Love it or hate it, social media is still a fairly big part of our lives.
However, our ‘feelings’ about contemporary social media are misdirected and misleading: it is a neutral technological tool, completely devoid of any behavior or emotion. It is like a lump of clay, awaiting our touch to bring it to form and life.
This means it has as much potential for good as it does for bad. Which also means, we are kind of hating/loving on the wrong thing.
Now, I like my social media. My favorite platform du jour is Instagram. Even though I am a writer by trade, I adore my visual aids! I can never remember the lines of movies but instantly recognize a face, a location, or any other visual cue. For me, Instagram is a great way to share the pretty/quirky/funny things I see each day. I feel it connects me to a world where otherwise I would feel trapped in a village. It feeds my insatiable curiosity. AND it allows me to connect with friends if I should ever need them.
If used correctly, social media can be an amazing and positive medium for anyone.
Thanks to my casual use of Instagram, I was asked to write this “How-To” article on Instagram. And I thought, a piece of cake. How hard can that be?
Turns out, it is more complicated than I originally thought; mostly because I made it so–without realizing it.
Like Sarah, I found myself in this complex labyrinth of tips and tricks and personal preferences. I have friends who are social media managers for a paid job and I have other friends who are viral sensations. And yet, many of us (yes, even those ‘professionals’) are still wandering around the labyrinth with me.
It’s not hard to find ‘how-to’ Instagram guides; what’s harder is staying focused to find your own style and make it out alive.
As with everything in life, we have to learn how to navigate through the Bog of Eternal Stench if we’re ever going to make it to the Castle. There’s no map with a clear path through… but there are plenty of hints to help you make the most of it AND fend off those nasty negatives. Think of the following advice as being the GeekMom guide for finding your own way through the Labyrinth of Instagram.
1. Instagram Hashtags are Your Friends
Hashtags are the loose threads holding social media together. Without hashtags, it would simply be a jumbled mess of random thoughts and passing whimsical expressions. Think of them as your lipstick markers in the labyrinth.
If you’re new to social media, or if you consider yourself a casual lurker, the easiest way to find your path is to follow the hashtags. Use the search function (usually a magnifying glass symbol) and find your favorite topic.
For example, searching #labyrinth will bring up thousands of pictures of cosplay, fanart, movie clips, and posters. Instantly, you are connected with like-minded fans… and may even find other fans to follow. Using more than one hashtag helps narrow the field. One extra thing to consider: hashtags only work if the original person has tagged their image correctly. Otherwise, it can end up being a little… misleading
2. Everyone on social media wants to invite you in for a cup of tea
It’s great when you start following people on social media (pretty cool when they start following you too). Most of the people on social media are just like you and me; they’re nice, they’re normal; they want to invite you in for a cup of tea with the missus.
They can also be misleading with their information. Do NOT use social media as reference material. It’s great for starting a conversation but you still need to do your own research.
3. Beware the Trolls
Now, before you get carried away with the following and exploring, you need to take note of the trolls. And I’m not talking about Hoggle. As I mentioned before, social media is a platform with no emotion or personification; it is a tool. And it is often used by tools.
Don’t feed the trolls. Seriously, just don’t. For the path you will take will lead you to certain destruction… or at least certain frustration. Just remember the most important words of all: You Have No Power Over Me.
4. Privacy is like the little brother you wished away to the Goblin King
The whole purpose of social media is to be social and share things. Just don’t share everything straight away. Let’s call your privacy Toby. Sure, Toby can get in the way of a few fun things you want to do (why, of course, Random Quiz! Yes, I *do* want to know which Labyrinth character I am most like!!) but all of a sudden you realize you kind of need Toby to stop the rest of your life going a little crazy.
A lot of the nastiest trolls are the ones who know private details about you. Once they have Toby, they will try to manipulate / trick/ insult / bully / horrify you into doing whatever they want. Don’t give them Toby. Don’t give them the power.
5. It’s a Piece of Cake
Do not EVER think social media is a ‘piece of cake’. Even for a paid job, it is exhausting! Instead, think of it as a long-term puzzle.
Even the smartest kids on the block still need to test the waters before they dive right in. Every platform is different and deserves a little attention to learn its secrets. The minute you think you have it figured, someone will change the algorithms and throw you in an Oubliette. Worst still is the burning temptation to be forever ‘switched on’ and ready to reply to every comment you receive. You are under no obligation to feed another person’s need for instant gratification.
Furthermore, you are under no obligation to anyone to feed your own need for instant gratification. It’s is absolutely okay to walk away and come back to check in an hour or so. The Goblin King will still be waiting here for you.
6. Don’t lose your head
So you ignored my advice and jumped right in, didn’t you? You thought this is easy. Say something funny, share a cool pic, and it’s all great… Until you find yourself in amongst the Fireys. It is so easy to be caught up in the crazy of social media; more so when the ‘Fireys’ start encouraging you to join in the bad behavior.
However, it is really important to remember there are still people attached to the rest of the floating social media head. Maintain your dignity. Pull yourself together. And remember that social media is a social creature of its own devices. It is just as susceptible to social behaviors as the rest of us, and to be completely honest: There is nothing–absolutely nothing–that can predict whether you will go viral. And there is nothing to predict who is going to remember what you typed 5-years from now. Yeah, keep that in mind.
7. Avoid the Junk Lady and Maintain your Landing Page
This is especially true if you have your own site but it can also work if you want to redirect people to your Facebook or Tumblr profile (or whatever the cool kids are using these days).
Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Instagram doesn’t like ‘links’ within each post. You’re better off having one landing page on your site or, if you’re sharing from someone else’s page, reduce the link to a bit.ly. Personally, I find a landing page works better and is easier to maintain. All followers can go there instantly. You can update it as frequently as you like to address different themes or events.
This also works really well for special occasions. For example, if there is a special International Day and you want to join in, set up a landing page to direct people (and don’t forget your hashtags). Here’s one we prepared earlier (okay, so it was a special day and we joined in but you get the idea: International Day for Monuments and Sites 2018). On the day, we linked back to this specific page to make it easier for our followers.
8. Should you need us… Join up with GeekMom and have some fun!
The best thing you can gain out of it is to have some fun! If you want to gain followers, you need to go out and ‘follow’ some people yourself. Engage in the discussion. Make the effort. You know–all the things we are supposed to do IRL (in real life). Find a few pages with similar interests. And if you do share anything from another person, be considerate and give them the credit.
Have any questions? Ask them in the comments!