3 Lessons I've Learned After Losing Thousands of Followers on Instagram
When I first started my Instagram account in 2015, I’ll be honest - I cared a lot about the numbers. I wanted more likes, more followers, and more views. I was following trends, creating for the sake of posting, and sharing what I thought others would like. With a few viral videos and some Instagram strategy, I was able grow a substantial following in a pretty short amount of time.
A few years in, this mindset started feeling really unhealthy though, especially when I started comparing and letting these numbers get to my head. I felt discouraged when my follower count went down or when I didn’t get as many “likes” as I thought I would. Seeing other accounts growing faster than mine made me wonder what I was doing wrong, and how I could do things differently.
The recent changes to Instagram’s algorithm made things worse, not only causing my account to decrease in visibility, but also causing me to question every detail of what I was posting, when I should post it, and the captions that I shared. I know - how could I let a social media platform and a few numbers bother me so much? But somehow it did. And I know for a fact that it affects others the same way too.
In the past year though, a lot of things have changed. I had a baby, found a new direction for my business, rebranded, and came back to work with a new (and much healthier) mindset about all of this.
Today, I wanted to share some of the lessons I’ve learned through this experience in hopes that it might help shift your mind, especially if you’ve found yourself obsessing over numbers or feeling doubtful and discouraged every time you share your work online.
Lesson #1: The numbers will not make or break you.
Around last year, when I intentionally decided to slow down and change the way I shared content on Instagram, I began to lose followers left and right. In total, I’ve lost thousands (yes, thousands) of followers - sometimes, up to 100 followers in a week.
Did it hurt my pride a little? Yes.
Did it impact me, my work, or my business in any real way? No.
Nothing really changed since I lost all these followers. In fact, I feel more focused and confident about the content that I’m sharing, and in turn, that’s resulted in followers, messages, and inquiries from individuals and brands that are more in line with who I am and what I do.
Time and time again, I’ve personally witnessed accounts with less than 10k followers making more of a meaningful impact and driving more sales than accounts with 100k+ followers. And that video that got over 1.3 million views? In the long run, it had close to zero impact on me or my business. These examples just go to show you that the numbers aren’t the end all be all. There are so many other factors that are more important than a few digits on your screen.
If winning a popularity contest is important to you, then I guess I don’t have an argument here, but if making real connections, sharing genuine content, and creating an online presence is what you’re striving to do, then stop focusing on the numbers and invest in the things that matter when it comes to real growth.
Instead of obsessing over growing our numbers, what if we focused more on growing our confidence, our skills, or our relationships with others? I’ve noticed that once we shift our mindset, the numbers start to matter less, but they inevitably follow.
Lesson #2: Stop looking for validation from strangers on the internet.
I know it sounds crazy, but we all do this to a certain extent. We share something online in hopes that people will like it, relate to it, and find it valuable or entertaining. The more “likes” a post gets, the more we feel validated in the content we share, and it somehow makes us feel better about ourselves. But why are we looking for validation from a bunch of strangers on the internet? And why are we allowing that to dictate what we share and how we share it?
I’ve found that the best remedy to combat this is to share content that you absolutely love and stand behind. When you share something that you feel great about (whether it’s your art, your home, your family, or a photo of yourself), it shouldn’t matter how many people like it or don’t like it. What should matter is that you shared content that is meaningful and important to you.
Some of my personal favorite posts on Instagram have the least amount of likes, and I’ll be really honest, it used to bother me when this happened, but not so much anymore. Why? Because I won’t let a silly little number change the way I felt about that post when I first posted it.
Be confident and share boldly, regardless of the outcome. Let’s not allow strangers on the internet dictate our content or its worth.
Lesson #3: Be unapologetically yourself.
When I started to share more about my personal life on Instagram (daily happenings, married life, motherhood, etc.), I knew there would be people who would unfollow me because they only want to see art-related content. However, for me, all of those things make me who I am and I find them important to share. If people choose to unfollow me because they’re not interested in the things that matter to me most, then that’s ok. They weren’t meant to be there in the first place.
Just like you have celebrities or popular “social media influencers” that you find completely unbearable, you’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea either. The only way to find your tribe and attract your real fans though, is to show up and be unapologetically yourself. This is the one thing that I’ve found in common with all the people who are succeeding in creating a real online presence, serving their tribe, and thriving in their businesses. When you consistently share your story and all the quirky little things that make you uniquely you, those are the things that people will connect and fall in love with.
At first, you might find that your numbers will drop, but just think of it as a sifting or filtering process. The people who aren’t supposed to be there will leave, and the real members of your tribe will come and stay - and the best part is that they will genuinely love and care about all the things that you are sharing.
I hope these lessons remind you to take a step back and think about the bigger reasons behind why we create, why we share, and why we keep wanting to show up. See you on the ‘gram!