Four Feminism: Building engaged communities on Instagram

At a glance

Type of Project: Social Media Content Creator

Project name: Four Feminism (Instagram page)

Key Learning Points:

  • Finding a community
    Creating something as simply as a social media page can be a fantastic way of having or fueling the kinds of conversations which aren’t always possible in your day-to-day life

  • Get Noisy
    Interact with other people’s content, especially in the beginning. The more people you interact with, the more you’re going to appear on other people’s feeds.

  • Content is Queen
    Many articles (or even courses I’ve attended) recommend that you post on a regular basis – typically one post a day on Instagram. While regular posts definitely help boost your number of followers, never sacrifice the quality of your posts just to keep up the consistency of your content. Quality content equals quality engagement and engagement builds brands not followers.

  • Look outwards
    Maintain enthusiasm for your topic by looking for inspiration outside of just social media. Sources of inspiration can come from anywhere like BBC News, things shared between you and your friends, magazines, newspapers or anywhere else! Don’t limit yourself to just one source.

  • Useful Apps for creating content on Instagram;

    [Whiteagram, Free, Available on IOS] – Add decorative white borders to the images you post to create a neat, personalised and curated look to your page.[Phonto, Free, Available on IOS] – Useful for creating plain text images which are perfectly square-sized so that none of your image is cut-off when posting on Insta.

Talking to Hannah, you can’t help but admire the careful thought she gives each question before answering. She’s passionate about her subject but it doesn’t stop her from considering anyone else’s point of view – no point is disregarded, everything is considered and she’s open to being challenged.

This is something that I can’t help but respect of someone who deals in a subject as complex and frustrating as Feminism since it encourages the kind of constructive discussions that the subject deserves – a far cry away from the impatient arguments which such conversations can often devolve into.

It’s also hard to ignore how comfortable I felt straight away. It could be because of Hannah’s friendly, quick-to-smile demeanor putting me immediately at ease as I bumble through my questions on how she was able to grow such an engaged community on Instagram with her Four Feminism page.

Although admittedly it could also be partly because she’s been my girlfriend for the last 4 years and we’re currently sat in our living room where I’ve employed the buttery smooth attention-grabbing move of jabbing her foot to ask ‘Cool if I interview you for a thingy I’m doing?‘ I dunno, I dunno. It’s anyone’s guess really, but it goes without saying that she is my absolute favourite human.

3C53A0BF-2543-4C12-B726-F7CA8058BDC1To start off with, I’d love it if you could describe the four feminism page in your own words.
Hannah: I would describe it as somewhere to post things that I think are interesting or discussion provoking. I wanted it to be a safe place for people to discuss feminism without feeling like they would get abused by people. Just a place for open discussion on topics, relevant topics, relevant posts.

Is it something that you felt like wasn’t there before four feminism?
When I post on it, I post just things that I think are relevant to me or that I find funny or interesting. I think when you go on someone else’s Instagram, especially if it’s political or especially in feminism, a lot of the time they can post things where you think ‘mmm…don’t really agree with that point‘.

I didn’t think that people who followed my personal account would be particularly interested in what I had to say on politics or sexism. So as well as a place for other people to have a discussion, it was also probably more selfish…a place for me to express my thoughts and a safe place for me without people who know me knowing that it was me and making comments or things like that in my real life.

Did you feel like there were any particular catalysts which resulted in you creating the page or starting the process of creating the page?
I think it was probably a build-up of wanting to talk about sexism and starting to feel a bit more comfortable talking about it – but then realising that there’s a limit to how much people who know you are interesting or willing to talk about it on a regular basis.

I think it was just something for me to focus on and  make myself feel better about the sexism I experience. In fact, not just sexism, but political things as well.

I feel it’s good for me to have a place to express what I think with people who follow me or see the posts, because they are generally people of a similar opinion so it feels like a safe place. It’s comforting to have people who feel the same as you do.

Hannah Shard

That absolutely makes sense.
I think I always feel like people will talk to you about sexism or politics, but there comes a point where people are a bit over it, or they don’t really care or they get a bit sick about hearing about it.

It’s just that it’s not funny or cool, or some people don’t find it interesting and probably  a bit depressing sometimes – I think people only have a certain amount of time where they can feel like that.

9BD8F57B-6C8D-4F60-8A6E-6D17C6B5899BDo you have a background in developing social media pages like this either professionally or personally?
No, I only really use Instagram for my personal life. I guess through work I learnt a bit more about how people use social media for marketing but it’s not really at that stage for me.

For the topic, I’d say just my personal influences were my parents and friends at uni who feel quite similarly to me about certain topics.

I’d say that work influenced me in the sense that I felt frustration by not being able to say what I thought or how I felt about things, But I don’t think that helped me understand how to do it.

That makes this next part even more impressive! Before certain parts of the feminism discussion were recently launched into the centre of public attention, within just a couple months of creating the page on insta you went from 0 to just under 500 followers [at the time of writing] which isn’t easy! What were the steps you took to make that happen? 
In the beginning, I was trying to comment a lot on other people’s pictures, ‘like’ other people’s posts and follow a lot of similar pages. The more people you interact with, the more you’re going to appear on other people’s feeds.

Or, say I followed a hundred people, I might come up on 50 peoples suggested ‘people to follow’ or something like that.

And I tried to do like 2-3 daily posts. I think a lot of my followers are in America so I’d try to post in the evening – one when I get home from work and one when I go to bed because that’s a good time to get them to see it.

I go through phases now where I don’t necessarily find things I want to post every single day and I’ll just post when I find something – but I don’t really force it and think ‘oh I really should post something’. Though if I haven’t posted anything recently, I’ll typically log on and find that I have new comments or followers or something.

So, it sounds like you won’t just post things for the sake of posting things, but you’ll wait until you find something that you’re particularly passionate about?
I think in the beginning I did probably have a kind of a stockpile of images. I always screenshot something when I think it’s good to post and people send me stuff too.

But I’d always post stuff that I thought was relevant. Now I don’t really go through the internet or Instagram to find things to post, I just do it when I find something that I want to talk about.

You said that people send you content?
Yeah but not really people on Instagram, more my family or my friends will. They won’t do it for the point of the Instagram page because I think only my mum knows about the page but people send to me or tell me about things they’ve read and then I can go and have a look. People know what I’m interested in, so they send me things.


So you kind of look outwards from Instagram rather than focus on what’s already on the platform?
Yeah because I always feel bad about scrolling through and stealing other people’s content. If I’m just naturally on my Instagram and I see something that I think is funny or I appreciate it/agree with it then I’ll repost it. I will always credit the creator.

Do you feel that by crediting people on content you repost that its helped you build a network on Instagram?
Maybe. I don’t really keep track on analytics so I don’t know how much tagging someone would impact the activity on the page but I imagine it probably does.

People will also repost things that I post and tag me in it which helps as well – but a lot of the time people will comment if I’ve reposted it and say thanks for the credit, because a lot of people don’t.

Good etiquette.

0C5C3164-F3CC-4910-ABB1-D3A173885B1A How do you choose the content you post? Do you have any criteria which your post has to meet or ways of structuring the content you’ll release on the longer term?
I don’t really have any rules or a theme. I just post things that I think are interesting or funny, just stuff that I’d want to see or find interesting when I’m browsing.

Do you create any images yourself and if not, how do you go about finding them? 
So, yeah some stuff I’ll get sent by people and some stuff I’ll find on Instagram. Some of it will literally just be me screenshotting the BBC news page or an article which comes up on Facebook.

Sometimes I’ll see a quote and I’ll just use an app to write the quote on a background So yeah it’s kind of a mix of things really, if there’s something I want to post and it’s not out there then I’ll just try to create it I think but I’m not a designer, so it’s just an app I use to post something on a white background or a plain image.

What tools have been the most useful for you to use in creating the Four Feminism page?
I use the ‘Whiteagram’ app to add a white border to all my images because I think it looks neat. I use an app called ‘Phonto’ to write text on a picture with a white background and then just Instagram and safari to find content.


A screenshot of Phonto in use from the App Store

Both of those apps you got on the apple app store?
Yep, and they’re free.

Have you noticed a particular crowd who’s been attracted to your content or the page in general, and if you have noticed a particular crowd, is this the crowd who you thought you’d attract when you first created the page?
I think Instagram is difficult because it’s hard to…especially with the kinds of pages which follow me, it’s not really their peoples personal accounts..

Oh, really?
Yeah or if it’s their personal account, they’re not posting pictures of themselves so you don’t necessarily know much information about them.

But with the kinds of comments they post, I always think they might be American…like if I post things about Trump or something similar, the responses I get makes me think that a lot of followers are American people.

I think there are a lot of women of colour who come up in my feed who are particularly vocal or engaged with political issues or sexism or racism. So I think that’s quite a big part of my audience as well.

B5ED0F00-01B5-4824-A228-17B398D6AC1FHow do you go about community management and managing comments on the content of your page?
There was a good one I saw yesterday; I posted a quote from the character Joan in Mad Men. The quote was ‘All you’ve done is prove to them that I’m a meaningless secretary and you’re another humourless bitch’.

My caption was:

It’s really difficult to stand up for yourself as a woman if you speak up against sexism, you’re uptight with no sense of humour and if you don’t say anything, you feel disappointed in yourself and you know nothing will ever change’.

Someone commented on it saying ‘I don’t know, women have a lot of advantages in the first world, it’s pretty great’ *laughs*.

Did anyone else reply to that?
I can’t be bothered to engage in Instagram arguments and I think if you’re commenting that, then I’m not going to change your opinion over Instagram so…

Leave them to it.

Do you remove any comments?
I only remove comments when people are being aggressive. I think it was that Blade Runner post where people were kicking off. It was along the lines of ‘why does sexism still exist in a future society’.

That was controversial, but that was the post I have which has the most engagement. It ended up getting over 400 likes.

And loads of comments yeah. But there was one guy who was being really aggressive by swearing at everyone and calling them f*cking stupid etc. so I blocked him.

So his comments are still on there?
No it deletes their comments if you block them. But yeah, lots of engagement.

That’s so cool, it shows how much you’ve struck a chord….

Screenshot of FF

Fun fact: a little after this interview took place, one of her posts absolutely blew up and got almost 7-times the engagement of the previously discussed post! At the time the pictured image was posted, Four Feminism had approx. 500 followers.

How did you go about finding an audience that resonate with your content on Instagram? Hash-tagging for example, how important did you find that?
I think when I first started posting and until a couple of posts ago, I would put certain hashtags.

I just did that on my own back though and didn’t research which hashtags other people were using. I think when I first set it up when I was looking at following people to get it started, I probably searched for feminism or Parks & Rec, or you know, the kind of stuff that I post about, those kinds of pages to kick-start it.

So you feel like it’s more important to go out and find those other pages rather than hashtag the living crap out of your posts?
Yeah because my understanding of what comes up on my ‘explore’ section is that it recognises the kind of people that you follow people and the people who they follow. I think it takes a look at the activity of those people and uses that to determine what shows up on your feed because I think a lot of the posts which come up on my ‘explore’ don’t even have hashtags on them.

I don’t think people hashtag as much anymore, they come up because of who I’m linked to. Although maybe they do, and I just don’t notice has-tags any more.

Well you definitely know enough to get 423 likes on a single post so I’d say you’re doing something right!
I don’t even know why, that wasn’t my favourite post but hey!

I guess you never know what people are going to pick up on.
Yeah, obviously struck a chord with some people!

D962A68D-3B00-4268-9668-6ED970807934In that case, outside of the page, is there anything else that would be useful for you to personally develop skills?
Well I had my book which was good, ‘How to win friends and influence people’.

I just feel like I’m not very good at small talk so it’d be good to learn more about how to express yourself eloquently. I think I’m good at writing things down, but verbally I find it hard to express what I think sometimes.

Was there any advice that you could give to people who might want to create a page over something they’re passionate about?
Just do it, if you’re genuinely interested in what you’re talking about, people who are interested in the same thing will recognise that. If you have something to say then say it!

And the last question, so I’m trying to…through Inkbike, create a central resource for people who want to get started running things for themselves with things that they’d find useful.

A big part of that is the interviews that I’m doing with people such as yourself, and another part is a blog on the website which just contains useful information, nothing opinionated, just useful resources.

So are there any skills or topics which you would like to learn more about which would be useful for you to use to run your page on Instagram that I could go away, research and write?
I think it’s always interesting with Instagram, there’s so much that you can do with it like there are certain times you can post where you’re more likely to get more engagement on it but it would be useful to know how that changes with different countries and how to coordinate posts.

For me personally – this probably isn’t very helpful – I’m not necessarily doing it for recognition. For me, Four Feminism is more about self-expression than anything else but obviously it would be good to learn about how to reach the more people.

That’s great, thanks so much for your time, congratulations on everything you’ve achieve with Four Feminism and I can’t wait to see what else you have in store.

Interested in joining the discussion on Feminism?
Connect Four on Instagram: @Four_Feminism