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The 10 Commandments of Instagram

Don’t let your Instagram turn into Instadrag

Instagram is my favorite social media platform. I cannot think of another app or social site that I am so ridiculously overprotective about. I am on a mad crusade to safeguard it from careless graffiti, hopelessly trying to save it from becoming the MySpace of photo-sharing sites. But I cannot do this on my own friends. I need your help. I implore you.

I’m going to start out by saying, IG is a beautiful place. It is your visual autobiography, travel journal and family album. Your profile is an intimate snapshot of your life and a peek into your soul. By not committing IG sins, you are on a direct path to a huge cult following. HUGE.

Savvy Sassy Moms | How to Take Better Instagrams

Instagrams by Nicole Standley

What does your feed say about you?

Did anyone read the recent article The Agony of Instagram in the New York Times Fashion & Style section? Or what about Marcy Massura’s Dear Ms. Marcy: Lessons in Social Media Manners? I loved them both. For the life of me, I cannot understand why some make IG so complicated or dream up “Instagram Envy”. It is not hard to tell by the user’s overall profile whether or not someone is collecting trophies like the NYT piece noted, and just as Ms. Marcy touched on, not everyone’s goal on Instagram is to show off or Instabrag. Some folks really aren’t trying to compete or keep score. I swear.

It is more about editing and proudly displaying your life. Personally? I won’t post unless it’s something I love, a cool place I want to share, or a special moment that I’m really, really excited  or proud about. If that makes me an Instabragger, well, then I suppose I’ll own it because I’m not trying to bore people.

So if someone could pass me a milk crate so I can climb up onto my soapbox easier, that would be awesome…

Thou shalt not: The 10 commandments of Instagram

I. Thou shalt not post the very first picture. 

When it comes to IG, I live by the motto, “Use the best, not the first.” It is the best piece of IG advice I have ever read and I wish I could remember where I heard it. BRILLIANT! And don’t be afraid to delete. If a photo doesn’t jive well with the rest, adios! 

II. Practice makes perfect. 

Nothing is worse than scrolling through your IG feed only to find boring subjects, space wasters and blurry pictures. This is not the way to get new followers. Practice, practice, practice. Tinker with apps, filters and cropping until you are comfortable. The only way you will organically gain Instagram followers — and entice your audience — is to post photos of great content and allow your personality come through your descriptions.

Oh, and avoid snark. It’s really not attractive. 

III. Thou shalt not abuse hashtags.

Enough said. Come up with a signature hashtag for tracking and add one or two popular ones for categorizing. Also, avoid tagging and adding hashtags in the initial description. It’s always nice to include them in the comments so you don’t take away from the photo. 

IV. Thou shalt not post for the sake of posting.

It’s not a race and there are no statute of limitations for posting. I get it — photos or it didn’t happen. You are at the Justin Timberlake concert and that tiny blurry spec is the man, JT, himself, but if it’s not crystal clear, I’d much rather see a picture of your concert stub or even a crazy fan (i.e. you).

V. Thou shalt not post blurry photos.

(See IV.) Stand still and use your body as a tripod. The closer to your chest the better. Stability is the key. Point, tap your screen on the image you want to focus on and shoot. Also, lighting is everything. Work your angles to try and catch the best lighting. If the picture comes out blurry, don’t use it. I mean it. Skip it. 

VI. Thou shalt be consistent.

Less is more; however I want the Instagrammers I follow to be regular posters in the community. There are many ways to tell an interesting story. I want to know all about you. From life with your kids and hubs, to what your favorite drink at Starbucks is. And engage! Comment back. Unless it is of course a passive aggressive comment, then feel free to delete!

VII. Thou shalt save the blog promotion for Facebook.

For the love of all that is good and IG holy, let’s keep it pure and save the blog promotions for Facebook and Twitter. Contaminating someone’s feed with promos/announcements or the feeling like your advertising something, will get you unfollowed. Consider yourselves warned.

VIII. Three is the magic number.

Posting more than three photos of any event or occurance is major overload. #Latergrams are completely appropriate. If you are at a fantastic event, or on an amazing trip. Slow your roll. Your followers would much rather see 3 photos showing the course of your day rather than 3 even before you finished that amazing breakfast.

IX. Flash is not your friend.

Neither is lighting applied directly to the subject. Photos that have been taken with the flash scream, “Novice!” Especially when it comes to food. Plates of food when photographed properly can be as beautiful as travel photos, but when flash is involved, chances are it will look more like dog food. Get creative and snap the menu or a nice glass of wine and just geo-tag the restaurant. Everyone will be happy.

X. Does your profile accurately reflect who you are?

You know how your mother always said to wear lipstick because you never know who you are going to run in to? Well this applies to Instagram as well. When I click the link to your IG profile, you have the amount of time it takes for me to scan your bio and scope the first 6 – 9 photos to convince me to follow you. Take pride in your profile. You never know who is lurking. 

And there you have it. The do’s and don’ts of Instagram. Another important tip for Instagram is not to take it too personally. If someone is not following you, it’s OK. Each person follows different people for different reasons. And whatever you do, don’t be that person that unfollows people out of jealousy or spite. See the world through someone else’s eye. Have fun and enjoy your IG to the fullest.

So fire away and share a link to your favorite Instagram photo in the comments below!

Meet the Author | Nicole Standley


Nicole Standley a.k.a. JetSet Mom, is a social influencer + lifestylist who shares her love of luxury family travel, fancy dancy hotels, fine dining and all things pop culture at The JetSet Family.

15 Comments
  • January 9, 2014

    Great tips! I hate when a picture has so many hashtags!

  • Angela
    January 9, 2014

    As a huge fan of Instagram myself, I love this post! I try to be choosy in what I share and have unfollowed a few people for flooding my Instagram feed with giveaway promotions.

  • January 9, 2014

    I get so annoyed at people posting blurry pictures! Take another one and post that, which goes back to your first commandment.

  • Sherrie
    January 9, 2014

    Awesome post – with lots of sass and truth! How many of my friends are guilty of III and IV – it’s ridiculous! Thanks for laying down the law!

  • January 9, 2014

    Also: Thou should always add a description. If you add a picture don’t assume those on your TL will know what you are posting. Take the time to add a description.

    Great post!

  • January 9, 2014

    Wow! I am not on instagram, but I guess I should. Thanks for sharing all your tips. I am bookmarking them for the future use :)

  • January 9, 2014

    I agree, instagram can be addicting, but I want to see interesting stuff and great photography!

  • mel
    January 9, 2014

    I use instagram all the time!

  • January 9, 2014

    I love Instagram! Thanks for these tips and I’ll be sure to check them out.

  • January 9, 2014

    Oh no. I violated about 8 of those already. I guess I have been warned. lol

  • January 9, 2014

    I use Instagram but not as much as others. I do know people who can use these commandments though

  • January 9, 2014

    Thank you so much for mentioning my post about FB. This is a wonderful guideline list for IG (which I am a junkie of too :)

  • January 9, 2014

    I so need to work on my Instagram – it’s like the red headed step child. Thank you for the tips!

  • January 10, 2014

    I haven’t really messed with instagram, but have heard great things about it. Thanks for these tips.

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