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Behind The Scenes

Breaking Free from Instagram

Nearly every maker I know has a love-hate relationship with Instagram. While it is the most amazing free tool for sharing your work and reaching an audience, it can also be a drain on time and emotions. I don’t want this to be another article bemoaning Instagram and how it has changed, but instead, I want to tell you about how the changes to Instagram have forced me to drive positive change through my business and personally.

Before diving into this, I'd like to provide a little background on why Instagram has proved important for The Fabled Thread. I want to be open and share my Instagram stats – visitors to my website, where they come from, how many views my posts get – to convey how things have changed over the last three years. This information is crucial for telling the story, but it should by no means be seen as a comparison.

The launchpad for The Fabled Thread

I launched our Instagram for The Fabled Thread in March 2020, and for the first two years, it absolutely took off. We gained amazing early traction, and the app loved what I posted; everything we touched seemed to turn to gold. It was joyful and exhilarating to share my work, reach an audience, and get immediate feedback. By the end of the first year, we reached around 10,000 followers, then 30,000 the following year, and it felt like the momentum would just keep on going. I was all in on the Instagram bandwagon, totally naïve, and had no alternative marketing strategies planned.

Then, in summer 2022, everything changed quite dramatically. Instagram dropped off a cliff, and it hasn't made it back since. Instead of working on alternative marketing channels, I spent nine months wallowing, floundering, complaining, and, to be honest, feeling completely lost about what to do. It’s one thing to have a product I really believed in, but when I couldn’t reach an audience, I felt totally helpless.

While I should have initially taken this as a sign to become less reliant on Instagram, I just went deeper into it. I spent my days scrolling and looking at all the other accounts that seemed to still be doing well, thinking about how I could replicate that or feeling envy, which is never a helpful or attractive quality! I tried all sorts of different approaches, devoting days to a reel only to have it fall totally flat, doing elaborate projects just to drum up a bit of action on the app, trying to replicate the photography style of someone else who seemed to be growing their following rapidly. I would repost images that had done well in the past (always the interiors of my flat) just to get that sense of achievement again. At one point, I even paid for some Instagram ads just to start building followers (I’ll go into why that was pointless for me a bit later).

It’s just an app, but when it’s your business and your way to market, it feels like everything is falling apart. What I didn’t stop to do in that period was look logically at the numbers and what was really happening within the business.

To the numbers

Throughout my time on Instagram, I have posted relatively consistently, and, with the exception of one month in 2022 which I’ll talk about later, I haven’t used any paid advertising. Between 2020 and 2023, the annual visitors to my website consistently grew. However, over that same period, Instagram, my predominant marketing focus, has been in steady decline.

Note: I took this from a large cross-section of posts, rather than all of them. There isn’t some miraculous way to export this information that you are missing – I think if there was, it would ruin Instagram’s whole business model!

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