Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Algorithms & Visibility | Instagram Frustration


This post has been brewing in my head for a couple of weeks now and last night, the brain dump happened. It's driven from the stress and frustration I feel coming across in so many people's Instagram content these past few weeks.

But I left it until the cold light of day to edit, amend and publish so I hope it's useful, balanced and less ranty(!) than it was last night. Mainly I hope it helps some of you to slow down the Instagram treadmill a little and start to enjoy that grid again.

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Back in the day, blogging was all about websites - like this one, where we posted daily or weekly musings and told people about them by tweeting, putting up a Facebook post or via email. If we wrote good content and tagged it properly, Google would helpfully bring us up in searches for relevant words.

Then Instagram happened and suddenly, we didn't have to work so hard or write as much content. Following was quick to build - all you needed to do was take nice pictures and write a few inspiring words. Easy.
Blog content has definitely fallen off since Instagram became the channel of choice. I know I don't blog as much on here as I used to. It's so much easier to share bitesize pieces of information on Instagram with a picture.

But then Instagram got bought over by Facebook and went all commercial

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Brands and bloggers alike started to see the power of Instagram and suddenly it felt like it was more important than our own websites. You had to have tons of followers and lots of engagement on Instagram to properly call yourself a blogger. 

Instagram has seen the power of this too and developed a complicated algorithm (to determine what posts appear where in everyone's feeds) which encourages you to pay for visibility. Third parties are constantly developing connected apps to pimp your content, sell you followers and let you see who unfollows you each day.

Lots of us have moved over to 'business' status on Instagram where we see our statistics for every picture, every video and can view weekly measures like 'reach' and 'impressions'
It's all VERY stressy. 


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But about 3 or 4 months ago, I had a moment when I realised, hold on....I don't need to take this on. I have a good blog website with interesting, original content. I don't have a massive following but I have a massively lovely following of genuine people across all my social media accounts. I don't need this Insta-Drama.

So I'm no longer stressing about a third party social media app that, let's face it, owes me NOTHING.
Best advice I can give you all is what I do myself and this has helped me enjoy Instagram again, like I did at the start:

Turn off your notifications
Delete 'unfollow tracking' apps
Stop tracking statistics/likes/swipe aways
Unfollow anyone who doesn't bring you joy every day (Marie Condo style)


I can honestly say that giving myself permission to do these 4 things has transformed Instagram for me. It's no longer a place of frustration and judgement. I'm happy to ignore it for a few days every week because crucially, it's not my measure of success anymore.
(You can also try to go into Instagram only once or twice a day but I massively failed on that one)

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And this last bit is just a few things for my fellow bloggers to consider. So many of you are frustrated and wondering how to grow following, decipher the algorithm and generally be more visible on Instagram. But in all of this, you could actually be disengaging your existing following.....

Please don't post grid images on your insta stories with your most recent post (blanked out) saying something along the lines of 'Click on the grid to see my latest post' or 'click on settings to ensure you don't miss one of my posts'. I have had SO many people tell me they've stopped watching stories or unfollowed because of this one.

Don't complain about the algorithm on your insta stories or grid. Non bloggers don't care about algorithms. Actually, I'm a blogger and I don't care about algorithms. We're all in the same boat here...once again, Instagram owes us nothing!

Declare all gifts and say if you've been paid. No brainer. Your readers (especially your longer term following) are savvier than you think and will soon suss you on this one...and unfollow.

Finally, if you've got a lot of #ad or #gifted material, you will unfortunately have to accept that a proportion of your followers won't like this. It typically drives unfollows and you should factor that into your decision to take the work on. Most importantly, don't apologise for or try to justify your #ad's after they appear. They're an acceptable activity for any good blogger as long as they're relevant and well spaced out on your grid.

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If you're still with me I'll finish by saying, blogger or not, please keep creating and posting HONEST, original content. Do it at all times with the utmost integrity and create and post it across ALL your channels. Don't rely completely on Instagram.
For the last time - Instagram owes you nothing.

And don't worry about likes or comments. No one is obliged to like or comment on your content. Whether they do or not doesn't make you or your content better.
You are great already. You're doing an amazing job.

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I rest my case, my chest is lighter. Hit me with your comments. I promise I won't take them personally

Ax
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18 comments

  1. I’m relatively new to Instagram, having started to look at the posts put up by some of the bloggers I enjoyed. I don’t blog or post myself. Not knowing the etiquette, I didn’t “like” all posts I read because I didn’t know it was expected. As purely a consumer, you’re right, I’m not much interested in the algorithm debate but I can see how it must be very frustrating for hard working bloggers to have material ignored. As far as content is concerned, I agree that knowing when a post is sponsored or the result of a gift is useful as otherwise we might wonder how a bloggers spending budget goes so far. I guess overall, as a consumer, I enjoy following intelligent, likeminded women who have an opinion on life, clothes and home that chimes with mine. I don’t take it too seriously or get envious, and find it baffling when others do. So, please carry on as you are, giving followers an insightful look at the world as you see it!

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    1. Thank you for giving a really helpful non-blogger view point on all this. Your points are all so valid and really helpful for a blogger to read.
      You're so right, it's massively frustrating when you put photos up that people don't seem to see but I see it also on Facebook with the businesses I work with - it's really difficult to get visibility on there too. I feel a shift change on social media for smaller businesses and bloggers....will be interesting to observe. Thanks again for taking the time to comment Jane, Avril x

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  2. Good to read this! I've been a bit baffled why so many I follow on Instagram have been mentioning this issue. You are so very sensible! I hope other bloggers take your advice on board!

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    1. I'm glad you found it useful and as per Jane's comment above, it's great to get the non-blogger view on this. Many bloggers are understandably frustrated at their content being invisible but I hope this maybe helps them to rethink how they're using social media and instagram in particular. Thanks for taking the time to comment x

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  3. I agree with everything you have written. Well done Avril, lady who talks sense. I switched to a business account for a whole two weeks just to see what it's all about. It really didn't float my boat, I don't want to know when my optimum time is for posting a photo. I want to post it when I feel like it! Like you, I'm not really interested in number of followers as I have a really lovely bunch of women whom I converse with regularly (daily). Mind you I'd love to be able to use the swipe up function on InstaStories as it's so bloody difficult to link things when you're talking about them. So my goal is to reach 10k followers and then I don't much care x

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    1. We are on the same wavelength here Donna - I never even thought about putting my account back to a normal one instead of a business one...going to look into that. And once I got to 10k, I definitely moved into a different frame of mind about it all. It felt like my work on Instagram was done 😳 ....that swipe up should be available to everyone - what a joke! x

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  4. GREAT post, Avril! I've always been a believer that in most cases it's about quality rather than content, but then again - I'm a words person, not a pictures person! :)

    I think your approach to blogging is what has made your blog and following weather the storm that is algorithms and changing social trends.

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    1. Thank you for commenting Brittany - it's great to get your perspective on it from a blogger and a PR point of view. I prefer words too - I could never compete with the beautiful images so many bloggers create on Instagram. Hence I'm retreating to my happy place on here....it's nice to be back properly blogging again! x

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  5. Sing it sister! Great post. Your strength is your content. Always. As for the #ads #gifted, it needs to be clear. Raving about stuff you have been sent is vastly different to stuff for which you have forked out hard earnt $$$. As a reader I feel duped and annoyed ( and disengaged) when I figure it out. Your approach has always been good.

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    1. Thank you - I really appreciate the encouragement. It’s trying to strike that balance between featuring brand led stuff, which is all part & parcel of Instagram and which most readers like to see, and sharing normal day to day content. Day to day being key - not curated and scheduled images of perfection. Keeping it real! You’re saying what so many have fed back to me in recent months and what prompted this post. So thank you again x

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  6. Thank you Avril, I'm relatively new to all this but I blog for me and because I enjoy putting my thoughts down, recording my outfits and looking back but I do find the whole 'getting followers' and 'unfollowing' really frustrating and keep wondering what I am doing wrong? Nothing it seems! Michelle at Fifty & Fab xx

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    1. No, you’re doing a brilliant job! You’re just on that Instagram rollercoaster...so many people, so many bots, so many trying to work out how to make it work for them! And I’m guessing there are lots of people who are trying to pull back from it all on a daily basis. I myself unfollowed a lot of accounts yesterday as I realise the bigger the following, the harder Instagram becomes and the more of my day it consumes!
      Keep doing what you’re doing Michelle - thank you for taking the time to comment x

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  7. Hi Avril, I'm just a follower but agree 100% with everything you've written. In fact, although I love the concept of Instagram I've gone off it lately and only check in every few days now.
    On the other hand I love reading your blogs (Donna's and a few other favourites too) and have been a faithful reader for a long time, although I don't comment often.
    All I can say is keep up the good work. You and your fellow bloggers have inspired me so much. Thank you xx

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    1. Christine, thank you - that’s so encouraging to read. I’m going to make a conscious effort to shift my efforts from Instagram to here...it’s really interesting to hear that you’re not using Instagram as much and I know that you’re not alone in taking that approach. Maybe a big shift is in the pipeline for Instagram? It will be so interesting to watch how things change in the next year. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - so helpful to get a non blogger view on the whole issue xx

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  8. Avril, 've been reading your blog posts for quite a while and will continue as long as you are writing because it is sincere and heartfelt. While I am not a professional blogger or instachick....I do have accounts of for which numbers of followers are irrelevant for me as my posts are for my kids and maybe some day when I am no longer around, they have something to remember me by. That being said, my daughters crack up that when I post to Instagram my own posts do not show up in the top of my feed. They immediately get shoved way down in the feed. So that tells you how much my posts rate on Instagram. -dawn in California

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    1. Aw Dawn - isn’t that the worst of Instagram right there? Not seeing your own posts!! Ridiculous and just shows you how commercial it’s all getting. But I do also think using it as you do is a lovely way to preserve memories that might not otherwise have been kept - I’m sure your daughters will enjoy looking back over your profile when they’re older.
      Thank you so much for commenting and for your encouragement. I’m a much happier person having spent 80% of my time on here in the past week or so, instead of on Instagram x

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  9. Just jumped on to say I've been enjoying your clarity on instagram recently, particularly the #boughtbyme you add. Nothing more frustrating that a blogger raving about an expensive item to find out it's been gifted to them by x number of companies. I do enjoy using Insta, largely for food and outfit inspo, but feel it's a shame so many bloggers have moved to that platform, particularly the stories element. As someone who enjoys reading and is a quick reader, I'd much prefer to whip through a well written and engaging post than watch a video or read a garbled excerpt below a photo.
    DISCLAIMER: I've never watched your insta stories (don't want to ruin the blog magic!) or thought your posts on insta were garbled :) Delighted to hear you're back to blogging!

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  10. I'm not a blogger but I agree with what you've written. The algorithm is so irritating, I've ended up seeing the same posts and missing others, which is irritating. I've taken to looking at instagram a few times a day, I use it as a way of destressing and for inspiration to either do stuff or style something or try a different recipe. I actually prefer reading blogs, and when I started following more I found myself overwhelmed with how many posts there were unread and now I actually prefer the bloggers who don't post daily as I find it easier to keep up with them. I've been reading your blog for years now, please keep it up.

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I love reading your comments and will reply as soon as I can if you have a specific question. If for any reason, you are unable to leave a comment, just drop me an email at avril@alifetostyle.com or leave a comment on the A Life to Style Facebook Page! Thank you xx

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