10 Instagram Don’ts For Your Creative Business

As the manager and curator of several different Instagram accounts (like @creating.beautifully with around 120,000 followers, as well as @SonderGallery and @julestillman) that help promote artists, creatives, and a variety of other business owners, I see a lot of people trying to promote their businesses on Instagram. Some very successfully, and others, well… not so much.

As much as I like to focus on the positive in life and in business, I’ve just got to share some Instagram don’ts, because far too many new business owners and IG users are doing these things every day. They’re not only not helping build their Instagram followers, they could actually be hurting their business and brand.

So here are a few things I suggest you avoid on your business Instagram account:

1. Follow for follow.
Have you heard of this one? (Hopefully you’re not using it!) This includes the using the simple #f4f or #followforfollow hashtags. The followers you gain with these kinds of tactics are almost never your target market. They most likely will never buy any of your products (and isn’t that why you’re in business?), and quite frequently will just quietly unfollow you after a day or two.

2.“I followed you, please follow me back!”
I delete comments like this all the time. It’s a desperate way of begging for followers. IG is a social media – emphasis on social. If you like someone’s feed and/or they are in your target market, follow them, and then engage with them. Heart their photos, leave valuable comments and even ask questions (ie., “Cute boots! Where did you get them?”) Interact!

3. Don’t tag someone you don’t know in your photos.
If you’re trying to get noticed by a larger account and you don’t personally know them, don’t tag them in your photos. It’s presumptuous and, quite frankly, rude. Just like you, they are trying to build a brand, and may not appreciate you essentially saying that your product (or photo) IS them. One  exception is if the person or business specifically asks you to tag them – say for a contest or the like. Also, say you’re using or wearing one of the products, an @ mention and tag are not only fine, but appreciated!

4. Don’t buy followers.
Never ever. It’s a total waste of money. Again, when you do something like this, your followers are only gaining in quantity, not quality. It’s much better to have 100 followers that LOVE your products than 1000 followers who have absolutely no interest in your business. Also: it’s pretty much a lie, since these “followers” are ghost and/or spam accounts, anyway.

5. Don’t be negative.
If you’re having a bad day, talk to your friends about it – don’t post it on social media. (Please!?) If you had a bad experience with a customer, don’t post it on IG. Especially not your business account: Keep things positive.

6. Don’t over-post.
Stick to 2 to 4 posts a day, maybe more on special occasions. As a general rule, if I am going to post more than 4 times a day, I space out each post at least an hour apart. Flooding the feed with photo after photo might just get you unfollowed. (It’s definitely one of my pet peeves!)

7. Don’t under-post though, either.
If you only log in and post new pictures once a week, your customers and fans will forget about you. When you finally do post, they might just end up un-following. Keep your business and your products on their mind by posting at least once per day. If you can’t do at least one photo per day, try to stick with a schedule that will work for you, like 3-4 times a week. Just keep it consistent.

8. Don’t post blurry pictures.
This should be a no-brainer, but I see it more often than you’d think. Instagram is a VISUAL social media… Make sure your photos are the best they can be.

9. Don’t post product shots exclusively.
This one is a little tricky, as it holds true for most businesses – but not all. For most of you, I would encourage some “behind the scenes” shots. This is a great way for people to get to know you, like you, and trust you – so that they will eventually BUY from you. (That’s the whole point, isn’t it?) But if you consistently have new and different inventory (like in the case of vintage sellers) you don’t necessarily need behind the scenes shots, although I personally think they are a nice touch. And the occasional selfie, family or pet photo, makes you seem more likeable and approachable.

10. And finally, while you do want to let your followers into your personal life a bit (so they can get to know the person behind the business), you might not want to combine your business account with your personal account.
Your family and friends might (hopefully will!) follow your business account, but you should keep the vast majority of your personal posts (selfies, family photos, food pics) on your personal account. Your business account should be largely about promoting your business.

That’s all I have for today, but I’m curious, how do you feel about these ten tips? And am I missing any other “don’ts” on Instagram? Please feel free to comment below.  Also feel free to follow me on Instagram for more some uplifting motivation for your creative business.


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  • Hi, thanks for the great article! I have tried to implement a lot of your suggestions for It already. I struggle with consistency in posting, and end up not posting for a week, so I will try to step it up some. Also, and this is a big shortcoming for me, I don’t post the products I sell nearly often enough! I’m a one-woman show, and I get overwhelmed between stocking stores, going to craft shows, and private orders. However, as my business evolves and I begin creating products that I truly love to create, I want to give less focus to the items that sell well currently but don’t inspire my creativity. My question is, what is your advice on hashtag use? I’ve read that I should use at least 11 hashtags per post for the best engagement (a theory which I have found to be accurate among my own posts.) But then I just read another expert opinion that I should use only one or two hashtags maximum! I’m super careful to use only hashtags which are relevant to the image I’m posting. But as I mentioned, my engagement seems to double if I use more than 11. Am I getting false engagement this way? Thanks for lending an ear!

    • From what I’ve learned, as long as your tags are actually relevant, go ahead and use them. Using only 2 or so tags is like only advertising your business to a small group of your possible target market. It just doesn’t make sense. I sometimes even use alternate words for the craft I do (tatting) that catches the eye of people who speak other languages. In English we call it tatting (not the same as tattooing), but the French and the Russians call it frivolite. Another country calls it frywolitka. So I add those as well, to put my posts in front of those people. But I think for a business account, adding silly tags on a regular basis is not helpful.

  • What about hashtags. Sometimes some people just flood their posts with hashtags that aren’t so relevant either. We should be careful in the hashtag we put…