I Took an Instagram Break and Survived, Plus 10 tips to Grow Your Instagram For Business
Newsflash! If Instagram is stressing you out, you can totally take a break! When you’re ready, come back with a vengeance and use these 10 tips to grow your Instagram for business account.
As a blogger and food photographer, Instagram plays a huge roll in promoting what I do. Because it is such a visual platform, its a part of my job to post pictures on Insta just like posting on my blog is. Since a lot of people use Instagram for social reasons, when I tell them that I use Instagram for business and treat it like a job, they look at me like, huh? But truthfully it takes up a crazy amount of effort and time.
A glimpse of what it looks like to use Instagram for business:
Well for starters, you’ve got to have a grip on what you, yourself look like, and what value you are offering as a brand. There’s color stories to keep to so your feed looks cohesive, optimal times to post, strategies to stick to to get more likes and engagements, and then there’s the content.
The content has got to be good.
If you’re interested in reading more about what bloggers do and the importance of content, I went on and on about it in this blog post about what I learned in my first year of blogging.
Moving on, Instagram is truly an amazing way to network, partner on paid collaborations with brands, and build up an audience for your brand.
But there is a downside to Instagram:
Instagram is not my actual job, it is just a part of my job, and sometimes I forget that. I shouldn’t be planning my Instagram posts before my blog posts, or feel rushed everyday to get my post up at exactly 3:00 because I know thats usually the best time for my engagement. I shouldn’t even feel pressured to get a post up everyday!
What I do need to do is remember that my blog and photography business come first, and Instagram should be a reflection of them both, and not my main focus.
It should be used to enhance my business and blog and not take priority over it. There are definitely people who don’t have a blog and are totally rocking it on Instagram, so if thats your thing then keep on rocking it, but for myself, if I want to call myself a blogger and a food photographer, well then I need to have a blog and a portfolio.
So what happened next?
I had been feeling totally overwhelmed by the upkeep of it all and realized that I was putting Instagram as a priority over my blog posts and my blog to do list, and started wondering what would happen if I just took a break.
How much could I get done in a week without having to worry about what I’m posting next or what I’m missing out on on my feed?
I started toying around with the idea that I would take a week off of Instagram and see what would happen. I went back and forth on it for a few days, and then ran the idea by a few of my blogger friends, who surprisingly (or maybe not) thought they could use a break too.
I feel like it sounds stupid to say, but I really was unsure of it.
I was afraid I would lose my followers, that my posts would get shadow banned once I came back, then no-one would see my posts, and I would have basically committed Insta suicide.
I had sponsored posts coming up in two weeks so I decided that if I was going to do it, it had to be that week. Sunday-Sunday.
And so I did it.
I came to the conclusion that I didn’t care what would happen, and that if I needed a damn break, I was gonna take it and see what happens.
I posted a picture on Instagram, saying all of the above in much shorter sentences, and that I would be back in a week. Then I moved my Instagram app alllllll the way to another screen on my phone and waved goodbye.
So how did my Instagram break go?
IT WAS THE BEST WEEK EVER.
In terms of me getting things done, in terms of me enjoying my time with my family more, and EVEN in terms of me getting the most followers in one week my account has ever seen.
Ok disclaimer on the last one because it just so happens that the week I took off Instagram happened to be the week that Williams Sonoma shared a picture of mine and got me literally 1000 new followers. I know, crazy coincidence but I think that even if that didn’t happen, it still would have been a great week.
Some highlights and things that went down after Instagram did:
- I taught my 6 year old son some basic knife skills, enough for him to make an entire Israeli Salad all by himself, without me stopping every two seconds to put it on my insta-stories- (which by the way now that I’m back, I totally did last night while he chopped away). Instead I was fully present and focused on that time with him, and when he told me that mixing the salad was like the spoon was dancing, I almost cried from the cuteness.
- I made my photography portfolio! It only took me an afternoon to do something that has been on my to-do list since January. WIN.
- I updated most of my blog posts with key words in the hopes that my recipes will rank better in a google search. While I was doing that I stumbled upon this little fun fact- If you type in “Strawberry Basil Cake” into Google, guess who’s recipe comes up FIRST!!!! MAJOR WINNING. Not sure how I pulled that off but I’m not complaining about it.
- I listened to podcasts, I watched video tutorials, and got more insight as to how to make Pinterest work for me in terms of getting more pageviews to my blog. Not that much insight, but just enough for me to keep my head above water and not feel like I’m losing it.
- My husband and I went on a date night where it was just actually the two of us, and not the two of us plus my Instagram stories. First we went to an artisanal pizza place that had gorgeous shelves of cookbooks begging to be instagrammed, but I did not give in. Then on the way to the most instagrammable place I have ever been AKA Vicky’s house (its a milkshake bar!!!) My husband, noticing I wasn’t on my phone says to me – “Is it me or have you been off Instagram for a few days” LOL, OK ITS THURSDAY.
- But back to this milkshake bar- The whole place is modeled after the owners childhood home, exactly how it looked like when he was growing up in the 80’s. I mean exactly. I read that he either has the actual piece from his parents home or he made an exact replica of it. When you walk in, theres an old school 80’s yellowing fridge where they store the sodas and water, and theres a vintage washing machine thats usually filled with ice and beer. You order your milkshakes over a bar that overlooks a wall with vintage wood cabinets, super ugly orange flowered wall paper, and a counter where they keep a trapper keeper for authenticity. The layout of this bar is actually a little strange because the front part of the place gets cut off as you walk to the back, where the space turns from kitchen into living room complete with a couch, pac-man arcade game, and even a super old, but still perfectly working Nintendo game system. There was no sign from mom saying we couldn’t eat in the living room, so we ordered our crazy chocolate E.T and Michael Jackson themed milkshake and sat down to a few games of Mario brothers and Tetris. My husband is a badass at Tetris and was literally like a kid again. We laughed and laughed as we changed all the high scores to 5 letter bathroom words. It was amazing.
- Last but certainly not the least, as I mentioned above I had a picture of mine reposted by Williams Sonoma! I made a recipe using their unicorn molds the week before, tagged them in the picture and thought hey maybe they will repost. And they did!! I saw a couple notifications on my home screen on Saturday night and knew they had reposted it and thought maybe I should go back on a day early, and then decided no, I committed to a full week and so a full week it shall be.
So what happened when I finally came back on?
Well first of all I got so many messages from people who told me they missed me which was SO, SO nice.
I didn’t lose any followers but gained many thanks to Williams Sonoma. I know there are some people who are thinking “well thats just a coincidence, what happens if I go off and don’t get a huge repost?”
I’m gonna tell you this- There were two times that I had to sign into Instagram to grab a link from my profile for work purposes. I didn’t go on it through my phone, but rather on my computer, and made sure to just do what I needed to do and get out of there.
As much as I tried to block the screen with my hand so I couldn’t see anything, I still saw on the bottom when you sign in, the little heart and person icon which indicates new followers- This was all before WS reposted- and both times I saw that I had gained new people.
So what I’m saying is- if you feel like you need a break from Instagram- go for it, your followers are not gonna go anywhere.
If someone wants to work with you, they will email you instead. If you get reposted, you can get back to them when you come back. What probably will end up happening is that people will just be counting down the days till you come back.
I’ve also noticed that the weeks following my break, I have felt less stressed about being on Instagram. So if I don’t go on first thing in the am its ok. If I don’t have anything scheduled to post that day, its ok. If I feel like continuing to read my book after shabbat is over instead of rushing to my phone to find out what I missed bc Oh no! I haven’t been on Instagram in 24 hours, ITS OK.
That vacation was so good for my productivity during the actual week and for going forward.
I really am so happy that I took that time that I needed, and truthfully was thinking (for a hot second) that I needed longer, but was too excited about my WS share that I had to get back on.
I also missed my Insta fam.
Without my blogging buddies, It was a little bit of a lonely week. Its funny because even though we don’t actually work together, I call all my blogger friends, my work friends and colleagues because we are all essentially doing the same thing just its for ourselves!
SO whats the takeaway here for you?
Aside from giving you a pep talk about taking an Insta-cation, I want to share with you guys some tips on how you can grow your Instagram account, and how to get your pictures shared to gain new followers.
I’m not saying it’s a guaranteed thing, I’m just saying this is what has worked for me so far, so then lets make it work for you too.
I also want to point out here that as of today July 11, 2018, I have 4,556 Instagram followers.
That may not seem like a lot to you, but I only started this a year ago and I’m really happy with how far I have come since then, so here goes.
Tips to grow your Instagram account for business:
- Make sure you are putting out quality content. That will always be number one. What do I mean by quality? For food photographers- its means a well composed shot with good lighting and food that makes you want to bite your phone. No pictures with dixie paper plates please and thank you. Make sure it is something that is also providing value- I do that with recipes.
- Hashtag! You get 30 hashtags to use on every Instagram post that you put up. There are popular hashtags to use in every niche on Instagram, so go out, look for them, and use them!
- Use those hashtags in your caption, and not your comments section- something about it being better for the algorithm.
- Hashtagging is not the same as tagging. I don’t like to tag accounts unless those accounts specifically ask you to tag them or if the picture you took has an product from a certain brand you can tag. Otherwise it just seems super spammy.
- However if you make a recipe or you’re using a product from a brand you can tag, then DEFINITELY tag them. This is how I got reposted from some major brands like- Dunkin Donuts, Sur la Table, and you all know bc I said it 10000 times, Williams Sonoma. I just happened to be in the store, saw those unicorn ice pop molds, and was like I need these. I made a super simple ice pop, took a nice pic (see number 1), and tagged them. 1000 new followers later, hi! I do need to warn you though that with some major brands, they require you to consent to their rights and rules, which I most usually do, so make sure you read them before agreeing to see if its something you are not comfortable with.
- Look for those big accounts that ask you on their posts to hashtag with a certain #. For example, Food52 regularly puts out themes to tag in their posts. They will post a picture of ices and say tag your cold summer treats with #f52cooldown. If you do, you have a better chance of them seeing it and reposting your picture because its not general hashtag. They are specifically looking for you, so give them what they want!
- Engage! Dont just scroll through your feed throwing hearts around like Oprah throws crazy gifts to her audience. (And you get a heart! And you get a heart!) A comment with 4+ words counts as engagement, so a heart emoji or hands clapping won’t work well. It is always better to leave an actual meaningful comment like, “I love the light in this picture” versus a light bulb and heart emoji. It makes whoever you are writing that comment to want to engage back, (and possibly gain a new follower) instead of just matching your emoji with another kissy face emoji.
- Figure out when the best time to post for you is. When do you usually get the most likes, when are your followers engaged the most. This is a little hard to tell because although Instagram has an analytics page that shows you what you’re best times are, I don’t find it to be accurate AT ALL. For me, through trial and error, I noticed that my best times to post are either 9 am (which never really happens), between 3-4pm, and then late night about 10-11pm. Also my posts TANK on weekends, so I started taking the weekends off! YAY for more breaks!
- Don’t just put up a post and then walk away. I know this may seem crazy but I think it works. After you put up your post, then is the time to start scrolling through your feed, commenting on other peoples posts, and liking everyones pictures. I have heard that if you are engaged on Instagram for about a half hour after you post, that Instagram will show your profile to more people, more so than if you just posted it and walked away. In that half hour you should also be responding back to whoever commented on the picture that you just posted. This is what I do- I post my picture, then scroll through my feed and leave comments on large food accounts or people that I follow, then about every 2 mins or so go back to my post, respond to whoever commented, then go back to my feed, and continue until however long I have, or until I’m like I can’t play this freaking game anymore.
- Lastly, and I have more but I think 10 is where I’m going to stop today- do not, and I repeat, do not go into your post to edit it after you posted it. Instagram does not like that. If you make a grammar mistake on your post then you must live with it for at least a few hours until you can change it, unless you are ok with it hurting your engagement. I do not understand this at all but I’ve heard it from a lot of people that it does no good for you. This makes it a little tricky if you use all 30 hashtags on your post and then a brand like Pinterest comes along and comments “Hey! We love this post, can you please #blahblahbah so that we can share it?” Because you will have to #blahblahblah to consent (read the link first if you care), but you will not be able to actually post your comment with their #blahblahblah because you already used all 30 hashtags that you are allowed. Do you get what I’m saying? You will have to go back into your post to edit and take a hashtag out so that you are able to reply to the brand who wants to share your photo. Are you still with me? This is a new thing that I only just learned last week, and was getting so frustrated because whenever I would try to respond with a consent hashtag, it would always say something like “error, could not post, tap to retry” and no matter how many times I did it, it wouldnt go through. Answer- If you have a specific post you are hoping will get reposted then use only 29 hashtags, just in case, so you won’t have to go into your post to edit and take one out. PHEW OMG, please let me know if that was confusing or you get it.
Ok so where are at now? A 3,000+ word blog post. I think for both our sakes its about time I stop. I’m hoping that I shed a little light on to what I mean when I say that Instagram for business is a lot of work, and hoping even more that if you try those tips, you’ll see some growth!
And if you do, holla at me because I would love to know if you found them helpful!
Also If you have any other tips on how to grow your Instagram, deffff suggest you leave em in the comments!