This morning, the unimaginable happened. I was featured by Instagram for the fifth time in nine months *squeal*. For anyone who doesn’t understand why for the next 24 hours – ok, it might be a week, maybe even the next month? – I’m going to be in a constant state of pure elation, well, let me explain. For an Instagrammer (me), you don’t have a boss, team, or CEO around; you are every cog in your business. This means that because we don’t like to big ourselves up too much, we have to rely on the Instagram community to reward our work in the form of likes, comments and messages. We don’t have a morning pep talk with our colleagues where our boss might congratulate us on our performance the previous day. You don’t get an employee of the week certificate (although, that’s something I might look into). Basically, you don’t receive any corporate recognition. So it’s left up to me to do that – which explains why I have more moments of feeling completely useless now than I ever did.
Now it goes without saying, that the validity I receive from the community, every like, comment and follow, feels like I’m receiving gentle little hugs – 15,000 times. And that makes me happier than getting a pat on the back from a manager who probably didn’t even know my name. Knowing that people (you) take time out of your already busy, jam-packed day to stop to appreciate my work and to just to say ‘hi’ is truly amazing. It’s wonderful, it’s slightly addictive, and it makes me so incredibly happy; truly it does. But, I guess from years of working under someone – having a boss, a big boss, and an even bigger boss – I must subconsciously miss their stamp of approval (even if it is was a rarity as I was utterly shite at my last job). And that’s where Instagram comes in. They’re my new boss. A really laid back boss who lets me do whatever I like (as long as what I like involves no spammy behaviours), on whatever schedule I like, and they even allow me to take as many breaks as I like; but, they will now and again swoop in and say well done by awarding me with a feature.
The people who work for Instagram (the Insta-Gods) must view a gazillion photos every day, they may even be more active on Instagram than me (unlikely, but a possibility). So, to know that they’ve seen my image, thought ‘well, that’s a bit of alright’, and then decided to share my image with their 226M followers feels pretty surreal. And even though my most recent feature was the fifth time this has happened, it didn’t make it any less exciting. There’s the excitement, the swelling head, and a newly adopted entitled demeanour – Dom put up with my new persona for a few hours and then refused to wait on me any longer. So, how can you go about nabbing yourself one of these features allowing you to order your family around for a whole day? Well, here’s what I’ve found:
Be innovative – When Instagram set the #WHP topic, they probably expect entrants to stick to it rigidly – to see the topic for exactly as it is – so that’s why it can play in your favour to think outside the box. What does that word (topic) mean to you? What image do you see when you think of that word? Take the topic and let your mind run wild with it.
Use your caption. From what I’ve seen, posting a fitting image and only adding the hashtag isn’t enough to gain you the prestigious status of being featured. Your caption needs to support it too. Relate your caption to your image and to the #WHP topic – tell your audience why you created it, what it means to you, and explain what you’re documenting. Instagram will hint at this part when they announce it on a Friday night, and will go into great depth as to what they’re looking for. ***Update: For four of my featured entries, the image had been solely created for the purpose of taking part in the weekend hashtag, this time, the fifth time, things were different. I’d already created the image on the Friday morning – hours before the topic was announced – and when I posted it my caption had referred to my weekend plans, not the topic. On Tuesday morning I received an email from Instagram asking for some more information about the image – what inspired me, how I created it, etc. Instagram then used this information to form a caption of their own for when they posted it to their page. So, to sum it up, if your caption relates to the WHP topic you’ll be one of the first accounts featured, if it doesn’t, then you’ll be contacted by Instagram who’ll advise you that they plan to feature you, and will ask you a few questions about the image, so will be one of the features later on in the day (when you see a caption that looks like this ‘Dominique says:…’ Instagram has reached out for more information about the post). Either way, get entering!
Don’t be put off by the larger accounts. There’s a misconception that Instagram will only ‘see’ the larger accounts, and that simply isn’t true. In reality, it’s quite the opposite. And from my own investigations, it’s incredibly rare to see an image that has made it into the top posts of the WHP hashtag that weekend then featured on the Monday (Tuesday in the UK). Instagram enjoy discovering new talent, they like to post the underdog, and unlike what we’re told in countless forums and algorithm hysteria, Instagram does not want to sabotage smaller accounts. They reward creative imagery, no matter what number is behind it.
And as always, post your best. People go all out for the WHP hashtag – the weekly feed is evident of that – so this really is your time to pull out the big guns, reach further into your creativity box than you ever have before, and be unique. Make your entry count.
If you are ever featured by Instagram, then it’s exciting. You may want to run, jump and scream and if so, go ahead. But, there is another side of being an Instagram feature that you might not be aware of, so before you make it your goal of 2017 to be featured, here’s a few perks/some weirdness that comes hand-in-hand with a feature.
One of the main incentives for people to take part in the weekend hashtag is the possibility that you could receive a huge (and I mean huge) influx of followers. There’s a high chance that the number of followers you currently have could increase more in 24 hours than it has in months, and that prospect is exciting. Who doesn’t want that? A new audience, new people, maybe even new friends – who knows? For me, each feature has affected my follower count differently, and the numbers are listed below:
#WHPimitate – 8k
#WHPdisguise – 5k
#WHPhomesweethome – around 13k (this was also timed with an #allthatisthree image – the one with the eyelashes – going viral the day before so I can’t be certain where the traffic came from, but in total, in 48 hours I gained 33k new followers).
#WHPinthekitchen – 6k
#WHPmadewithlove – 3k (and counting)
An Instagram feature will result in an exponential boost of followers. Absolutely. Checking your phone will become scarily addictive, and you’ll watch in anticipation as the numbers rise. Pencilling out your entire day, cancelling all appointments (you’ll be too distracted to socialise with the outside world anyway), and arranging a new date is advisable – just you, your sofa, your phone, and your growing number of newly gained strangers that you need to get acquainted with.
With an Instagram feature, the number of followers you receive is unpredictable. I’ve often studied (studied sounds much more innocent than creeped) the rise that people gain by watching their follower count when they’re first featured and comparing it 24 hours later, and the variation in numbers is astonishing. Some barely increase at all, while others smash all expectations and gain thousands. So, how do you ensure that you’re one of the latter? From what I’ve seen, and similarly to how you would typically gain new followers, it relies heavily on the aesthetics of your feed at the time of the feature. This is your ultimate time to shine, your one opportunity where you’ll be seen by millions of people, and if that means giving your feed a quick spring clean to get it to the best that it can be, then seriously consider it. If your account is featured, or you believe your entry has a high chance of being featured, then make sure that your account demands a follow.
The week following a feature can also see a dramatic rise in the number of brands reaching out to you. In the same way that they keep a close eye on each other in a bid to discover new and upcoming bloggers, features don’t seem to go unnoticed either. So combine that with the recent rise in followers (another area of Instagram accounts that brands look out for), and you’ll see an increase in exciting opportunities and collaborations coming your way.