Milestone: Getting to 1K

On Monday, March 3rd, 2017 I woke up to 1015 followers.

This honestly feels a little bit like the last milestone: it’s a good sign but also a little underwhelming. The earth didn’t stop revolving and cheerleaders didn’t come out of my closet – though my mum and boyfriend did send me congratulatory messages.

Here’s what I think breaking the one thousand follower mark really means (and what I’ve learned): Continue reading

Instagram: Choosing Your Topic

Okay, so you have an account, a smart-phone, and a bunch of pictures of lattes. Now what?

Unfortunately, if you’re trying to build a brand posting random pictures from your photo-roll isn’t going to cut it (even if they’re good photos). Generally speaking, people want to follow:

  1. People they know
  2. People/things that they are interested in

If you’re aiming to be #2 and aren’t a celebrity, then you need strong thematic content to convince someone that you hold the same interests that they do – and you have to do it in an engaging way. Continue reading

Instagram: Getting the repost

I’ve been putting more effort into Instagram for the past 2 months or so – actually I can tell you the exact post, it was this one:

My ultimate goal is to grow a following and aesthetic strong enough that brands want to collaborate with me for marketing purposes.  I see it as a uniquely challenging job interview for a position that there’s no clear path to reach. Sure, there are articles everywhere about how to “make your Instagram better” but it’s not so easy to find step by step guidelines of how to do it (see more thoughts on this here). As a data nerd I was and still am very ready to take on the challenge of trying to quantify becoming successful on social media through a method driven by data.

Here I am, two months later, currently with 437 followers, and today I got what I thought would be the Holy Grail of social media marketing for someone looking to grow a following: a repost. At 5am this morning I posted this photo:


And 8 hours later it was picked up by my absolute favorite online retailer, Look Human: Continue reading

Instagram: We’re All Robots Now

Technology and automation has brought us a lot of wonderful things: cheaper cars, digital spreadsheets, and the junk filter on your email. They’ve also brought us something that no one anywhere really enjoys: bots. The two most common bots found on the internet are sex bots and advertisement bots. Generally they’ll make remarks that are in the vein of their genre  (either trying to act sexy or trying to sell you something in a not so subtle way).

The rise of Instagram (and Twitter) and publicly available profiles has led to a new type of bot and bot service which could be best described as a branding tool. It allows a user to be everywhere at once without having to actually pick up their phones.

The How

The good news is that robots aren’t sentient. Instagram provides software developers with a document called an API. It’s a list of endpoints that a user can call to that will get/send certain information without using the interface. With a single line of code I can like your photo, follow a user, or get a list of photos with certain hashtags on them (among a dozen other activities). Continue reading

Instagram: Likes vs. Follows

There are a lot of different ways to interact with people on social media platforms: friending, follow, comment, reactions, up votes, likes, retweets, and there will probably be a half dozen new ways before the end of 2017.

On Instagram in particular there are three main ways to show how you feel about someone’s content, you can comment on their post, like their post, or follow their account. In this post I’m going to break down how these tokens of social media currency can be interpreted. Continue reading

Instagram: Categorizing User Profiles

Social media sites can generally be divided into two user categories: the isolated/profile based model and the everyone-is-equal/content model. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types that make them better for certain users.

In the isolated/profile model – think Facebook – users categorize themselves and their profile. If you’re a musician you make a musician page, companies have pages, products have pages, celebrities have public profiles, and of course there is the average person (which is often a private profile). Relationships between average users tend to be reciprocal – both people agree that they are in a ‘friend’ relationship and average users can find public profiles via names and profile typing. Continue reading

The Social Media Phenomenon

In seventh grade I got a Facebook so I could talk to all my friends from California who I’d met at summer camp. It was two years before Facebook got “big” across the US and only a subset of people I knew back home (in Alaska) had even heard of Facebook – most people were still using Myspace.

Now, almost ten years later, life without Facebook seems unthinkable. It’s how we plan events, organize school projects, stay in touch with distant family members, declare the seriousness of our relationships, and keep up with news articles. For people with smartphones, Facebook takes up probably not just one but two of the apps on your phones (if you use Facebook Messenger). Your little sister is on it, your great uncle is on it, and your cat might even have a Facebook page. We have so much of our lives on Facebook that we can’t switch platforms now because most of us will lose ten years of life/messages/photos and cat videos.

Anyone who keeps up with social media knows that Facebook is far from the only platform out there, though it’s certainly the most inclusive. Tumblr exists for sharing posts and writing blogs under pseudonyms. Snapchat is great for sending ten second videos of people doing stupid things at parties. LinkedIn is for all the recruiting and business conversations. Twitter is… well… now how most of us will follow the ongoings of our (future) president in the United States. Instagram is where you post photos of your breakfast and selfies.


Right now I’m completely obsessed with Instagram, and this is why:

  • A substantial amount of profiles are public, so you’re looking at photos of strangers (or as I call them: future friends) and strangers are looking at your photos
  • You don’t have to rely on celebrity status to get noticed
  • All it is are photos and captions. Photos are infinitely more relatable than that post your friend from high school made about finding out her boyfriend of 6 months cheated on her.
  • It’s a non-reciprocal platform – unless your profile is private you don’t have to ‘accept’ anyone or follow anyone back
  • It’s a data miner’s and psychologist’s dream. There is so much information out there, so many people responding to things, and there’s been very little research done to figure out what works and why it does.
  • It’s possible to monetize a social media account as a totally normal human (i.e. you don’t have to be rich/famous/well-known)

I’ve decided that I want to do a study on Instagram. This is inspired partially by my love for statistics, and partially by a coworker’s wife who is an “Influencer” (I’ll explain that later) who recently got their honeymoon largely paid for because she’s good at Instagram and blogging.

As of December 15, 2016 there are 600 million instagram users, which is a lot of people. When I go to Google Scholar and search for ‘Instagram’ I can only find around 200k articles about it, most are related to marketing for large companies or to social media and self esteem. In contrast, searching for ‘Facebook’ yields 5.57 million articles. That’s 27x the amount of research that has been done on Instagram.

When you look at articles for ‘How to be good at Instagram’ in the top results you end up with articles that suggest you “Look for puddles after the rain“. A recent article I found detailed a guy’s foray into becoming an influencer, but he stopped at three weeks and also had the backing of a major news organization. The details were sketchy at best (he describes gaining followers, but not the types of followers, or specific details) and if you go to his Instagram feed now, it’s blown up because of the article.

What I’m saying is that there aren’t a lot of solid ways for an Instagram beginner to actually find out what they can do with Instagram. Whether you’re in charge of your company’s account or you just want to be better at it for your friends – it doesn’t hurt to be more informed. There are people who are very obviously good at it, but few people telling you how to effectively grow a following (or how to even find people who you want to follow). I want to change that.

Questions are more than welcome, though right now I can’t promise that I’ll be able to answer all of them – hopefully I will in a few months.