Day 5: To be mass market or authentic?

To recap: my target is to monetise my cats in a small way via Instagram within 365 days by strategic trial and error.

So my sister texted me today after I had a manic day at work:

“51 followers!!!!”

Oh, ok. I passed a micro milestone today. Yay me! I promptly make myself coffee to celebrate.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

While waiting for the water to boil, I post an innocuous comment on someone’s cat photo. By the time I’ve stirred my coffee and gone back to my PC, that someone has become a follower.

That’s pretty much been my life the past three days. I’ve had to make several tweaks to my week’s execution plan due to reasons (read: I just felt like it):

On #2, I have to admit, I am struggling. I have a slew of Nala baby photos in my gallery to appeal to the mass market but I cannot resist prioritising the caption over the photo.

I mean, cute photos are nice to look at but they are difficult to caption in an interesting way. It brings forth the question, can cuteness stand alone without much personality?

What am I saying? Of course it can. That’s how a lot of good-looking people get by in life.

Yet I shy away from just posting a cute baby photo and put up some saccharine caption to complement it. It’s so not me. It’s not “on-brand”. I suppose this is the point where I start thinking about what my friend A said a few days ago.

She asked me which type of Instagrammer I was aiming to be: seemingly casual or pro-Instagrammer? Being a social media dunce, of course I asked her what that meant. She explained that seemingly casual tend to exhibit more authentic looking photos that don’t look edited or made up, whereas the pros really look like pro photos with pro set-ups.

She also set off another bee in my bonnet when she asked me this:

In your research, do you find that guinea pig IG that’s more made up with photo shoots does better than the more realistic ones with poop and dirty-ish pens?

Good question. As a start, I decided I would focus on 1 account and check the trend of likes on posts there. Because to be honest, I mainly follow 1 account.

So I put on my analyst cap and began doing random sampling of that popular guinea pig account I mentioned on Day 3. I’d select and review the likes and comments on photos of the same guinea pigs, so that cuteness is a constant factor across. What I needed to do was breakdown the three archetypes of posts from the account.

I picked 30 pictures: 10 photoshoot-style pics, 10 overtly funny pics, 10 “realistic” pics with poop, warts and all. Is this a meaningful sample size you ask? The answer is no, because I’m lazy. I just think 10 each is probably enough to draw a base comparison.

I wish there was a way to export IG stuff into a spreadsheet. It would make my life a lot easier.

Anyway, based on the data collected:

Huh, funny wins hands down and has the highest engagement. Followed by photoshoot-style posts and then finally the “realistic” photos. This is interesting. People don’t really fancy seeing the warts on IG, I guess?

I wondered briefly if you could do PhDs on things like this. But then I thought, do I really want to be looking intensively at animal photos on IG for 3+ years?

…probably not.

But I digress. From this rough analysis, it does seem like I would probably be ok in the long run by prioritising caption and funny photos over the made-up material. So I think I will aim for the seemingly casual persona. Except that I actually am casual. I still have no idea what I’m doing.

With that, I’ve decided to maintain the brand. Caption is priority, then maybe sprinkle a few obscenely cute photos every now and then to spice things up. Then maybe I can score higher on engagement. #2 in my execution plan is still relevant, but I need to find a good balance.

Remember from Day 2, it’s not about the number of followers you have, it’s about the level of engagement with the followers.

Also people don’t really like seeing the warts. When people say they want to see “realistic/authentic” things, they still want to see a curated version of reality on their feeds most of the time. Life poops on us enough as it is, we don’t really want to see proverbial poop on social media on top of that. Maybe that’s the psychology behind it. So keep photos clean and neat.

Where am I at now?

As of today, I am averaging about 10 followers a day and ~12–13 likes per photo. Follower addition is plateauing but getting a bit more engagement in terms of likes and comments. Is this good? I have no idea.

Getting one or two comments which seem to appreciate the captions, though, which kind of made my day when I read them. I made someone chuckle in another part of the world.

It’s a good feeling.

Avid experimenter and social observer