Why Instagram fell out of love with me
And I think we may have broken up for good.
Firstly, let me tell you this is not an article where I talk about and berate the algorithm, although I will mention it. The algorithm is, after all, just something that measures human behaviour and, based on what they have done in the past, assumes what they may do in the future.
I do have issues with the algorithm in terms of biases, etc. but that is for another article.
Those who have been with me and followed me for a while will plainly see that my engagement is down (although it’s still way above the average) and that I often lose more followers than I gain. To others who are growing, I guess my account may look stuck whilst theirs take off. And I know waves come and go on Instagram; people grow or shrink, people go to accounts in waves and leave others, it’s just the way it works.
But the algorithm fell out of love with me a while ago, Hold on, let me rephrase that, I confused the algorithm a while ago. It doesn’t know what to make of me now and I’m not producing content that people are consuming at the moment.
And you know what; I’m absolutely fine with that because I’ve actually never been happier.
So if you want to understand how to grow on Instagram, perhaps look at how I confused the algorithm and how I grew. You may find some pointers here, and at least then you can make a decision about who you want to be on this platform.
1. The algorithm just doesn’t get me anymore.
When I was a book account and took pictures of books the algorithm and the people understood me, they knew what box to put me in and what content I would create. People (and algorithms) like boxes, I personally hate them. So when I decided to take myself out of the box, change my user name and take pictures of what the hell I wanted, things slowed down. The algorithm no longer knows where to place me or who to recommend me to, so it kind of stops doing that. People don’t recognise my content, wonder what they are going to get from one day to the next, can’t place me an easily-defined box and then stop engaging so much. Therefore, the algorithm concludes that I’m not the popular kid anymore and stops serving up my content so reach decreases. I’m like the rebel in the corner that the algorithmic isn’t sure what to do with so it ignores me. But its fine; I asked for this, I wanted this and I’d rather be unpopular and free than in a box and trapped.
2. People have now seen it all before.
When I started creating book posts that others hadn’t seen before, I started growing rapidly. I thought I was queen of all she surveys, but really my followers were just following me so they could copy and recreate my pictures. No biggie really until you see recreations all over the place, then what was innovative isn’t anymore and you have to keep getting better and better and better, only to be copied and copied and copied. I didn’t dig this, some do, but not me. It was exhausting, to try and be innovative constantly is exhausting, to see your work copied constantly (without credit) is not flattery and I didn’t want to ever create a mini-me. So I stopped and all the people following me to copy me left, they’re all now copying someone else. And that is all fine because now my account feels more unique then it ever has; the quirky locations, clothes and everything about it feels innovative, particularly in a feed that just seems full of the same type of photos. My feed is 100% me and that’s hard for anyone to copy, it feels full of personality and if people can’t copy me then why should they follow me.
3. I have a voice and use it.
I talk about important stuff. Sometimes my captions are deep, I talk about periods and feminism and every time I do I lose loads of followers. But its fine; I never wanted to be a girl just talking about the dress I bought, my skincare routine - although I have spoken about this - and what colour I love the most, although I have done this too. It’s important to me that I’m allowed to be fully me on social and talk about things that are important to me, like saving the planet, breaking the taboos and living sustainably as I can even though I’m definitely not perfect when it comes to this. If that’s not your thing and you just want water cooler chit-chat that’s fine too, no worries. There are plenty of people out there doing that and I love them too. But again, I don’t want people following me who can’t accept me for being me.
4. I make money doing this and make no apologies for that.
I do ads – yes I get paid for what I do, shock horror and I actually think I’m quite good at it. I pick the products carefully and make sure the ads fit my feed well. I try to never have more than 3 ads in a top nine but sometimes I break this and make no apologies. I’m proud that I make money, get invited to places and do cool stuff through my creative work and if you don’t feel the same then that’s OK, you are free to leave. When my ads do really well I always lose followers, perhaps because I always label correctly or at least I try to, even though the rules are so confusing. Some people don’t, and I doubt they suffer the same fate as me but it’s all fine, this is business to me, it’s work I’m proud of and I really love it and will never ever make apologies for making money.
So for these four reasons it’s unlikely that Instagram or humans in general will ever fall back in love with my account like they used to, or maybe I’m wrong and suddenly what I do will come back into fashion; who knows? But my advice to anyone who wants to grow at the moment is to do exactly the opposite of me.
1. Make sure what you do is obvious and clear and produce the same or similar content again and again and try not to get bored.
2. Make sure you create posts or go to places or wear clothes, etc. that are very Instagrammable and can be easily copied by others. Be someone other people want to be and copy and make sure you tell them how to do it.
3. Never ever talk about anything vaguely off the norm or important, however much people say they want this, they really don’t. So talk about the weather, your skin, the sun, the colour of your dress; anything that isn’t deep meaningful and purposeful.
4. Don’t get paid for your work and if you do label it incorrectly, or at least if you do have the audacity to be paid, apologise for it profusely and don’t do it very often.
And I hope you all take this in the tongue-in-cheek manner intended, even though it’s all true.