WHY OBSESSING OVER INSTAGRAM NUMBERS IS BAD FOR CREATIVITY

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How many times have you heard or read the following phrase lately "My Instagram numbers are just not growing - despite all my best efforts!" Said phrase is often accompanied by a wringing of hands, a defeated expression or at the very least, a frustrated eye roll. I know this because I’ve been there. I've been static for months. That number up there in my profile page has ping pong'd back and forth between the 22.2K and 22.4K more times than I've had a third coffee by 10:30am. And that's a lot of third coffees.

I'm no Instagram expert (I prefer to leave that one to Sara Tasker), but it seems fairly obvious to me that the days of coming up with a guaranteed workable strategy to increase those numbers are pretty much over. To my mind, there is seriously no point on focusing on the numbers alone - it feels like a losing game in a battle fought against giants. And this coming from one who fully recognises that for some brand partnerships, it still has to be all about the numbers.

Newsflash - it's not you know. It goes far beyond that but that's a whole other post that I don't think I have the energy or inclination to write anymore. Also, this comes from one who previously came up with her own strategy, implemented it and then wrote about it. Pre-algorithm I found my posting rhythm and more importantly, nailed down my creative style and it worked for a while. My following grew solidly over the course of eighteen months. But fast forward to the present day and a whole other set of rules in play... and I’m definitely done with obsessing over Instagram numbers.

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Whilst my ability to do business (with some brands) may depend on it, I refuse to talk about Insta growth for one more moment. There are far more important facets that go into keeping my online content alive and thriving and I feel way more positive when I focus on the heart, soul and creative stuff. And after a couple of recent conversations, I know there are others who feel this way too. We agreed that not only is the obsessive monitoring of stats a horrible, life-sucking beast but it will catapult you into the cave of comparison, make you forget about all the good bits and end up stifling your creativity.

The main thing I took away from those conversations was that the Instagram numbers, and blog stats for that matter, don't always determine the success and worth of a business. I know at least a handful of people who have small but dedicated followings and are running successful businesses with heart at their very core. And they sustain a loyal customer/reader base too.

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And anyway... exactly what determines the ultimate number of followers for you? One thousand? Two? Ten, fifty... or are you going for the three figure goal? Because I'll bet you a big 'ol bunch of peonies that when and if you reach it, you'll soon be focusing on the next target. How many is ever enough?

I fully admit I used to have lofty ambitions of having a three figure Insta following but for what? So I can say I have a three figure following? It was only when I recently used the phrase "building a community within a community" on this post that the penny finally dropped. It's not about the number of your followers, it's about who they are. The conversations you have with them. Why they follow you in the first place and what you give them. I don't follow someone because of how many followers they already have - I follow them because I like their content. And I'll bet that your followers are with you for the very same reason. For me it's also more about what I get out of the whole Instagram process in terms of creativity and connection

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I mean let's stop for a minute and focus on the pluses of Instagram and in particular, the creativity bit…

I am NOT a photographer. I am not artistic. It can take me awhile (read: I procrastinate A LOT!) to get on board with the latest tech development/next big thing. So if you'd have told me three or even two years ago that I could create a grid of images that look like mine does now, I'd have laughed myself right off my Eames chair. I don't have an Eames chair by the way but if I did, I'd be Instagramming the Bejeepers out of it for sure.

Instagram has taught me about the appreciation of aesthetics... and not just my personal preferences but what other people like and how they go about creating too. It's taught me about photographing in the right light and how I can take really good pictures with just my phone. It's got me using a plethora of editing tools to fine tune the tones, light and shade in the photos I take, meaning I can create a consistent grid of beautiful images.

And on that grid I can express myself, connect with like minded others, read things that make me snort tea out of my nose with laughter or cry big fat tears of sadness. It's connected me in real life with a handful of women who I now call my friends and who inspire me on a regular basis. They're supportive and nurturing - you find a lot of those people on Instagram. Together with blogs, it's inspired me to pin down and nail my true style both in terms of dress and living. I'll fully admit it's lead me a merry influencer dance up the garden path at times before - I don't know any influencers who haven't found themselves influenced at some point. But now I've learnt to stop, recognise it, reign it back in again and focus on what truly suits me or our home. And I think all of that too forms an important part of the creative process.

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Where else can you scroll beautiful images (whatever beauty means to you) and have meaningful conversations with hundreds or thousands of people? For free? Want to find your tribe? Come over to Instagram and get hashtag search savvy on whatever subject it is that floats your boat. Want to help support your business that you grew all by yourself and find a way to get your message out there? Hey Instagram... pleased to make your acquaintance! Focusing solely on the numbers makes you forget all the good things about the platform. And I think to be in that place wouldn't be much fun at all.

So much has been said about Instagram and social media in general of late and I think it's a very good thing that these conversations are happening. But I'd love to know what you think. Do you use it for business? If so how do you deal with the numbers game? Or do you just use it for fun and inspiration? And is it still delivering that for you?

Photos by Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash