Last year I took on a week-long Instagram challenge: the point was to grow my following substantially within one week by posting good-enough(??) content and being active on the app.
You can read how the challenge progressed here and here. Long story short my following did grow on the first 2 days with about 10 followers but from then on I got stuck and only recently I “earned” another 10 STABLE followers.
I say stable because a lot of the new followers are in fact bots and people who see following as a way to grow their own figures, and then unfollow within a day or two. I admit here and now, I find this sort of behavior intolerable. Perhaps it shouldn’t annoy me so much, but it does. Twats! Sorry…
The challenge itself was only 7 days long but it was an effing hard 7 days! Constantly planning and creating content, thinking about everything from the perspective of “what do my followers want to see“, searching for interesting accounts to follow, and being active by commenting on other people’s photos was really time-consuming.
But not rewarding. Unless you earn 500€ per picture, it really wasn’t worth all the bother.
It’s about 6 months since I did the challenge and since then Instagram has been caught in whirlwind of dissatisfied users. The changes in algorithm, and the unfairness of the follow-unfollow phenomena as well as paying for followers are threatening people’s interest towards the application.
All of this prompted me to take a look at how my own behavior on the app has changed. And I realized that since the challenge there have been some big changes indeed. My whole perception towards the app has changed, in fact.
Do I think it’s a worthwhile promotion channel for bloggers? Well, before I answer this questions, here are the 3 main points that the challenge changed for me in regards to how I see and use the app now, 6 months later. It’s a bit of a long one, so buckle up!
I lost interest
Big time! After the challenge ended I felt so frustrated, unaccomplished and like I had failed in some way. All very negative feelings that weren’t true at all, and which I’d much rather live without.
So, I stopped using the app. I mean, I used it in the sense that I would scroll through the feed every morning and during work days but I was mainly doing this to find funny and cute dog videos. For weeks I only posted one picture per week, and interacting by commenting on other people’s pictures came to an abrupt stop.
I mean, what was the point of commenting on people’s pictures in the first place? These were people I didn’t know and who I had started to follow just because the challenge had suggested I should do so. And because I didn’t know these people their content didn’t really matter to me.
My favourite time to browse Instagram is in the morning accompanied with my morning coffee. So, at the end of the day I didn’t see any point in having countless and countless pictures of random women all posing on streets around the world with the same beige filters covering my feed.
Their content was beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but these random women were not what I want to see second thing in the morning, when I’d never stop at their pictures to click ‘like‘ anyway.
Me being an SEO nerd, I am a little bit obsessed with numbers, though, so the bigger number on ‘Following‘ compared to the ‘Followers‘ number next to it annoyed me. This resulted in me unfollowing a shite-load of random people one day, simply because I didn’t know who they were.
About 5 or 6 accounts survived the cut because they really peaked my interest; one of them I kept just because the person creating the content lives in Brighton, and Brighton holds such precious memories for me that my heart melts from any mention of it. In addition, this person’s flat lays were extremely beautiful and inspiring, so keeping that account on my list was a no-brainer.
After that I sort of gave up on the whole thing; I only posted stories from our holidays to Slovakia and Hawaii, and kept posting pictures to a bare minimum. My interaction in the app stayed in complete 0 and you know what? I felt so much better when no time was spent on thinking about Instagram at all.
I stopped caring
The world that we live in sometimes seems like a really bad place. So, I totally understand the appeal of Instagram and Pinterest; seeing beautiful pictures is much nicer than seeing images of another crashed plane or a war zone on telly. But there’s a flip side to this preference, which raised quite a lot of discussion last year.
People compare themselves to all those professional content creators on social media platforms who spend hours and hours airbrushing their selfies and assembling their living rooms, while their family is locked in a bedroom so that they can get that one perfect picture to post on Insta.
And then these people feel bad because they want their lives to look just as perfect, but it’s impossible because that content creator’s life doesn’t look like that in reality. Comparitis has become a medical condition of the social media age, and it has caused havoc in a lot of people’s mental well-being.
It’s not just the comparing-issue that causes people to feel bad. I noticed the effect that the sudden decrease in follower numbers had on my well-being: it all made me angry and extremely frustrated because it was unfair and completely out of my control.
And then the news of another algorithm change within Instagram reached my ears and that was the last nail on the coffin for me; I couldn’t give a toss about my follower numbers or my content quality anymore because I, at the end of the day, had no control over my own content on the application.
For a control freak like me, taking away literally all control was a big mistake on Instagram’s half.
Yes, my feed soon looked very messy and my follower numbers didn’t evolve to any direction but I felt better. And that’s why:
I use the app for me, myself and I
Social media is never, I repeat never worth feeling anything negative over. It is a space made for sharing your creations, for enjoying others’ creations, and for socializing and connecting with people all around the world.
The moment Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook makes you feel even the slightest bit uncomfortable it’s not serving its purpose anymore (I am completely excluding those individuals here who see it as their purpose in life to troll and abuse other app users to their heart’s content because these platforms were not made for them in the first place).
I know a lot of people who are right now deleting their Facebook and Snapchat accounts, but despite the negative feelings that the challenge brought to my attention, I do not feel any need to delete my account from Instagram.
Fact is, I love photography. I also like to showcase my photographs to as large an audience as possible (call me an attention whore, I have no need to deny it). I also like to see what my friends are up to and I need those funny dog videos when I’m having a shit day at work. So no, deleting Instagram is not a viable option for me.
But I do not use it for growing my following anymore. I use it for me; for my delight, for my development and for staying on track of the people I love and their lives. #onlypositivevibes
As a result of this new perception to Instagram my feed has finally started to look relatively consistent, although I still don’t pay that much attention to it. I don’t make Instagram content specifically, but use pictures taken for blog posts as content that I post on Instagram as well.
Creating interesting and action-provoking captions is important but that’s another aspect I just can’t be bothered with. I come up with the caption when I’m posting a photo and if that’s not good enough to some, I still ain’t losing anything.
Numbers-wise I’m much more interested in my blog’s statistics, because those I can control; when I make changes in SEO settings or promote a certain post I can see a relative change in the statistics. On Instagram, on the contrary, no matter how I try to accommodate the algorithm changes, I can never control one aspect of my follower count.
So, let’s take a look at that question I asked before diving into the 3 results of the Instagram challenge:
Is Instagram a Worthwhile Promotion Channel for Bloggers?
I absolutely think it is!
Instagram is a great channel for promoting a new post and it constitutes about 20% of my blog’s traffic. So, it is definitely a force to be reckoned with. But, at 20% of all the traffic I wouldn’t put too much effort and time on it. Then again, if you do have thousands upon thousands of followers, Instagram can easily be your blog’s main traffic provider.
So, at the end of the day it is a good channel for promoting your blog or website, but I do tend to rely more heavily on getting my SEO honed to perfection and keeping in contact with my fellow bloggers by commenting on their blogs rather than on social media channels.
The way I see Instagram nowadays is that it’s a creative space where people from all works of life can get together and share their imagery, no matter what quality or about which subject that imagery is. There will always be an audience for everything on Instagram, but the fact is that beauty sells in every sense there.
For example, if I want to promote a blog post I better promote it with a picture of me. Pictures of people attract so much more attention, likes and thus traffic, than photographs of landscapes or flat lay arrangements.
Like in all marketing, also on Instagram you do need to put a little bit of thought into what you are doing IF your purpose is to promote something outside of the actual social media platform. In my case that means paying a little bit more attention to that one photo, with which I wish to promote a blog post, and its caption in order to maximize attention and interaction.
The algorithm will keep on changing, and I can’t see how it would start changing into a direction that would be beneficial to us, but it just simply isn’t something that we can do anything about. Thankfully we are not dependent on the app!
For bloggers Instagram is a great extra creative outlet and can provide us with a nice stream of website visits, but the moment that posting there starts to feel like forced activity, I suggest you take a wee break from it.
Or perhaps you have already taken the Instagram sabbatical! If so, I would loove to hear your experiences during and after the break, and how it possibly changed the way you use the app now. Hit me with a comment below or e-mail me, this subject is something that greatly interests me. xx