1. Add a profile picture of yourself and write a description of who you are.
You don’t have to write your last name or the exact location where you live to protect your privacy, but I recommend adding something personal like your hobbies or likes or even profession in your profile description. If you like traveling – mention it in the profile! Think of your profile as your informal business card or a greeting card to the world.
2. Post photos that you have taken yourself.
Your photos tell the story of you. If you want to be seen as a person with whom people want to connect, and trust and they want to share their travel tips with, your photos have to show you are a real person who has genuine interest in learning more. You don’t have to post many photos and be super active on Instagram, but posting your own photos will make it easier to connect with others. Post pictures that you have taken yourself, but limit the pictures you have taken of yourself. You will be more interesting if you show how you see the world, not just post pictures for the world to see you. Or at least get a little creative even with the pictures of you.
3. Don’t steal photos.
Even if we go beyond the legal and ethical reasons why you should not post stolen photos, the only way people really get to know you is seeing your own photos. It is very difficult to earn anyone’s trust if you are not being open and honest.
4. Like and follow in moderation.
This is all relatively speaking, but I recommend only following those people whose photos you like and/or who are your friends, and only liking the photos you actually like. People like to connect with genuine people, and it is not genuine to like everyone and everything. It’s polite to follow back people who follow you, but if they are over-sharing and posting too many pictures, or pictures that you have no interest in seeing then there is no need to follow that person back, just for the sake of being nice.
5. Comment only when you have something nice to say.
This should be self-evident, but with so much hate in the world, there is no need to take negativity to Instagram. If someone is posting pictures you don’t approve, you can always block them and unfollow them, and if they are posting something inappropriate, you can also report the photo or/and the person to Instagram by clicking the small picture with three dots below the photo and choosing “report as inappropriate” or clicking the arrow picture on the top right corner of the profile and choosing “block user” or “report to spam”. Even if the person is behaving badly on Instagram, it doesn’t mean you have to as well.
6. Comment and ask questions.
I recommend asking questions and connecting with people but remember the good manners. You are much more likely to get an answer back if you explain yourself a little better and say things like “Hi, I really enjoy your photos from Italy, and especially this one in Tuscany. I am planning a trip to Italy myself, could you please tell me the town where you took this photo? I would love to visit there.” Your intentions are clear and you show your appreciation to the photos. Don’t be surprised if you will not hear back if you just say “hey, where’s this?” instead.
7. Understand that people use Instagram differently.
There are as many ways of using Instagram as there are people, and there isn’t really a right or wrong way, and everyone makes the best out of it for themselves. Don’t get upset if people are not using Instagram as you are, or even as I describe how some people use it in my book. Some people are talkative and easy to get to know and will help you and answer back, and some don’t. Also there is no “inbox” type of functionality on Instagram, and if you comment on an old photo and the user will not immediately see it in the recent actions tab in his/her account, he/she might not be answering you back just because she never saw your question, and not because she doesn’t want to help you. Some people are on Instagram to share their photos and their photographic talent and creativity. Even if they post pictures of landscapes, or city scenes, it doesn’t automatically mean they have great travel tips or that they want to share them with you.
8. Use appropriate hashtags.
The use of hashtags divides Instagram-users into three camps: to those who overuse hashtags, to those who never use them, and those who use the hashtags moderately. I highly recommend using appropriate hashtags if you want to connect with new people who are interested in the same things as you are, and especially if you want to share your travel photos with other travelers on Instagram. The hashtags are really the best way of finding new users who post specific kind of content. There are many very popular hashtags that people use, and since so many people misuse them, it is becoming more and more difficult to find people you truly want to connect with when using these over-popular hashtags. The more specific the hashtag the better, the more popular hastag, the worse.
9. Be consistent.
This tip was the most difficult for me to learn, and in fact I had to start a second account for different kind of photos so I wasn’t confusing my followers. And I still can’t be consistent all the time, it’s not just what I am good at. It is recommended to be consistent with your photo posting, and it doesn’t mean that you post every day at the same time, but that you post photos in a regular pace whether it’s five times a day or five times a week or month. I know some people advise never to post “latergrams”, photos taken before and posting them later, and only recommend posting pictures on the go, in the moment, but I find it annoying if someone rarely ever posts and then posts 20 photos a day on their vacation. Chances are your vacation photo extravaganza will annoy others too when in bulk, but we all would love to see the photos if you pace them out even after you have already come back home. I personally post a picture every morning and it is usually always a “latergram,” that I have taken the same week or previous day, and in addition I post in the moment photos, especially when I travel. I also don’t like following people who might post the most amazing travel photos when they travel and then pictures of their cat when they are home. If you want to connect with fellow-travelers, post only travel related content, even if it’s from your home town. Of course if you want to use Instagram for other purpose than travel planning, this tip is not for you and it is always recommended to show the real you – even when it is an eclectic mix of everything.
10. Be safe.
Please take caution and be aware of the dangers of using Instagram or any other social media network. If your account is public remember that everyone can see the information and photos you post. You can change the privacy settings for your account under your profile by clicking “Edit Your Profile” and by scrolling down to “Photos Are Private” and turning the privacy ON by sliding the ON/OFF button, but my advice with Instagram as with any social media network is that even if you have set the privacy limits, there is nothing private in social media. If you don’t want other people to see or hear it, please don’t post it. Social media safety is a book topic itself, but just briefly: use caution when, where and what kind of photos you post. I typically recommend not geo-tagging photos from your home, and being cautious also when you post vacation photos – it can tell the wrong kind of people that you are not home. Don’t share personal information such as your address or phone number online. I personally post pictures from my backyard all the time, and always post from my travels. Although, especially if I am traveling with my family, I typically don’t geo-tag myself or check-in at any location until I am leaving the location so people can’t find me in a location even if I just have “checked-in”.
Photos in this post are all from Sweden, and here is also a quick video of a few more of my pictures from Sweden. If you are not following me on Instagram yet, follow me as Skimbaco, although I do post some more personal photos also as KatjaPresnal.