I love Instagram.
No, I mean, I love, love Instagram.
Like, I wanna marry it and have its babies love it.
But lately, Instagram has felt more like I’m in a relationship with a bad boy who treats me terribly and ignores my texts.
It wasn’t always like this–in the beginning, Instagram was my vacation, my get-away, my escape. Through my carefully curated list of of people I followed, I submerged myself in daydreams of exotic beaches, ancient cultural destinations and so much food porn.
And sure, I can still do that. But less so these days.
Furthermore, the community of Instagram, which, to be honest, has been my favourite part, is retreating. This isn’t really their fault. It’s about the algorithm.
A couple months back, I could post a food photo, and I’d easily get 100 likes on it. Currently, some of my photos are only getting 40 or so likes… one I posted a couple weeks back got only 25.
It’s hard to not feel discouraged by all this. I’ve been on Instagram (@rebeccacoleman) for 5 years, but it’s only been about 3 that I have been serious about posting there. I try to post on a daily basis, 6/7 days per week. I primarily post food porn, and I know that vegan and vegetarian photos do the best. But I post a mix of a few other things as well, travel photos, TBTs, and the odd selfie.
Truthfully, I’ve been waiting for this shoe to drop ever since Facebook bought Instagram. But there were a few years of solid bliss there, where what you saw in your feed was based on two factors only: who you followed and what time of the day they posted. A while back, Instagram instituted an algorithm. We don’t know a ton about it, but we can make guesses and assumptions based on what we know about Facebook.
In a recent blog post from Union Metrics, they explain that what you see in your Instagram feed currently is determined by a series of weighted metrics from:
- People whose content you like
- People you direct message
- People you search for (signals that you’re interested in an account but not seeing their content)
- People you know in real life (this information could come from Facebook or photo tags)
Of course, we don’t know exactly what weight Instagram gives each one, so much of this is a guessing game.
The article goes on to say that, on average, less than 70% of content on Instagram is being seen. Meaning, for every 10 posts you put up, 3, on average (but likely a different 3 for each follower) are not being seen.
I actually think that number is quite high. On one of my Instagram accounts, the reach is almost exactly 50%.
What’s the problem?
There are a number of challenges here. Instagram has exploded in the last few years, rising past Twitter to become the 2nd most popular social media, next to Facebook. It now has 700 million active monthly users. Instagram has also become big business. Those with tens and hundreds of thousands of followers are able to charge big bucks for sponsored posts. A local Vancouver designer, for example, who is close to a million followers, charges $5000 per post.
Instagram wants a piece of this pie, so they are instituting an algorithm to strangle the reach of big influencers, hoping to force them to pay to reach a bigger audience.
I also believe that, in some ways, Instagram is forcing more spam into the feed (which is the opposite of what they say they are wanting to do). Some Instagrammers are posting more often in an attempt to outwit the algorithm, using unrelated hashtags, posting thirst traps, or turning to Instagram Pods or bots.
I get it–there’s always going to be someone out there who’s going to try to outwit the system, but most of my friends who are influential on Instagram are just trying to get ‘er done in the best way they know how, and they would like that to be by taking really beautiful photographs and letting those speak for themselves. It feels like Instagram is forcing us to use more spammy, tricky means to do a job that we were doing just fine a few months back.
So, what can we do?
Honestly, Instagram is breaking my heart right now. It used to be this lovely playground I couldn’t wait to be in, but these days it just feels a lot like discouragement and work. I’m sad. Instagram is making me sad.
Obviously engagement is the key here. In addition to creating the most beautiful photographs you can, and including appropriate hashtags, try to create some engagement with your posts. Ask questions, create contests, make controversy… whatever you can to get people to leave a comment.
Use Instagram stories. My stories regularly get about 100 views, so I do them every day. It’s very different than my regular Instagram feed, but people really seem to connect with it. I’m also trying to get people to interact with me there, by asking questions and asking for advice.
What are your thoughts on the current state of Insta? Please share in the comments below.