The Importance of Building an Online Community

Last week I had the honor of having Angela Marti (@whereisangiee on Instagram) as the first guest of my IG live series with creatives on Instagram. This first episode was all about the importance of building an online community on Instagram.

Having a real and genuine online community has never been as important as it is today. COVID-19 has shown us all, and brands especially, the importance of having a committed audience in order to survive.

For those who missed the episode, here is the transcript of the questions we asked each other. You will find lots of valuable information and insights about the Instagram algorithm, content creation, and more!

Juan: Hi Angie! Please introduce yourself (where are you from, background, where you live) and tell us why you started using Instagram in the first place.

Angie: Hi everyone, my name is Angie (@whereisangiee).

I was born and raised in Canada to Polish-Spanish parents. I grew up in a very multicultural environment due to my background, which allowed me not only to have a very rich cultural experience and speak four languages fluently but also set the foundations for my love of travel and exploration.

After university, I moved to Spain and have been living here since 2014. That move to Spain was what set in motion my Instagram, which originally served as a type of photo diary for my friends and family back home to see what I was getting up to. Since its foundation back then, my Instagram was always a place for me to share my photos and thoughts while also connecting with other travel lovers and ex-pats in similar situations to my own.

How about you Juan, I’m sure many of my followers would love to know where you are from 3and what was the purpose behind your Instagram originally?

Juan: Right! So I am from Colombia, but I’ve been living in Spain for the past 11.5 years. I owe my love of travel to my grandparents and my parents. From a very young age, they took me traveling everywhere with them. I think the first time I was on an airplane was on my way to the Dominican Republic and I wasn’t even a year old.

My love for photography started more in my teenage days when I purchased a digital camera and I was the typical kid that was taking photos everywhere and uploading them to Facebook.

I started this Instagram account years later because I wanted to improve at photography and Instagram was the platform that really pushed me to be better and keep learning. I originally started it as a travel account, but since covid, I have been just taking photos of Barcelona (and some places in Spain).

And what about you? You traveled a lot before Covid and you have amazing photos. How did you learn to take photos/edit, etc? Or who takes your photos?

Angie: Thank you so much, Juan! I have always had a love for photography. I took several photography courses back in high school and continued to grow that hobby in my spare time throughout university. To be honest, my favorite subjects are animals and landscapes, in contrast to what you see on my recent feed. In fact, if you scroll back to earlier photos on my feed you’ll see I used to post mainly photos of locations.

However, with research and time, as well as feedback from my followers over the years, I have now taken to post more pictures with myself in the frame. The editing is all self-taught. I like to watch editing tutorials and learn from other photographers in my spare time, and I think over the years I have developed my own style (which is sort of anti-preset since I like vivid colors and staying true to locations).

As for who takes my photos, there is a lot of work behind the scenes that occurs behind the word of every creator and I think it is super important to give credit to those that make the vision happen. I have been lucky enough to have had people help me create my visions throughout the years including Aldo, my fiancé, my family, and several friends (Ben, Emily, Monika) to name a few. Creation is a team effort and I think it’s important for creators to be transparent about the work that goes into the process. If the picture is of me, then someone helped me take it. If I’m not in the picture, then it is a picture I took.

For those that do not know Juan is a photographer that takes the most incredible photos of Barcelona. Juan, what are your top three tips for photographers on this platform? Do you think creators need professional gear to create beautiful content?

Juan: That’s a very good question! So my top three tips for photographers on Instagram are basically being consistent (keep practicing, learning, editing), finding a style you enjoy and your community enjoys too, but most importantly it is connecting to other photographers. My community has been really supportive, they have given me feedback, helped me with shoutouts, and just been there since my early days.

Regarding the gear, I don’t think nowadays you must have expensive or very professional gear. In fact, I have a standard SonyA7, which is probably outdated by now, but the photos I create with my phone are sometimes even better! I think a lot comes with the eye of the photographer and being able to find unique perspectives, angles, etc, and then of course with the editing.

So you are not a Travel Blogger, you are a Neuroscientist. Tell us a little bit more about what you do in your daily life.

Angie: I talk about this frequently, but I am not a full-time content creator. I do in fact have a full-time job as a researcher. I work at one of the main hospitals in my city where I conduct research on migraines and headaches using electrophysiological techniques. I’m always open to discuss research and migraine in my inbox. As well as being a full-time researcher, I’m also in the fourth year of my Ph.D. So you can say, I keep very busy. The critical thinking and research that I do in my everyday life, I apply to learn more about Social Media (in fact, I have worked as a part-time Social Media Manager throughout University) so it has always been an interest of mine. I really enjoy analyzing the way social media affects our behaviors and understanding the machine learning algorithms, which give us so much stress.

Juan, do you believe you can be successful on this platform without being dedicated to it full-time? What’s your take on this?

Juan: So basically it depends. It took me 2 years to grow this account to 12k and I have to admit I spent A LOT of time… mostly engaging. It’s been fun, but it can be quite overwhelming too. I feel Instagram has changed a lot and nowadays there are other ways of being successful on this app by having a clear purpose and a strategy. I didn’t have one when I started and I was just doing it for the fun and for sharing my art.

What about you? You have a very engaged community, but you don't spend a lot of time on IG. has it always been this way? Or did you spend more time when you first started?

Angie: Yes, those who have been with me for a long time, and I know some of you have been here for close to seven years now, know that I don’t live on this platform. My followers know I prefer to post less frequently, but provide quality content, discussions, and information when I do. In fact, I frequently encourage others to spend less time on social media and to take breaks when necessary. I feel like we are caught up in this feeling of having to create constant, high-quality content and that’s simply not sustainable in the long run. Creator burnout is a real thing and I think many of those that have expressed frustration, or a lack of motivation would benefit from time away. I personally get my best ideas when I disconnect for a while.

By disconnecting and being present in the real world (listening to how people feel and navigate daily life) I am then able to better connect with you and the users of this platform. And I think I am the prime example that you don’t need to create daily content to grow on this platform. On a side note, I have also found that my content performs better when I leave more time between posts. Some people are not on the app every day and this allows them time to catch up when they come back on. And it’s also less overwhelming for users. You really need to find that balance between holding peoples’ interests and oversaturating them.

Finally, if you post less frequently my advice would be to create themes (such as Travel Tuesdays) or choose a day to post (for ex. Post every Wednesday), this will create consistency and generate expectations in your followers.

For those struggling with consistency, what advice would you give Juan since your content is always so organized and well planned out?

Juan: Actually up to a couple of months ago I was always so busy with work and clients and my content was a bit all over the place, posting whenever I could and almost on the go. Now I have a bit more free time and I have been planning a content calendar and schedule, trying to be more consistent and organized. My best advice would be as you say: to take a break and get your ideas clear, make a plan, a posting calendar and schedule and be realistic in the amount of time you can and SHOULD be spending on IG.

Speaking of which, The Insta-game has changed A LOT in the past years. What are your thoughts on this? Is it for good or for bad?

The importance of building an online community on Instagram

Angie: Yes, Instagram is not the same world it was back in 2014, nor is it the same world it was back in 2018. Just like the world we live in, Instagram and social media platforms are constantly evolving and adapting in a quest to understand and ultimately profit off of human behavior. It’s important for