How To Instagram Over Age 50 and Be Cool Doing It

An interview with a millennial with the dos and don’ts

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook and I know I’m not alone. I hear the same story from my friends: we love the photos, keeping up with friends and family, and reading the interesting articles. We don’t like the rants, the never-ending political posts, and the TMI statuses from folks who take the what’s on your mind? prompt literally. Some say they just scroll by that stuff, but to me, it’s like a passing a car accident or walking by a dead rodent — once you see it, you can’t undo the visual impact. On top of this, my friend list is over 350 and it feels a bit unwieldy. So what to do?

About a year ago, my daughter proclaimed that Facebook was fading in popularity with younger adults and that the shift was to Instagram. (This may explain why Facebook bought Instagram in 2012.) I did a bit of research and discovered that Instagram is the fastest growing social media platform, but that 90% of its users are under 35. According to the Pew Research Center, only 18% of online adults between the ages of 50 and 64 use Instagram, but that usage is expected to increase. Being a wanna-be trendsetter, I immediately opened an Instagram account and decided to spend less time on Facebook.

Why Instagram? How is it different?

Here’s what I discovered about Instagram and why you may love it if you haven’t already taken the leap.

Fun and Upbeat — This social media platform offers photos posted by your friends, family and others you choose to follow. Your feed is simply filled with photos and typically brief captions — no other junk. You can post a short video (less than 60 seconds), but photos dominate the feed. There are also fun photo editing effects that are a riot to tinker with.

Simple to Use — Instagram is easy to learn. There is a like button and a comment button. People don’t tend to ramble. There are plenty of tutorials that explain how to set up an account, post a photo and navigate through the various settings. When in doubt, ask a kid.

Mobile Friendly — You access Instagram through an app on your phone or tablet. Although you can access Instagram on your computer, you can only view and not post pics.

24-Hour Feature — There’s a newer feature that allows users to post photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours (sort of like Snapchat). These Instagram Stories appear at the top of your feed in little circles. These tend to be used by brands trying to increase their engagement rates, but is a feature you can play with once you get the handle on the basics.

“Friends” are Different — The notion of friends is different than on Facebook. There are followers (people who see your feed) and people you choose to follow. Those lists may not be identical. In other words, just because someone follows you, it doesn’t mean you need to follow them, and vice versa. It’s an opportunity to pare your friend list down, being selective about who you allow to follow you.

Privacy Feature — You have the ability to set your account to private, protecting photos and enabling you to approve people who may want to follow you. I recommend this setting unless you’re a blogger, photographer, business owner or brand, and want to expand your following.

Less Time — Instagram typically takes less time than Facebook because of its simplicity, photo focus, and fewer distractions. This has the potential to free up more time for the things you enjoy.

What should I know? What are the dos and don’ts?

Instagram is fairly straightforward, but in my attempt to be hip and not embarrass my kids, I interviewed a millennial and successful Instagram influencer, The Bold Brunette.

Laura G: Can I post more than one photo in one post?

TBB: Yes! Instagram added a new feature a couple of months ago where you can now upload multiple photos to the same post, and then simply swipe right to go through the “album”. Even though this feature is available, the typical Instagram etiquette is to use this album/multiple photo feature only occasionally. The vast majority of people only post ONE photo per day, MAX. This isn’t Facebook, so forget about posting your 35 vacation photos in five minutes.

Laura G: Why didn’t you like the photo I posted?

TBB: Very likely because it was low quality. Post only high-quality photos with visual interest. Your photos should look good or at least be entertaining.

Laura G: Someone I don’t know is following me? How did this happen?

TBB: By definition, Instagram is a social network meant to connect you with people from all over — some of them you know, but most of them you don’t know. If someone follows you that you don’t know, don’t freak out. It just means that they like your photos and want to see more. If, however, you feel a need for privacy and only want to be followed by people you know personally, you can set your account to private. Just tap on the profile icon, tap the gear icon to access your settings, and then turn on the private account button so the color turns to blue.

Laura G: Any advice about captions?

TBB: Say something about the photo!

Laura G: What are hashtags? Should I use them?

TBB: Hashtags are a word or phrase preceded by a hash mark (#) and are used to identify a keyword or topic and facilitate a search for it among Instagram users. On Instagram’s search tool, you can search for a hashtag and discover all of the photos that have tagged with a specific hashtag. For example, let’s say you want to see some photos of sunsets. Search #sunset and all the photos of beautiful sunsets that have been tagged with #sunset will show up. The same applies if you upload a photo of a sunset and want other people to find it — simply add #sunset.

Laura G: So, if I post a photo of my hike in the Cascade Mountains and my caption says Great hike today at Snow Lake, would my hashtags be: #cascademountains #snowlake #hikingishard #outdooradventure #over50hiker #soremuscles #awesometime #….

TBB: Exactly! Hashtags have to relate to the photo you’re posting. Just be sure that you’re only using hashtags if you have a public account. There’s no point in using them if you have a private account because hashtags are a discover tool and are only useful if your account is public.

Laura G: If I’m a photographer, a blogger, or someone else who wants to grow their Instagram following, what advice do you have?

TBB: The best piece of advice I could give anyone looking to grow their Instagram following is to engage, engage, engage. Spend a total of between two and four hours per day (yes, that much!) interacting with other Instagram accounts. It’s all about getting your name seen on Instagram, generating awareness of your account and creating relationships on the platform. But if you want way more tips, you’ll have to check out my Instagram Bootcamp.

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