I started my interior Instagram account a little over 2 years ago. I had always been interested in interior design, and revamping my own home, but never really considered sharing that with others. To be honest, I was fairly addicted to Facebook, and figured adding another social medium to the mix would certainly fuel my addictive personality when it comes to consuming social media content! Nevertheless, I got persuaded by a good friend, who was very active as an influencer with her interior account, to give it a try. I had just finished a very large-scale renovation of our own home, and had plenty to show.
Being a business woman by trade, I was actually hugely interested by the business model of Instagram and how an influencer and ‘influencing’ works. Can you really make money just by posting pictures? Would I be able to make any money on Instagram? I decided to go and find out. Partly because I was really intrigued, and partly because I was really drawn to the creative and aesthetic aspect of Instagram. I needed a creative outlet next to my work in de medical world. And of course, the competitor in me (I was a national gymnast in my youth) just wanted to ‘win’. Because, and let’s be honest, in the end it’s a game. It’s a game of numbers, strategy, a bit of luck and a lot of perseverance. If you want to achieve anything, you need to be in it for the long haul, because it is hard work and requires dedication.
So, influencers seemed to be getting a lot of ‘free stuff’. At least, that’s what it looked like to me at the time. Little did I realise how much work goes into making creative online content and it rather is a fee for services rendered. Either way, that was going to be my first goal. Being so successful that someone (didn’t really matter who or what) deemed me worthy enough to ask me to promote their wares. Wouldn’t that be cool? So, I was going for it. How many followers would I need? No idea. But definitely a lot more than the 100 I started with (consisting of family and friends).
Fast forward 2 years, and I am, without too much hesitation, calling myself an influencer within the interior space of Instagram. I do ‘get’ free stuff, I do get paid for posts, I am dedicated and work bloody hard for it. I now get to experience the other end, and everything that comes with it; the good, the bad and the ugly. Between me and my fellow influencing colleagues, we’ve probably seen it all. We normally chat about the good stuff. But hey, I like mixing it up! I am going to divulge some of my pet peeves.
Straight out asking for a follow
For me, a big no no is asking someone to ‘please follow me’. Or variations on that theme. I can’t count the number of times when someone left a comment, or sent a DM saying ‘I will follow you, if you follow me back’, or ‘we seem to have the same style, follow me’, or (without commenting on your picture) saying ‘please take a look at my account’. Invariably these are much smaller very new accounts, sometimes very good, sometimes not so good. Regardless of what the content of the account is, I am always instantly annoyed, and think ‘make me’. Go and create content that attracts followers to your feed, like we all do, and make me want to follow you. Go and put in the work to increase your reach! I won’t follow someone just because they ask me to.
Unfollow because you don’t follow back
Everyone should follow accounts they truly like. I know I do! That could be because of content, or personality, and usually great accounts have a combination of both. I have had the most brilliant conversations with people whose account didn’t immediately appeal to me. But because their personality was so infectious, I just had to follow them to see what they had to say every day and their style would grow on me. Conversely, I have unfollowed people whose photos were brilliant, but they turned out to be plain boring or even nasty human beings.
You shouldn’t have to follow someone out of guilt or worry for repercussions. I can’t possibly follow back everyone who follows me. For starters, Instagram won’t let me, and secondly, I wouldn’t be able to see the wood for the trees. I was once in the middle of a long and lovely conversation with one of my followers, who all of a sudden said: ‘hey, I just checked and realised you’re not following me!’, followed by lots of expletives. They promptly left the (what I thought was a really nice and genuine) conversation and unfollowed me. That affected me. We’re humans, not robots.
Piggy backing on your content
Influencers want to influence. That’s our job. We would like our audience to share our pictures, and save them for personal use. Sharing our pictures (provided proper credit is given) is really nice. It’s starts to bug however, when other accounts take every single picture you post, and share it on their feed. Over and over again. Even when appropriate credit is given. There are certain feeds out there that look like a copy of my own and I don’t love that.
Clearly, what is far worse, is taking someone else’s pictures and post them as if they were your own. That’s simply stealing and is against the law.
Murdering my content
Every so often, other accounts share my pictures and add the most hideous filter so that even my husband wouldn’t recognise the place he lives in. If you wish to share my content, which I am (and most of my colleagues would be) generally quite pleased about, please share it as is. That’s the content I created, that’s the image I would like to portray.
Excessive tagging of other accounts in pictures
We can all tag other accounts in our pictures. I use tags in my pictures to show what brands are featured; sometimes for collaborations, but mostly as information for my followers (reduces number of questions asking ‘where is this or that from?’). You can also tag the bigger aggregate accounts, as they ask to be tagged so they can repost your content within their theme. And that is normal. But what annoys me to no end is when I am being tagged in pictures that have absolutely nothing to do with me, but with the sole purpose for me to take a look and get a reaction. I am sure it is a very unpopular trick. I immediately remove the tag.
Playing the victim
If you have a follower tracking app, do yourself a favour and de-install it now. I used one for ages, and agonised over who started to follow me and who decided to unfollow me. However, I got rid of every app that logged into my instagram after I got hacked (out of precaution, read more about that here), and I surely never missed the followers app. If you want to continue using them, please never go and ask someone why they decided to unfollow you. It won’t get you anywhere, just makes for very awkward conversations and makes you look desperate and very uncool. I am sure they have their reasons.
Asking for free advice
I work in the interior space. So do my fellow influencers. It is our job. I happily and always answer (polite) questions that I get. I love engaging with my followers. But it gets tricky when people are clearly after free extensive advice and want to take up hours of your time (unpaid). The question ‘could I please brainstorm with you for a little?’ or ‘Please tell me what you would do?’ is difficult. I happily give a quick response and think along on the spot. However, it gets awkward when you’re being asked for more and more, and you need to find a way to politely end the conversation. Most of us are available for professional services if you so desire.
Abusing the DM facility
Every now and then I get sent DMs asking support for a specific cause that has nothing to do with my feed. I find that difficult, particularly when these causes go against every single thing I stand for in life. But at the same time, I do not wish to offend my followers. My instagram account is a professional account, relating to interiors. I personally choose to not elaborate on the bigger issues in life on Instagram, we have other great spokespeople for that. That’s just my choice, other may feel differently.
That’s an obvious one, right? Again, we’re humans, not robots. You come a lot further with niceness, full sentences and manners. I can’t count the number of times I have been asked ‘brand of couch?’, nothing else. I was raised to say hello, please and thank yous. Also, when you receive a reaction with the information you were after, it is very nice to say ‘thank you’.
Unfortunately, influencers also deal with jealousy. People who somehow deny you the pleasure of whatever it is you have to show. Regardless of the fact that you worked very hard produce that one shot, to get what you’ve been given, and that you’re simply doing your job. Comments like ‘you’re just lucky to get such and such’, or ‘it’s ugly / looks terrible / what were you thinking’ are just not necessary. In my opinion, if you have nothing nice to say, why say anything at all? It just makes me wonder why you follow me in the first place, if there is nothing you like about it. Of course, we are in the public eye, and a certain level of trolling is unfortunately expected. We do not expect everyone to love what we do, or share our opinions. I certainly don’t expect everyone to gush over every single thing I do. My style isn’t for everyone but there are ways about it. It is a shame that people forget their manners sometimes.
This is a tricky one. These are generally the ones who are over the top nice, keep on responding to every single comment you make, keep sending you instant messages with endless stories and don’t know when to end the conversation. The bunny boilers I call them (ever seen ‘fatal attraction’?). It’s over the top and frankly they scare me sometimes! I can’t be best friends with everyone, and even my best friends don’t smother me like that. I’m not that cool, trust me.
Unfortunately, we still come across bad-mouthing of other accounts. And that’s just not cool. It’s not a good look and says more about the basher than the bashee, if you ask me. When you’re upset about someone, someone’s comment(s), or someone’s social media strategy, I would urge you to refrain from instantly hitting that post or reply button and simply try to let it go. You can vent with the people you trust. In my opinion you are better off not publicly judging whatever someone else is doing. If it bothers you, simply unfollow that person. It’s an online community that you freely chose to be a part of. If you don’t like it, maybe reconsider.
And with that train of thought, I’d like to add a few words on pods. Instagram pods have been in existence for ages. Helping each other is supposed to help your reach. And particularly people starting out, who want to grow their account, frequently choose to participate in a pod. I did too. I honestly don’t think it helped my exposure on Instagram a great deal. But I developed some fabulous relationships due to pods, for which I am very grateful.
I have left every single pod I was in a fair while ago, simply because I didn’t have the time to keep track of everyone’s posts. I felt bad about not always being there for the other pod members (but mostly for my family who saw me permanently glued to my phone) so chose to no longer participate. I enjoyed interacting with my fellow pod members and have been very lucky. However, some pods impose certain rules that are simply ridiculous. People who believe they can tell you what to do, and what not to do, claim some sort of leadership position and tell you off for whatever it is you do or don’t do on Instagram. Don’t stand for it, that’s all I will say about it. This is a voluntary platform; please try and have fun.
I love my followers. The majority are an awesome bunch of people, that entertain me every day. They’re the ones that make me love what I do, which is sharing my online content with the world. They were the ones that stood by me when hackers were unkind to me, and helped me back on my feet (read more here). They’re the reason some amazing friendships are formed that mean so much to me. I enjoy being ‘an influencer’ although I try very much to keep it real and put things in perspective.
Instagram is a place for everyone; whether you simply like following nice accounts, or would like to achieve more. I truly believe that anyone can be an influencer, as long as you have good content to share and stay true to yourself. What you need is perseverance and dedication. We don’t need the ugly. Instagram is big enough for us all, let’s just be supportive of each other. And most of all, have fun!