Be Nice or Leave: 3 Instagram Etiquette Guidelines to Live By

Instagram can feel like a surreal virtual world where anything goes—it’s the lawless landscape of content creators’ dreams!

But, in fact, there’s a small manual’s worth of Instagram etiquette guidelines that shrewd and savvy marketers follow when posting on the platform.

Here’s a trifecta that shouldn’t be ignored.

It’s okay to steal, but only when you include attribution.

It’s not illegal to steal from others on Instagram. And the fact is, most content creators are happy to see their work on other feeds—if it’s properly credited and includes a friendly shout-out. But when you “borrow” directly from a content creator and try to pass it off as your own work, you risk ruining relationships, both online and in real life.

Just this week I spotted a direct copy of one of my posts (same photos and originally created text) on a jewelry retailer’s Instagram. There was no mention that the text had been directly lifted from another person’s feed—the “we” in the message was simply transferred to the store, as though they had penned the sentiment. That’s a serious no-no on Instagram.

How to make sure you’re on the up-and-up when you borrow? Do two things: In the post add the line “RP: @feedname” (RP is repost), and then tag the actual post in the back end with the feed’s name. It takes some real time and effort to create engaging content for Instagram, and when you repost content—which of course you should on occasion—remember to respect that fact.

If you make a mistake and someone contacts you nicely to correct it, be contrite—and correct errors quickly

We all make mistakes! I pen much of the social content for JCK and have strategized social for several brands over the past few years, and I’m still constantly bungling around—doing cringe-worthy things like leaving off an important tag or misspelling a name (ooh, it hurts!).

Thankfully, more often than not, a helpful person alerts me to my error (often it’s my amazing JCK colleagues). When that happens, I do two things: express gratitude to that person, then fix the error as quickly as I can.

But I’ve heard horror stories from influencers and content creators about online interactions in which they’ve alerted a feed to an error, and their note was met with radio silence—or even hostile defensiveness. Neither are not good tacks to take when you’re in the wrong. And when you admit to a mistake and fix it quickly, you’re in fact doing the worth-it work of building relationships.

Don’t advertise in others’ comments.

Business Instagram feeds are, ultimately, a collection of casual-feeling advertisements. Which is great! The social platform allows brands to connect with consumers in delightfully informal ways (so keep posting pics of your cute store corgi). And social partnerships—cross-promotional endeavors with influencers and others—are an effective and accessible way to get your company’s messaging onto other IG feeds.

But too often we see (usually robo-posted) comments on small brand posts that have nothing to do with the post topic, but instead are vapid ad messages—things like “Check out our hoop earrings at @hoopsrus!” Messages like these are the social version of those little airplanes that fly over peaceful beaches hawking tourist T-shirts. They’re anachronistic. And though I don’t have any data on this, I’d guess they’re also fairly ineffective.

(Photo: Pexels)

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JCK Magazine Editor