogger who posts monthly prompts for photos on Instagram, and hundreds of people share photos every day using her hashtag, #FMSphotoaday. Jayne from Mum’s the Word has recently launched a UK version, which is sure to prove popular among parent bloggers – look for #MTWIC on Instagram.
5. Love colour
One of the gorgeous things about Instagram is that so many of the pictures you’ll see are just so darn pretty. One of my absolute favourite hashtags to be inspired by (and very occasionally take part in) is Xanthe Berkeley’s Colour Color project – each week, Xanthe shares an amazing selection of images on a single colour theme, and her 28,000 followers join in – this week it’s ColourColorPurple!
6. Connect with other Parents
If you love to look at, and share, photos about crafting, family and play, then Instagram is the place for you! Check out the #momsoninstagram hashtag to find and connect with lots of US and NZ/Aus parent bloggers. Other hastags worth looking at are #simpleplay, #kbn and #playmatters. There is an absolutely huge pre-school play community on Instagram and it’s the most fabulous place to find inspiration for play ideas to try with your own family. Try #cookingwithkids if you’re focused on food.
7. Travel the World (from your sofa)
One of my all-time favourite things to do on Instagram is find and share travel photos – as well as destination-based tags, try using and exploring tags relating to travel – the most widely used are #travel (not surprisingly) but also #travelgram, #familytravel and #igtravelthursday – which brings together travellers one day a week to share their best photos. Or how about #familytravelmonday? Alison Chino has some absolutely wonderful travel photos using many of these hashtags, which I highly recommend exploring.
8. Get Cheered Up
I sometimes think of Instagram as the one truly happy social network. While Facebook and Twitter can sometimes get snarky, passive aggressive or just flat out mean, Instagram tends to be the preserve of people who are (pause for effect) actually NICE to each other. And nothing is nicer, when you’re feeling a little flat, than looking at one of the uplifting photo hashtags on Instagram – some of my favourites are #nothingisordinary and #joy. And did you know there are 1.4m pictures on Instagram hashtagged with the word happy? Now, doesn’t that make you feel better about the world?
9. Promote your Blog Posts
Now, I’m deliberately putting this item right down near the bottom of my list. Because Instagram is really, really NOT a place where you need to barge in shouting READ MY BLOG, B!TCHES.
Yes, you can find apps that will add text over a photo and you can promote every post you write on Instagram, but honestly? I wouldn’t. Instead, use Instagram to tease your readers about things that are coming up on your blog. Making a fab new recipe? Show the ingredients on Instagram and invite your followers to check your blog tomorrow to see what you made. Or show a gorgeous photo of a completed craft and caption it, “Details on the blog [link in profile]”. Show a photo of a special family day out and mention in the caption that a review is coming up on the blog soon. Just be sure to show much more than tell. It’s nicer that way, I promise.
10. Talk about Food
Love to try out new recipes? Be inspired by global cuisine? Then instagram is for you. Why limit yourself to one cook book when there are more than 26 million images hashtagged #instafood. And another two million images on Instagram hashtagged #nomnom! Whether you’re a veggie, fast food lover, or spice fiend, there’s plenty on Instagram to whet your appetite!
How do you love Instagram?
If you’ve got an Instagram challenge, hashtag, swap or other photo project you love then I’d love you to share details in the comments below! And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram. I’ll try and keep the #OPC images to a minimum, promise.