The past year of so has certainly been an interesting ride when it comes to my social media experiences. I've found Baltimore to be a nice and inviting social media community and I've been fortunate enough to attend more social media events than I can remember. I had gotten a taste of world of social media before when I started writing about food and then stopped for a few years. But, now that I'm back in the full swing of things, it's become a pretty regular thing now in Baltimore. After a year and a bit, you'd think I would have figured out how all of this works and maybe impart some knowledge of how others can be part of this community.
I have no clue how anyone plugs into this community. I don't know how you go about getting invites to events. It may seem as easy as "if you build it, they will come" and by build it, I mean build a following on social media whether that's Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or even Yelp! (though that feels more like a whole different world to my IG playground). I guess what I'm saying is that I don't know what the criteria is for someone to get invited to a social media event or to establish enough of a presence where you'll be continually invited.
I'd like to preface this with the fact that I haven't done any scientific research beyond reading an article here or there, so there may be some sort of methodology on how to create social media events. Also, I may not reference it but I'm speaking narrowly about about my experiences in Baltimore and the surrounding area (yes, DC is part of the surrounding area). The reason being is that I don't think it's uniform and other cities probably operate differently. Finally, these are also just my observations as a relative novice to this game. You may have heard it all before but I feel like I need to lay out the foundation from where I'm writing as I change the direction of my blog.
I didn't mean to imply above that it has nothing to do with followers, which, in my case, I'm talking about the amount of people following my Instagram account. My account is still a little baby of an account when it comes to followers. I have just a little over 5,000 now and when I got that first invite, I had less than 1,000. Is that good growth within the span of about a year? No clue. But, it does seem like 1,000 followers is a baseline as to when an account begins to get noticed. Now, it's not as simple as having followers but you can also visibly measure other related engagement metrics such as Impressions (and using Instagram definitions here) which is the number of times posts have been seen; Reach - the number of unique accounts that have seen posts (commonly known as uniques in other parts of the web); Engagement - combined number of times your posts have been liked, commented on, and/or saved.
So, why do all these hard metrics matter? It's a way to measure how many people are actually interacting with the content you put up your social media account. It's a way for businesses (restaurants, in my case) to determine if people actually see your account and make them feel better that you may actually attract an audience. Why are these still a crap shoot? It's a crap shoot because there is no apparent way to measure if the amount of engagement activity actually brings in customers to that business. I mean there are ways to measure if there are people who visit, like giving out special codes (discounts, free items) for individual "influencers" to share on their account so they can measure which customers come in. But, even that only goes so far. The hope really is, that the more followers someone has or the more reach or the more engagement than logic follows that there's a greater chance someone may come in and spend money because of a particular account.
There are probably some soft metrics involved, that can improve your follower base, such as the kind of picture you take, the quality of the picture and the kind of things you write about in your captions. Facebook (and hence Instagram) even uses image recognition software to determine the items you post and potentially increase the chances of hitting the algorithm. What? The algorithm. What? If you're familiar with Instagram then you're familiar with the algorithm. In a nutshell, the algorithm is the a program that determines how high a particular post may be ranked in Instagram search results. So, if you hit that magnifying glass icon, it sends you to a screen which has a montage of different things that the algorithm thinks you may be interested in. It's also relevant to the hashtags (#hashtags?) you use and how high your posts rank when you use a particular hashtag like #pizza. Again, this purely guesswork and I'm not really sure anyone outside of Facebook really knows how the algorithm works. There are plenty of theories and guesses and conjecture as to how certain behaviors affect the algorithm. Things like Instagram pod behavior, number of words in a comment, the followers to engagement ratio, etc.. If my understanding is off, please comment in this space to correct me.
So, how does all this get you access to more social media events? No idea. But I think if you do some research and understand that Instagram is more of a video game than a photo app then you may get more "engagement" sooner rather than later and may catch the eye of marketers, business owners and other "influencers".
Do I think any of these things are really the key to solving social media growth and hence access to social media events? Nope. I think most of things, like good pictures, more followers, and better captions are due to other factors. The first is have a passion for what you photograph. Use a camera if you have to but plenty of people are successful with just their phone but take care and pride when you take that picture. The next is be friendly. This is going to sound basic and maybe as basic as taking a picture of this wall:
But, find your tribe and love them hard. There are kindred souls that enjoy your passion as much as you do. In my case, it's eating food, enjoying a restaurant and documenting the whole experience. Find people you enjoy and take the journey with them. That may sound hokey but I believe it's just important to make relationships in the world of social media (I mean social is literally in the term, but you'd be surprised at how many introverts that use social media as their form of expression). If you don't have a sort of social media family, it just isn't as enjoyable. I've been fortunate enough to find people who share the same hobby and who have become more than just Instagram buddies. It keeps your interest going and makes it more than just doing it for the 'gram.
Is it that simple? To me, it really is. Have a passion for what you're posting on social media, have respect and care for what you post and make sure you find your people. Approach a stranger at an event, start up a convo with a comment, DM them for a lunch, or be, you know, social. The rest of the other stuff like followers, social media invites and any other thing that happens because of social media will just, I believe, happen naturally. It will happen because your passion will shine through and that you'll show that you're more than just an social media account. Can I prove any of this? Nope. But, it sure is a hell of a lot more fun this way then reading about the algorithm all day in the effort to increase your follower base.