I’m the founder of the @London feed and also Londongramer, the Instagram consultancy and production house. I also lead a community of 2,000 Instagramers in London and host innovative photographic and social events for the Instagram community . I feel like I come alive the most when I’m expressing myself creatively or hanging out with the community, because it is the most inspiring group of people I’ve ever met.
I’ve been using Instagram since it’s launch in October 2010. I’ve always had my own personal account since the beginning, and for over four years I used an iPhone as my sole tool to capture the world around me. For me, the platform was a refreshing change from Facebook and Twitter, and it brought out a new creative dimension in me.
Instagram itself has evolved over time. The core principles of taking images and enabling non-photographers to capture moments and share them socially remain the same. But as a platform, it’s blown up to over 300 million users and the ways in which you interact and seek out photos have become more elegant, and the Instagram app itself has become a seriously powerful tool for editing images… it’s certainly moved on from the simple suite of vintage filters that it became famous for.
For @London we treat our account as a channel with an audience. We have a global audience that likes to be entertained and informed, and that’s why we post 4 pieces of content a day. Not every instagramer will be able to post that amount of content per day, and I don’t think there should be a set pattern or rule about how people should use Instagram. But if you’re looking to grow your audience, the principle of posting every day, perhaps twice a day, would be a good habit to get into. For those in the UK it’s probably worth posting in the mornings and evenings since the U.S. will continue to engage with British users even after they’ve long gone to bed!
We hit 1 million followers in just over a year and a half. We have posted 4 unique pieces of content every day since we began back in March 2013. When we were approaching 100,000 followers, @JamieOliver gave us a shoutout from his account, which went to over a million people. We picked up 50,000 additional followers in about 12 hours, so that then changed the trajectory and speed of growth, and also brought us to the attention of quite a few people. Towards the end of 2014, Instagram also gave us the honour of being a Suggested User, which is always guaranteed to increase your following, but unlike the average instagramer, we somehow netted over 260,000 new followers in a 2-week period, which is insane when you think about it! But I guess that confirms, as has been the case across our journey so far, that the world loves London!
Instagram changes lives and saves lives. I’m serious. We’re aware that non-Instagram users might think that it’s still a platform for taking selfies and arty pictures of your flat white, but it really isn’t. It’s the most powerful, highly engaged, and community-based social network on the planet. We have people in our community who would have never met if not for the platform and the community that exists on it. There are people in our community who are now engaged having found love at an Instagram event. And one brave individual recently told me how Instagram has saved his life, literally. He was in a deep depression and even contemplating giving up on life. But, after attending the first Instagram meet we ever hosted, he was plunged into a world of creativity and connected with loving people who re-ignited his passion for photography, and it changed the trajectory of his life.
The only thing that bugs me is haters. There are people in the world with huge voids in their lives, and if you empower them with the internet and a smartphone, it can end in tears! But as Taylor Swift once said, "haters gonna hate". And so we do our best to minimise negativity and hate speech on the @London feed and moderate if needs be.
BEST LONDON INSTAGRAM ACCOUNTS
- @MattScutt Matt is an inspirational instagramer. He manages to perfectly balance the best of character and insane amounts of gifting in equal measure. Many would do well to watch and learn from this exceptional talent.
- @ByrnePhotography Sean is an accomplished photographer with a phenomenal feed, who is also the brains behind the innovative feed @TheBowlerMan which is all about a single man in London who quite enjoys the good life.
- @Jacob Ok, Jacob happens to be on a 4 month trip around the world so his feed won’t scream LONDON right now. But when he’s back in London, he’s probably one of the most consistent instagramers to deliver stunning London photos, and he’s also one of our youngest talents at 19. Scroll down his feed for a beautiful experience.
I’ve met a few interesting people thanks to Instagram! In the last 12 months to name just a few, we’ve met Rita Ora, Jessie J, Rizzle Kicks, Ringo Starr, Adam Ant, Jimmy Page, Ant & Dec, Jimmy Car, Jonathan Ross, Ed Sheeran, Dermot O’Leary, Damon Albarn and Paul Smith. But you can’t beat Ant and Dec let’s be honest!
People recognise me, or speak about the account in earshot of me – it’s happening more and more, whether on the Underground or shooting photos at street level. But it’s quite cool when it happens because people are so in love with @London and they’ve only ever got nice things to say.
We have 2,000 people in our community and our world-wide instameets that run 4 times a year will regularly pull crowds of over 400-500 people. We’re experiencing a bit of a phenomenon, but we’ve definitely built on the foundations that Instagram have laid and taken community to another level. Instagram were the first to talk about #CommunityFirst as an over-arching value for building positive Instagram community. We consider it a movement and a way of life, one that is based on almost biblical values of loving your neighbour, treating others as you expect to be treated yourself, and that make us accepting of every person no matter what sex, colour, race, religion, or walk of life they come from. Recently when someone had their camera stolen, the community raised £500 in 3 days to fund a replacement. A situation that was horrendous for the individual turned into the greatest act of kindness that they’d ever experienced.
I guess the biggest difference it has made to my life has been the ability to quit my job and build a business that helps global brands engage with Instagram as a platform, and produce stunning social content that inspires people all over the world. It means that after 18 years of being on the hamster-wheel of selling millions of dollars of IT assets and consulting engagements, I’m finally doing something I enjoy, where I can choose how I spend my time and who I work with, and as I go about my business I get to do some good along the way and lead this incredible community that we’ve built up. I guess the dream was always to quit my job.
MY BEST POST
Our most successful image ever posted was by Harry Sinclair. In our experience, the Elizabeth Tower (also known as Big Ben!), has always delivered huge numbers of likes and comments, I guess because it is internationally synonymous with London, and instantly recognisable. You will always find Big Ben images in the top 5 most liked images for any month that we run our reports.
My personal favourite is a photo that was captured recently when we did a crazy collaboration with Nike for Nike Air Max Day on 26th March. We spend a lot of time flying over London with the London Helicopter in order to capture the city from the air, and we convinced Nike to take some of their ambassadors up over London with our crew, but with the doors of the helicopter removed and their VIPs wearing a harness to keep them from falling out! The result? Absolutely epic!
The most interesting messages I’ve received come in the form of direct messages from Jamie Oliver and Paul Smith. You just don’t expect them. And when it happens for the first time you can’t help but wonder what the heck is going on! Also, having Jessie J say “Please follow me cos I follow you” will always make me smile!
Our audience is literally global! New York, Sydney, Brazil, Thailand, the Middle East, India, Africa, Singapore and Hong Kong, all over Europe, Russia. How cool is that?! When we started out, our primary objective was to show London to the world and tell its story beautifully using Instagram as the platform. And today, it remains the same. But at the start we had no idea that we’d end up 2,000 Instagramers strong and doing what we’re doing today.
It's easy to do something you love. It’s sometimes hard to switch off though as the account runs 7 days a week and requires 4 posts per day. But I’m pretty organised and you get used to the schedule! The great thing is that we keep getting to do new things, and that means you never get bored!