Everyone Else is There: Instagram and the FOMO

One of the great things about teaching journalism and social media is that I get lots of information about what’s working in the real world from my students who have graduated and moved into great jobs.

I recently had a coffee with the press secretary to the mayor of a major city who just happened to be a former student. When I asked her if she was on Instagram, she smiled and said, ”I just got on, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long.”

I asked her what finally made her take the plunge.

Her answer? 

“Everyone else is there.”

If you are not already on Instagram, FOMO, fear of missing out, might be the nagging impetus to join the service. Whether you’re a newcomer to Instagram or you’ve been on it since 2013 when it launched, below are some tips to make sure you’re making the most of your time on the mobile photo-sharing service. But first a bit of info about Instagram.

According to Nielsen, Instagram was number 9 on the top ten smartphone apps of 2014.


In my social media classes, I spend a lot of time discussing Facebook and Twitter. For businesses already on those two platforms adding Instagram is a no-brainer because it weaves into both platforms seamlessly on Android or IOS devices.

Like Pinterest, Instagram is a visual-centric social network that can help marketers drive sales, but Instagram is better suited towards making genuine connections. While Pinterest can help you redecorate your home or create a watermelon baby carriage fruit bowl, Instagram can tug on your followers’ heartstrings with powerful photos, or get them to better understand you through your authentic, expressive images.

Social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk says Instagram has the potential to be “a small format gallery of beautiful, provocative or tantalizing images” just like you’d see in Vogue, Vanity Fair or Time magazine.

Plus Instagram is super easy to connect with Facebook and Twitter, thus extending your reach.

If you are looking to extend your reach to a broad audience, Instagram’s 300 million active monthly users provide scale.

Here are a few things to consider.

Trying to figure out how to start on Instagram? Have a look at other Instagram pages in your niche to see what sort of indie or artsy images the crowd responds to. 

I’m a big fan of the band Wilco. On a recent trip to Chicago I saw the iconic towers featured on the cover of Wilco’s album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. So I snapped a photo and published it on Instagram.


Don’t underestimate the power of quotes. Quotes can be a compelling way to help define your beliefs and purposes in ways that pictures can’t.

Much of my social media activity is about theatre, so this quote was a natural for me.


Hashtags are important—they‘re the key to increasing your audience and engaging existing followers. They’re also a great way to get in on conversations about the subjects that interest you.

Consider the benefit of posting your hashtags as a comment below your initial text. This keeps your comment free form the hashtag clutter.

Take your audience behind the scenes of your business. Who would have imagined that an image of a chandelier being cleaned would interest anyone? But the Metropolitan Opera’s Instagram photo of cleaning day received over 1,600 “likes.”


Finally, don’t be shy about posting a call to action, just don’t do it often. The 80/20 rule applies here: 80%, or even more, of your posts should share meaningful images, with 20% or less including a call to action or illustration of what’s so unique about what you’re doing. In those cases you can ask followers to “double tap if you agree,” or “visit the link in our bio for tickets,” etc.

But when it comes to those sorts of messages less is better. As Vaynerchuck notes, “No one is going to Instagram to see advertisements and stock photos. Native Instagram content is artistic, not commercial." Use your content to express yourself authentically, not commercially.


Guest blogger Keith Tomasek has taught social media and journalism at Western University. He studied theatre in Montreal, and has produced and performed shows around the world, including in Hong Kong, where he was the first Canadian artist to perform at the Hong Kong Fringe Festival.

Tomasek publishes the website Stratford Festival Reviews and The Inadequate Life: A podcast about the creative process & people whose lives depend on it. When he’s not coaching his son’s little league team, he volunteers as a social media strategist with local non-profit organizations.