Owner to Owner: How I Made My Instagram More Authentic

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authentic instagram strategy

Is your Instagram strategy allowing you to highlight the most authentic version of yourself and your brand?

Authenticity says a lot in our over-filtered, over-photoshoppped, ad-centric world. A 2017 survey of 2,000 consumers from U.S., U.K., and Australia, found that 86 percent of consumers are looking for authenticity when deciding which brands to support.

Yet we live in a world where moments are stolen by comparison, whether we’re scrolling through the highlight reel of someone’s life on Facebook or wishing and hoping to have as many followers as “X” on Instagram. This is especially true for business owners like you and I who are comparing ourselves every day, in every way, to other businesses, business owners and what it looks like they have.

It makes sense that we would inherently turn our gaze to other “successful” brands, influencers and businesses on social media and feel the need to copy them. We want to do what they’re doing to get a lot of followers and play the part of a “successful” brand on social media.

I felt that same exact way—and still, I catch myself comparing A LOT. But I had a realization.

Doing what other people are doing isn’t authentic. It’s just being a carbon copy of them.

I see every Instagram influencer doing the exact same thing—and it’s something I’ve been taught too. Every post seems to be a predictable equation:

  • A photo of you, likely looking “natural” or candid
  • An inspiring story that’s often completely unrelated to the image
  • Related hashtags

I even heard a Jenna Kutcher podcast episode about how to grow your Instagram following, and in that, she suggests posting in this way.  Her example was that if she only posted about photography, she’d only get followers who are interested in photography. Posting images of your life allows you to capture and keep more followers.

For her, this is great because she wants to reach the “mid-twenties to mid-thirties woman who has big dreams, a big heart, and is always willing to bet on herself. She may relate to me in my journey with body insecurity or infertility, or she may be showing up for business inspiration. But whatever facet she is there for, I want to ensure that I am serving her wholeheartedly!”

If you want to build an influencer lifestyle brand, like the one Jenna has, then yes—perhaps this is the way to go. This style of posting is authentic to HER brand and her goals. In a related blog post, she talks about how her format of posting is based on numbers and is how she brings herself into her brand:”

“It felt odd at first, but I quickly realized it also FUN to challenge myself to be IN photos and not just take them. I am on an ever-growing journey to love myself as I am, and getting in from to grow camera is a beautiful challenge for this! Also, BONUS: It also gave me a chance to share more of our lives and tell more meaningful stories (because I wasn’t trying to caption a picture of a flower with something deep and vulnerable!)

For me, however, the idea of posting pictures of my life and coming up with some story for each one felt so inauthentic. It’s not wrong, it just didn’t feel right for me. I felt like all I was doing was spending an inordinate amount of time coming up with my inspiring story, while also constantly looking for photos of myself.

I quickly found that when something doesn’t feel authentic to me, I start nitpicking it. I was watching every post, waiting for the validation I needed. If it got a lot of likes, well then, it must have been fine, right?

I don’t like that feeling and my brand is one that’s built on authenticity and the impact that has on driving leads, building a community, and creating an engaged audience.

So I stopped—after just 7 days. I even thought about deleting the account. I couldn’t decide if it was important for my brand, valuable for my business, or worth the little time I currently have. That’s when I realized: I don’t need to be doing this the same way everyone else does it. In fact, I’ve never done things the same as everyone else.

P.S. You can learn about my journey to being a business owner in my post for The Financial Diet: 4 Steps I Used to Turn My Side Hustle Into a Career.

So what did I do? I turned to my goals and started thinking about the most authentic version of my brand and myself. I quickly came up with a plan.

Jessica Thiefels Instagram

Set Goals

What are your goals for Instagram and how do those fit into your Instagram strategy? I always, always come back to this as the comparison monster sneaks in. Let’s say your goal is to have 5K followers. That’s a great goal, but it shouldn’t be your only goal. Why? What value does that number bring? If you have a massive audience and no engagement, there’s zero value, right?

Instead, I had to determine two things:

  • What goals will push my business forward?
  • What is the most authentic version of my brand that I can bring to this visual platform?

That’s what you’re seeing now if you follow me on Instagram: colorful, inspiring, real and value-based. My goal: to drive traffic back to my site while providing value to my ideal follower. More about who that is in the next section.

Jessica Thiefels Instagram

Put It Into Perspective

I started my Instagram account on July 26, 2018 with 0 followers. It is August 19, 2018, less than one month later, and I currently have 90 followers. When I look at the accounts of everyone I follow and everyone I meet at networking events, I feel ashamed. Wow, what a loser, I average 15-20 likes per post and have less than 100 followers.

But I continue putting that into perspective by turning back to my goals, which don’t include having 1,000 followers in one month. I also have to remind myself of the reality of organic content marketing. If your goal is to grow to 1,000+ followers in less than a month, you can find someone to tell you how to do it. Look at the search below.

AdEspresso, for example, has plenty of great ideas to help you do that in this post—but they’re telling you how to do that with paid ads. Organically, however, things move slower. The reality is that this type of growth is not going to happen in such a short period of time unless you have a dedicated social media manager. As an entrepreneur or small business owner, that’s likely not possible right now.

The point is: THAT’S OKAY. Not only do you not know how long it took this business or that business to grow their audience, but you also don’t know if it does ANYTHING for them. Does their amazing account drive sales, leads, customers? If you could ask them, you’d probably be surprised by their answer.

Most importantly, we, as business owners, put so much pressure on ourselves in every single way. We have to be driving leads, and making sales, AND growing our presence on every platform. The list could go on, right? Stop the cycle now and release some of that pressure. (A great way to do this is with meditation. I highly recommend Insight Timer to find guided meditations and use it every day. Follow my Instagram stories to see what I’m meditating on each day.)

Now, take a step back and find your authentic value.

Find Your Value

I always want to bring value to the table, in my writing, my business and on all social media accounts, especially Instagram. I didn’t feel random photos of me, paired with “inspirational” stories, was bringing value to the table. Instead, I needed to find a different way to provide value that’s authentically me.

So I broadened the scope. I spent time brainstorming on how I could use this platform to drive my brand value. What’s my unique offering? How can my account stand out from the others? Slowly, my authentic Instagram strategy came together and I feel great when my post goes out every day. I know it’s based on who I am, what my business is, and the goals I’ve set for myself.

Finally, Do a Comparison Check

As you work to get away from the comparison game, and focus on your authentic brand and business goals, challenge yourself. You’re not going to stop comparing right this moment; it’ll take time. As you find yourself slipping into that black hole, do a quick comparison check for yourself:

  • Are they running the same type of business?
  • Have we been in business for the same amount of time?
  • Do they have the same audience as me?
  • Do they have the same things to share as me?

This is kind of a ridiculous reality check because you quickly realize the answers are nearly always: no, no, no and no. As I’m looking at all these other accounts with 5K, 10K, 30K followers, I have to ask myself: Is there even a comparison here? In almost every single case, there is not.

You’re comparing apples to oranges, to use a common phrase. If you’re running a different business, attracting a different audience, and have been managing your account for less time, how could you possibly compare the two? You can’t. Use this as an important reminder to let go of the comparison every time you do it.

Download Your Authentic Instagram Strategy Checklist

If you’re worried your Instagram strategy and presence isn’t authentic, don’t stress! Re-assess your Instagram strategy with my simple, 3-step guide.

Jessica Thiefels is the author of, 10 Questions That Answer Life’s Biggest Questions, podcast host of Mindset Reset Radio and founder and CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, an organic content marketing agency. She's been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications including Forbes and Entrepreneur. She also contributes to Glassdoor, Fast Company, Outbrain, and more. Follow her on Twitter, connect on LinkedIn and join her community of intention-getters on Instagram.

Owner to Owner: How I Made My Instagram More Authentic

By: Jessica Thiefels Time to Read: 7 min