It was unexpected. It was overwhelming for many. It resulted in the anxiety levels of influencers across the globe raising exponentially. It was the great Instagram outage of 2019.
When I tried to upload an image to my Instagram account last night it seemed to get to a certain point and stop, while my stories just kept flashing up with a notification of ‘upload error’; I turned my phone off and on again, reinstalled the app, but nothing seemed to make much of a difference. Marginally frustrated but thinking no more about it, I put my iPhone back in my bag and went off to the cinema (to watch Captain Marvel FYI, which is blooming brilliant!) But it seemed a crisis was unfolding in the digital world, as Instagram (alongside Facebook and WhatsApp) was officially ‘DOWN.’
My Twitter feed was utterly full of conversation around the downtime, many panicking about whether it would ever be back, but many more professing to enjoy the time away from the added pressure the feed causes. So many influencers were jumping onto Twitter for (what seemed like) the first time in years, because their usual platform of choice was out of action, while many more were finally coming to realise this source of inspiration was beyond their control and could be removed entirely at any point. Because that’s quite scary right? The thought of losing something you’ve become so entirely reliant upon for your online presence or source of income?
It’s something I’ve discussed and written about many times before, but the last 24 hours have really affirmed my viewpoint that as content creators we absolutely need to prioritise our own spaces. Relying upon a third party platform (be it Instagram, YouTube or Pinterest) as a way to promote your business or monetise your content is great in the short time when it’s working, but catastrophic in the long term when it’s not.
I firmly believe that anyone with a digital presence should be prioritising and focusing on their owned platforms, whether that’s a website or mailing list, over those that are absolutely beyond our control. I wrote this almost exactly a year ago, on the ‘death of blogging‘ and my issue with Instagram, and it still seems absolutely relevant…
“Although the grid is hot right now, we know there are more problems with Instagram than there are with the Brexit strategy; Snapchat lost millions of dollars off its value and lost users quicker than the Titanic sank after Kylie Jenner and Rihanna expressed their lack of support for the platform; YouTubers have been vocal about the restrictions placed upon them to monetise their sites (or even get their content seen,) while Facebook is being pulled apart for effectively letting their users data be sold to the highest bidder. These sites have a purpose and value yes, but we don’t own them and we don’t have control about what happens next – all it takes is for a new algorithm or media storm to render our content practically invisible, but with your own blog you will *always* retain authority.”
All it took was a glitch at Facebook HQ to pause the reach, community and earning potential of millions of users across the globe. All it takes is for the algorithm to nail you once again, just after you think you’ve finally cracked it, and your commercial value can plummet. But all it takes to regain control is a focusing on creating long-form content in your own way, on your own platform, for your own community.
Honestly, I get why so many content creators have focused so much on Instagram. It’s quick and (appears) easy, it’s where the money is, and it takes far less skill to pose and apply a preset than it does to curate a 2000 word article on your current skincare regime. But (and I can’t stress this enough) it’s a platform that’s more fickle than British policians in the midst of a Brexit crisis, and it’s owned by a man who’s made his fortune from commercialising connections; in order to survive you have to evolve, and in order to evolve you have to be aware of the changing climate that surrounds the content you’re creating.
I wrote previously in this post my thoughts as to why Instagram has become such a huge focus, and it still remains some of the truest words I’ve ever taken the time to type:
“The value of the written word has hugely decreased in favour of more visual and immediate content, with brands (on the whole) preferring to invest in comparatively cheaper and more timely Instagram posts. The worrying result is that so many of the bloggers I used to turn to on almost a daily basis have pretty much shut up shop; their sites are barren, with only a sprinkling of sponsored posts and holiday reviews to keep them ticking over. And you can’t blame them really: if Instagram is where it’s at, monetary wise, it would be silly not to invest the time and effort into growing and feeding that channel – it’s just unfortunate it’s at the expense of the blogs that many of us loved them for so much.”
So how can we change this and regain control, both as content creators and content absorbers?
Absolutely spend the majority of your time and effort creating content for your own channels, supporting this across social media rather than the other way around; make time to read and support other content creators and encourage your communities to sign up to your mailing list / subscribe to your blog / connect with you in any way that you have far more control over. (Subtle plug here for my own FREE Monthly Magazine, which you can sign up to and read the back issues of here!) Find new ways of being creative, connect with other creatives and think about the stories you want to tell – because there’s nothing that drives us forward more than being forced to think outside of the box!
By all means enjoy social media and absolutely use it to your advantage, but don’t let it take over your life; one thing that was so prominent after the outage of Instagram was the collective sigh of relief from those ‘thankful for the break’ or enjoying the ability to just switch off and enjoy an evening away from their phone. It shouldn’t take a worldwide social media outage for us to take a step back or focus on something other than scrolling on our phone, so how about we all use this as an opportunity to reassess and revitalise what we’re all doing online?
I’d love to know your thoughts and experiences as both a blog reader and content creator, and how you responded to what will forever be known as The Great Instagram Crisis of 2019!