I have waited until now to write about the Instagram algorithm changes that will start to happen tomorrow because I wanted to really think about it and not get drawn into the panic. Instagram isn't going anywhere. It's still going to be an amazing platform for sharing images, finding inspiration, connecting with people and promoting what we do. You know, the free platform that we all get to carry around with us in our back pockets?! The one we can access at any time of day or night. The one where we can connect with people on the other side of the world. The one that pushes us to be creative every single day.
If you want to read more of my thoughts about all of this then read further down but first I want to encourage you to do and think about the the following because whatever happens these are important.
Create the best content that you can.
Beautiful, inspiring and engaging images will be rewarded. These are what people want to see. These are the images that will get liked and receive comments. This will only be a positive thing for all the algorithms working in Instagram.
Think about your whole gallery.
Remember that people look at the top 9 images when they decide whether to follow you. Make sure these look good together like a gallery. People make very quick decisions, so make a great first impression.
Use hashtags and engage with them.
Use hashtags on all your images but use them wisely. Find hashtags that work for your area of interest or business. Connect with your tribe and find your community. Find hashtags that you love, so that you want to spend time going through the hashtags to find new people to follow and images that inspire you.
Spend time liking images. It's really important to remember that this isn't just a place for you to put your images. It's a place where you can be inspired, a place where you can see positive things that will make your day a little brighter or encourage you to make something or visit a new place.
Talk to people.
Don't just post an image and run away. Post an image and then take a look at what other people are doing. Talk to people. Reply to comments on your images, leave comments on other people's. If someone leaves you a lovely comment, pop over to their gallery and leave some love on one of their images.
Remember that this is a network and a community. The more you put in, the more you will get out.
Why I am staying positive
As the co-founder of a tech start-up (how many years have I waited to say that?!) and someone who has been living in the startup world for a long time now, I know that the smart people at Instagram will not have just made this decision overnight or on a whim in a meeting. They want Instagram to work. They want it to work for them but for it to work for them, it has to work for us. And they know that. We all know that Instagram is passionate about community. Yes, it's about images but it's about people connecting with each other around these images.
They can really see what is going on for us as users. They can see what we are actually seeing when we look at our Instagram feeds. I follow way too many people and so I miss a huge number of posts every single day. I have a list (in my head) of my favourite feeds to pop into each day. Other times I remember people when they leave a comment on one of my images and I pop over to see what they have posted. Instagram say that we are missing 70% of images posted by people we are following and I know I definitely am.
They have created the algorithm to help us to see the images that are most important to us. The ones we are more likely to engage with given our behaviour on Instagram. It won’t just be random. It will listen to what we are doing and react to that, in what the people at Instagram hope will be a positive, helpful way.
I totally understand that not everyone is happy about this. I too like the chronological way that images are presented to me at the moment. I know who will be there when I check in first thing in the morning and I love that my West Coast US friends will be there when I go to bed. But we will still be able to check-in with each other. And the more we do that, the more the algorithm will help us.
I also really understand why people with smaller accounts are worried. I have three Instagram accounts and two of them are small. This means that I might have to work a bit harder to engaging with people, using hashtags well and generally spending a bit more time on Instagram. But I don't think it means that those accounts will disappear completely.
This isn’t just about the most popular images being shown first. This is about community, engagement, and showing you what Instagram thinks you will want to see. There are already lots of algorithms going on in Instagram. When you look at the people to follow list, that's an algorithm working to recommend people you might like to you based on your behaviour and the people you follow. When you get new followers an algorithm will have helped people find you. If you've ever appeared at the top of a hashtag, well that's an algorithm there again. Please don't think that all algorithms are bad.
Today lots of people have been asking us to turn on the notifications for their accounts. This means that every time they post you will get a notification on your phone alerting you. Unless you happen to be free at the moment to jump on Instagram and see the post you are probably not going to see that images as it will be lost in amongst all the other notifications you get on your phone. It might help the algorithm to know that you want to see those feeds but I don't think there's any promise of that.
Instead of panicking and getting angry, perhaps we should thank Instagram for this beautiful, inspiring, free platform and trust them to keep it wonderful. I know for a fact that a crazy number of late nights and take-aways, and a whole heap of stress and risk taking will have happened to create Instagram in the first place. A platform that is free for us to use. Yes, yes it's worth lots of money and it's owned by Facebook but that really doesn't mean we can't be thankful for what it is.
I am forever grateful for this platform. A platform that has enabled me to move from being a wedding photographer to co-founding Makelight and teaching people all over the world.
Instagram is my favourite place on the Internet and I am pretty sure it’s still going to be my favourite place for a good while yet.
If you've enjoyed this post, check out my Beautify Your Instagram Online Course.