When I first started posting on Instagram in 2013 there were no manuals, or guidelines on how to post, what to post and when to post. Well, if there was, I certainly didn’t read them. I was having way too much fun capturing images, and discovering amazing and inspiring accounts! Instagram also had 500 million fewer users in 2013 than in 2017 … crazy, huh?!

In light of all the algorithm changes, shadowbans and lower engagement levels that people are experiencing, it’s time to go back and revisit the basics. That is, the “do’s and don’ts of Instagram” – otherwise known as Instagram etiquette. It’s not about trying the “beat the system”. These are just simple guidelines to help you grow your account organically.

Instagram Etiquette


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 so that they know you are using their shot. Don’t claim it as your own. Instagram even promotes this point in their Community Guidelines: “Share only photos and videos that you’ve taken or you have the right to share.” Besides 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 automate your comments. You’ve probably heard about various apps that people use to automate their engagement. There are many downsides to this.

One, it’s very easy to put yourself into a socially awkward situation. Sometimes you see someone post some sad news and a follower has replied “Awesome post!” Um, not cool.

The second downside is that using these automated applications goes against Instagram’s Terms of Use. Instagram has already cracked down on two such providers – Instagress and Instaplus. No doubt there will be more to follow.

Using these applications also means that there’s a good chance you could get your account suspended. If you are a business, it’s not worth the risk.


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 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 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”, “onmytable” or “pursuepretty”. Go to those tags and spend a few minutes scrolling through liking and/or commenting on images.

Instagram etiquette - hashtags


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 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 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.

Is there anything else you would add to the Instagram Etiquette list? Let me know in the comments below!

Feel free to share

If you like this post, please share.

Instagram etiquette - pin