You don’t have to look too hard online these days to find someone talking about how Instagram is THE online marketing strategy. (Especially for visual businesses like ours.) I even talked about Instagram in depth in my last Creative Live class.
But the problem with focusing on Instagram as a marketing strategy is that what first seems fresh and fun can suddenly feel like a chore. And what I’ve seen (both firsthand in my own business and with many of the other makers I talk to and teach) is that when a marketing strategy becomes a chore, it’s really difficult to keep up the energy to do it consistently. (And consistency is the key to success in marketing, no matter what strategy you’re using.)
So if you find yourself dreading your next Instagram post (or panicking about how your last post was received) here are a few strategies that can help you bring some ease and fun back into your Instagram marketing:
1. Identify what about your strategy feels like a struggle.
What I’ve found with my own Instagram marketing is that your Instagram strategy starts to feel like a struggle if it’s incompatible with your own life or personality. For example, a few years back, I decided to narrow the color palette of my own Instagram account to mostly black, white, and grey, to better reflect the color palette of my jewelry brand. And while this color palette is easy for me to employ in a trade show booth or on my website, it’s much harder on Instagram, because I don’t use that color palette in my working life. My studio is actually light warm tones, lots of wood, and pops of yellow, aqua, and teal. There’s surprisingly little grey to be found. But having such a narrow color palette on my Instagram profile made it difficult to share much of what was going on in the day to day of my business, which is really where Instagram excels.
When it comes to your own Instagram strategy, think about how it conflicts with your own reality. Did you decide to post a selfie every week for Friday Introductions, but in truth, you hate selfies? (It’s cool if you do, I’m not a fan either.) Are you trying to interact with people based on a certain hashtag, but you actually can’t stand what’s being posted? Are you trying to project an air of perfect polish when your real life feels like a chaotic mess? Taking some time to assess where your strategy feels like a struggle will make it easier to make changes that make Instagram more sustainable in the long run. (Personally, I’m easing up my rigid color palette and posting more pictures of my studio, because #mystudioismyhappyplace.)
2. Decide if Instagram really is the right platform for you.
Just because you had twenty different marketers telling you that you MUST use Instagram, it doesn’t mean you have to use Instagram. Instead, you need to decide if Instagram really is the right platform and marketing strategy for you. Yes, Instagram has millions of user who might be super excited to buy your products. But so does Pinterst. And Facebook. And YouTube. And Reddit. Etc, etc. There are so many platforms online that could connect you to potential customers, and you don’t have to be on all of them. You may even find that social media marketing isn’t the right path for your business at all. (In my class on Creative Live, How to Build a Business While Learning Your Craft, we look at five potential strategies for growing your audience, and only one of those revolves around social media.)
If you’ve never taken the time to ask yourself WHY you’re using Instagram, now is a good time to check in. Are you using it because you love the visual nature and the way you can connect to other people on the platform? Great! Are you using it simply because some marketer told you should be? Or because you heard it was the only way to sell your products? Not so great.
If you’re only using Instagram because someone said you should be, take a few minutes to assess if it’s the right fit for you. Is it the best place to find your ideal customers? Do you love using it? If the answer to either of these is no, it might simply be time to find a new marketing strategy.
3. Unfollow people who make you feel jealous or inferior.
When it comes to Instagram, it’s so easy to fall into the comparison trap. Oh, so-and-so always gets so many more likes than me. Or this person seems to be growing crazy fast, and I’m stuck here barely growing. (Or going backwards.) Or she sells out every time she posts something. What am I doing wrong?!?
Yes, following other people on Instagram to get a sense of their strategy or what’s working is totally acceptable. But not if it makes gives you a sense of defeat (or jealousy) every time they pop up in your feed. And chances are, they aren’t trying to make anyone feel bad on purpose. The truth is, it’s not them, it’s you. You might follow people who are, at their core, really good people. But something about their Instagram just makes you feel like crap every time you see them in your feed.
In this case, the best thing you can do is unfollow anyone who puts you in a negative headspace. If you feel yourself getting into a shame spiral, just hit unfollow. And the upside of this unfollow strategy is that you’ll likely end up spending less time following your competitors, which frees up more time to follow and interact with potential customers. And connecting with potential customers is the reason you’re using Instagram as your marketing strategy, right??
4. Create a back stock of images for when life doesn’t feel so Instagram-worthy.
Even if you’ve given yourself permission to relax a little when it comes to what you post, there are still going to be days when life doesn’t feel very Instagram-worthy. But the reality is that if you’re using Instagram as a true marketing strategy, you should be posting every day. That’s why it’s important to keep a back stock of images for days when taking a photo of something new just seems impossible.
This could mean taking a few minutes to snap some vignettes around your studio on a day when the light is good and the space is actually clean. It could also mean keeping great product photography stored in a place like Dropbox so it’s easily accessible on your phone. Or, it could simply be reposting an image from a few months back, especially if it did really well. (Last year, two of my top nine Instagram images were literally the same selfie. I reused it later in the year when I needed a photo in a pinch and definitely wasn’t in the mood – or the makeup – to take a selfie in that moment.)
As I mentioned earlier in this post, when it comes to Instagram, consistency is key. And taking the time to create a back stock of images when you’re in the zone will help make life easier when you aren’t.
5. Give yourself a break.
I know I just said that consistency is key on Instagram (and it is) but if you’re really struggling, you might simply be burnt out and in need of a break. Taking a few days (or even a week or so) off won’t hurt in the long run, and it can help you come back to the platform with a clear headspace. (Or help you realize that it’s not the best use of your marketing energy.)
If you do decide to take a break, I recommend giving yourself a couple of ground rules. The first is to set a calendar notification so that you actually start using it again. If you don’t you’ll suddenly find that months have gone by, and you haven’t posted at all! Second, if you’re taking a break, actually take a break from the platform completely. No mindlessly surfing Instagram when you’re bored. (And if you don’t have the willpower for that, delete the app. You can always put it back when your break is over.) And finally, while you’re on a break, use that time to focus on another marketing strategy. (Like reaching out to stores or improving your sites SEO. NOT mindlessly surfing Facebook.) If you do that, one of two things will happen. You’ll either find a marketing strategy you prefer, or you’ll come to actually miss Instagram, and come back to it with renewed enthusiasm.