This is For You

I started doing this thing on Instagram recently, which is this: I stopped trying to gain new followers.

I had been dutifully posting my list of 20+ hashtags on every photo for years, rolling my eyes at the fake comments from bots, watching people follow me just to see if I would follow them back so that they could unfollow me right away. I never felt like I knew which hashtags to use, it was tedious to find new ones, and I didn’t like how they looked under my photos. They always made me feel like I was trying too hard. Not to mention that – especially when the post was a personal one – using hashtags like #toronto_igers felt like inviting a bunch of strangers into my living room and having to watch them make inauthentic, superficial remarks about the stuff I loved.

This is For You >> Life In Limbo

Obviously social media is exactly that – social – and I completely understand the impulse to find new friends and fans. I should be clear that I don’t judge anyone trying to grow their following or their business by (almost) any means possible. But given that I don’t even use my Instagram account as a business tool (it’s a collection of pretty moments I love), it started to seem silly to be hustling for likes and follows. As this blog makes obvious, I’m not really interested in creating viral content or creating a “lifestyle brand”, even if that idea does seem appealing sometimes.

So I just stopped posting hashtags on my photos, beyond my own personal ones. And my engagement went way, way up. I now have fewer total likes per photo, but significantly more comments, especially from people who I actually know, love, or respect.

I sent the message to the people who matter to me:this is for you.

Removing tags and talking in my real voice rather than my Marketing Voice sends an extremely loud message, even subconsciously. Posting without an official call to action is refreshing to read – and to write. And this has actually had an effect. Now, when I ask a question, my people know I’m talking to them, rather than some unidentified Future Fan. Now, the comments I get are real, authentic, and supportive. The robots have (mostly) gone away and left me in peace. I feel more grounded, and more free to share what’s really on my heart. I’ve made my Instagram life just a little bit quieter and a little bit more fun.

When I started reflecting on this, I heard Brené Brown saying:

I thought about how crazy it is that most of us can steamroll over [real] friends while we work to win the approval and acceptance of people who really don’t matter in our lives — people whom we’d never call when we were in a real struggle.

Again, I don’t really think the answer is to never use hashtags again, or to abandon Instagram as a marketing platform for your business. It’s a tool, and like any tool, it can be helpful in creating community and driving sales. But it’s something to think about, as our lives continue to get noisier and our attention spans become shorter:

How do you treat the people who already love you?

Reminder: My choices are not a commentary on yours.

6 thoughts on “This is For You”

  1. There is so much that is not authentic on Instagram right now! Or maybe there has always been but I’m just noticing it more now? Either way, it’s always refreshing to see a post from you that’s just something pretty you’re sharing for the sake of sharing. You’re still bringing together a community, just in your own authentic way, not through hashtags!

    1. Brooke this is such a kind comment! Thank you for saying that. It’s hard to remember sometimes, especially when you look around and see all the inauthentic craziness, that it’s okay to share just because you love it. Thanks for the great reminder :)

  2. Thank you for the reminder! I love Brené Brown’s quote! So true, unfortunately, it does describe something we all do but which is -when you think about it- quite nonsense. I have stopped using instagram, but I do occasionally browse through close friends’ and people-I-admire’s pictures – imma check your feed straight away :)

    1. Brené is the best! I am so grateful I get to hear her wisdom so freely. Good for you for cutting back on Instagram! I get a lot of joy out of it, but can get sucked into the above behaviours if I’m not careful. ;)

  3. Well said! It’s one of the reasons why I’ve put my Instagram into private mode and remove all those hashtags that were recommended to lure new followers so I’m sharing my posts with people that I know personally and enjoy the conversations. And I still use hashtags but it’s for my own purpose – to look back at certain categories of photos if that’s the correct way to term it.

    1. YES Eli I love that last part – I do that too, to keep track of books I read and things like that. I love having hashtags for collecting photos. But I was 100% using hashtags to “lure new followers” and that just didn’t feel like a fit for me anymore. :)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top