Ben WoodsEurope Editor
Ben is a technology journalist with a specialism in mobile devices and a geeky love of mobile spectrum issues. Ben used to be a professional Ben is a technology journalist with a specialism in mobile devices and a geeky love of mobile spectrum issues. Ben used to be a professional online poker player. You can contact him via Twitter or on Google+.
About six weeks ago, I started a mini experiment to find out if I was too late (or too old) to hop on the Instagram and Snapchat trains.
As a mid-thirties male, I’m not really in the demographic for either product, or I certainly don’t feel like I am. Nonetheless, it’s time to take a look at if or how my habits have changed during that time.
Well, the fact that it’s been six weeks rather than a month should be a hint towards my success thus far – like the rest of the world, I’m short on time and have an awfully long to-do list.
Why am I boring you with this minutiae of my life? Because it follows that being super-busy and establishing a presence on two new social networks don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand – and that’s a problem you’re likely to face if you’re considering a similar endeavour. If you’re considering improving your brand, make sure you have time for it.
Initially, no doubt helped along by having an international platform to write about my test on, I saw a quick uptick in followers and friends across both platforms. Nothing major, just a handful on each.
SMH, or whatever the kids would say.
After publishing the initial article, I had a few more ‘friends’ in my list, but I still haven’t had much interaction.
Snapchat’s Story approach that strings together individual snaps isn’t one that feels natural to me and given my lack of one-on-one messaging, I’m still struggling to see if Snapchat has anything to offer me. I’m going to give it one more chance for the holidays.
While I’ve been considering it for more a ‘personal’ communication, I’ll attempt to use it as a ‘personal brand’ machine or distribution exercise for my work. I know others who successfully use Stories in this way.
As with any messaging app, what I’ve found is that it’s not a lot of use unless all your friends are on it, and as a lot of my friends are about the same age as me, that doesn’t tend to be the go-to service.
My half-hearted hope that it could bring me into contact with interesting people I otherwise wouldn’t have communicated with hasn’t yet materialized.
In all honesty, six weeks later, I’m no further along with Snapchat than I was at the beginning.
Instagram is a bit of a different beast – I expected to have a little more success, but pretty much failed here too.
It was, however, a more considered failure.
I tried posting a few different things – cute pet pics, stupid observations, pointless insights into my life – and got a little bit of engagement; a few likes, the odd comment… but it didn’t feel like I was ‘doing it right.’
And unfortunately, Pawel Wroniecki’s comment on the pic below (“Not much success on your account at this moment from your post ☺”) was bang on the money. Thanks, Pawel.
Like anyone trying to do better, I turned to others for advice about Instagram, but that only confused the matter further. For example, TNW’s Editor-in-Chief Matt Hussey posts frequently and peppers most of his posts with a barrage of hashtags. But straight from the millennials’ mouths you’ll find other people saying that posting more frequently than once a week and using any hashtags at all are a total no-no. Frankly, if I hadn’t used hashtags in some of the posts, I doubt they would have been ‘liked’ at all without the extra chance of being discovered. I guess the approach you take will depend on who you think your audience will be. Having tried a few of both, I think I’ll be sticking with hashtags for now.
Dusting off the #decks to sharpen up the #scratching skills. Sorry, neighbours. #Saturdays A photo posted by Ben Woods (@thenextwoods) on
It’ll also probably help engagement if your pictures really ‘pop’, as people slightly cringingly say. I’ve only been using a smartphone to remark upon things, but with little consideration for how the shots will particularly look.
Putting more thought into that framing, or even using a dedicated camera for Instagram shots, would probably yield better results.
What it seems is that engagement is more ‘superficial’ here than on other networks like Twitter, where the point of the communication is discussion around a topic.
You can do that with Instagram (in a way that you can’t with the ephemeral Snapchat) but it doesn’t feel like a very natural fit. Perhaps that’s just because I’m still an Instagram noob.
Despite not having posted anything in the last couple of weeks (at least! Did I mention I was busy?), I’m going to double-down my efforts on Instagram and resume posting.
See you back here in another month. That’s six weeks to you and me.
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