What happened when I changed my Instagram name
Two weeks ago I changed my Instagram user name. My handle. My call sign. The name people identify with me.
I actually made the decision to change it (seemingly) out of nowhere. There was no strategy behind it. I don’t have any long term plans to change the name of my website. And I’ve not changed the handles on my Twitter account (though I rarely go on there) or my Pinterest. And I still have my A Bookish Baker Facebook page. Not that I do much with that either.
A Bookish Baker is my brand. People know me as that name. I am in magazines as that name. But it no longer felt like me and the direction I wanted to go in.
It all started when my chickens and ducks were killed. Actually it may have started before that happened but the chickens and ducks were masking it. Which is why I put ‘seemingly’ in brackets above. My Instagram Stories were full of their antics. I would get a lot of people tuning into my stories just to see the ducks waking up in the morning. (Oh my goodness the pain is still raw - that line really hurt to write).
When they were taken from me I obviously no longer had their stories to share. I love Instagram Stories as a medium. I enjoyed sharing snippets of my day. But now…what do I share?
An email from Laura Jane Williams - a writer I’ve admired for her writing and ‘social media skills’ for sometime - popped into my inbox just as I was thinking about this. It was a sign. She was running an Instagram Stories course. So I signed up, thinking and hoping it would give me a new direction.
It did. One of the first things I did was to stop hiding behind A Bookish Baker. That handle doesn’t tell you that I’m a writer. And, as Laura said, you have to tell people how you want to be seen. And I wanted to be seen as a writer. If I couldn’t share stories of my chickens and ducks I would share more from my writing day.
So — Helen Redfern Writer or @helenredfernwriter was born.
Immediately I started to lose followers. I hadn’t anticipated that. Now it could be that this was a coincidence but my content is exactly the same as before. But I reckon people thought - who is this HelenRedfernWriter I have no recollection of following her - and immediately they unfollow. I’ve done that before when I’ve seen a name I’m not familiar with in my feed. I think Instagram has followed them for me- so, I unfollow. (Now, I realise they’ve probably just changed their names!)
So yes, it could be a coincidence. But someone I know on Instagram recently changed her name, too and had the same thing happen.
But, I guess this is a good thing. Those people who aren’t really connected with a writer’s journey will go. And those who like that sort of thing will stay. Hopefully.
The other thing I wasn’t really prepared for was the vulnerability. I’m no longer able to share the chickens’ and the ducks’ stories so I no longer have something to hide behind.
I am now out there as a writer. Do you know how long it took for me to call myself a writer? (Answer: years!) It is me chatting to camera. Sharing footage of my writing. Talking and sharing like I know what I’m doing. (I don’t always know - I just share what is working for me.) And yes, I may interrupt the writing bits for pictures of my dogs and the two chickens I have left…even so, it is me and my work carrying the stories and not my feathered friends. And yes, I do feel like I’m not interesting enough to warrant 12 or 15 stories a day.
Thirdly, the engagement on my Instagram stories is down. The chickens and ducks were my USP. They’re why people tuned in. But now I’m changing my USP. I’m changing my brand. This could be my ‘new Coke’ (Coca Cola) marketing mistake (google it if you’re too young to remember!)
I know I need to keep going and I know this change will take time and I’ll lose people in my ‘brand shake-up’. But what I’m a bit anxious about is that I’m not actually gaining any new followers so it’s in a kind of free fall. I’m not creating algorithm friendly pictures; those I used to do that would take me hours to put together and would get lots of likes and followers. I’m now concentrating on my writing and just taking snaps of that sort of thing for my main grid as well as my stories. And the algorithm doesn’t like that.
But - as I said on my Stories today. Am I going to try and crack the Instagram algorithm? Or - am I going to carry on writing and ignore the game playing?
(The latter - always the latter!)