If you’re trying to grow a business on social media then you’re probably aware of all the different rules and strategies for how to expand your reach, show up thoughtfully, and make your mark in the online space… “Post this many times a week and make sure you’re on stories this many times a day! Don’t post between the hours of 8 pm to 6 am or on these very specific yet random days, but DO make sure you post when people are active and ready to engage whenever that might be. Use hashtags but don’t use them if they’re not the right ones. Post videos but only if they’re well done. Don’t use filters, DO use filters, don’t be too vulnerable, but be REAL and AUTHENTIC!”
While rules and structure can absolutely help as you create a flow that works for you, there also might come a time where you recognize that showing up might look a little different in the season of life or entrepreneurship you’re in. Over the last few years I’ve leaned on the strategies that I teach, the ones that work, but I’ve also given myself grace to follow my own intuitive flow when it comes to showing up on Instagram specifically, a flow that allows me to show up and share my life, but also savor my time offline and be present with my family at home.
I’m sharing 10 things you can stop doing on Instagram so that you can take back your joy on the app and focus on routines and practices for showing up in a way that FEELS good, a way that aligns with your own lifestyle, your goals, and your schedule. Let’s say goodbye to these 10 “rules” that just don’t make sense anymore, and instead lean into smart Instagram practices that feel strategic and fit into our individual lives.
Stop posting at a time of day that doesn’t work with your life
I get asked this question a ton: “What is the best time of day to post?” And my response, “When you can check in with yourself and ask yourself, is now a good time to post?” That’s the best time to post, when your life allows you to.
So just because someone said there was the best time of day to show up, don’t go out of your way and rearrange your life or your schedule just to slap up a quick post. Worse is if you’re following these bits of advice but posting and ghosting, meaning you’re posting and not engaging or relying on a 3rd party platform to autopost for you, so that you’re not even engaged with your audience or the content you’re sharing.
Trust me when I say, the time of day won’t make or break your post, it’s more important to post when it’s a good time for you, when you can commit a bit of time to those engaging with what you just shared. I usually share once Coco is in bed, when I’m not missing out on moments with her or distracted. So ask yourself, “Is now a good time to be on my phone?” And if you can commit to staying on 10-20 minutes after you post to intentionally engage, well, THAT is the best time of day to post.
The amazing thing is that when you DO thoughtfully engage, respond to people’s comments, and answer questions and DMs, it further encourages even more engagement, which then tells the algorithm that your posts are worth prioritizing and distributing in the feed! So to me, thoughtful engagement is so much more valuable than the time or day you post.
Stop passively scrolling
It’s SO easy to get stuck on a project or want to take a break from work and just mindlessly pick up our phones and open up Instagram. In fact, I was just talking to a neuroscience expert and we were talking about how we never really let ourselves be bored anymore because we fill every minute, every bit of “white space” with mindless scrolling. It’s like we’ve forgotten how to get quiet with ourselves or keep ourselves company.
It generally starts innocently but it’s keeping us constantly distracted. Like we grab our phone to quickly check something and before we know it, 20 minutes have passed and somehow we’re watching someone’s random Reel about how to make tomato feta pasta. Anyone else?! So you’re invited to stop the mindless scroll, to even set app limits (yes you can do that in your iphone for free under your settings) to keep you in check. I mean, we’re all complaining that we don’t have enough time in the day and meanwhile, our data usage tells us that we’re aimlessly scrolling on Instagram when we could be using our time so much more intentionally.
Whether you need to set screen time limits in your phone’s settings or even just set a timer, try to hop on to the platform with a purpose to encourage and engage with others, whether it’s on your own feed or on others’ feeds, and not to use it as a crutch, distraction, or time filler when what you probably really need is a break from screens.
Stop forgetting to account for your ROI
I love measuring results, especially in places where our efforts should be reflected by the outcomes. Now, I know you’ve probably heard of ROI in terms of return on investment but in this context I want you to think of it as return on Instagram.
When the algorithm flipped, everyone got so obsessed with likes and comments and engagement and while all of those things matter in terms of success on the app, they don’t guarantee that those metrics actual move the needle in our actual business. I know micro influencers who bring in 6-figures and I know mega influencers who are dead broke. Likes and followers don’t necessarily pay the bills and so I want for you to stop forgetting about the value of your time and energy when it comes to the app and start making sure that your efforts and tied to tangible, measurable results.
Stop letting vanity metrics rule how you show up and instead start focusing on posts that move the needle for you whether it’s getting new subscribers to your email lists, starting conversations that lead to sales, new leads, new strategic connections, new reviews or testimonials, or something else that actually boosts your business in the online space. Make sure the time and energy you’re spending is leading to progress and growth for you by incorporating smart calls to action and interacting with those who engage with your content.
Stop letting a creative roadblock hold you back
Real quick algorithm 101: Every move you make on Instagram whether it’s liking, sending a DM, tapping through stories, or searching out a creator or post is tracked and while that feels weird it is also how the algorithm works to serve you content that you’ll most likely enjoy and engage with!
On the days that you’re stuck, one great way to get inspired is to hit up your explore feed or see what pops up for you when you hit that “search” magnifying glass. These posts are curated based on what you’ve been engaging with or seeking out on the app and so it might expose you to new accounts to follow or fun posts to save in a little inspiration folder for the days you’re feeling stuck. Of course, remember the difference between inspiration and imitation, so make sure you explore how to put your own spin on things but getting inspired can help you get excited about showing up on the app again.
If you don’t know what to say or how to show up, take some time to scroll for the sake of inspiration! Set a timer, see what inspires you to take action, get excited about ways you can show up. Allow yourself to be inspired and then create from a space of your own personal experiences and stories.
Stop sharing the same set of hashtags
Sometimes I laugh when I type in a word on my phone and it autopopulates a series of hashtags, I really just gotta get in my keyboard settings and delete those things, because gone are the days where you can save a set of hashtags saved in your phone or in your notes app for you to use over and over and over again. There once was a time where it made sense to create curated groupings of tags and just rely on those for each and every post, but those days are gone.
In fact, there’s a chance that Instagram will now penalize your posts if you just slap on the same old hashtags on every post. Here’s why! Instagram has image recognition technology now so if the tags you are using have nothing to do with the image or content you’re posting, the platform might see it as a way to game the system or question the alignment of the tags you’re using and worse off, if you’re using broken hashtags or banned hashtags, there’s a risk it might really impact your reach, so the point here is: stop using one arbitrary set of hashtags for every post, it’s not moving the needle for ya.
Stop feeling pressure to show up every single day
The thing is, life shifts and your time constraints, priorities, inspiration, and passion can all change. The way I show up and the standard I hold myself to at this season of my life are way different and a lot more grace filled. I’d rather show up when I WANT to, not feeling like I HAVE to.
Now, if you can and want to show up every day of the week with thoughtfulness and intention, then more power to you! I totally commend you. While I try to remain somewhat consistent, I also give myself a lot of grace and space for real life to unfold which sometimes means I go a week without posting a grid photo or a weekend without a single story. Don’t set your frequency to be a standard that feels impossible, aim to show up when you can and what you have something to share and let the focus be on quality, not quantity.
If it helps you to show up, lean on a structure that fits into your schedule and lifestyle when you need it, but don’t let it limit you by keeping you tied to showing up in a way that doesn’t feel aligned. Consistency is absolutely key but I promise quality content will win.
Stop following accounts that make you feel like crap
Hi, it’s me, telling you to stop following people or accounts that trigger you, the bring out your insecurities, or make you question your own happiness. Take back a portion of the control you actually have when it comes to being a gatekeeper of what you’re letting into your life. And we’ve all heard that stat that you’re the average of the 5 people you spend time with, well, I think if we look at our digital consumption, we probably become a lot like the people we follow on the internet too, so if they are stealing joy or making you question yourself, maybe it’s time to hit unfollow.
Set a timer (notice, I love timers) and do a little audit of your feed or who you’re following. Click that unfollow as you scroll for accounts that no longer serve you or that tend to bring up negative feelings. And also, I don’t talk about this often, but let’s get on a mission together to eradicate hate follows — if you don’t know what a hate follow is, it’s when you follow someone only to keep up with their posts and actions for cynical reasons whether it’s to measure their progress against your own or to snark on them or keep up with those who seem like they’re “farther” along in some area you wish you were more advanced in like relationships, money, or business.
Do a Marie Kondo purge on who it is you’re following and if they don’t spark joy or confidence, hit unfollow. I don’t care if it’s your past-bestie from 6th grade or someone you’ve never met in real life, if you experience feelings of resentment, annoyance, or insecurity from anyone that you follow, it’s time to part ways. It’s true that we usually follow someone for a reason or a season, so get clear on which of those is true for those who you follow and then allow yourself to be guilt-free about purging the accounts that steal your joy.
Stop getting too stuck on perfection
Raise your hand if you struggle with trying to show up perfectly! My hand is in the air. This one is as much for me as it is for you when it comes to curating the perfect feed. I 100% blame my years as a professional photographer for my desire for beautiful cohesiveness when it comes to my Instagram grid and while I think it’s important for your images to be high-quality and somewhat cohesive, I don’t think it’s as much make or break as it used to be.
Honestly, I think people are craving more real, in the now moments, and it’s something I, as a consumer love, and as a creator am trying to embrace. For example, on the Goal Digger Podcast Instagram, we shared an iphone shot of me and my friend Brendon Burchard and it outperformed everything else we had shared within recent months. That’s right, the one iphone photo trumped all the pro headshots and professionally designed graphics, so I think we can all start loosening up about these crazy expectations, let go of the perfection, and post more real life, less-curated images that simply share a piece of your life.
Just think about the last time you popped onto someone else’s profile and actually paid attention to or cared whether or not their grid was perfectly edited and looked completely cohesive… Odds are you really don’t care all that much about someone else’s aesthetic or uniformity and so let that be freeing to you and your own images you share! It’s better to show up imperfectly than to not show up at all! Remember these are feeds of our lives, not editorial peer-reviewed journals.
Stop only showing up when we have something to sell
Oooof, I see this one all of the time, especially for accounts created for the sake of promoting a business. It’s easy to lay low and focus on other pieces of your business, and then when a launch rolls around you might think, “Oh crap, I’ve gotta get my offer out there!”
But here’s the thing, the algorithm and your audience can sniff you out from a million miles away. No one wants to be only be pitched to on Instagram — in fact the platform is not built to be a selling tool. Instagram isn’t made for sales pitches, it a place where you should be focused on serving.
Your followers? They want to connect with you, hear your stories and learn about your life and see some of your behind the scenes in order to understand who you are and what you do and what value you offer! Not only will it help grow the know, like, trust factor, it will also make your offer feel more valuable to them. If you focus on serving and showing up when you have nothing to sell, you’ll build true connections on the platform. THEN when you do share about a product or service they can purchase, there’s actually a foundation there for them to feel more inclined to trust and invest in your stuff!
While it’s tempting to wait until you have something to pitch, try to show up and let people into your life, the behind the scenes, even the mundane. My aim is to show up for 1 minute a day on stories, just four 15-second frames, regardless of if I have make up on or if I have something cool to share — which spoiler alert, most of my days aren’t mind-blowing or glamorous or wildly entertaining, but people want to see that normalcy and just like to be a fly on the wall for a small chunk of your day!
So whether it’s just showing what you made for breakfast or how you’re prepping for a launch or what your to-do list is that day,, make sure you’re serving and connecting way more than you are selling — it’ll seriously help your engagement when the time comes to invite or sell. And I’d bet that you’ll feel better about your digital presence when it’s a more well-rounded version that shows the true you.
Stop posting in real time
Seriously, don’t do it. Don’t let an app pull you from your life’s precious moments. 99% of the time I post after Coco’s in bed, I take photos or videos throughout the day and then when I have a moment to choose what I want to share and what is just meant for our family, I take the time to post and connect my content to my audience. It all goes back to, “Is this the best time to be on my phone?”
Like there’s something beautiful when you take the photo and put your phone away so that you can take a little time away from the special moment you want to share. It helps you to have space to figure out why that moment matters and helps you to share it in an authentic and meaningful way… in other words, take the Insta out of Instagram and instead see it as a chance to capture the moment with a photo, maybe jot down a note in your phone so you don’t forget the feeling or moment when you do go to share it later on, and then, return to living it.
If something is so awesome that you want to document it, that actually is a sign to me that you should focus on living it fully. You can always share later — and by the way, no one is going to shame you or even quite frankly care if you post a later-gram — the benefit here is that you can really ask yourself why this should matter to your followers and create a caption that intentionally connects the dots for them rather than just throwing a haphazard caption up quickly, just to get the post up and get sucked into the digital world when your life is unfolding in front of you!
The Big Picture
Well, there you have it! Ten things you can put on your not-to-do list when it comes to Instagram. While this is a list of “stops” and “don’ts,” my desire is that rather than feeling like you have even more rules to adhere to on Instagram, instead you feel invited to be more intentional with how you show up and share and interact and engage on the app. Because at the end of the day, Instagram is simply a social media app that, by its simplest definition, allows people to share videos, photos, and captions that make up their favorite life’s moments.
It’s not just a place to market or sell, it’s really our legacies. When you peel back all the strategies and rules, when you look deeper, I honestly think of Instagram as this modern-day photo album, like the ones our parents have that document their lives and families growing up. It’s a space for us to share our stories, to connect with others, and even build our legacies that our children and grandchildren can look back at and learn from.
Maybe that sounds over the top, but to me it really is a space of reflection, storytelling, and relationship-building, and so if we approach the app with that point of view and look at it less as a frustrating or silly social media platform or a place to perform or “beat the algorithm,” I think we can bring the joy and purpose back to Instagram.