Telling Your Story via Instagram

On Wednesday I spoke at the Ohio Union via the AMA/Cement Marketing here in Columbus. I spoke about how I share my story through Instagram and thought I’d post my talk up here on my blog for those that couldn’t attend! Feel free to let me know if you have any questions!

Over the years, I’ve realized that I actually prefer to tell my story through photos (I don’t even really love writing or speaking). I use Instagram to tell my story (a part of my story, actually, but we’ll get into that later). I joined Instagram almost two years ago to this day and my first photo was of my dog…sleeping. Extremely riveting, I know. Since then, my participation in this online community has grown a lot and it’s now one of my favorite places to visit.

Because of my Instagram account (and the ability to push photos to Twitter and Facebook), I am able to do a lot of things. It allows potential clients get to know me a little better before jumping into a project. It allows my blog readers to see into my life a bit more. It also allows my friends and family who live far away to be a part of my life. I am always carrying a camera. Lately that camera has been my iPhone 4S.

Before we get into Instagram specifically, I’d love to share a few tips on how to take great photos.

  • Get Closer: Don’t be afraid to crop and compose your shot when taking it. I think a lot of people rely too heavily on the crop tool after they have taken the photo. That can result in more pixelated photos and there’s something really challenging about composing the shot while taking it.
  • Remember the Rule of Thirds: You essentially slice the photo into thirds horizontally and vertically and try to frame the photo along one of the lines. It’s proven that a photo composed this way is much more interesting than a centered subject.
  • Take Multiple Shots:  Sometimes when I’m taking a photo with the purpose of posting it to Instagram, I’ll take 5-8 shots to make sure I have one that I like. Instagram has you crop your photo into a perfect square so that amazing photo you took (vertically) might not always look as good in Instagram.
  • Tap to Focus: Just like when you use a DSLR, you need to make sure your subject is in focus. Maybe the subject is up close, maybe it’s farther away.
  • Be Aware of Light: Choose natural lighting if possible. Move near a window. Avoid using your flash. If you’re trying to take a photo at a concert and the lightshow is amazing, turn the flash off and give your audience a real idea of what your’e experiencing.

The story that I choose to share with others is carefully crafted.

I’m very picking when it comes to posting on my Instagram feed. The story that I choose to share with others is carefully crafted. My audience doesn’t always know every detail about my life. I’m painting a specific picture, just like storytelling. While I’m not necessarily fabricating or lying – I am leaving  a little bit up to your imagination.

Some things that I try to avoid:

  • Posting too many food photos. I have a specific account that focuses on recipes and food photos since I’m gluten-free. Those people can choose to follow that and they know exactly what their getting.
  • Posting photos of other people posed (my followers don’t really connect with them). I tend to post those types of photos to Facebook. I also try to respect peoples’ privacy. If you become that person who will post 50 unflattering photos of your friends…they might stop inviting you to hang out.
  • Posting too many photos of myself. That would get old quick.

When it comes to writing captions, I try to be natural (like I’m texting a friend). Sometimes I tag people if it references an inside joke or a past conversation. Sometimes I ask a question. Sometimes I use a hashtag if it’s applicable.

Ultimately, I treat Instagram the same way that I treat Twitter or my blog or even real relationships. It’s a community and without engagement…it’s boring. I try to respond to most comments (but I’m not perfect at this). I also interact with other peoples’ photos. We get a glimpse into other peoples’ lives and it’s extremely fascinating.

I’ve met so many wonderful people through using Instagram. It’s strengthened my relationships and friendships and for that, I love it! Ultimately (and I’ve learned this through blogging), I’ve realized that:


You won’t produce interesting content if you don’t try new things. I must travel, eat at a new restaurant, be outside, immerse myself around interesting things (books, speakers, art) to produce interesting photos. Each time I choose to post a photo to Instagram, I hope that I’m either adding to others’ lives, sharing information or just documenting an important moment for myself. And in the end – have fun with it! Use it to add to your life and your business. It’s one of my favorite tools and I’m excited to see it grow.

Are you on Instagram? What’s your favorite thing about it? Leave your username below!

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Comments (26)

  • username @smallsight: I love visual storytelling and instagram is such a fast, simple platform for it. Lately I have been focused on variety, as you mentioned not overdoing it with food pics. Still a lot to learn though, thanks for sharing your talk! carly

  • I’m @instajade there and I too am an IG addict! My favourite thing is the mix of people I follow. One photo might be a staged pic of food, the next, a cute puppy! It’s a great way to get insight into the lives of people around the world.

    The only thing I don’t like about IG is the amount of spam I’ve been seeing lately in comments. Boo hiss to spam!

  • username: espuma_del_mar

    obviously, i like photos…so instagram is my favorite social network. though work sometimes burns me out on having a camera on me at all times and ALL social media burns me out in general, so i go through heavy and light phases.

  • great tips! as my kids get into it more I try to impress upon the same ideas. I, too, have wonderful virtual friends that I’ve only been able to meet because of instagram.

    cheers! –
    – @seagrassstudio

  • socialmonet

    Love your blog and work Allison! Instagram [@socialmonet] is great for me as I cultivate my brand (commicatioms work and events in the DC region). I am working on a new blog to launch soon and it has guaged a lot of interest with friends, brands and potential clients! IT shows a peak into my life my passions and anuthing that inspires me… I have even created daily/weekly content and created hashtags and even worked with a major brand recently just from PHOTOS. I also auto-post select photos to FB and twitter.

  • socialmonet

    **Excuse the typos

  • Great tips! IG has easily become my top favorite social media app and lately I’ve tried to get more intentional about the photos I post — quality over quantity. Thanks for this post — I’m going to start following you now!

    I’m @thatginnagirl on IG

  • I think my favorite thing about it is other people’s feeds, it’s fascinating you can connect through a photo. The funny part of this is it’s my least personal social media outlet. I noticed on Twitter, if people follow, I don’t mind sharing what I did for the day and people can take it as is. However, when I post personal photos of my husband and family, it does feel like a sense of security is at risk. I like to post photos of things rather than moments on Instagram. Yours is one of my faves, you’re on of the busiest people i know of!

    • I totally agree. During my presentation, I made a statement about how Instagram lets you share life. So I can follow YOU and see bits of yours but then you can also do the same with me. It’s fun to meet people that way. And yes- I try to avoid too many “personal” photos. Although I feel like most of my followers that interact are people I sort of know already.

  • I’m delighted I stumbled upon your lovely blog just in time for this post! I’ve just started delving into Instagram via my husband’s much fancier-phone-than-mine and your tips are simple but great. Looking forward to applying them and hopefully seeing much better results :)

    • I’m glad you did too!! You live in Scotland?? I absolutely love Scotland and want to go back ASAP. Be sure to follow me on Instagram and comment to say hi so I can follow you back :)

  • Thanks for the tips! I feel very self-conscious when it comes to photography and I really need to become more relaxed..

    • Yes! Just have fun with it – definitely using the same filter helps keep things consistent but other than that I don’t have many other “must-do” tips.

  • My Instagram is a hodge podge of what I ate, who I hung out with and what I saw.
    I’d love for it to be more of a collection of moments but I’m sure it will get there. Every now and again, I’ll upload something I have taken with my DSLR but I tag it as such.

    I’ve worked out how to use a hashtag so I can send my scuba diving photographs off to my Dive Mistress facebook feed and website – that was a real win!

    I loved this post of yours – some wonderful tips. Where do I find this gluten free account?

    Thank you again!

    • Mine was like that for awhile too – Tara. No worries at all. It’s fun to experiment. There are times that I want to use my IG account to just post all the random things I see – maybe I need another one :)

      My gluten-free account is : @glutenfreepal

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