For the past week or so I have been totally, disgustingly engrossed in understanding Instagram. How to get people to like your post. How to get followers. What makes great content. Where to source great content. When to post, what hashtags to use. On and on.
There are a few lessons I’ve learned about human behavior just from browsing around, owning a niche account, and seeing what people like and dislike.
The most important lesson: the best content is divided into two categories — your dreams and reality.
Reality content only works when there is social, observational commentary about everyday life. Comedy, or a play on comedy. Something to make you smile. Meme pages are the definition of unbelievably effective reality based content.
Example: The meme account fuckjerry has over 14 million followers. A typical post looks like this:
It’s relatable, it’s reality. We (the target, millennial Americans) know what living with roommates is like, we know what this situation is like, we know what Venmo is, we know what ketchup is. It’s purely a reality based observation. Note fuckjerry’s profile picture: the classic jazz cup design from the 1990s. We know what that is, too.
I’d argue posting selfies on Instagram for your friends to see is rooted in reality. Well, unless you’re an attractive person, then it’s rooted in male and female fantasy (“I want her/him” or “I want to be like her/him”).
The second facet of engaging content is your dreams. What do you dream about? A big mansion? A house in the suburbs? A really nice car? A nice vacation? Do you dream about tantalizing desserts? Or, maybe you dream about being an entrepreneur and being productive.
All of these things are so beautifully put in front of our faces as vulnerable consumers.
We just can’t resist. It’s important to note that the most powerful dreams we have are the ones that seem doable, the ones that we perceive as being achievable. Those donuts seem like something we can probably eat somewhere. Being the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or having a billion dollars, that’s much, much more incomprehensible to our dreams, and therefore less powerful. Dreams are extensions of our reality, such as aiming to make $100,000 a year instead of $60,000 a year, something we can comprehend and chase after.
We humans love to fantasize. Maybe that’s how we’ve gotten so far in terms of our technological development. We basically live in a fantasy world that has been built through thousands of years of civilization. We inject our eyeballs with these glory shots via the media far too much throughout the day.
It may also be said our dreams are made up by the environment we live in, and therefore the culture we are part of. If your friends like cars, if you like looking at pictures of cars, naturally you will chase after a nice car. We have a strong desire to fulfill the dreams we feed ourselves. It’s the two step flow: Initiate objective (“I want a vacation in Thailand”), then obsess about objective until objective gets fulfilled. After, of course, post your fulfilled objective (vacation pics of you in Thailand) on Instagram and wait for other people to follow your dreams as soon as their senses start tingling with obsessive excitement over the idea of visiting Thailand. Therefore, we see a trickle down of dreams in terms of capital. Rich people can do basically whatever they want, and they feed the dreams to us mere mortals. Us mere mortals feed our normalcy to the poor as dreams of a middle class life. We’ll spend whatever money it takes to satiate the obsessive desire to fulfill the dreams that the wealthier have set in front of us.
Advertisers know these tricks all too well. It’s why advertising works so gosh darn well. Feed the consumer mouth-watering images, or be the relatable brand (a la Wendy’s on Twitter), and you have yourself some paying customers. Make the images you present to your viewer so ridiculously sexy that they just cannot resist. Their mind spirals out of control with obsessive thoughts about the product. The obsessions only work if the dreamy imagery seems possible and comprehensible. Relatableness and dreams are interconnected.
As for relatable, reality based content with no product to solve our problems (most notably, memes), that’s where we can bring ourselves back to Earth and realize we, together as people, are mere mortals. We are all one big human race, we are all friends. A social connectedness, rather than a social competition inherent in our dreams. That sort of thing.