As we now carry our cameras with us everywhere we go, people have started to capture and share every detail of their lives. And nowhere is this more prolific than on Instagram. Thanks to this phenomenon I could probably tell you what coffee my friend Tim hadevery morning this week, and on what days my colleague Jo went jogging. Riveting stuff.
But just because you can share everything doesn’t mean you should. The best and most successful Instagram influencers are probably the most selective; they are the ones who spend time planning and deliberating about what not to post. After all, collecting a lot of content is easy, it’s the knowing what not to share that can be the hard thing.
So I sat down with travel influencer Jen Stone to discuss the things she doesn’t share on Instagram. We explored the different reasons she doesn’t post, why less is sometimes more, and how she decides what content ends up on the cutting room floor.
CH: Tell me how you became a travel influencer — was this something you planned?
JS: It was not planned at all, I just was lucky enough to fall into it. I am actually a Nurse and Midwife, but I have always had this burning desire to see and travel the world.
When planning my trips I’ve always used Pinterest. I find it’s the best place to do research because photographers use it to share their work, so there’s always the most beautiful destination shots.
Looking at all these stunning photos I thought to myself — I want to do this too! So I did. And the more I posted the better I became, and the more followers I got.
CH: Did you create your content strategy from the start, or did this come about organically?
JS: I didn’t have one to start with, but I definitely do now! Having a strategy is crucial to gain and keep your following. My photographic strategy is to highlight and focus on my surroundings as much as I can. I try insert myself in a non-obtrusive way because I know people are following me to see the destinations I am in, not a selfie of me blocking the view.
CH: I am guessing you don’t post everything you see, or every photo you take. Do you consciously think about what things you’re not going to post?
JS: Absolutely. When traveling you’re so excited by what you’re seeing, you just want to share everything! I have to remind myself that sometimes less is more, and it’s good to keep people guessing a little by not posting every detail of your trip. The key is to keep them coming back for more.
There are also so many reasons you shouldn’t post certain content, and as an influencer you have to be quitedisciplined about it. You can’t just be thinking is this a pretty shot, you need to also be thinking – Is this right for my brand? Is this appropriate? Does it contain anything that may offend someone? Should I even photograph this? It all has to be part of your strategy. This will also influence what photos you spend energy taking too.
CH: That’s interesting – so are there times you don’t pull out your camera when you’re traveling?
JS: 100%! Don’t get me wrong, I love taking and editing photos, but when I travel I am on holiday too, so there are times when I have had enough. We also don’t travel to places just to take a photo – so if we go somewhere that’s amazing but not that photogenic, I won’t bother taking photos for Instagram. I’ll spend my energy just being there and taking it all in.
CH: Are there also things you like to keep private, and not post?
JS: While I do post about my relationship a little bit (a couples photo here and there), for my partner’s sake I do try keep him out of the spotlight as much as I can. He isn’t really a sharer, so he doesn’t want to be the focus of my account. And I respect this. While we do have cute photos of us kissing in front of waterfalls (legitimately), I generally keep these ones private.
I think it’s really important for influencers to consider their partner’s feelings and preferences. It’s best to ask them explicitly how involved they would like to be, and respect their wishes.
CH: When traveling you’re privy to some pretty unique experiences, not all of them positive. What things do you deem inappropriate or too sensitive to post?
JS: The world isn’t picture perfect, so I don’t try to portray it like it is. I try to be as real and honest as I can, even if that means showing a side of life that isn’t perfect. Yes I see poverty in the places I travel and work, but if sharing their stories can help their cause, then I will do so.
One thing I won’t do is warn someone off traveling somewhere I’ve been; I like to let people make up their own minds. I try to post about the positive things I’ve seen and done. I think we have some social responsibility to do this – after all, many of the places I visit rely on tourism to survive.
CH: There must be some experiences that are not so glamorous and could break the illusion of this lovely influencer life. What type of photos do you avoid posting to keep the illusion up?
JS: I think I owe some of the success of my Instagram account to the fact that I don’t really try keep up appearances. I want people to be able to relate to me, so part of my style is mixing up the highs and the lows. You could see a post of me all dressed up in Bangkok one day, and the next day a photo of me after I’ve been dumped by waves on a beach.
So what I choose not to post isn’t to do with keeping up an illusion, it’s more to do with giving my audience what they want. Although it does happen, no one wants to see a photo of me sprawled out on the airport floor after a delayed flight. I’m better off showing the real me through the photo of me covered in sand with messy hair after a massive wave fail.
CH: Let’s look through your phone. Show me 5 photos you love but wouldn’t post on your account.
JS: (laughs) Sure, there are a lot on there that have never seen the light of day!
1. While I liked this photo of me having breakfast in Bali, it was a good photo to send my mum — not my followers. There’s nothing going on in the background, so it doesn’t give my audience anything really. I had just arrived and was eager to get posting, but I knew I had to stick to my brand. So off to mum it was!
2. I asked my sister to take this photo of me at a zoo in Bali. While the wall was super colorful and fun, it turned out to be a bit of a boring shot.
I felt it was quite generic — a photo that anyone could take really. And I think that’s an important question to ask yourself: is this unique enough to post?
3. The reason I didn’t post this one is that it didn’t do the location any justice. Just under our table was a koi pond full of fish — but this shot doesn’t capture any of this.
If I haven’t captured the essence of a place, I am not going to waste my followers’ time.
4. This was a hard one as I love the shot and it does tick so many of the boxes; it highlights my setting nicely and I’m in the frame but not a strong presence.
But after I took it I noticed a group of monks sitting in the temple on the left-hand side. I wasn’t sure about posting a photo of monks, as I didn’t have their permission, and I felt that I was intruding on their ritual. So I thought better safe than sorry, and I didn’t post it.
5. My sister and I had a cabana all to ourselves one day, with the most amazing view over a white sand beach with rolling waves. But can you see any of this view? Nope.
Getting a shot that complemented both the cabana and the view would have been challenging, and we wanted to spend our day relaxing, so after this photo we put our cameras away and just enjoyed the experience!
CH: So what’s your advice to other influencers in regards to deciding that not to post?
JS: My biggest piece of advice is to stay true to yourself. If your brand is a reflection of yourself this will make life a whole lot easier!
You also need to stay single-minded in what you post. If you’re a fashion blogger, don’t post an amazing meal you had, not matter how good it was. People aren’t following you for your #foodporn photos.
I also recommend joining Travel Influencers, they are getting ready to launch soon and will be connecting travel influencers with amazing experiences all around the globe. Can you imagine staying in a beautiful resort somewhere Tropical for free, in exchange for content? I’ve joined the waitlist and cannot wait for their launch!
And lastly, remember to put the camera away and enjoy yourself from time to time. Sharing a special moment with the loved ones you’re with may be more valuable than sharing it with your followers.
Check out Jen’s Instagram to see all the stunning photos she did post.