Why I Have a Love/Hate Relationship with Instagram.

Hi my name is Ellen and I am obsessed with Instagram.

Now that probably sounds odd given the title of this blog post but hear me out. I absolutely love Instagram. It is by far my favourite form of social media and I owe a lot of my success to it, after all that is where the majority of my customers and sales stem from. Making an Instagram account for my business was by far one of the best decisions I've made. It has not only gained my business seven times as many followers as is on my Facebook page and brought me many sales with it but the main thing I love is the connection I have with my followers over just an image. I love how one photo can bring back a memory, encourage someone to tag a friend and share it with them or even just to have a discussion over the piece. I love it and it has helped me form friendships with a huge number of people and businesses. Genuine friendships too, with people who are miles away or in whole other countries.

Another thing I love about having a business account for Instagram is being able to see real data on my following and interaction. I can see statistics every day based on the amount of followers I have gained or lost, the impressions I have made, how far my posts have reached, how many people have viewed my profile, how many times my website has been clicked on, the gender divide in following, where my followers are based, my top posts and so much more. It’s fascinating and really helps me feel as though I am getting to know my following and what they want to see.

However Instagram does have its negative sides and often Instagram can feel like a full time job in itself. Don’t like hashtags? Don’t have time to post one day? Don’t want to respond to every comment on your post? Can’t post a photo at the optimum time of day? Tough. You must do all of these things if you are ever to be seen on this platform as a small business. You would be amazed at just how many ‘rules’ to success there are on this ‘fun’ app. You can’t just post a photo with a witty caption, put your feet up and wait for the love to come in. Oh no, you have to use just the right array of hashtags and post at just the right time and ensure that you engage with all of the comments on your post to even have a chance of being seen. Now this is all fine and dandy if you have a small to medium sized following but what if you had hundreds of thousands of followers interacting on your post that you are expected to reply to? What if the only real interaction you are getting on a post is spam that you have to delete? That is the other problem with Instagram. It is full, and I mean FULL of spam accounts that love preying on others. There are so many of these accounts and many are so well disguised that it is hard to judge just how much of your following is genuine. You could spend half your life investigating the legitimacy of your followers and responding to their comments. As I said, often Instagram can feel like a full time job.

The main bug bear with most people on Instagram is the algorithm. Don’t dare mention this word unless you want a full blown rant on how damaging it is to small businesses and bloggers. The algorithm that was introduced back in June 2016 changed Instagram massively and it is still having an impact to this day. It meant that users could no longer see posts based on when they were added but instead on their popularity which is something that Instagram believed its users wanted to see. It also meant that if you didn’t post daily, that your reach and visibility would drop and this made it harder for people to see your activity when you did post. This algorithm also favoured those who were willing to pay to be seen via their promotion and advertisement area rather than those who would not or could not. Organic posts were no longer favourable and more than likely to be lost no matter how far you scrolled back. The solution? Post frequently and hope to be seen and engaged with.

So what does this mean for small business and how are they overcoming these issues? Well in terms of small businesses and their exposure it has had a detrimental effect in how they use the platform. It has meant that even those with a relatively large following are struggling to be seen amongst larger business that will pay big bucks to be advertised. However, with the algorithm being common knowledge and more and more ways to overcome it being discovered, it is not all grey skies. Instagram offers a feature to allow you to choose which accounts you receive notifications about when they post new content which helps small businesses and favourite accounts be seen. The introduction of ‘stories’ also helps advertise in a free and popular way when new posts have been added to a businesses feed. These do however have their downfalls. For example not everyone knows of this function to get notifications from their favourite accounts, stories only last 24hrs and can only be seen by those who directly follow you. There is still much work to be done.

As frustrating as all this is, you won’t find me moving away from this amazing platform anytime soon. It is a small price to pay for what has effectively brought me a great deal of success and pleasure. I love the connection it brings to me, my customers and other businesses and I love nothing more than spending hours on end scrolling through beautiful and inspiring photos.

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