Over the last few months, I’ve heard lots of complaints among Instagrammers big and small about decreases in their engagement; not as many people seem to be liking photos or following other accounts as quickly or as widely as they once did. It is widely accepted that this is due to the algorithm changes that Instagram has made, which has resulted in content being harder to discover, and Instagrammers feeling powerless and discouraged from participating on the platform. This is a real shame, as a lot of people who love the platform love it because it has given them the chance to meet people from around the world and build friendships they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to build.
Something that keeps Instagram in this limited state – a state in which it is hard to find unique, quality content from people of different lifestyles, with different interests – is more in our control than we realize, if we are willing to put a little bit more thought into our own activities on the platform. One way we can take some control back is by paying more attention to the accounts with which we interact. In doing this recently, I started to notice something about the posting habits of several large feature accounts, and even the activities of popular individual Instagrammers.
Feature accounts are meant to share posts from a variety of individual Instagrammers, so that people can find new, quality content via an account that posts about a particular theme or place. However, there are some feature accounts that prioritize high numbers (of likes, followers, etc.) over providing a more diverse, high-quality collection of content for their followers to see.
How do you tell which large feature accounts care more about the numbers they achieve than anything else? One way is that they only feature the work of Instagrammers who already have tens of thousands of followers, and never or very rarely feature the work of smaller individual accounts. By continuously, exclusively promoting only those accounts which have already achieved a huge amount of reach (in terms of the number of followers they have, or the number of people who will see their posts in their own feed), these accounts are promoting the idea that only a certain type of content is worth sharing. When this is done, people only share content that satisfies the “taste” that is established by a select few. As is the unfortunate case in broader society, the “rich” are getting “richer” – but if we can do something to change this, we should.
*Note: If you are the curator of a feature account, I have written more about the rationale behind featuring content from people with varying amounts of followers at the end of this blog post.
Popular individual Instagrammers sometimes send similar messages to their followers in the way they interact with other Instagrammers. The clearest example of this is when Instagrammers give “shout-outs” to other Instagrammers in their stories, recommending that their followers check out their posts and/or follow them. If you follow someone who gives shout-outs to people who have diverse amounts of followers, it is more likely that they genuinely appreciate diversity and originality in the content they consume. The Instagram algorithm ensures that content that is the most popular is also easier to find by those who have not yet been exposed to it, which means that finding unique, quality content is also more difficult, by default. Thus, if someone only ever gives shout-outs to those who already have tens of thousands of followers, it is more likely that they do not care or do not believe that newer, less-popular photographers could have just as much talent or unique perspective to offer as those who happened to have achieved great success on the platform early on.
Instagram makes it harder to find the content posted by those with fewer followers, but this does not mean that such content is not worthy of being found.
In the spirit of “building a better Instagram,” I am going to list some examples of feature accounts that do a great job of sharing content that is posted by Instagrammers with varying amounts of followers. *Fair warning, the feature accounts that I know about are in the niche of London/Europe travel accounts, but I’m sure that there are many other great ones that post about all kinds of themes and places.
*A note to the curators of feature accounts (with some insight into how I’ve personally interacted with feature accounts) about why their engagement will not “suffer” if they start featuring content from accounts of varying sizes:
When I see a photo that has been posted by a feature account, I do not check the number of followers that the original poster has in order to decide if I’ll like the photo or not. I like a photo based on the simple “decision” of whether or not I actually like it. Groundbreaking right? Most people scroll through their Instagram feeds at lightning speeds, so believe me, it is the content that they will notice most, not the popularity of the original poster.
Furthermore, if I like the photo enough to look to see who the original poster of the photo is, I am always more impressed to discover when the poster does NOT already have tens of thousands of followers. The fewer followers one has, the more work it takes to get noticed by ANYONE on this platform. This is not to say that people who do have a lot of followers do not work hard or have not worked hard in the past – but it should not be assumed that those with lower follower-counts are less talented or less worthy of being noticed for their talent. As I’ve written about in a previous snarky blog post, popularity on Instagram is so much down to luck and timing.
One response to what I’m writing about here may be, “well, Instagram isn’t fair, just like life isn’t fair,” and I am not arguing against that idea. But what I’d like to then ask is this: if someone can help to make one aspect of someone’s life (or the way they spend their time) fair – or as close to fair as possible – why wouldn’t they try?
If you know of more great feature accounts like those listed above, please leave your recommendations in the comments below!
What do you think about feature accounts that only feature huge accounts?
Have you noticed the clique-y, high-school culture among groups of Instagrammers, in which people are primarily valued for their popularity?