I think I speak for a lot of us when I say, I feel like Instagram has started to suck recently. Instagram has had a number of updates in the past few months that caused it to lose a lot of what made it fun. Connecting with new people, showing your friends what you’ve been up to, and making engaging stories have all but started to feel like a major chore. A platform made for small level creators that now seems to only benefit the major brands and influencer status creators. Is there even a place for small level creators on the platform anymore?
Honestly, I definitely think that there is, but to see success on the platform, small level creators need to invest massive amounts of time into it. In the past month and a half, I’ve taken a big step back from my old 4-5 hour daily average on the platform. I’ve cut back to a about hour a day on the platform and have gone from posting daily to posting on occasion for a few reasons.
I realized Instagram isn’t going to be my forever tool.
By that I mean, Instagram - for the past three years - has been my number one networking and marketing tool, and it’s been great. But the reality I’ve come to is that Instagram isn’t going to always be here. I don’t think it’s going anywhere soon, but when it does, then what will I have? A bunch of wasted time on an irrelevant platform, X amount of followers that don’t even see my content, a page full of time and effort that won’t lead to any new clients.
Instead, I’ve begun to focus my time in learning about new ways to build a brand and diversify my audience. I’ve started to podcast, I’m recording YouTube content, I’m hosting network events, and I’m learning more about SEO. Instead of focusing all my time into building my Instagram, I’ve spread it out among other tools.
2. I started a new job(s)
This isn’t anything super profound, but it’s definitely affected my Instagram use. Over the past 4-5 weeks, I’ve been transitioning out of my old job as a photographer at portrait studio into my new part time job(s) as the photographer at the United States largest used exotic car dealership and a full time freelance photographer. While it’s been exciting starting a new chapter in my photography journey, it’s been really stressful. Over the past few weeks I’ve been working 55-60 hours a week with some really long days bouncing between all three jobs. It’s been physically and mentally exhausting and Instagram has just felt like it was extra work. The last thing I’ve wanted to do is to wake up early to post or to spend an extra hour or two in the evening posting and engaging with people.
I do hope to get back to posting more regularly, but I don’t think I’ll be getting back into my multiple hours of engaging with new users each day.
3. Instagram has become less fun
Instagram used to excite me. It used to be something I enjoyed doing. I don’t feel the same way about it anymore. It’s algorithms have made it hard for your content to be seen and shared, they’ve made it harder to grow as a smaller account than ever before, and it’s just overall become frustrating. Getting fractions of engagement and reach, has made it seem like an uphill battle to show my friends, colleagues, and potential clients my latest work. It’s gotten harder to make new connections with people across the globe, which was a big reason I loved networking on the platform. I made so many friends across the country in the past couple of years, and recently, it’s been more difficult to meet new people.
I also think Instagram content as gotten stale. Ideas are being recycled (and not in a unique way), and people are copying other people’s styles to try and gain more “clout”. Popular photographers rely heavily on working with certain models that regularly get featured and rely so heavily on editing that the subjects hardly even look like themselves. Instagram portrait photography is slowly turning into a graphic art more so than traditional portrait photography. Admittedly, I’ve fallen somewhat into this trap, but I’m happy with where my photography is at and think I’m still maintaining my own ideas and style.
4. As a platform, Instagram favors creators with huge followings - not the little guys
I’m sure a lot of you feel this on a real note, and some of you may even be saying, “but Justin, you have a lot of followers what do you mean it doesn’t favor you”. And you’d be right… to an extent. My posts do typically perform pretty well, usually about 700-1,000 like and 20-60 comments per post. But despite those numbers, Instagram still only shows a fraction of my followers my posts, in some cases my reach percentage is probably lower than many of yours. Out of 12,000+ followers sometimes my posts struggle to break 2,000 reach. A little over 16% of my audience. I know people will smaller accounts that get better reach than that. And more recently than that, my posts have been struggling to break 1,500 reach and my engagement has dropped even more.
Large accounts, while I’m sure they still have reach issues, get the benefit on Instagram’s growth hacks. These accounts typically receive large amounts of engagement in a short period of time, which means that more of their following will see their posts. That also makes them more likely to appear in the top section of hashtags and appear in the discovery page. By appearing in both of those areas, it also makes their content more likely to be picked up by feature accounts, which boosts the reach of those people even further. This leaves the small level creators out to dry because often our content doesn’t have that sort of impact.
Now, I know this posts may seem sort of cynical and may come across as I’m bashing Instagram, but I’m not (well, maybe a little). I still think Instagram is a great tool, and if used properly can really benefit small businesses and help you make great connections. This is simply my explanation as to why I’ve been much more inactive in the past month and a half.
I do appreciate all of you that have supported me and stuck around through the past few weeks. I still love seeing your content pop up on my feed and checking out what you’ve been up to. Hopefully you all will be seeing more from me here soon!