Instagram Etiquette: The Do’s and Don’ts

By Blazenka Harvey

When I first started on Instagram in 2013 there was no manual, or set of guidelines on how to post, what to post and when to post. (Well, if there was, I certainly didn't read them as I was having too much fun posting content)! They also had 500 million fewer users in 2013 than in 2017 ... crazy, huh!

However, if you want friends (not enemies) and real business prospects on Instagram, there are some written, and unwritten rules, we can follow. It’s what we would call basic Instagram etiquette.

Don't:
If you are going to use someone else's image, please ask them for permission or at the very least, be sure to tag the person / brand so that they know you are using their shot. Don't claim it as your own. Instagram even promote's this point in their Community Guidelines: "Share only photos and videos that you’ve taken or have the right to share." Besides it being illegal, it's just polite to ask someone to use his or her image.

Be careful with using third-party apps too unless you have permission from the user to repost their images. These apps make it easy to violate the Instagram Terms of Use and Community Guidelines, as well as infringe the copyright of another user.

Don't:
Don’t fake your comments. You've probably heard about various apps that people use to automate their comments. There are many downsides to this. One, it's very easy to put yourself into a socially awkward situation. I've read numerous posts on social media where the comment does not match the image, and sometimes it can even be offensive. For example, someone may be posting about his / her sad news and the automated comment was “That’s totally awesome!” Um, not cool.

The second downside is that using these automated Instagram bots to comment or follow goes against Instagram's Terms of Service. So there's a good chance you could get your account suspended. If you are a business, it's not worth the risk.

Do:
Do leave genuine comments. If you want to increase engagement, tell people why you like their shot, respond to their question, or ask a question yourself.

Don't:
Don't use the follow/unfollow method to build your brand. This is probably the most contentious of the lot as there are many who use this method, and at the same time, many who abhor this method.

If you're not familiar with the follow/unfollow method, it basically involves following people on Instagram and then unfollowing them a couple of days later if they haven't followed you back. You do this in the hope that the person won't notice that they have been unfollowed.

I am not an advocate of this tactic for growing an audience and I believe that genuine engagement will pay off far greater dividends than purely focusing on growing an audience that may or may not be interested in your brand.

Do:
Do visit hashtags that your target audience uses and then view the posts that come up under that hashtag. For example, if you are an Etsy shop owner, your target audience may like to peruse hashtags like "handmade" or "pursuepretty”. Go to those tags and spend a few minutes scrolling through liking and/or commenting on images. 

Don't:
Don't post numerous shots in one go. It's one of the easiest ways to get an unfollow – it’s kind of like spamming people’s feeds. People don't like to be bombarded by shots.

Do:
Do post consistently and spread out your posts. If you are posting a few shots per day then space these out so that your followers do not get bombarded. If you post once a day then try once you have worked out your optimal time, post at this same time every day. That way your audience can look forward to your post at that time.

Hopefully, with these basic tips on Instagram etiquette you can grow your account in an effective and genuine way.

Blazenka Harvey is the founder of Mama Bear Communications, which specialises in Instagram Marketing + Stock Photography for personal and business brands. Blazenka’s aim is to educate and nurture other bloggers, creative entrepreneurs and small business owners with all the tips and tricks of growing your brand on Instagram. She has a wealth of marketing experience with over 13 years in the retail marketing space, plus a huge passion in photography. If you want to receive FREE stock photography each month and have access to her Resource Library head over to her blog and subscribe to the mailing list. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.