INSTAGRAM: ARE YOU JUST WASTING YOUR TIME?

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Instagram is considered essential for anyone in the visual arts – designers, photographers, handcrafters, stylists… and the retailers who represent them.
But even so, Instagram could be a waste of your time.
Having a great account is not easy and if you are committed to making Instagram work, you are probably spending at least 2 hours a week creating content, engaging with followers and trying to grow your account.
To know whether you are wasting your time on Instagram you need to understand how social media fits into the marketing landscape. Your Instagram account (or any social media account) does not belong to you.
The best way to think about your account is as an advertising slot on a television station that requires advertisers to produce all programming content.
What do I mean by this? Let me start with the first point. All of us are merely renting a space on any social media platform. At any time, the owners of that platform can decide to change the terms of our agreement- by dropping our reach through an algorithm change or even disabling our account. When this happens there is usually very little that can be done to appeal the decision.
If you’ve been following the recent changes to the way Instagram’s hashtags work, you’ll know what I mean. And if you haven’t, just try googling ‘Instagram shadow ban.’
Why does this matter? Social media is something that must be done on a daily basis to be successful. And when you are pouring that much energy into anything, it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. In this case, it is easy to treat your social media account as a strategy in itself.

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Social media is not strategy.
Until the last few decades, advertising looked like this:
Television stations were in charge of buying great content in the form of sitcoms, sporting events, and movies. It was the stations’ job to build an audience of viewers and to understand what this audience looked like: their age, gender, where they lived etc.
Business owners asked the television station about this audience. If the audience was a match with the business’ target market, the business would purchase a commercial slot as a way to talk to this audience. It was an expensive model, available only to large corporates.
Social media has democratised this model- making it available to all business owners, not just those with deep pockets. But there is another price to be paid. Instagram (and all other social media platforms) require you to create the content yourself and grow an audience yourself.
Essentially, as a business owner, you are now also taking on the role of the television station. It is inevitable that eventually, the social media platform will charge you to talk to the audience you have grown (much as Facebook currently does).
None of this either new or wrong: business owners and marketers have always paid to speak to their target market. But is important to understand the way social media works and where it is moving to.
How to make sure you are not wasting your time
First, focus on growing a following that is highly targeted rather than getting caught in the ‘vanity metric’ of having lots of followers. Instagram is slowly moving to a pay-to-play model, similar to Facebook. When that time comes, you don’t want to be paying to talk to followers who have no interest in what you do.
Second, and most importantly, you need to understand what you want people to do when they land on your Instagram feed. You can bet that companies who are paying for television advertising space aren’t doing so just to pay a large sum of money and make some witty content. They have a strategy for a product or their brand, and this advertising space is a way to propel that strategy forward. They may have a new product that they want people to buy or they may be trying to get people to sign up for a service.

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You should treat your Instagram account the same way.
If you are spending your valuable time on creating content, make sure you know what you want people to do when they arrive.
Are you driving them to your website? Do you want them to purchase product? Do you want them to sign up to your email list? Are you using a program such as Like To Know to sell directly from Instagram? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions but you do need to be able to answer the questions.
Ultimately, I think social media has been a boon for small businesses and with the right approach Instagram is a valuable part of many strategies. But it is on you to make sure you are not wasting your time.

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Lucia Philip - Blog Bio Short

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