PSA: I'm taking a sabbatical from Instagram.
Yes, but not a year or seven years off, just 7-days. Hear me out..
I'm taking a break from the 'gram.
As ironic as it may sound, I have always had a love/hate relationship with "social." I love how it can connect people and like-minded professionals. I have met and exchanged ideas with some fantastic designers, bloggers, and influencers with whom I wouldn't otherwise have connected with. I've found incredible connections through it and even all of my clients.
But then there's the negative side. The constant need to see what everyone else is up to and getting lost and worked up about the algorithm, stats, analytics, engagement rate... Let me keep it real; it's mostly the algorithm and drop in engagement that has been driving me crazy as each day I see my follower number drop, my engagement drop... basically as volatile as watching my cryptocurrency plummet by the second. But that is the thing... engagement and analytics... it's taken the fun out of this social platform.
These last 6 months have been chaos in the 'gram world for me, to the point where I need to take a break from my own social account to help me regroup, recharge and refocus. I've lost sight of what my blog and feed are about. I need to find my focus and stay true to it. But hold up -- clients and work -- don't worry... I'll still be here for your accounts. I merely need to take a step back from mine. It's almost even made me wonder if my account has gotten hacked again? Is there some crazy bot associated with my account that IG has flagged me? Not sure. My engagement rate has dropped drastically. A photo that used to get over 1k likes and plenty of comments is now 1/4 of that. Drastic and frustrating!
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There are the insta-famous, the insta-influencers, the insta-models, the insta-travelers, the-insta photographers, the insta-fit, the insta-foodies, the insta-writers and on and on and on. I'll agree, it's a great platform especially if you have something to share with the world.
When I first joined Instagram back in April of 2011 it was simply a visual diary. The first photo I believe was a photo of coconut water or Coachella or possibly coconut water at Coachella. Instagram was fun, but I didn’t think much about it. I occasionally posted pictures of myself and my friends out at night, food photos with a filter, where I was off traveling to, or my dog. Maybe a landscape or a pretty sunset with a short blurb, no hashtags. It wasn’t a particularly mind-blowing feed. (Obvi.) But it was fun.
I'll be the first to admit, using Instagram to leverage my blog was the best tool for reaching a greater audience and working with brands. Somewhere along the way, I fell completely and madly in love with photography as well, improving my skills more and more when it came to snapping a photo with my camera and using post production to clean up photos. Early on, I was savvy enough to never capture photos with my phone, but instead with my camera, text or email them to myself and post on Instagram. It took my heart whole and refused to let go. But the tide slowly started to shift, and the fun of it all was no more.
The day that Facebook bought Instagram is the day that part of my Instagram soul died. New changes happened after Facebook bought them; the algorithm began to change... constantly. This rad, scrappy start-up would soon face what every acquisition faces, the bureaucracy of change, monetization, and ads.
Instagram became very saturated with micro-influencers, bots, and those trying to cut corners to gain a substantial "following" for brands to recognize them. The idea of working with brands was very appealing and making money off of my posts that I shared with my audience was more appealing than getting sponsored posts for my blog. Plus, one instagram photo was less work and highly more valuable that writing 500 words and 5 photos about a product. It was much more organic and more native than a direct ad. This slowly started to take a toll on me. It made me lose sight of why it is that I post on Instagram and my blog. Every time I'd post, it had to be super strategic to the time of day. Then I waited to see how many people would like my posts as if that was a reflection of my worthiness of a creative.
However, as time rolled on, I found myself getting sucked into a world that I was not always so enamored about. I found myself comparing my work to that of others, and left with a gnawing sense of my inadequacy. I found myself doubting images I wanted to post, as perhaps they were slightly dark or different, strange; doubting myself and comparing myself with my peers. They wouldn’t “fit-in” with the rest of my “feed.” I wasn’t sure how people would respond to them. I felt the constant "need" to double my follower numbers and engagement rate to get noticed by brands. It wasn't until I reached 10k followers that brands started to reach out. Getting to 20k then 30K then 40K and almost 50K was impressive. The engagement and sharing of brands but also getting paid up to $500 per post was mind-blowing and something that I quickly had my eye on. And rightfully so, since my efforts to build my audience was of value to brands. Like other influencers and bloggers, I had an audience that they wanted. My audience was one that listen to me and my opinion. They trusted what I had to say. Brands and advertisers want that. This is why I always tell people to never post for free for a brand. Whether you have 1,000 followers of 1,000,000 followers -- if they are very engaging, they are valuable assets to you, and brands want a piece of that. Never work for free. I'll talk about this another time.
Then 2017 happened and the algorithm changed drastically, effecting everyone. Since then, it's been a constant battle of keeping up with the latest changes and staying true. This in return caused a domino effect and started to effect brand work, brands not renewing their contracts, decrease in traffic to my blog, decrease in email subscribers, a decrease in affiliate link purchases, and so on.
It's pretty easy to get all caught up in this vicious Instagram circle. As a blogger and influencer, these things matter if you want to work with brands. With that said, I've noticed that the last 6 months I've lost my focus on my feed, my blog, and the type of blogger I am. A few months ago I made it a point to decline every single brand opportunity that presented itself -- paid or not paid. (Sorry, I do not work for free.)
In recent months I've stayed true and have only worked with brands that I absolutely LOVE and use in my daily life, brands that I believe in and enjoy and happy to recommend and shout them out on stories. They are the constant brands that you see within my feed, stories, and blog. I realized I need to stay true to myself and my audience. I think this is something many bloggers and influencers disconnect from. It's funny... in the 90's this is what people would refer to as a "sell out." It makes me wonder, are we all "sell outs" and how does this play into transparency of what people are endorsing and what they actually like and love?
With that said, I really believe that taking a break from it will help me regroup and find my focus again.
Have you taken a break from Instagram? How did you feel after? Share here!
Valerie is a San Francisco native who loves overall health and wellness. She content creator and recipe developer, helping brands in the Fitness, Health & Wellness space tell their stories through gluten-free, mostly plant-based food, life + travel.