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Should you delete Instagram posts or not?
If your posts get low engagement, should you delete them?
I was asked the following question on one of our Ask me Anything sessions (which we do periodically for Paid Sovereign Artist Club members):
Do you recommend deleting Instagram posts and reels that have low response rate or that are older than a year, for example?
Okay, let's get into it. Let’s say you post 3 reels and one doesn't do as well as you'd hoped. Should you delete one or more of them?
There's an ever-present pressure to be seen as popular on social media. It's tempting to delete posts that don't immediately do well. However, here are some reasons not to.
First, posts that flop are just data points for you. We have posts on @BoldBrush that sometimes get lost. While they rarely get terrible engagement, sometimes they don't do as well as we would have hoped. We tried a graffiti post about two weeks ago and it got about 100 likes. Then we have posts this week that have 36,000 likes. We don't delete the older, poorly performing post because we need to see how that differs from the 36k post. If we just delete it, because it looks bad in the moment, we’ll forget we tried it and forget to reflect on why it might not have worked.
Second, having posts that flop is okay. It makes you human. Sure, having a page where every post has 3000+ likes would be nice, but you also lose an element of being genuine, which matters on social media. Deleting them can also signal to others (and yourself) that you care about what others think of you too much, rather than the art that you're making. You become dependent on what everybody likes to direct what you do next. You’re an artist, not a content creator.
Third, some posts serve their purpose even if they don't get a lot of likes. If you post to let people know that they should sign up for your newsletter to get a free class, then you shouldn't delete it if it only got 25 likes. It's still worth leaving it there, because it reminds your followers that you do in fact have a newsletter. It also lets people just browsing discover it because if another post of yours blows up, you'll get some residual attention for the newsletter post as well. And who knows, sometimes old posts start attracting people again. You never know what the algorithm might decide to boost.
With that said, there are some legitimate reasons to delete posts, the main one being off-brand posts. If you're an artist who paints pet portraits and you post your one landscape painting (or just a random photo of a new city you went to) and it gets 11 likes, yeah, perhaps delete that. It could confuse your followers and also the Instagram algorithm because it’s not really representative of what you normally do with your art.
By the way, that's exactly what I do on Twitter. I don't delete posts because they didn't get the engagement that I want. Normally I tweet about art, art marketing, and occasionally business. But if I sometimes just post something “off the cuff”, sometimes I'll delete it a couple of days later because it's just off topic from my normal content. I don’t normally do this because of the engagement the post did or didn’t receive but because if somebody new is looking through my feed, they might be confused if I don’t keep my profile “on brand.”
To sum it up:
Don't delete posts if they are creative or serve to help your business, even if they get few likes. Delete only off-brand posts.
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