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First I didn’t have an Instagram account. I didn’t even have a smartphone. My argument (part of which remains untouched) is that a writer can’t have constant interruptions. Neither can a high performance athlete. Writing, especially writing longer pieces, like books, requires some level of undivided attention to your work. Lifting, too. Teaching, too. So, no, I didn’t want a smartphone. All I saw around me were people wasting about 40% of their productive time with their attention pulverized in a myriad of different communication demands through their mobile devices.
I started using the Internet as a researcher, and still do. The most revolutionary aspect of digital publishing is its hypertextual nature. I only had to glance at Instagram to start calling it Instashit. Why would anyone create a digital platform that eliminates the most relevant aspect of digital communication?
Things got tough when a potential good sponsor specifically required me to share content on IG. Then another. I had to have an IG account. So I partnered with someone who enjoys this kind of thing and I handed her my account. I would provide content and she would, in my words, “shittify” it to post on IG.
It never worked. The main reason is that she is not me, and good “influencer” social media has to be, well, social! Followers expect to interact with that specific person. It is different from a corporate IG account: nobody cares what IBM feels about the development of a new routine.
There were other reasons, such as the fact that my present content production is geared to an American audience and my partner was not fluent. No matter how much I sent the images, the text and the hashtags well organized, someone who is not native or absolutely proficient will make spelling mistakes on hashtags, and that partly destroys the post.
I got myself a smartphone, a tablet and assumed back the account about a month and a half ago. I have been keeping a steady weekly growth from 70-100 new followers/week.
I did a lot of research. Of course I considered the idea of buying followers: it’s out there, being discussed in every social media marketing forum. At least I wanted to know what it meant. A few of us, under the same pressure, discussed the issue and decided to do the best possible job promoting organic growth before thinking about buying followers again. I read about the experience other account owners had and it was not good: paid followers were either fake or not really targeted.
So I did my homework and this is the result:
- Posting content that my target audience enjoys. There was some trial and error there, but finally I understood that what my followers like the most, unlike the studies I read indicate, were training videos. Lesson one: social media marketing studies should be read and never neglected, but each digital community has its specificities. Mine is a strength sports community.
- Image is important, but content is king. Funny, I never expected that at IG. “Content is king” is a catch-phrase for content strategists and content producers. One could expect that on IG image would be king. However, I tested with different types of image and the result was the same: people “like” more images with personal texts on them. By personal I mean obviously authored by the account owner, as opposed to standardized corporate content.
- Surprisingly, the engagement such images with text elicit is not necessarily related to the image or to the text (it can be one, the other, both or neither). It seems to me the text is an indicator of human authorship and that is what triggers engagement.
- In a short time of IG activity I observed the formation of ordered network structures around each account/individual. There is a close group that always visits, comments and likes each other’s content. That is easily measured by platforms such as Iconosquare or Websta. However, neither capture structural elements that only direct qualitative observation provides.
- Interaction with followers or potential followers is absolutely central. I seem to be keeping a 5:1 ratio of followers:followings. Through Websta, I started to regularly visit the accounts that follow me, but are not followed back yet.
- There is a relatively high number of unfollowings. I would say about 10% per week. The net positive gain is still quite high. I tried to understand the unfollowing phenomenon: it seems to be they are mostly accounts that had a smaller chance of interaction with mine. Possibly they followed me hoping to be followed in return.
- All my content is in English but my continued education course is still in Brazil only. I seem to have a balanced number of followers from Brazil and the United States. Language doesn’t seem to be a problem, which indicates that either most my Brazilian followers understand English (not probable: I would say 50% or less) or that in Brazil, following is less determined by content and more by reputation.
- Timing is important and the very short half-life shown on Iconosquare stats is a fact: post “likes” peak in the first minutes and decay fast, being nearly non-existent after 6-8 hours. However, to obtain reliable timing statistics it is necessary to spend a few days posting in regular intervals along the day. That costs money and time: you need a scheduled IG posting platform to do it.
The next steps may involve such scheduled posting. The data obtained will certainly be useful. Although my account is still very small (1600 followers), it has an interesting impact. “Motivational” images (images containing my original, abstract, “motivational-like” quotes) go viral fast. It is a bit harder to turn corporate sponsor content equally interesting. When the company actively interacts with the content it works better.