The Verdict: Instadvice

Lauren and Olivia taking a selfie in front of all of Lauren’s Instagrams that have been printed out for wall decorations.
Lauren and Olivia taking a selfie in front of all of Lauren’s Instagrams that have been printed out for wall decorations.

Welcome to The Verdict, Flyby's newest advice column!

We know most of you on campus consider yourselves to be “tech savvy,” but the ultimate measure of social media success is arguably Instafame. If you’re confused by what that means, stop reading now. Instagram launched in 2010 and over the years other social media forms (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) have had to begrudgingly make room for this photo editing and sharing app. Instasuccess is everything. So, naturally, Harvard—recently voted #1 social media college—had to get in on the game; hence the emergence of the popular #HarvardinAutumn hashtag campaign. Whether you’re an Insta veteran or a newbie, everyone can always use a refresher on how to play the Instafield.

Without further ado, we present to you: Instagram 101.

1) Ratio → This is the first thing people notice about your profile—so don’t mess it up. The key here is balance. It is important to maintain a high followers : following ratio, but don’t get too carried away with this. 6.8 million followers and you’re following 9 people—who do you think you are, Taylor Swift? (Yes, that is her ratio—c’mon Taylor). It can be tough to maintain your ratio when you’re following too many style bloggers and celebrities, so you’ve got to decide who is really important to you. @beyonce: yes. @kendalljenner: yes. @kimkardashian: check back once a month (thank God for public profiles). @biddythehedgehog: an absolute no.

2) Hashtags → A way to give meaning to your photos without actually writing full sentences. That would be way too much work for social media.

#selfiesunday — Self-explanatory (you’re a tool).
#mancrushmonday — See explanation above.
#womancrushwednesday — We’ve heard this is a thing, but we’ve never really seen it.
#tbt — Definitely a helpful way to find out what day it is, but opinions differ on the flood of childhood pics/old prom photos/vacay grams everyone’s already seen. Olivia’s take: I generally avoid Instagram on Thursdays. Lauren: I spend my week counting down until Thursday and then wait until late at night to check Inst. Yes—she actually said “Inst.”
#flashbackfriday — If you missed #tbt (pathetic) or have a few other throwbacks you’re desperate to gram.
#latergram — Missed the moment or maybe your phone died. Either way, the hashtag will explain why you’re posting a party pic on a Monday morning.
#harvardinautumn — The hashtag sweeping the nation. When you take a beautiful pic on Harvard’s campus, be sure to #harvardinautumn and @harvardu for some Instapublicity. Don’t miss out before it’s too late! Winter is coming.

3) Privacy Settings → To go private or public? Should you stick to one? This is a personal and important decision. You must decide how much you’re willing to share online—and whether you want to maintain an air of mystique or offer yourself and your amazing photos to the Instacommunity. Or should you switch back and forth between the two? A friend of Olivia’s opts for privacy in general, but makes the jump to a public profile when she’s “on vacation or somewhere cool like Coachella where I can post awesome photos. If I’m public, other people who aren’t following me will see mutual followers liking my photos in their feed and then follow me when they see my fabulous photos.”

4) Photo Editing → Crucial. With a filter (or two), a bad photo can be transformed into Instagold. Some favorites: Mayfair, Lo-Fi, X Pro. A filter to avoid: Kelvin. Or some, who are sick of the Insta filters and in search for greater variety and precision, edit on other apps—such as Alt Photo, Big Lens, Afterlight, and VSCOcam. Some of the most strategic users even upload photos on a computer, edit, and then, post on Insta… that’s kind of aggressive. And while Instagrams are usually confined to the square shape, Instagrammers can use Whitagram to attain freedom of photo dimensions.

5) Photo Content → Photo content can define an Instauser, duh. Are you a foodstragrammer? Solely gram on vacations? Use Insta as a way to complain about all the schoolwork you have? Or just Picstich* your life into oblivion? A selfie-a-day kind of user (the worst)? Choose a variety of photos to gram so you don’t become an Instagram caricature. Oh, yeah, I know her. She’s the one who Instagrams her sushi five times a week. (Note: raw fish never looks good on the 'gram). No one wants to see the same five girls laughing in a different place with the same effect in 50 percent of your grams. And no one wants to see 85 pictures of a mediocre sunset with different geotags. Let’s keep it to one sunset a month, people.

6) Geotag → Location, location, location. You’ve got to include one—whether it’s a real place or just an emoji pumpkin (location: Halloween). Geotags just make photos more appealing and add that little extra (essential) piece of information without being overwhelming. And besides, you definitely want people to know that you’re drinking your cappuccino in the Widener stacks.

7) Likes → Any Insta user knows that it’s stressful waiting for your photo to reach “numbers,” aka 11 likes. Whether this happens within 30 seconds (we see you, middle school girls) or never (my dad), it’s something that everyone is thinking about. We know people who delete their photo after 15 minutes if it hasn’t reached “enough” (whatever that may be, in their eyes) likes. “If a photo doesn’t reach 30 likes after 24 hours, it’s gone,” one Insta user explains.

8) Instavids → Don’t do it.**

* The act of splicing two (or more—generally too many) photos together in one Instagram. Don’t do this.

** Download Vine or make use of Snapchat’s video sending feature instead.

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