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Last week, an article was published in The Atlantic talking about how the “Instagram aesthetic” is over. If you are not on Instagram, you might be scratching your head over what this means, and if you are, you might be rejoicing as much as I did when I read it.

Instagram has become overrun with perfectly-posed, filtered, color-coded images in the feed and overly-strategized patterns of alternating lifestyle and quotes images in the grid. The images have become so highly staged that you have wondered if there were any real people doing real things left on Instagram. 

Reading The Atlantic article was a pleasant relief as well as an affirmation of what I’ve felt and experienced myself while scrolling through IG: It’s become so manufactured…what happened to real life?

As it turns out, the perfectness of Instagram is ruining the Instagram experience for a lot of users. 

Perfect is No Longer Cool On Instagram

Get Back to Being Real on Instagram

As small business owners and solopreneurs, achieving that look and style seen on so many Instagram feeds is not realistically attainable. The hours of time + budget spend to get just 1 of those seemingly-candid-but-actually-staged-and-heavily-edited images has never been in the cards for most of us. And while a good photo or image is still what’s going to “stop the scroll” on Instagram, the tide has begun to shift (yay!), and keepin’ it real is starting to win out over beautiful perfection.

Here’s where a personal story and success of mine comes into play. See, just a few days before this article published, I had this experience…

I had one of those awesome reminders that effective social media doesn’t need to always be about tracking codes and pre-planned campaigns and perfectly-beautiful, perfectly-curated feeds. 🙌 Sometimes, it’s all about being *real* and just paying attention to the names of people who pop up in your feed and inbox.

So here’s my little ditty…

Yesterday, I had an appointment with a local photographer who will be doing some headshot photos + family photos for me next month. After I left, I was hungry and stopped at Chipotle to eat. Because I’m personally very TERRIBLE about taking “in real time” photos and posting to Instagram, I thought, “I know Marci is on IG because photographers are always on IG. I’ll take in her beautiful folder she gave me with her marketing materials, and read through it while I eat. I’ll snap a pic and tag her.”

And that’s exactly what I did. I posted it and tagged her in my feed post as well as Stories.

She then reshared my Story where I tagged her, to her Stories. And this photo was nothing more than her folder with her logo showing, and a couple of her marketing pieces posed on top…sitting next to my burrito bowl. 

(Yep, that was the extent of my photo planning. Ha!)

Last night, I got an email inquiry from one of my website contact forms from a woman with a very distinct first name. She wanted to have a call to see how I can help her with her Facebook ads and marketing her upcoming courses. This morning, I opened Instagram and I noticed a comment on the Marci/burrito photo and a follow from the woman with the same distinct first name. I went to her profile, and the only common follow she has to me is… Marci!

That means that she saw Marci’s Instagram story, went to check out my Instagram profile, followed it to my site, checked me out there, and then filled out one of my contact forms.

So all this to say…sometimes an unplanned, not-perfectly-staged photo of a folder and a burrito is what gets the job done!

The lesson here is: Be real with your presence, engage with other businesses, and that can work just as well as planned out campaigns with pixels and tracking and sequences and branded, staged photos and all that. Keep your eyes open to see the very real ways that we garner new leads in our businesses. And then cut yourself some slack with the photos and images you create for your small business. They don’t need to look like a high-end photographer took them in order to be a strong representation of your small business and brand.

Curious to see the now-famous Marci/burrito photo? See it here on Instagram.