I got the Algorithm Blues...
The Instagram algorithm has been a hot topic around the social media forums of late and for many there has been an outcry about a huge drop in engagement. Panic has ensued amongst those (myself included) who have built up a modest following and are using the platform for business purposes. When an image you post is not met with your usual flow of likes and love but instead crickets and tumbleweeds it is hard not to take it personally and fear the worst: the lovely house of Instagram that we have called home has raised it rent and we are nearing an eviction.
A BRIEF HISTORY..
Looking back over how Instagram has wriggled its ways into our everyday life is a journey in itself. It was late 2012 when I first started an account and after a few hideously over filtered additions of sunsets and images of what I was having for breakfast it dawned on me that I could be using the platform to share the artwork I was creating. Until then I relied on a clunky Flickr account and the art books on contemporary artists and illustrators to find other artists who were making the art I wanted to make in the world.
For me these were the dark ages. With no concept of the potential of this platform let alone what lighting could do to the quality of an image, most of us were ‘feeling out’ the app and understanding what we could do with it. As the app evolved so did we. Users got savvy as new features were added and our potential for defining our niche became more apparent. But whilst new shiny features were added the premise and success of the app remained the same; to SHARE content, CONNECT and ENGAGE with an audience that had chosen to subscribe to your feed. Looking back now it seems we were living in the golden age of Instagram; our posts appeared at the top of a feed in chronological order, there were no ads plotted in between our beloved friend’s posts and the thought of paying for a post seemed blasphemous.
Enter Mr. Zuckerberg.
The recent changes to the elusive Algorithm (he who shall not be named) seemed to have had quite an effect on users. I will put my hand up here and admit that I have sifted through articles trying to find an answer to the drastic drop in engagement. And there were a handful of suggestions; post at certain times of the day, use these hashtags, do this.. Don’t do that! And perhaps there are some valid and useful points amongst all of these articles. But I couldn’t help but feel exasperated. At the end of the day we are not sitting in the Facebook offices of Silicon Valley and we don’t know how the algorithm works exactly. Rather than trying to ‘crack the code’ why not divert your attention and look elsewhere for some answers.
The positive aspect of this shift is the thinking it has inspired in me. How does my art business run outside of Instagram and indeed any social media platform? How can I use my creative, problem solving noggin to come up with solutions? I decided upon a few things:
Not paying for advertisements.
No judgement if you do and I have in the past but I can see how this engagement drop has spiked some sort of scarcity mindset and fear, prompting people to pay for advertising. Which is exactly what this algorithm was designed to do. Think about it. But also think about how you feel when you see sponsored ads on Instagram.. If you don’t mind it then go right ahead but if you’re constantly swatting these ads away then maybe think twice about contributing to the noise? Don’t forget we’re all in the same boat so rather than try and keep up with the rat race why not stop, enjoy the stroll and take in some scenery. Just a suggestion.
Numbers (followers, likes, etc) aren’t necessarily equal to business:
Worth and talent etc. It is very easy to get caught up in this and forget why you decided to create in the first place. To obsess over numbers is really counterproductive. Put your phone down and make some art/beautiful photography/music/whatever floats your boat. In other words, CREATE RATHER THAN CONSUME. RInse and repeat.
Support other creatives:
When you like something they’re doing or something they’ve posted, tell them. Be genuine of course but please don’t act too cool because you’ve seen a drop in their numbers or because you’re feel a sense of lack and scarcity in your own practice. There is always enough work opportunities etc. and there is a life outside of Instagram (hard to believe I know)
Meet up with people IRL:
Go to that show, visit that exhibition, make an effort wherever you can to support your creative community…. in person. I’m definitely not always the best at this but it’s something I would like to put more effort into. I certainly have put myself in many vulnerable situations on my creative career path and I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I have been for the people who showed up and showed support for what I was doing. If you have been in this situation then you know the value of this support.
Please feel free to add any other ideas about shifting your mindset with Instagram in the comment area below. If you feel this article might help someone else then feel free to share!
Until next time!