Insta Interiors - It's a 'Thing'

I've been using Instagram as a platform for photo sharing for five years now, primarily for photos of the kids, my shoes and what I've made for dinner.  Last December, I decorated my house for Christmas and put on a couple of posts.  I'd used hashtags before but generally for comedy purposes (hashtag toomuchwine, hashtag hangover, hashtag wtfwasithinking are a few examples) and not with the intention of attracting followers.  I hash tagged my Christmas decorations with a couple of interior style tags and before I knew it, I had 35 likes.   

This was a revelation!  I'd never had 35 likes and was spurred on for more.  By February I had started posting home styling shots.  I'd always been obsessed with interiors and photography so this for me was the perfect hobby.  I started doing the hashtag Mystylephotochallenge.  If you have never taken part in this challenge, I'd recommend it.  It's based on one post a day and you're given a daily prompt.  It's a really friendly group and there are often long discussion threads on posts.  Everybody 'knew' each other which is what leads me on to my next point.

 Me, Tina and Dee arriving at Abigail Ahern Design Masterclass

Me, Tina and Dee arriving at Abigail Ahern Design Masterclass

You don't actually 'know' the people that you are chatting with.  You've never met them.  All you see is their photographs.  I've spent the last three years monitoring my kids Instagram accounts, making sure they knew all their followers, checking their accounts were private.  Never follow people you don't know!  Block people who attempt to follow you!  And here I was, merrily chatting about family matters, PMT and what I was having for lunch when all I knew was their Instagram name. It went against everything that I had taught my kids.  When I joined in on group chats, Joe was convinced I was being groomed at the age of 45.  It seemed quite mad to anyone who was outside the Instagram 'circle'.

Most of my life, I've been a bit out on a limb with my interior style.  I can stand in the school playground or walk around Tesco's and not meet a single person who would be interested in discussing interiors with me.  It's not everyone's thing.  There's a certain type of person who has the interiors bug.  You know who you are.  Constantly moving furniture, constantly decorating, constantly vignetting (is that a word?), constantly on the next project.  And addicted to Homesense.  On Instagram, there are hundreds of us.  We are all obsessed.  We use the same hashtags and as such, have formed what I would call an Insta Interiors group.  It's huge - our 'members' come from all around the UK, Australia, Scandinavia, United States, Canada and more.  We are all drawn together by our love of one thing.  Decorating our houses.

 Gratuitous photograph of Abigail Ahern's living room

Gratuitous photograph of Abigail Ahern's living room

For people outside this circle, it's absolutely impossible to understand.  We call each other 'friends' but most of the time, we've never met or even spoken.   So when my Insta Friend Dee Campling asked me if I wanted to go on the Abigail Ahern Design Masterclass with her, I jumped at the chance to see if we really did have as much in common as it seemed.  After recruiting another online friend, Tina, to come with us, we booked on and last Saturday we all met in London.  When we had explained to our friends and family that we were each travelling 300 miles to meet a group of people whom we had only previously met online, they had all look askance at us as though we were slightly deranged and were off to be drawn and quartered by serial killers.

 Tina on Abigail Ahern's stairs shortly before the bannister broke

Tina on Abigail Ahern's stairs shortly before the bannister broke

They needn't have worried.  It was as if we had known each other for years.  We'd had so many Insta conversations that we knew loads about each other already. When we met up for drinks and dinner with Pie Creative and Lou Watkins, two other Insta Friends, nobody could get a word in edgeways.  It was such a success that we are arranging to meet up again.  There's a North of England meet up scheduled for September too.

 Me, Lou, Dee, Tina, Pie and four rounds of gin and tonics

Me, Lou, Dee, Tina, Pie and four rounds of gin and tonics

There are downsides to this obsession, however.  My iPad or phone are nearly always by my side and if I lose battery life I have palpitations.  Joe complains regularly that I spend more time on my Instagram account than talking to him and my kids complain that I spend more time on my phone than they do.  It's an issue.  There should be a help group called Instagrammers Anonymous.

When you are passionate about something, it's the best thing in the world to be able to converse with other people who feel the same way that you do.  They join in on your decorating triumphs and commiserate with you when interior projects go wrong.  It's a constantly moving forum of advice and suggestions. 

 The totally necessary Abigail Ahern house shot

The totally necessary Abigail Ahern house shot

So want to give it a try?  Here are some top tips if you want to go big on Instagram:

Post Daily

Try something like the hashtag Mystylephotochallenge for starters.  It's a brilliant way to get into posting and it's coordinated by @melanie.1811.   I've been doing @fatmumslim hashtag Fmsphotoaday this month and that's been great fun too.  Use the filters on your photos, they can transform them from average to fab. The same obviously applies to selfies.  Hashtag filteredasf**k is a favourite one invented by @deecampling.

Talk To People

The more you post, the more you will find yourself chatting to other Instagram users.  People in this niche are very friendly!  Watch out for the nutters and the trolls.  They are around and you need to be sensible as it's an online forum.  If you communicate with others, you'll gain followers and find other like minded Instagrammers to follow yourself.  The more you converse, comment and like photos, the more you will appear in the Explore pages and suggestions to follow.  Instagram alga rhythms can be a bit flaky and difficult to predict but you soon get the hang of how to play them.

Hashtag The F**k Out Of Everything

This is my personal favourite.  There are hundreds of interior tags to use.  Obviously there are the basics such as interior, interiordesign, kitchen, livingroom and so on, but try tags like vintage, retro, revamp, myhome, instahome.  The list is endless.  There are lots of blogs, UK and internationally, that use hashtags to find photographs for their pages.  Try apartmenttherapy, atmine, interior4all and jungalowstyle.

Tag Products & Companies

Tag the products in your home with the store that it came from.  It's rare that a mainstream or even independent store or shop doesn't have an Instagram feed.  If your sofa is from DFS or your wallpaper is from Cole & Son, tag them in the photograph.  Often these accounts regram good posts and credit you which means more followers.  

 Another gratuitous shot featuring the lamp I need to own but is too expensive

Another gratuitous shot featuring the lamp I need to own but is too expensive

The inspiration to be taken from Instagram interiors is huge.  Need living room ideas?  Hashtag living room.  Kitchen ideas?  Hashtag kitchen.  Hundreds and thousands of images all at your disposal and free of charge.  And if you want to ask opinions?  Post a photo and I can guarantee that you will get immediate responses from other interior addicts ranging from first time decorators to full blown interior designers, hailing from Abergavenny to Australia, Bradford to Boston and Castleford to California.

So give it a try, you won't be disappointed.  And be prepared to join Instagrammers Anonymous.