Arts

How to build a following on Instagram without embarrassing yourself

Tips for the unsure, the unwise and the unwelcome

Justin Bieber Instagram

We are not all Justin Bieber when it comes to Instagram, nor should we aspire to be.

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Anyone trying to build a name for themselves in the arts (or anywhere else, for that matter) has felt the pressure to supplement their actual work with a presence on Instagram. And with good reason — the app has played a considerable role launching many careers. Just ask Halifax's Hafiia Mira or Vancouver's Lauren Brevner.

But making a stream worthy of other people's time isn't as simple as you might think, at least if you're trying to build something bigger than a place to share vacation pics with your mom. 

There is an art to promoting your art on Instagram, and, although I don't have gajillion followers myself, I'm a seasoned veteran of hitting the unfollow button. These eight tips will go a long way toward keeping users like me in the fold.

1. Stick to what you're good at.

If you're not a great photographer, don't go all sunsets and landscape. If you know deep down you're not particularly funny, don't try and be a comedian with your captions. That said, if you are both a great photographer and very funny, go for that hilarious sunset caption.

2. Less is more. 

The main reason I've unfollowed someone's Instagram account is seeing a ton of posts in a row from the same handle clog up my feed. Unless you've got superfans, dominating your followers' feed at a given time is unlikely to come across as charming. Be selective: No more than one post an hour, and no more than four in a day.

3. Don't over-follow.

A tell-tale sign of opportunism on Instagram is when someone follows too many other handles thinking they'll get a bunch of followers in return. It looks desperate.

4. Mind your vanity.

If you're on Instagram to promote your work, people are likely following you for the work itself, not the fact that you have a hot body or go on exotic vacations. There's certainly a place for both those things on Instagram — ask any Kardashian — but unless your brand is being superficially fabulous, it's probably not advisable to go all beach-body-selfie-in-Varadero. People will probably click like if you do, but they will also begin to secretly hate you — and themselves — a little more in the process.

5. Learn how to use enhancement tools properly or don't use them at all.

Instagram's tools and filters are only good ideas if you know what you're doing — and sometimes not. That screenshot of a hilarious e-mail you received does not need to be sent out into the world via "hefe" or "amaro." 

6. Know who your post is serving. 

Is it just you? Because if that's the case, it's usually not advisable to post it. Keep your feed about your work, not your ego. 

7. Be friendly with your competition.

Believe it or not, social media can actually be an effective tool in building community. The easiest way you can contribute to such a suggestion is by using your feed to share some posts that promote other artists you know, love and/or respect. They may just do the same in return.

8. #watchyourhashtags​

Personally, I'd love to find myself in a hashtag-free society by 2020. But I get that they serve a purpose in certain instances, like if you're at a special event or throwing back a certain Thursday. Apparently, however, hundreds of millions of you are adding the likes of #friends, #fashion, #smile, #instamood, #amazing, #hair, #beach and #lol to your captions probably all at once and definitely for no good reason. #stopthemadness​.

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