The Unwritten Rules of Instagram: DO’s and DON’Ts

the unwritten rules of Instagram

In just a few years, Instagram has become the most important social media platform there is. Brands use it to advertise their products or services, often giving up on traditional advertising. Influencers use it to build a community and promote products brands sent them. It has become a business and allowed a lot of people to make significant side revenues. Or to become full-time influencers which is now a career in its own right and allowed a lot of creative women to be their own boss. It is quite tempting to jump into it without thinking but one must remember that there are some unwritten rules of Instagram to pay attention to.

Instagram mostly is a visual tool. Of course putting a strategy in place will help improve your overall performance and engagement. However, pictures are the focus on Instagram. It still is even though the platform has changed a bit. Instagram can now be tricky and difficult to grow on. Remember back in the days when growing a following and getting engagement was fairly doable? The Instagram algorithm changes that some time ago now. But that does not mean it is impossible to make it on Instagram anymore. You just need to be aware of the unwritten rules of Instagram, the DO’s and DON’Ts of the platform.

The Unwritten Rules Of Instagram

The DOs of Instagram

1. Like, comment, follow
First of the unwritten rules of Instagram: engagement goes both ways. Which now does sound fairly obvious, I give you that. The best way to get people to have a look at your account and eventually follow you, is to go on their profile first. To find new account to follow, you can check out who your favorite Instagrammers are following or look at the explore tab. Do focus on accounts that belong to your niche. People are more likely to follow someone with common interests.

Now,  like pictures and drop meaningful comments. Ask questions, show interest. Engage with both your current and potential followers. Answer all the comments your followers drop on your own pictures. Some blogger I love followed me back on Instagram because I repeatedly commented on each of their photos, which sparked their curiosity and pushed them to check out my profile. Do not do this all with the only aim of getting the person to follow you. Only engage photos you genuinely like.

2. Create a signature look
This is one of the unwritten rules of Instagram I am the less sure of. You want to create something that is unique to you and the platform. Sure if you do like everybody else, you will not stand out from the crowd. Thus, it will be difficult to attract the attention of potential followers. However, I do not think you should create something absolutely crazy or invest a lot of money into creating content. I see everywhere that you need to create “amazing content” to stand out but the definition of “amazing” differs from person to person. And not everyone can afford to fly to pretty destinations every now and then nor have someone to take photos with. Nor has the confidence to do outfit photos in public.

Create a signature style on Instagram, sure. However, create something that is unique to you and that you love creating. And that does not financially ruin you either. Create content that defines you, that is specific to you and that people will recognize. I believe the best way to do this is to be yourself and post content you like, regardless of what engagement it may get. Sometimes, a small thing can make a huge difference in a photo that, when not edited, looks very common: the angle, the lighting, the shadows, the presets, the filters, the tones, etc.

3. Be consistent
I do believe this one may the toughest DO’s of Instagram. Why? Because a lot can come in the way of consistency. You need time, commitment, diligence. Sometimes, life gets in the way and it’s difficult to be consistent. In that case, less is more. Quality over quantity. Consistency is not just about your posting frequency. Sure, the more consistently you post, the more the algorithm will like your content and make sure it is visible. Because you know, the algorithm will show you content similar to what you previously engaged with. Thus, if you do not post, people did not previously engaged with you. As simple as that.

You also want your follow to stay. Unfortunately, they may unfollow if you do not publish enough. Thus, you have to post regularly so that they will still find a value in your profile. Consistency is also about the quality of your content, as briefly mentioned above. If your pictures have always been high quality, make sure you follow through. Suddenly posting lower  quality pictures because you do not have as much time to focus on your content is the best way to loose followers. When you get people used to certain standards, they expect no less. If you wish to decide them, a little warning never hurts. Remember, people like consistency and it is one of the most DO’s of Instagram to remember!

4. Show your face
This is one of the unwritten rules of Instagram I took a very long time to come to term with. Mostly, I refused to acknowledge it because back then, I lacked the confidence that I’d need to solve the problem. Let me expand on that later. There are beautiful Instagram feeds out there, with high quality pictures. They are creative, refined and neat. However, they may come across as impersonal. People love the photos but they do not really know who is behind them. Because that is the thing! There is always someone behind a nice Instagram account, sometimes even several people.

Your followers will love to see who is behind all those  photos. They want to put a face on the content creator and know that you are a real person. Instagram stories made it easier to show behind-the-scenes and let people see the non-curated version of ourselves. However, after experimenting with flatlays,  landscapes,  portrait and outfits, I can 100% guarantee that pictures where you show your face are the ones that perform best on your grid. They do make you more real, accessible and somehow relatable I guess. Back then, I could not show my face that much because I always thought doing selfies was ridiculous and it took me a lot of time to build up the confidence to shoot outfit photos on the street! This is one of the unwritten rules of Instagram that is now fairly well-known though.

5. Use hashtags
This is probably one of the unwritten rules of Instagram that people underestimate most. Hashtags have not always been working, yes. Thus, people sort of have abandoned them, thinking they were not working or bringing any value to their content. What a huge misconception! Hashtags is a very important DO’s of Instagram! They are very useful when you know how to use them.

Hashtags allow people, interested in a certain topic or  niche, to find content creator with the same  interests. Hashtags basically allow you to find new accounts based on your interests. And they can bring your content a lot of visibility and can increase your engagement. Which has been proven. Using hashtags increase reach, impressions and engagement. Because people who do not follow you (yet) might still interact with your photos. And discover your account.

You just need to know which one to use and have a combination of big, medium and small hashtags. Like in everything else  in life, you need variety. Chances that a small account ranks top of a big hashtags are small while they are bigger when it comes to a less popular hashtag. Instagram allows thirty hashtags per caption, which leaves plenty of space and opportunity to reach out to potential followers.

The Unwritten Rules of Instagram: DO's and DON'Ts

DONT’S of Instagram

1. Follow/unfollow
So, this one is a bit tricky. Of all the unwritten rules of Instagram, it has been the one heating conversations. The follow/unfollow trend has been massive in the past few years. I am not throwing the first stone. I came clean in another blog post, admitting to using that technique in the past. And that I stopped because it is unsustainable, spammy and very often against Instagram T&Cs. Believe my experience do not do this.  I will still explain how it works.

Someone follows you. They will either unfollow when you follow back, or unfollow no matter what after a few days. Sometimes even a few hours. It is quite manipulative when you come to think of it. The only reason you follow someone is to get something in return. And tells the people that you do not care for their work or content, just their follow back. While, of course, you should follow an account because you genuinely like it and know you will engage with its content. Seeing the same people follow you a few times a day is mildly annoying. Even though it does help to grow way faster, it is  taking the risks to be flagged for spammy behavior and shadowbanned. Or also be hated by the entire community.

2. Spamming
What makes a great engagement? Liking and commenting. We’ve been over this already above but also in a dedicated post. The more you do it, the more engagement you should get in return. Well, in theory, yes. In practice not so much. First because in the sea of likes, yours might go unnoticed. Especially if it is a bit account receiving thousand of likes a day. Also, now, Instagram combines all like to a post together after a certain time, reducing the chance of your name popping obviously in the notification of the influencer.

Second, because  liking a lot of photos without logic (or even with logic) in a short period of time might get you flagged as a spam. That’s how people end up blocked on Instagram. Some bans lasts 24 hours, some others up to a week. Depends on how many times you were flagged. The some goes for comments. Spammy comments  of the likes of “like it”, “great post”, great feed” might look very suspicious. These days, Instagram considers comments with less than four words spammy. You know what to do then. Do not  ever use a third party app to generate automated comments as they go against the app’s T&Cs and might get you blocked too. Or worse, suspended.

3. Buy followers
Ah. This one. Amongst the unwritten rules of Instagram, this one is the biggest DON’T. Do not bu fake followers. Ever. It is quite the hot topic in the blogging community. Simply because inflating your numbers makes it unfair to those who grew their following organically. But also because it gives a bad rap to other influencers. I do think that if you want to truly make it as a blogger and eventually turn Instagram into your full-time job, you should stay away from buying fake followers.

First, it is going to be obvious that they are fake. Your growth charts will have patterns proving so. Your engagement will not reflect your number of followers, which will  force you to buy fake engagement as well and thus fall into a vicious circle. Then, it will ruin your profile since the algorithm will spot that you are cheating and will  penalized your account. Brands will also avoid working with you if they know that you won’t provide them with a good return of investment. Which obviously you won’t since your followers are fake and can never convert into buying customers. Short-term, it may seem like a great idea. Long-term, it is the worst idea you could ever have.

4. Post bad quality picture
I am not gonna spend a lot of time on this one as I mentioned earlier how crucial was the quality of the content you post on Instagram. Quality over quantity, remember? However,  it is one of those unwritten rules of Instagram that again, may be overlooked. Why? Because people want to post content no matter what and think that because it comes from them, people will engage no matter what. You could not be more wrong. We all want to see beautiful things and if we’ve been used to high standards, we will expect not less.

If you want to work with brands, they will look at your following and engagement sure, but also at your content to know whether they could repurpose it. Knowing how long creating content takes, a lot of brands have a UGCs strategy and will work with bloggers mostly for their content. So do make sure your pictures are top notch. If you are not sure, ask yourself: “Would I like this photo?”. If you hesitate, then you got your answer.

5. Like random pictures
We briefly talked about the fast that liking  pictures was a great way to engage with other content creators and users and could help you get noticed. Or eventually go you a sound follow. However, liking too many pictures art once might get you blocked. But liking completely random pictures will get you followed by people who are following you because you engaged with them and have no interest in your content. Or they might not follow you at all since you have totally different interest. Just a time-saving tips here and one of the most important unwritten rules of Instagram!

Those unwritten rules of Instagram may seem common knowledge, cliché or common sense. You may already know all of these. Yet, I still hope you have found this article helpful. If you have any other tips, feel free to share them below. We appreciate all the help we can get.

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  1. May 15, 2020 / 7:51 pm

    Love this post! R x

  2. May 25, 2020 / 5:51 pm

    All very good points. I am trying to be more engaging and active, and I DO notice my engagement goes up when I engage as well! It really is that simple sometimes

    • whatcorinnedid
      May 26, 2020 / 12:47 pm

      Engaging with others does help a lot 🙂

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