Making Connections Through Instagram

At EnVeritas Group, I write for the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, working mainly on properties in Europe. Last year, I wrote about hotels in Ålesund and Bergen, Norway, and I was struck by the natural beauty and unique history of both these cities. Naturally, I wasn’t content to just look at pictures, so off my friend Cara and I go this weekend.

We have a stop in Copenhagen, which is the home of Noma. Have you heard of it? Cara, the reservation wizard, landed us a lunch date, and I’m really excited. I started following Chef Rene Redzepi on Instagram and have already caught glimpses of what might end up on our plates. Through some other clicks and hashtags, I found another Instagram account of a Noma employee named Katherine, who posts more behind-the-scenes shots of staff meals and activities. Needless to say, following these accounts has certainly generated more excitement leading up to our experience.

Furthermore, I am always struck by the accessibility that Instagram offers, something we see in following celebrities. They are choosing to post pictures of their out-of-the-spotlight lives and allowing others (us, the plebeian population) in without the obtrusive paparazzi.

I reached out to my friend Shannon, who lives in Greenville and is an adept Instagram user, for her thoughts on its use for both individuals and businesses. She recently spent a weekend in Nashville with friends she met via Instagram, so I certainly wanted to hear what she had to say about the app. Her reply was too succinct and excellent to try and paraphrase. Admittedly, this turned into more of a guest post, but I pass the reins willingly.

 

Here are Shannon’s thoughts:

“On followership:

Personally, I enjoy making connections with people all over the world with whom I have some common interest, be it aesthetic, lifestyle, faith, food, etc. I began using Instagram in 2011 as a means of keeping up with friends, so naturally I only followed friends. But the more I used it, the more I explored its ability to share stories through photos, and the more I enjoyed reading the stories of people I had never personally met. At first, this was a little strange—following along picture by picture, comment by comment with a person I had never met face-to-face—but it became fun, and I began to realize the potential for real, personal connection.

Frequency of posts also affects followership. There was a spell of a few months where I was posting at least 2 photos every day—photos of things I genuinely enjoyed, found funny, thought to be beautiful, or just things that were part of my story. This was probably when I saw the most increase in followership. But then comes the question of motive. The why of every post. And I had to start asking myself if I was sharing moments just to share them or because they were special and worth sharing. This is up for debate, but I personally chose to chill with the posting-just-to-post and to post moments that were truly worth sharing with photos that are truly aesthetically pleasing. People still followed, just not at the rate they were.

To be honest, the Instagrammers with the biggest followership tend to be the ones who have a very clear niche (i.e. landscapes, portraits, animals, food), which self-admittedly I don’t have. I post photos of things that are beautiful to me. Period. So sometimes it’s a photo of my friend who I’m having coffee with, sometimes it’s the coffee I’m drinking with her, and sometimes it’s the coffee shop we’re sitting in. Or sometimes it’s just the VW van that I wish I owned or the burger I’m about to stuff in my face. They’re things that mean something to me—things that help tell my story.

 

On connecting:

Finding people to connect with can happen in various ways. One big way is through hashtags. If you click on #makeportraits, you’re instantly going to see tons of photos of people, and from there, you can find Instagrammers who love posting photos of people. From there, you can find an Instagrammer whose “story” you find interesting and worth following. From there, you can interact with the user about whatever they share. Through these comments, connections are formed. The longer the connection exists and the more frequent the exchange, the deeper the friendship becomes. It’s really as deep or shallow as one chooses.

Another way of connecting is, as mentioned before, browsing through the profiles of people followed by the Instagrammers you follow or find inspiring—they draw their inspiration from somewhere too!

Instagram also has a “suggested user” list of profiles they choose to feature. There are some great ones there, and I have had some friends featured for their beautiful photo-storytelling.

I’ve had the joy of turning online friendships into face-to-face friendships on several occasions; and every time I have, I’ve left so thankful for a chance to meet wonderful, inspiring people with whom I may have never interacted or befriended otherwise.

 

On Instagram for business:

Instagram is perhaps one of the greatest tools a business can use for marketing because of its ability to communicate a brand and personality clearly while simultaneously connecting with potential business partners, clients and networks. Other than a company’s actual website, I can’t think of another medium wherein a business can exude their brand so clearly. The combination of photos and text communicate (or should communicate) the narrative of your organization. And everyone seeks to connect with narrative. The key for businesses is to remember to maintain the persona of the organization and to have a consistently clear brand.”

 

Great, right? Anyway, I’m excited about my upcoming trip and look forward to utilizing Instagram. I think it is easy to self-question motives like Shannon talked about, but I can’t stop thinking about an email my grandmother recently sent me: “Take pictures; at least I can see Norway through your eyes.” If for that reason only, I will snap plenty of photos.

Jeanne Petrizzo – Writer/Editor

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