Without a doubt, we all have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the photography app that’s changed a generation. Instagram may have launched as a creative way to share imagery and tell a story, but it snowballed into a whole new way of communicating – launching unknown content creators into superstardom and allowing many of its users to make a living from sharing shots of them in their newest purchase. Over the years we’ve fallen in love with this photo-sharing platform, even creating whole new image styles (hello flatlays!) to generate as many likes as possible; many of us have put our hearts and souls into growing an audience, or simply supporting our fave accounts, but in the last twelve months it’s been impossible to not notice the general disdain and frustration at an app that started out by offering so much fun.
Ever since the Instagram Gods decided to change the algorithm, choosing to focus on making more money rather than supporting the users that had helped grow the channel to what it was (me, bitter?!), the majority of us have been struggling to make any headway. Engagement plummeted, followers hemorrhaged and visible content became so uniform that it may as well have been all from the same handful of accounts; for those of us that took the time to create a beautiful flatlay or took a snap of our perfectly posed morning coffee, it was incredibly disheartening. Why bother to focus so much effort on a platform that seemed to only favour mega influencers or paid content?
I’ve written previously about why it’s so important to focus on your own platforms for long-term success and sustainability (read the full post here) and that opinion remains. In a nutshell: “Your owned channels allow you to tell a story in your own way, without the restriction of
big corporations or algorithms. They provide infinite space, endless
creativity and the opportunity to create something without boundaries –
there’s no restriction on image size, how many hashtags you use, how
many characters you can include or what links you can add. Your own site is the one place nobody else can mess with, or
decide to shut down one day because you’ve apparently breached their
terms and conditions; it’s a true reflection of you as an individual and
its importance should never be overlooked.” However, that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy a bit of Insta and creating images that we’re proud of; it just means it shouldn’t be your number one priority as a content creator.
For the first few months of the year I admittedly really struggled with Instagram. I’d spent a long time building up an audience and an engaged following, only for it suddenly to start progressing noticeably backwards; I couldn’t predict the ‘success’ of any given image and spent far too many hours scrolling, checking and re-checking my notifications as some kind of validation as to my worth. It started to become a real issue, and one of few topics my fellow bloggers and I would discuss on almost a daily basis – something had to change. You may have read my post about ‘breaking up with my phone‘ already, but in a nutshell that time away from my device and the constant checking did me the world of good. I started to realise that those likes didn’t define my value and they weren’t within my control; they were at the disposal of the Instagram Gods, so constant anxiety about the platform certainly wouldn’t change anything and wouldn’t do me any good in the long-term either.
It was a lightbulb moment. In that instant I decided to no longer spend time worrying about the performance of my snaps, instead focusing on creating the images and overall grid I was proud of. I started to pay attention to what worked and to have fun creating more of the same; I was no longer afraid of sharing pictures that were ‘off brand’ or a little too green, or regramming other accounts I admired or wanted to support; I stopped feeling worried or anxious about the fact I didn’t have a fresh pic that day, instead only sharing what I really wanted to put out there. And you know what? I’ve totally fallen for the ‘gram all over again.
I’ve left all the issues I had with it at the door and have started embracing it for what it is: a way to share pictures I love and connect with my audience in an exciting way. Over the last few months I’ve taken the pressure off myself and the result has been a grid I’m proud of, alongside some of the best engagement I’ve seen in ages. Brands are coming to me more and more to work on Instagram-based collaborations (thanks for your support in advance – it means I can keep bringing you the rest of my content for free!) and I’m rediscovering putting up random cr*p via the addictiveness of Insta Stories. If you’re getting too hung up on what you’re putting out there (I feel ya!) why not embrace some of my five tips and see if we can’t have you singing the praises of Instagram once again…
STOP WORRYING ABOUT THE NUMBERS
Yes it can be disheartening to spend a couple of hours creating a great flatlay only for the likes to trickle in and leave you wondering why you bothered, but to be honest they’re not everything. The way we use the app is changing, and we’re much more likely to scroll to the next shot than we are to take a second or two to like or leave a comment. Changing to a business account and looking at how many people actually saw your post will give you a much better reflection and arm you with additional stats if you need them.
FOCUS ON CREATING CONTENT YOU’RE PROUD OF
Don’t feel like you have to follow a theme, edit your pictures in a certain way or emulate the success of others; Instagram is all about being creative and putting out a true reflection of your interests. Too many accounts are now following a set formula and don’t have any point of difference, so instead of falling into a sea of samey be proud to stand out and do what you love.
BUILD A COMMUNITY
What I love most about Instagram right now is the community of women that are so incredibly supportive, kind and sweet underneath those little square pics. I adore seeing comments pop up and feeling like you’re genuinely inspired or motivated by what I’m sharing, so I try to reply and like as soon as I possible can. Having a two-way conversation is so very important, and not only because it reminds you of why you’re doing it in the first place.
PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT WORKS (BUT DON’T LET IT DEFINE YOU)
Once I stopped fretting about getting over a certain number of likes every time, I started to paying attention to the posts that performed better than the rest; once you open your eyes it’s easy to identify your best content as use that as a driving force to create more of the same. It may be that your audience loves pugs or avocados, or can’t get enough of affordable fashion: for me it’s all about full length pics, so I’m stepping out of my comfort zone in attempt to create more (and so is my husband – hello new insta photographer!)
USE INSTA STORIES
Fed up of the super curated feed and worrying about such visible engagement? Go back to basics and use the raw, fun and fresh features of Instagram Stories. Although I’m a bit rubbish at remembering to document what I’m doing, I do love snapping away and adding a random gif without worrying whether or not it’s ‘on brand.’ In my opinion these instant and short-lived posts provide the easiest and best way to fall back in love with Insta, so get to it.
Instagram does need to pull up its socks and focus on creating the best experience for its users, but in the meantime I believe we should all be taking the channel with a pinch of salt and enjoying it for what it is. Let’s stop fretting about how we can use it to become famous / make our fortune / launch a business and start having fun once again…
After all, it’s only an app.
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