Instagram is awesome, right? For photographers and creatives it’s an amazing place. An image centric social platform with in recess of 800,000,000 users allowing people to find who they want to find, see what they want to see, and share their work to a global audience. But is it killing itself from the inside?
Instagram started its grown up life as a chronologically ordered feed, meaning everyone sees what everyone they follow posts, in the order in which it’s posted. Well ever since the takeover by Facebook that’s changed, and it continues to change. The chronological format has long since passed and now there’s algorithm change after algorithm change deciding who can see what content and when. The latest change is heavily driven by engagement, demonstrating currently that engagement leads to engagement. The initial performance of your post determines its future success, with little initial performance meaning your post is effectively killed there and then. And it isn’t even about engagement per se, it’s about quality engagement.
Users such as Chris Burkard and Daniel Kordan who grew their enormous hordes of followers before the Facebook takeover continue to reap success, however the opportunity for smaller accounts to see such growth is greatly reduced as each month passes and each new algorithmic alteration is implemented.
Small time users looking to grow seek ever time-consuming and intrinsic options such as participation in pods and dirty follow-unfollow tactics. In truth, the algorithm is hurting the creative community and small businesses who, even with a relatively large following, are seeing their posts effectively hidden from those who follow them in lieu of a huge spike in engagement off the bat. It’s becoming harder and harder to see who we follow in the feed.
It’s been going on for years over on Facebook. As the owner of Facebook Pages I noticed when it began. Certain pro-words used in captions on Facebook posts on business pages were causing posts to be heavily limited. A regular post about something relatively mundane was seen by almost 100% of the page follower, yet if you had the word ‘follow’ in the caption it would be seen by perhaps 10% of the followers. This led to Facebook suggesting the post be transformed into a paid post, guaranteeing that in return for helping you promote your follow post they were fed their dollar bill.
As long as there remains a large, engaging community of Instagram users it remains a crucial marketing tool for brands, from micro-influencers through to paid ad spots. This focus and importance for big brands to retain Instagram as an important tool in part of a wider marketing strategy is damaging smaller users and upcoming creatives who don’t have capacity for the large marketing budgets required to fuel Instagram. Many of these people are the best content creators, and Instagram has become a different platform altogether – removing its capacity to be an effective photo-sharing platform and instead becoming a highly complex and optimised algorithm-driven marketing tool. For me personally it’s swings and roundabouts. I’m constantly racking my brain to analyse what’s happening to each post and why, whilst simultaneously invoicing the brands who use my feed to advertise their product or service. But what for the future?
As always I encourage any contribution to the discussion – you can find me on social media by looking for Hybrid Dave. I’d love to hear your thoughts.