“Winning” on Instagram

The Game: Instagram

You know how our youthful minds would sort of just make up the rules to the games we played, as we went along? Well, that’s kind-of how I looked at Instagram… in the beginning. A few years ago, at a peak of turbulent times in my physical health, I was seeking a distraction and turned to Instagram to be the game that I focused on “winning.”

Alter Ego

First: to create an alter ego. Who are you, in this game land? “@HappyTokes” came to me naturally. Being gifted the name Madison by my mother, paired with an early lifetime of chronic health issues, I’ve been “Mad” (in many senses of the word) since birth. In this realm, I saw an opportunity to simply be “Happy”, by sharing the tales of how natural medication ever-so-positively changed my life.


Staying true to my newfound identity “HappyTokes”, I went in search of other people playing this game who had similar interests and goals to mine. This is when I started to build my team. Building a team is one of the most rewarding parts of this game. Your team (the people following you) are key to your success.
Pro tip: Want someone on your team? Tell them/show them by introducing yourself and sharing something you see that you have in common with one another. 


Early on, the more I realized there was a bunch of people already playing a game that I wanted to play & intimidation snuck in thoughts which were lacking confidence. One voice in my head spoke softly that “everyone else had more experience” and I was “so far behind, I could never catch up”… But then I reminded myself, I make the rules to this game. And in this game, there is no such rule that limits your success based upon how long you’ve been playing.

I could tell there were unspoken basics to game play. Things like: posting visual content, with attached verbal content, discovering new people with various tools of navigation, and reposting content. People who were doing well at the game had obviously positive engagements. Not just quantity in numbers, but quality & genuine interactions. Bonus points for visually stimulating content.

The more I played the game, the more rules I tried to make for myself.
Example: Rule #1: Don’t put up with hate. “Block” at the first sign of a bad attitude.

Be aware that you’ve likely already created your own set of rules for your current gameplay, and if you’re looking to step up your game, you’ll need to re-evaluate what you’ve told yourself is or isn’t allowed, due to whatever preconceived notion you came across.
Example: Rule worth sending to the graveyard: Only post  X# of times a day. This was a rule I quickly nipped in the bud. Some days you’ll have more to share with the world than others. Play when you feel inspired to play.

Though some rules, didn’t stick, they gave me temporary structure allowing me to pay extra attention to patterns. Paying close attention to patterns will help educate and inspire for future gameplay.

Playing Fairly

In attempting to assist in the success of other accounts/players, I also learned that despite playing with the same game pieces, the rules for one player’s game may vary slightly from another’s. This is not cheating, it’s simply natural variation in their technique. On an individual basis, it’s important to remember: “House rules are in effect.” Your content, audience and algorithms are different from whoever you’re comparing yourself to, therefore it’s only natural to have slightly different “rules” from one another.

Fair play, involves being kind & sincere. Plain & simple.

Mini Games

In order to maximize the gameplay time, extra tasks are imagined and introduced. With the completion of some tasks, there are short term rewards – while other rewards are much more long term. Passion, participation, persistence and patience.

Short term rewards are typically somewhat obvious.
Examples: Follow for Follow.
Posts requesting intertactions in exchange for prizes. 
Like-spam or emoji-spam interactions.

There are ways to turn your short term rewards into long term rewards.
Example: Did you or a friend win a prize? Document the prize. Share photos with brands and artists tagged so they can see you really appreciated your prize. 

Though long term rewards aren’t immediately noticeable they are generally the most gratifying “wins”.
Example: After posting regular selfies with my first ever @thirdeyepinecones necklace (which I bought for myself), the company gifted me two necklaces as a reward for helping spread the work about their brand. I turned this short term reward into a reward with long term potential, by gifting these necklaces to followers in giveaways.  This gesture of generosity in “gameplay” created a forever-lasting friendship with the @thirdeyepinecones brand and their family, AND allowed me to gain many new team mates. This is also a natural way to become a brand ambassador for any brand you already interact with/use on a daily basis. 
* Game Changer: After promoting for this company (and many more) for over a year and a half, I was then able to gather statistics for some of their engagements I was responsible for. This analysis of my donated efforts helped me prove my monetary worth to other brands who have the ability to compensate for advertising. 

Ready? Set. Go!

*@HappyTokesTribe on Instagram will begin to share regular posts with “task inspiration” to help get your juices flowing when you have the urge to step up your game-play but just aren’t sure what your next move should be. Not only will these tasks help inspire further interaction and content creation, but they will also give you a boost into engaging with my existing community of incredibly kind and active friends. *


Keep in mind that your experience playing this game is entirely what you make of it. The more you create, document and connect, the more “wins” you’re giving yourself the opportunity to gain.

Whether your reason for playing be to distract yourself, obtain social fame, or even for monetary gain… don’t forget to have fun. After all, it’s just a game.


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