What does a hedgehog have to do with Instagram?
My family bought me a hedgehog for my birthday last year. Yes, a REAL live hedgehog.
I named her Mignonne – which is French for “cute”.
And since she’s my pet, she had to get her own social media accounts and website.
Because of course she did!
As is the case with many new pet owners, I snapped HUNDREDS of photos of Mignonne. I mean, she is THE CUTEST HEDGEHOG in the world, right?
PHOTOS = Instagram!
Great! Mignonne could have an Instagram account. MignonneTheHedgehog. Except, I had only dabbled in Instagram. I would have a lot to learn…
I took the opportunity to share Mignonne’s cuteness with the world via the fastest-growing social network ever, and navigate the ins and outs of Instagram in the process. I figured that what I lacked in expertise, Mignonne would make up for with cuteness, and any of my possible learning-curve flubs would be forgiven in the light of her adorableness.
Cute she is, so post we did. I learned a few things on the way, while Mignonne got lots of treats for being a (not so) patient subject.
Top 3 Things My Hedgehog Taught Me about Instagram
1) Informal Instagram Communities are Amazing.
What are you interested in? You can probably find a growing group of people also interested in that on Instagram. And if you’re all enthusiastic about the same thing, it makes for great conversation, great sharing, great support, great communities. That’s the heart of social media right?
For me and Mignonne, we wanted to connect with other hedgehogs and their owners (or vice versa…). Easy Peasy! When we’re unsure about some aspect of hedgehog life, we seek out other hedgehogs and ask them questions. I’ve found it to be very helpful!
2) Hashtags Help, usually…
In conjunction with great communities, hashtags can be very helpful on Instagram. Most of the time…
It seems like most Instagrammers use hashtags, usually many at a time, to categorize their photos. This makes it fairly easy to find all hedgehog photos, for instance, at least those that are hashtagged. All I have to do is find a photo that is hashtagged with #hedgehog, tap (or click) on the hashtag, and a whole stream of photos of hedgehogs will show up!
But hashtags can get out of control, too. I found 4 specific ways hashtags don’t help.
Too Many Hashtags: (a.k.a. Hashtags FOREVER!) – Stringing a bazillion hashtags on the end of your photo caption can really be annoying. Any more than about 7 hashtags feels like too many to me. #funny #cute #cool #cutie #contest #giveaway #win #raffle #free #lucky #getlucky #gambling #freestuff #giveback #belucky #freecontest #freeraffle #luck #luckyday #fitness #abs #bodybuilding……..
Unrelated Hashtags: Your photo of the super cute hedgehog in a pocket doesn’t have anything to do with #JustinBeiber, #OneDirection, #makingmoney, #democrats, #tattoos, or #cats. It makes no sense to use hashtags that aren’t related to your photo.
#holyhardcorehashtaggersbatman: Rather than being aggregators for photos (a way to collect and categorize them), sometimes hashtags become silly strings of thought. Some instagrammers have become experts at jamming things together in one long word that is hard to decipher and possibly most easily decoded incorrectly. (e.g., #myhedgehogisthecutestintheworld – too long, #susanalbumparty – SHOULD be decoded as “SusanAlbumParty”, but is easy to see how it could be read “SusAnalBumParty”….)
Unique hashtags are only minimally useful: Along the same line of thought – Fun and unique hashtags can spur some immediate conversation. But unless it just happens to be one of “those” hashtags that really catches on, a clever hashtag has limited reach. Let’s face it – if you use a hashtag like #theyarereallycalledspines there won’t be a lot of people finding you by tapping on the SAME hashtag used by a different user… because nobody else will be using that hashtag.
3) The Best Instagrammers Share Good Photos and are Good Socializers.
You don’t have to be a stellar photographer to be a good instagrammer, but crappy photos make crappy instagrammers!
Photos with a unique perspective, pics of strange and different things, and snaps of cute pets and kids seem to do pretty well. (It’s not every day you see a hedgehog in a sombrero! 120 likes and 25 comments on that unique pic!)
For businesses, behind-the-scenes photos that tell the story of the biz are well received, in general. (Seventeen photos in a row of your hedgehog’s nose… not so much.)
Likewise, instagrammers who interact with the community seem to attract the most attention. If all you do is post photos and only engage those who are liking and commenting on your own photos, your reach will be minimal (unless you’re a fantastic photographer with a loyal base of fans to start with).
On the other hand, if you like, and especially if you genuinely and positively comment on, other people’s photos, you reach will be greatly increased.
Asking for follows and likes and shoutouts and partnerships, which a lot of instagrammers do, still feels a little juvenile to me. People will follow if they like you and your stuff. If you are interesting and share good photos, more people will follow you, and you’ll lose fewer followers.
Simply by being cute, sharing photos of different kinds of activities, and engaging with lots of other accounts (not just hedgehogs), Mignonne has slowly risen to 931 followers. Not bad for a little insectivore who sleeps all day long!
But the numbers are only half the story. Mignonne and I have tapped into a community of people and pets (our niche of interest) and found camaraderie, support, education, and fun!
What My Hedgehog Taught Me about Instagram
All of this experience on Instagram has obviously been based on a pet, my pet. What Mignonne’s experience has taught me about Instagram can also be applied to any brand, I believe. (Go back through this post and think about YOUR BRAND or your BUSINESS every time I mention Mignonne.)
- Search out and engage with a community of users relevant to your heart, your biz, your message. They’re on Instagram. You just have to find them.
- Use hashtags wisely to expand your audience and correctly categorize your photos on Instagram.
- Post good photos and interact with other good photos that you see and other Instagrammers who are interesting to you. Get outside of your own photos!
If I can have this much fun (and “success”) with a casual pet account on Instagram, imagine what you can do with it if you really put your mind to it!
Mignonne and I wish you the best on your Instagram journey!
(End note: This is strictly an anecdotal analysis. These are just a few of my observations, and my statements are based on my own personal experience without a lot of data crunching or technical thought. Think of this as a glimpse at how your average user might experience Instagram. It’s always good to remember who our audience is when we’re using social media for business.)
Welcome to Off the Wall!
Raylene and Jeff Wall