For almost two months I have been posting a selfie per day on Instagram. During this time I've made tons of observations about sharing daily selfies. Today, I'd like to share those observations with you.
I had a handful of reasons to start sharing daily selfies on Instagram. It's not because I love to be in front of a camera. No way. I hate it. It's not because I didn't have anything else to do. There's always too much to do. It's not even because I thought people who follow me would like it. I've seen some go, including those I know outside Instagram. I assume they don't like my face. Hey, my face is not for everyone.
Posting daily selfies on Instagram is quite a lot of work. More than you might think. At least if you don't want to just snap away, without putting any thought and effort to it. I have used the prompts of a popular photo challenge, Fat Mum Slim Photo A Day, as a base for my selfies. The prompts make me attempt more for the project, as I theme the photos around the challenge. Either with use of props, expressions, filtering and effects, or other ways possible I wrap my selfies to the theme subject. I also write a little "diary entry" alongside each photo, surrounding the theme as well. Having daily themes is good for a selfie project. You won't end up flooding your Instagram with meaningless selfies. All that little extra effort, it takes time. Plus, if you want people to engage with your photos, as in like and comment, you will want to keep up a good quality and do at least a little retouching. Minimal retouching includes adjusting the brightness, contrast, saturation and other similar attributes of the photo. This doesn't mean you need to make your photos look overly done. Only better than quick, raw snaps.
As I mentioned before, I have lost few of my older followers (including some I thought are my friends, but maybe not) due to my new project. For some less active users who don't follow that many people, I assume, the Instagram's new algorithm caused them see too many of my selfies in a row. Instagram switched from chronological timeline to algorithmic and some users haven't yet realised it. For others my much more consistent photo sharing probably reminds them that they are following me and they don't really want to do that. Especially, if following me means they have to see my mug every day. Really, I haven't interviewed the unfollowers, so who knows what their reasons are. But if you start to post more photos than before and if you post mostly or only selfies, there's a chance that some people will run and hide. It is best not to try and think about their reasons too much. Posting selfies is so personal that thinking why someone never liked your photos or why they unfollowed you... Well, you start to take it personally. Very, very personally.
Then there's spam. Of course. Occasionally I get spam comments, but there's been very little of them so far. And of course there are those spam accounts (or hijacked accounts) that tag me in their spammy photos. Again, not that often. I always report them. The most spam, for me, comes in the form of follows. There are two types of spam follows. First, the most usual type, are those who follow me to gain followers and then unfollow when they've got me (or when I don't follow them back in due time). The other type are the accounts that are more obviously spambots and such. Those "get 1000 free followers" etc. They try to get me so that they can scam me, spam my direct messages or to hijack my account to make me post spam. Those I also try to report, if I notice them. Obviously I miss some notifications of follows and likes and comments, since I get lots of notifications and Instagram only shows a limited amount of them. So some of the spam may slip through my fingers and go unreported by me.
Besides, the perks trump the bad stuff. For those who are like me, there's a high threshold of doing a project like this. I am extremely uncomfortable in front of a camera. I don't like the way I look in photos and I am generally highly self-conscious. However I have noticed that this project has boosted my confidence, both in front of a camera and otherwise too. Surprisingly I have became less worried about my appearances. You might think it would be the other way around, but nope. I have realised that not wanting to be photographed is a sign of vanity. So you don't always look great on camera. Nobody does. Get over yourself already! Another thing that has helped is the response. Humans connect with faces. You see faces everywhere. That car looks sad. That power socket is angry. That house is surprised. The moon has a face too. Selfies and other photos of people on Instagram get lots of likes and quite many comments too. All the comments I've received have been supportive and kind. To make my confidence fly, I have kept and gained way more new followers than I've lost.
Sometimes it's easy to forget that there's always morning in somewhere on the earth. This means that there's no one universally perfect time when you should post photos on Instagram in order to get the most of the engagement. As in elsewhere online, testing the different times is the only way to find out when it's the right time for you to post your photos. It depends on your followers and other people you want to engage. When are they active? It is important to notice that the amount of likes and comments is not tied only in the time when the selfie is posted. The quality of the selfie, the theme and colours (pink elements in the photos appears allure more engagement), how well the photo "pops up" from the feed and the hashtag pages, and when people just happen to be around, are amongst the factors. Not everyone uses Instagram regularly and consistently, so your followers and others may show up to comment and like your photos at different times. There are too many variables, which will cause too many variable errors. Never trust anyone who says they know the best times to be active on social media. They are fools, distracted by causality. (Hey, there's a whole world outside the U.S. Don't forget us, when making your silly predictions.)
And why did I start this project? A couple of decades ago I hopped on a test drive of a magnetic train somewhere in northern Germany. The people running the tests and the train kept telling all of us that it is just a test. At a point, the train touched a rail, which caused a puff of black smoke inside the train. Again, we were told that this is only a test. As if it was supposed to make it better. Don't worry. If we crash and you die, this is just a test. Well, this is, as many of the things I do on social media, my blog, in life, another test. In this case, I'm sure nobody will die (unless they get too shocked about my photos). I'm testing who keeps following me and who goes, the amount of comments and likes, what kinds of selfies (smiling/blank expression/artsy/cute/highly manipulated/with props/etc) get the most engagement, which hashtags to use, times to post, who comments and likes, when and who follows me and then some. If some smoke comes in, don't worry, it is just a test. Besides of making notes within Instagram I also use some external services such as the free Instagram account checkup of Union Metrics and Crowdfire to determine the effects and the affects.
My main purpose for sharing daily selfies on Instagram is highly professional. I have came to a sad realisation that nobody really knows that I exist. Or if they do, they don't have a clue what I do and why they should care. Like the other day, someone at Facebook asked me if I make websites. I almost answered something in the type of d'uh, but then went on and told that is exactly what I do. Yes, you can find out what I do on my website and social media profiles. But if you aren't actively looking for that information, you'll miss it. Thus this project is a part of my personal branding. Showing my face, telling who I am and what I'm about, underlining my personality. With the selfies I include short "diary entries", in which I sometimes talk about work related issues. In a form of these posts I tell what I do, why I do it, what are my thoughts about doing it. That I make websites. That I design logos and other branding. That I do marketing.
Besides the more professional and distant reasons, I also do this for very personal motives. As I mentioned before, I have been very uncomfortable in front of a camera. This is a way for me to get more comfy, less self-conscious and to boost my confidence. While each unfollow harms my my confidence and makes me again more self-conscious, the amount of positive feedback and new followers helps a lot.
While this has been quite a short time to make any long-term observations, I have already seen a lot of the good, the bad and the ugly of sharing daily selfies. The bad includes the time and effort I have to put to it and the few followers, who have unfollowed me due to the project. The ugly are the spammers, fortunately sparse so far. The good has been the increase in followers, likes and comments, getting myself out there and the personal perks. As personal perks I count the boost of confidence and the more comfortable approach to being in front of the camera. To me, the good has thus far been walking over the bad and the ugly.
Got interested? Follow me at Instagram.
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I'm Mervi Emilia Eskelinen, an artist and online presence strategist from Finland. I coach and consult indie businesses and bloggers to find focus with their branding, marketing and web. I have almost 20 years of experience, a bachelor's degree and some fun certifications in everything about digital media and marketing.