I Stopped Posting to Instagram for 90 Days and This Is What Happened

I Stopped Posting to Instagram for 90 Days and This Is What Happened

Posting consistently is one of the most recommended tasks you can do to grow organically on Instagram. What happens when you stop posting all together?

My last articles about posting everyday for a month and spending $50 on instagram inspired me to talk about what happens when you stop posting anything. Before I dive into this I want to address that those previous two experiments were purposely planned and documented. I never planned to stop posting to Instagram, but after being pummeled by a massive hurricane and a tragedy in my family, Instagram became far less of a priority.

For anyone trying to put themselves out there and grow their brand there are a lot of tips and tricks you can do to give yourself the best chances of growing a following. Curating your feed or following a consistent style are prime examples. No matter what trend or tip you choose to follow, posting consistently is the most important “rule” when trying to grow your brand. Thus there’s a lot of pressure to continually make content and post on a regular basis. Fleeting thoughts such as “I haven’t posted in 4 days, I absolutely need to post today,” or “I’ll never grow if I don’t keep up the pace.” These can weigh on you especially when traveling and taking photos is still considered a hobby that doesn’t pay any of your bills. So here is what happened after not posting for 90 days.

The Results

The world did not end. All of my followers didn’t abandon me. My photos didn’t cease to exist. This is the follower growth I had throughout September (the last recorded data I have):

armitage follower growth instagram 2018

September 2018 Follower Growth via iconosquare

My last post was on October 2nd and I have no data after that point. I had roughly 6,487 followers before I took a hiatus. My current follower count as of writing this article is 6,405. Thus after not posting for over 90 days I lost a total of 82 followers, a 1.2% loss. Keep in mind that even though I was not posting at all, I was still gaining followers. Take last week as an example:

Instagram Follower Gain Without Posting

Follower Gain Without Posting

I actually messaged a few of these people to find out why they followed me or how they found me. Some of them followed me because they stumbled upon articles I wrote on Fstoppers, others found me through a random assortment of websites that my photos are hosted on. Many people are spam/fake accounts or only following me in hopes that I follow them back. You’ll find yourself gaining and losing followers constantly when you are trying to grow - the trick is gaining more than you lose to find growth.

Conclusion

I realize that these results are quite obvious. I didn’t post, thus I lost followers. Why waste time writing about it? For me it’s a reminder that sometimes life happens, sometimes we get in a rut, or sometimes we just stop seeing purpose in what we may be doing. Yet we pressure ourselves to do whatever we can to grow. That anxiety can become overwhelming, it can take away the joy you once had with photography or sharing your work. It can start to feel like a job with no results. You find yourself wanting to take a step back but not letting yourself take a break because you don’t want to lose all the hard work you’ve put in.

If you have ever felt these things, this is for you. You won’t lose all your followers, the world won’t end, and everything will still be there whenever you’re ready to come back. Most importantly, your photos are timeless. Twenty years from now you’ll be able to look at a photo you took and reminiscence about that moment; you won’t remember your follower count or how many likes it got. 
 

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48 Comments

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Alex Armitage's picture

I was being overly cynical and I can totally see how liberating that is. Not something I think I could do myself but certainly have felt those feelings of disconnect in smaller spurts.

Some of us got our photo career going before digital and before social media.. nothing special about that, it was just as tough to get a break, an ‘in’ and to slowly get established. But after time and effort your career grows.

I am still as busy as I ever was, if not busier and I’ve never put any of my work on social media. And I’ve moved continents twice, so had to start again twice...I’m not saying social media is rubbish, far from it, look at those making big money on YouTube...

But can anyone tell my how a bunch of followers on Instagram turns into paid work..?

The people I work with, both old and new clients just don’t have the time to scroll through Instagram looking at photos... their interns might but the money spenders, the creatives are far too busy.

Add to that two possible negatives for posting your work on SM.

People steal it, use it and don’t pay you.
People copy it and make what was once a unique image commonplace.

I am open to changing and adapting but can anyone explain to me how Instagram is more than just ego massaging for serious amateur photographers..?

As Alex the OP said, he posted nothing for a month and nothing AT ALL changed..

I’m sitting here, ready to be convinced..

S

Alex Armitage's picture

I'd say if you are thriving and doing well regardless of social media, then who cares? It's quite a daunting task to start freshly in and certainly can be overwhelming for someone like me. I'd also point out that Instagram isn't your only option to find your way into clients or job. It just happens to be hands down the most active platform that's centered around photos.

I'm making a guess here but I can almost guarantee you that people such as Erin Babnik, Ted Gore, Ryan Dyar, or Daniel Kordan have found workshop clients or sponsors directly from Instagram. Again I have no proof to back that claim up, but it's highly likely. That's only pointing out landscape photographers.

If you look at people like Karl Shakur, heykelseyj, jamesrelfdyer, giuligartner, the list is countless. These are people traveling the world, earning a living, working hard and producing content just on Instagram. I have my qualms with this type of photography as it can begin to feel a bit narcissistic but at the end of the day these people are making a living and doing something they enjoy. Is it sustainable? Who knows.

A prime example is someone like Bejamin. From what I know he launched his entire photography career through instagram, won Hasselblad masters last year, and creates incredibly beautiful art.

At the end of the day it's a platform with an insane active user base. It's a tool to publish your work and potentially find new paths in your career if you get a bit lucky and do a lot of hard work. At the end of the day you have to ask yourself, if you were trying to turn your hobby into a career right now, where would you start?

"Some of us got our photo career going before digital and before social media.. nothing special about that, it was just as tough to get a break, an ‘in’ and to slowly get established. But after time and effort your career grows."

Exactly. And those of us who got started a little later are just using social media as one of the available avenues to break through, though nothing has changed regarding how tough it is to do that. I think there's this misconception that social media = instant success and when that doesn't happen, people throw up their hands and say it doesn't work.

As somebody who's only gotten started with photography in the last few years and has made a quick move to doing paid work, I can safely say that most of the business I've gotten has been through Instagram, and the reason I can say that is because since I haven't been doing this for very long, Instagram is the only outlet I've really even used. Simply put, that's the only place where people CAN find me right now (other than a website and a barely touched Facebook profile). But as you said, eventually, over time, the current connections will expand beyond that outlet and I'll take it from there.

I don't consider myself an "instagram photographer" per se, in the sense that I don't have a huge following and I'm not trying to be an influencer (though I have had some small brands approach me about promoting their products, which I currently decline). It just happens to be something I started for fun and then people started asking me to do paid work. Maybe I just got lucky, maybe I didn't, I'm not going to pretend I know either way. But I'm also not going to sit around caring about what other people think just because I've gotten jobs through Instagram and other people haven't. The point is: it's been done, therefore it can be done.

Lastly, in my opinion, where people go wrong with trying to get work through social media is that they think that by posting a portfolio "professional" images, people are going to give a crap about your work and suddenly flock to you. In my experience it doesn't work that way. Your work doesn't mean anything to people if they don't find a personal connection with it. Case in point, 98% of the stuff I post are landscape photos of my city. But I'll bet I've gotten more portrait inquires from people than some who have IG accounts dedicated only to portraits. The reason is, people don't care about seeing perfectly lit studio shots of other people's faces plastered across their IG feed all day, but they do care about seeing their city shown in a good light. They identify with that, so they follow me. And when it comes time for them to consider photography as a service, whether for personal use or a local business, they contact me because they connect with me.

So in the end, I think social media is a great way to get business, but it's like anything else... if people feel like you're selling something, they're less likely to engage with you. You need to give them something they WANT to follow.

Alex Armitage's picture

tldr: Instagram is a lot more complicated than people think. And it's not easy to monetize.

"tldr"

And that's exactly why people fail. Details matter.

Dave
Thanks for your input, I find it amazing, we are both looking at different ends of a 25yr timespan in pro photography, and going about it in two very different ways... yet what you said at the end is spot on and exactly why I haven’t tried IG

It’s all about relationships and a persons connection with your work and then with you. That’s why they give you the work and that same principle applies to us both and to many pro shooters out there, regardless of how we get our name out.

So good for you, what pleases me is that you have a grasp of how business works and are finding success doing it your way using tools you want to use.

Keep up the good work...

I like your point that your landscapes get you portrait work. I’ve shot fashion all these years and now sell landscapes from those location scouting days...!!!

Andy Barnham's picture

Yes! Welcome to life, and work, where social media is not a priority! I've been very open about my criticism of Insta, both as a tool to find work and also as it's a huge money making extension of the (FB) Empire. I never gained any business from it or other social media.

Part of my New Year's resolutions included deleting my business FB page, resetting my Twitter (my tweets weren't focused on my business) and I'm now logging into Inst once a week to post two images. I now have a) more time, b) focused engagement with what I'm reading on Twitter and c) don't care about 'Likes' on Insta. Loving it!

Good luck!

"I never gained any business from it or other social media."

Perhaps you're just doing it wrong.

Andy Barnham's picture

Maybe. However that doesn't change my disdain of the monopoly that is Zuckerburg who doesn't care about privacy. You, I, we are all just data points earning him $$$.

Adam Nelson's picture

Man, some people in these comments seem to have some SERIOUS trauma from Instagram... Rarely do I see someone with a grotesque amounts of followers that isn't earning it... More followers often equals more exposure and more opportunity. Is that not something worth pursuing?!

Alex Armitage's picture

That's where I'm at. Keep trying unless it's too much to worry about just like I describe above. I think the issue is the entry to have an actual effect on you business is quite large. Depending on what you shoot of course.

Gaining or loosing followers is immaterial. The real concern of not posting for prolonged periods of time is the loss of engagement and visibility, thanks to the Facebook-esque algorithm that they use.

I noticed, when I ceased posting daily about 2 years ago, that my followers have dropped from just over 5k, to about 3.5K presently. That's fair, I don't bother anymore, so why should they.

What wasn't fair was that if I tried to get back into it, as I have once or twice, the amount of people who see my posts has greatly diminished. I went from between 150-300 likes per post to 30 likes per post, if I'm lucky. When people don't interact with you on a regular basis, the algorithm thinks they aren't interested, and thus decides that you won't show up on their feeds. Moving from chronological to Arseofficial (artificial) intelligence is the worst thing Insta has done, and is a large part of me not bothering to try with it again.

Alex Armitage's picture

I guess we are about to find out what that's like when I post again. I'm crossing my fingers but also realize it may take time.

You're not wrong, it can be like starting from the ground up... and this time the rules have changed!

Good luck!

Alex Armitage's picture

The two posts I've made since coming back are some of my highest engaged posts of the last year. So I guess I'm not worried about this? haha

And what good does having a following do you? "Exposure?" I have yet to meet a photographer that got jobs because of his or her instagram feed. Exposure doesn't pay the bills.

Alex Armitage's picture

There's multiple people in these comments that have responded saying they got jobs directly from Instagram.

I think having a following absolutely can get you clients. Regardless of the medium you shoot.