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Insta-quette: Dos and don'ts for using Instagram

Posted by Alex Pearlman  April 24, 2012 09:19 AM

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instagram logo.jpgBy Minh Pham

Smartphone users have gone Instagram-mad. The photo-editing and -sharing program that brings out the hipster photog in all of us attracted one million downloads in the first 24 hours after its recent Android launch, then accepted a $1 billion buyout by Facebook days later. It’s good to be the brains behind this app right now.

But for users, with great Insta-power comes great Insta-responsibility. Now that all the newbies have had a chance to poke around the app for a little bit and familiarize themselves with the platform, here are a few dos and don’ts to avoid annoying fellow users and start rocking the Insta-world.

DO hashtag. If you want your pictures to spread beyond your network of friends and followers, add relevant hashtags so they’ll show up in the larger discussions on that topic. Some of the most popular Insta-artists are those who leveraged relevant hashtags well. And hey, don’t we all want to be recognized on a larger scale for our wicked good photography skills?

DON’T try to fool us into thinking you took that awesome photo with your dinky phone camera. Instagram isn’t a network for showcasing professional photo work; in fact, the platform is meant to embrace candid moments. At its very core, Instagram is about aesthetic values and spontaneity, so you’re defeating its purpose by posting photos that you took with your DSLR and touched up in Photoshop.

DO have a conversation. Although it’s mostly photo-based, Instagram is still a social network on which you’re meant to engage fellow users. Appreciate the comments you get, and reply back with positive responses. Let your followers know that you appreciate the fact that they’re checking out your photos.

DON’T overload on cute. Cats, dogs, babies -- they’re all adorable and photo-worthy, but the rest of Instagram doesn’t need to see every last precious face they make or thing they do. The same level of moderation applies to “food porn” and pictures of yourself (and your cleavage. This isn’t MySpace, people!).

DO broaden your horizons. Instagram is a giant global network, which means that you can reach beyond your IRL connections and follow people on every continent. From Africa to South America, you can browse scenes from around the world in the palm of your hand. miraclethailand is just one of the many great channels that you can follow to tame (or feed -- that’s your call) your wanderlust.

DON’T spam the photo feed. In Insta-land, quality rules over quantity, and simplicity is the rule of thumb. That means that posting five photos of the same party scene all in a row is a major no-no. Pick one shot that stands out, choose the perfect filter, and write a great caption. Social media already overloads us with information we don’t need (bathroom habits, for example), so other users will appreciate that you spared them the unremarkable details.

DO take advantage of Instagram add-ons. There are a whole bunch of Instagram enhancers out there; use them wisely. For example, PicFrame helps you create multi-photo collages, while Statigr.am provides insightful, personalized statistics in a super-cool infographic style. Instabam finds photos that were taken close to your physical location, and Postagram lets you create and send postcards made from your photos.

What other Instagram tips, tricks, and etiquette would you add to this list?

Photo by AleksGrynis (Flickr)

About Minh -- I once told my mom that there are three consistent passions in my life: advertising, bartending, and tennis. I wouldn't consider myself an expert in any of those fields, but something about each of them makes me feels very much alive. Twitter: @DatsWatMinhSaid

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