There are a lot of Instagram lovers who have been doing their thing for a long time. I should know; I'm one of the guilty parties! And while I usually love giving tangible tips and advice, today I want to talk about the big picture of Instagram and business.

Every piece of content you find online about Instagram focuses on following one path: open an Instagram account, post once a day minimum, make sure you're using 30 (wait, 15? 20? 10 large and 10 small?) hashtags that you know your clients are looking at, spend a couple hours a day engaging on random posts, play the follow/unfollow game, and don't forget to plaster every second of the “behind the scenes” of your day on Stories. Do this every day until you're successful.

I get that you want fast growth, but can I be honest with you?

Customers won't start coming in by the hundreds with this method.
Brands won't be banging on your door begging you to be an influencer.
This is the territory of always working and burning out, while feeling like you're getting absolutely nowhere.

You’re not alone though. So many entrepreneurs that have huge goals get stuck here, not for lack of talent or hard work, but because this avenue to finding success is a broken one.

It's not that I think that caring deeply about your content isn't worthwhile. It definitely is, but I think that constantly reiterating that ‘There's only one way to have a successful Instagram, and that comes from having a giant following and producing tons of content,' is not only boring and overstated, but also extremely misleading to how you should be using social media.

Of course, if you want to create an Instagram that relies on the follow/unfollow method and posting 5x a day, no one will try to stop you. But if you have to have the celebrity status of Kim Kardashian to make it happen, I don’t think trying to make that puzzle piece fit is the best use of your time or talent.

After years of working closely with successful Instagram feeds and businesses, I’ve seen over and over that your little account (yes, yours!) has the potential to earn an income for you.

More often than not, we put things we would love to create on the back burner for a later time or waste our time creating complicated offers than don't actually connect with our customers.

But I'm willing to bet that the 100 or 200 followers you already have could surprise you with how willing they actually are to connect with you, support you, and buy from you. Even an Instagram account that gets less than 10 comments a week could be a great spot to start offering an online course, or inspiring people with the impact you hope to make on the world.

So what alternative should creatives and small business owners try instead?

This is a lot for one post, but it's the driving force behind what I talk about regularly, so consider subscribing if it interests you. But to get started, I think you're much better off using your Instagram as a way to attract your customers, gain their trust, and connect with those that you want to work with or make an impact on. Offer them content that actually helps them with something. It’s fine if you don’t know what that looks like right now – knowing who you're speaking to and want to benefit (podcasters? food bloggers? authors?) is the best place to get started.

Your Instagram is a place to offer your ideas, and to make connections with the people you're focused on helping, no matter how you do it: through art, photography, designing T-shirts, writing books, changing lives with therapy, or changing kitchens through interior design.

Have a chat with customers who have worked with you or bought what you sell in the past. Ask them their thoughts about why they needed to buy this or how they needed help in this area. What do they struggle with? How do they want to feel after working with you? If you haven’t booked anyone to work with yet, try giving away your services to a few select people to get feedback. You don’t need a fancy website or a big following.

Do your thing, and keep asking questions. Always get feedback from people that work with you and take constructive notes on their thoughts.

Instead of giving your willing but unhelpful family and friends an opinion in this area, start giving the voice to the people you actually want to serve. Let your family and friends focus on giving you their support and celebrating the wins with you instead.

Put your focus on writing captions and creating videos that make your perfect customer feel more of what it is that THEY are wanting to feel.

I know it seems much harder than that. It's easy for all of us to get caught up in the details, but continuing to do that will also continue to complicate things. This doesn't have to be a constant headache for you.

And what if making money from your Instagram isn't your focus? What if it's important to you, but in a different way?

Then time to party! That’s just as exciting and meaningful. Nothing about that is settling.

You're a completely grown adult, so you get to decide what it is that success looks like to you. Being successful on Instagram can look any way you want it to – from getting to share your story, creating a community, learning something new, connecting with people you may have been able to reach otherwise, or anything else you let yourself come up with.

But if you do dream of a crazy successful Instagram business, here’s what I know to be the case for any businesses on Instagram:

  • An Instagram that gets a few comments on each post is a great place to offer the first version of an online course or other problem-solving solution that you sell.
  • With an Instagram community of a few hundred people that know, like, and trust you, you can generate an extra income that benefits your family.
  • A large following or shout out from an influencer isn't a golden ticket. You need to have processes set up that grab your viewers' attention and then diverts it where you want them to go. Make offers that are attractive to your customers.
  • With an Instagram you update every few weeks, you can trade posts/do takeovers as the gateway to build connections and have opportunities that you wouldn't get otherwise.
  • You could have a huge following, partner with tons of brands, make all the offers, and still not make a dime. This is way more common than you know, and it’s also an issue that an expert in this area could assist you with.
  • With a small, low-traffic Instagram account, you can make offers and create experiences that let you be in control of the life that you want to create. Work will become so much more fun for you than it has ever been before.

It’s not too early or too late to write from the heart, record fun videos, play around, find your place and figure out who you are and who you want to be, one post at a time. It’s the right time to take a few risks, learn new things, try something out, see what happens, and then try again.

And no matter what it is that you want from your Instagram, the platform is big enough for goals of all shapes and sizes.

What's your dream for your Instagram and your business? What’s the next step you could take to get closer to that?

ps – Feeling extra motivated? My coaching for business owners, bloggers, entrepreneurs and big dreamers is available now. Let's get your online presence reviewed & powered up!