Ready to quit Instagram? Here’s how to approach it.

Build Your Audience Social Media
11 min read
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We’re all tired of algorithms that don’t make sense.

At the beginning of 2022, popular lifestyle influencer Jess Ann Kirby went public to her 137,000 followers about taking a break from Instagram. “Without even thinking about it, I was so mindless,” she wrote on her blog. “I kept asking myself, ‘If Instagram wasn’t responsible for a large part of my financial livelihood, would I still be there?’ The answer is no.”

She’s not the only one. It seems like lots of influencers are talking more about the downsides of the platform—and you might be feeling that frustration, too. But with 1.2 billion users on the platform, it can be hard to ignore for your business.

Instagram takes a toll on creators. Because you’re not in control, you’re forced to create for the app and the ever-changing algorithm rather than create for yourself or what your community needs.

It’s ok to feel overwhelmed. Carly Zimbone, a social media expert and owner of an online digital marketing company, knows the feeling. “There’s so much confusion on where to focus your energy and attention,” she says. “There’s pressure. If you’re not effectively distributing your marketing efforts in a way that actually helps your audience, you’re missing out on a real competitive edge.”

Carly Zimbone
Social media expert and coach Carly Zimbone helps her clients stay true to themselves while finding success on platforms like Instagram.

Know this: You can optimize as much as possible, film a million Reels with trending songs, and still feel like you’re shouting into the void. Here’s what two creators are doing to diversify their marketing—and keep themselves from being trapped into what the algorithm wants.

How to be successful on Instagram right now

Abigail Akinyemi, aka The Lady Who Travels, grew her Instagram following from just 300 followers at the beginning of 2021 to more than 55,000 by March 2022—all while juggling a full-time job in the tech industry.

Abigail Akinyemi
Abigail Akinyemi travels around the world while working remotely full-time at a tech company, with recent stops in Italy, Jamaica, and Guatemala.

The secret to success, she says, is all in video. “It all started with sharing travel tips and places I’ve been,” she says. “I gained 45,000 followers in the month of January alone, and it’s because I’ve really embraced video. I’ve been willing to try anything because I’m so new.”

For Akinyemi, that means the vast majority of her content is video-based, like this Reel:

It’s not so much about video as how people react to it. In fact, 91% of recently surveyed active Instagram users say they watch videos on Instagram weekly.

That’s because engagement such as likes, comments, saves, and shares are what determines your reach. “I only post Reels because I realized right away that static images don’t ‘live’ on the platform as long anymore. When I post a picture, if within the first 30 minutes or so my audience doesn’t comment, it basically dies. If it’s a Reel, it automatically gets pushed out to anyone interested in what I’m talking about, whether or not they’re following me. It makes a huge difference,” says Akinyemi.

Behind-the-scenes, this means that your followers don’t see posts in chronological order, for example. Instead, they see a feed curated based on what they’ve previously engaged with and how often they engage with that account.

Focusing on video also opens up room to grow your audience, since it’s more likely to be pushed to people who don’t currently follow you but follow similar accounts or people who talk about similar topics.

What makes a great Reel

Since Reels are typically seen by people who aren’t already following you, think about ways to introduce yourself and what you do through education and inspiration instead of leaning on a more sales-driven approach. That includes content like:

  • Quick tips related to your creative process
  • Behind-the-scenes clips of how you bring a piece of art or music to life
  • A sneak peek of your online course
  • Blooper reels or video-based memes

Says Akinyemi, “I make informative and inspirational content that educates people. If I’m sharing travel tips, it’s getting that hook and a story quickly so you can explain a concept they may not have heard before.”

More than anything, you have to keep it short and sweet. Anything longer loses people’s attention and doesn’t perform as well. “You can get away with only about 20 seconds, max,” says Akinyemi. “But Instagram technically gives you three minutes. Don’t bother doing anything over that 15-second mark because you’re just not going to reach people.”

That means you have to keep the content as organic as possible. “I don’t recommend a script,” says Zimbone. “If you feel like you’re about to mess up, just pause the video, collect yourself, and restart it. You can always trim it out later.”

Finally, make sure you give viewers a call-to-action. Remember, they may not know who you are or even follow you, so start with that. “I literally say, ‘Please follow me for more on this,’ and include instructions in the caption since it’s not really intuitive,” says Akinyemi.

Don’t obsess over the algorithm—be yourself

Hate video? That’s perfectly okay.

Algorithms constantly change. But what you have to offer as a creative entrepreneur is yourself.

You don’t have to post Reels or carousels or whatever trending audio is happening that day. What matters more is your personality and your business, and that you continue to use the platform consistently. It may take more time to grow your following, but ultimately, you’re going to attract higher quality followers—people more interested in who you are and what you have to offer than your ability to make a high-quality piece of video.

“The best thing to do is just find what works for you and be patient with it,” advises Zimbone. “If consistency is posting three days a week, and it’s content you truly shine and enjoy doing, do that.”

Zimbone recommends dividing your social media strategy into several pillars so you can stay organized and consistent throughout the week. What you choose is up to you, but it may look like:

  • Specific tips or educational posts
  • Inspirational video or quotes
  • Memes, trends, or more silly breaks
  • Q&A posts
  • Point-of-view ride-a-longs
  • Guides or more in-depth captions
  • Talk-to-the-camera stories

“Think about what you want to be known for,” she says. “Make it really clear to the audience what it is you do and that you have expertise on it. As they get to know you, they’ll start thinking about you and your offers differently. That comes from consistency more than anything.”

Akinyemi loves filming video, which is why she still does it. But even then, she thinks intentionally about what content she posts and how often. “I go back to three categories of questions I try to answer as I create,” she says. “I talk about travel safety, travel inspiration, and logistics, and everything I make has to align with one of those topics.”

Focus on community first

Instagram may be a hot channel today, but know that your audience isn’t everyone. Understanding who you serve—and who you don’t—can help you hone in on the social media strategy that makes sense.

“Honestly, I rarely post Reels,” admits Zimbone. “There’s a disconnect for me on landing impressions and yielding those impressions to followers or prospective clients for my business. At the end of the day, a trending song targets everyone, not necessarily the people I created the post for.”

Think about your community first, and set your strategy based on audience needs rather than what you think the algorithm wants to see. That means staying true to yourself. “I had a drone video go viral, but I realized I don’t want to fly a drone all the time,” says Akinyemi. “What really performs better in the end for me is sharing my experiences, especially with solo travel. The more vulnerable I can be with my audience, the more I can develop a real community on my page.”

What matters is that you show up for your audience.

“It takes a little inner work to embody why you’re doing what you’re doing for your community,” says Zimbone. “For my clients, I have them remember that if they don’t show up, the one person that needed to hear what you had to say missed out. You have to remember that you’re important to somebody and that you have the power to change their life in some way.”

When in doubt, ask your audience what kind of content they want to see (or where it’s best to talk to them!) You run your own business—there are no set rules about which platforms you have to be on or which tactics are going to work best for you.

Choose channels you can control

If the back-and-forth on Instagram isn’t for you, there are plenty of other options. One tried-and-true channel that you have full control over? Your email list.

“Your email list is super key, because you never know what’s going to happen in social media. It’s so volatile. It’s definitely the best way to avoid getting caught up in the frustrations of keeping up with the Instagram or Facebook algorithms,” says Zimbone.

Instagram may not be the place where you go viral or have hundreds of thousands of followers. But by connecting Instagram to your email list, you can create a space that you can make an impact.

One of the best ways to build your email list is by creating a series of free offers in exchange for their email address, using a landing page built in ConvertKit.

An example of one of Zimbone’s free offers she links directly in her Instagram bio.

Examples of free offers for your business might be:

  • A free meditation or other audio recording
  • Journal prompts, worksheets, or other free DIY-style content that fits your business
  • Long-form advice or research such as an ebook or whitepaper
  • A mini-course or free workshop that introduces your top tier offer

“If you’re sick and tired of posting and hearing crickets, you need to offer something of value to your followers,” says Zimbone. “I recommend creating something that solves a specific challenge that relates to how you help your community.”

Even though Instagram has been super successful for Akinyemi, she’s actively working on building out her email list. Right now, she sends a monthly newsletter with more details about her travels, including links to blog posts with destination guides and tips. She also offers 1:1 travel planning consults exclusively to her email list.

A snapshot of her recent newsletter, all about her trip to Guatemala.

“When I send out emails, all of my calls get booked up,” she says. “With email, I can be more purposeful. I get to explain more about how I’m feeling, what I’m working on, and it’s been really engaging for my community.”

Remember why you create in the first place

It’s easy to get caught up in algorithms and tactics, so take a step back and remember why you do what you do, and the creative elements you love the most. After all, that’s why you started your creative business in the first place—not to cater to an algorithm, but to share your talents with the world.

Says Zimbone, “I always focus on gratitude. When you’re feeling overwhelmed by the digital marketing world, lean back into your vision and how incredible it is that you can speak and help and teach people all over the world.”

With ConvertKit's creator marketing platform as the hub of your business, you don’t have to worry about optimizing every element of your strategy. We’re here to help you build beautiful, easy-to-make landing pages, email campaigns, and more. Try ConvertKit free for 14 days.

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Kayla Voigt

Always in search of adventure, Kayla hails from Hopkinton, MA, the start of the Boston Marathon. When she's not using words to help businesses grow, she's probably summiting a mountain or digging into a big bowl of pasta. Like what you're reading? Come say hi: http://www.kaylalewkowicz.com

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