My Truths About the Instagram Algorithm and Inauthentic Engagment on Instagram
Instagram for Bloggers: What Used to Be
Ohhhh Instagram, I have such a love/hate relationship with this social media platform and in this post I’m going into alllll the details. And there’s a lot of them. And as I’m sitting here looking at my computer, I literally don’t even know where to start. I guess when you don’t know where to start, the best place is the beginning, right? So here I go:
Once upon a time, in lil’ old blogger world, Instagram was AWESOME. I would post a picture annnnd, people actually saw it. I could talk to my followers and they could talk back, because, well, they saw my posts. It was such a good tool to help market my blog.
Truth be told, I’m not sure that was a great thing. I know, I know, you’re probably like, what??? Why would people seeing your posts be a bad thing, and, not that it’s bad, but I think that instant gratification trained a lot of bloggers to focus on things that they had no control over. Like Instagram. Instagram is owned by Instagram. Period. They’re a business. Period. They want to make money and when they see people like me making money off of their platform, well, they change things.
But more on that later. For exposure, Instagram was absolutely amazing, and yes, I even started making money off of it, which was awesome for me. But then, kinda like the stock market in 1929, it crashed. And it crashed hard. I remember posting a picture one day that after hours and hours, only had 44 likes. I had almost 15,000 followers at the time. What the fluff????
That was when Instagram first implemented the algorithm and, to be honest, it sucked. It was also the first time I really felt judged using the platform. Instagram had decided, through their algorithm, that my pic wasn’t worthy of being seen. Ouch. And then I started worrying about “what other people thought,” when they saw my pic - here’s this girl with 15,000 followers and only 44 likes? What gives?” At that time, I was getting between 300 and 500 likes per post….would people or brands think I was buying followers or likes?
Need More Engagement on Instagram? Why IG Pods are So Popular
It was what it was, but how happy was I when another blogger reached out to let me know about these new “pods” that were popping up? Join a pod, like or comment on all the photos within a certain time frame, and boom, your Instagram engagement is back up.
That sounded great, and I absolutely joined without a second throught, because, why not? For a little while, it was perfect. I mean, my engagement was back up, even if it was only because I was putting in work to trade likes. And by work, I truly mean work. I would spend hours “catching up,” just so I could post my pic. And some of the girls in my group were, let’s just say “needy.” They would literally tell the other girls what to say when leaving a comment. It was too much, both in terms of time, and there was a “final straw” incident that made it feel all so fake. That “final straw,” came when one of the ladies asked us to comment something to the effect of how her body was going to “bounce back,” after her pregnancy. The photo however was her backside. You couldn’t see an ounce of a pregnant belly. Her caption was related to a night out and the food she ate. Maybe more so out of spite, I think I commented about how pretty her dress was.
At that point, I left all comment pods, but did stay in my like groups, because it seemed like I couldn’t not be in them. I needed engagement to get campaigns but Instagram wouldn’t show my content to my followers, so trading likes seemed like the best solution. But awhile back, it hit me. I didn’t feel authentic anymore. Even knowing I was going to go back to the 40 likes per post metric, I ripped off the bandaid. The time I spent liking random people’s photo’s I instead spent liking my follower’s photos.
My engagment rate sucks, my income has dropped, but I feet better about all of it.
And then, within the last few weeks I believe they made another change to the algorithm, which made my engagement rate tank even further. Was the lure of a like-group hanging over my head? Yep, like a cloud on a rainy day. But I just didn’t want to do it.
Am I angry with Instagram? YES! I know a few months ago it came out that they were toying with the idea of hiding likes because people sometimes felt bullied by others who could see the number of likes their photos received.
I literally laughed out loud at this hypcrosy, because to me, the true bully on Instagram, actually is Instagram! Instagram (or it’s algorithm) decides every single time I post whether my photo is “worthy” of being seen. They’ve admitted that for those set up as a business or creator account, posts are only shown intiitally to between 7 and 10% of their following. If my photo gets likes and comments within the first 30 minutes or so of posting, they might then show it to more people. Of course, they might not, no one really knows.
Because of the algorithm, not only do I feel like I’m being judged and rejected, I truly am. And to be honest, it’s offensive. For instance, in a totally “unofficial” study I’ve been doing, I’ve realized that girls who post ass-pics, get far more engagement on those photos. Hmmm….what message are they trying to communicate to their users?
There is a flip-side to all of this however. It’s definitely brought to my attention the fact that alllll that time I spent on Instagram trying to build a following and engaging with others, could have been spent on my blog because guess what? I own my blog. Let me repeat: I OWN MY BLOG. If Instagram decided to shut down tomorrow, they could, and there would be nothing I could do about it. So while I’m not neglecting the platform, I’ve decided to focus on my long-term goals that I can acheive with my blog, because, it’s mine. Instagram should be like my blogging assistant, not my main focus.
The other thing it’s helped me realize? I don’t need generic comments from bloggers who don’t follow me to boost my engagment. I have my own lil’ group of buddies that ALWAYS comment on my content. We follow each other. I support them and they support me and all of this is done on our own….there wasn’t a message going out that said, “please follow me and I’ll follow you and let’s comment on each other’s posts, and by the way, I’m going to tell you how to comment because I want to appear a very specific way.” There were no messages at all. It was honest and authentic support for one another. And I like it more that way:)
The other reason all of this sucks comes when I apply for campaigns. My engagement rate isn’t what it needs to be to get into a lot of them. Of course, my engagement rate, even if it’s bad, is authentic. I’ve toyed with the idea of going back to a like pod, because I do want to know if, the likes I receive from them truly does help get me more engagment from my authentic followers. If it does, honestly, there might be a reason to be using them, in addition to potentially landing more campaigns.
From a business perspective, I’ve made a terrible decision. Not being in these pods has taken me out of a lot of the campaigns I could otherwise possibly get into. That sucks. And although brands say they want those with genuine engagment, I’m not sure they do. Most of them want to look like they’re sitting at the popular table. Honestly though, I get it. Even though I know for a fact a lof brands are collaborating with users using a like-for-like strategy - I get why brands like seeing lots of likes.
I currently am spending way less time on the platform, posting less (which is not good…I know that does’t help my engagment), and like I said, working on achieving my dreams through my blogging platform.
By the way, if any of you are using comment or like pods, this is not a knock on you. Not even a little!!! You be you, girlfriend:) I’ve already admitted from a business perspective, this choice isn’t the best and I’m not promising that I won’t go back to like pods.
Regardless, I’m sure we’re just a short time away from a new form of social media being developed. Maybe I’ll hop on that board instead:)
I’m dying to know what all of your thoughts are on Instagram? Let me know in the comments below!!
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