Instagram & Why we need to Care a Little Less

Instagram Tips - Real Talk about Instagram & Why we need to Care a Little Less - Instagram algorithmASK ELIZABETH

Question: What is going on with Instagram? How do we fight against the algorithm? What is shadow-banningΒ and how do I know if I am being banned? I feel like I am doing all the classic advice to grow my Instagram but it isn’t working like it used to – or should?

Guys. Instagram. Let’s pretend I didn’t cry about it three times this week – one of them an embarrassing, self-doubting, super emotional cry that would have left mascara all over my face and my husband’s shirt if I wore make-up when working from home πŸ˜‰ What was honestly one of my favorite social media inventions ever has been the catalyst for too many tears & stress. And I know I am not the only one to grow frustrated by Instagram.

Comparison, shadow-banning, follow/unfollow, pay-to-play, and engagement at an all time low.

When preparing for this weeks post I ran across this question and thought it would be a perfect time to answer it. I’ll start of this conversation saying I care too much about Instagram. I have let it stress me out. I have agonized about posting an image making sure it matched my freed. I have practiced & learned DSLR photography to make my Instagram (as well as my blog πŸ˜‰ ) look better. I have felt really sad about lost followers and doubted my giftings, purpose, and identity over lost followers. It’s dramatic but true. I just want to let you know that you are not alone.

I also wish that I had the perfect, magical answer to this question that would increase your followers & engagement 200% if you just follow my advice. But that’s not what I have for you. Today my answer to all our Instagram woes is caring a little less.

WHAT IS GOING ON

INSTAGRAM ALGORITHM

We have heard a lot about this lately and it is something that will probably be ever evolving for Instagram. No one knows the exact algorithm(s) but the point is Instagram filters posts and shows users what they think they want to see. You may have noticed that posts are no longer in chronological order, sponsored posts show up in your feed, and engagements on your post are lower than ever. It all boils down to the fact that Instagram is a business. Yes they care about their users (in a way) but they also care about making money. We’ve seen this happen to Facebook too (since they are own by the same company.) In simple terms, they changed the way Instagram photos and pages are being seen.

Here is a quick snapshot on likes since the algorithm change (last three months) and before (last year) you can see my average went from 400-500 likes to 300 ish likes. Then even more recently this month, all the way down to 200 ish likes. It’s changing things and isn’t the easiest for those of us who use Instagram for business. The engagement I get on a post directly relates to how I get paid for the work I do on photography and content.

Instagram Tips - Real Talk about Instagram & Why we need to Care a Little Less - Instagram algorithm

SHADOW-BANNING

Shadow-banning is something new Instagram is doing to filter the post that get seen. At first it looked like accounts that posted too much (spam accounts) or ones that used bots for commenting/ growth would get shadow- banned but it can also happen when you frequently post similar or the same hashtags. You can go to this site to see if you have been shadow-banned. As I was looking into writing this post, I realized all my recent posts are shadow-banned (insert laughing crying emoji here.) I don’t use any kind of bot account, buy followers, use inappropriate hashtags, or post more than once a day but the hashtags I use on each post are not coming up in the feeds of that hashtag. I’ve attached a couple screenshots showing that! The bummer in this is now new eyes are not able to see my post through my curated hashtag usage. It is also pretty humorous that the hashtag I made up with some friends #holdersnotfolders is also being blocked! LOLZ.

My current plan is to post for a week sans hashtags and hopefully clear the ban. It also may be a good time to switch up the go-to hashtags you have been using. I mean, this is such a bummer because new people can find you through hashtags but there isn’t really anything we can do about it at this time so I am just going to ride it out for a bit!

Instagram Tips - Real Talk about Instagram & Why we need to Care a Little Less - Instagram algorithm

WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

Okay, so shadow-banning & the algorithm are real. Businesses and personal accounts alike are having a hard time gaining new followers, being seen, and engagement is down. It honestly sounds pretty bleak and reminds me of what happened to Facebook. Should we just wait for a new social media to take Instagram place?! πŸ˜‰ Not necessarily, here is what we can do:

SHARE INSTAGRAM STORIES

Instagram stories are newer and people are loving them. Use your stories to direct people back to your feed, share more personal stories about your Instagram, sponsored content, deals, etc. Use it as a second arm to your Instagram and pull people into your feed. Β While you do need at least 10K to be able to include “swipe up” to go to a link, you can still direct people back to your Instagram bio which can be pretty useful for sharing information. Not everyone is going to see your feed, but some may be watching your stories and you can draw them back to you posts. Have fun with stories – they really are a new way to share yourself & your brand! Instagram stories launched about a year ago but I only recently got more into them because of some of the changes.

RELATED: 5 Ways to Strengthen your Brand through Instagram Stories

DON’T DISCOUNT THE PEOPLE WHO ARE LIKING & ENGAGING

As humans, it is easy to focus on the negative. We see how many followers we are not getting (like my 800 away from 10K that I have been waiting for forever…) and not the 9200 wonderful followers I already have. Even going back to the average 200 people who like my photos, that is still 200 people! We can so easily look at our stats and only see numbers but there are people behind all those numbers. If I spoke in front of a room of 200 people, that’s incredible! That is a gift and a platform – those 200 people listened to and liked what I had to say. I was able to teach or encourage or inspire that many people. And imaging if 5 people came up to talk to me (like leaving a comment) – that would feel incredible. Keep perspective on the people who are there. You voice still matters and you are still making a difference – no matter how large or seemingly small.

SPEND YOUR ENERGY GROWING YOUR EMAIL LIST INSTEAD

So the only way to truly break or fight against the algorithm is to move your energy to something else. You don’t own your Instagram and that is the truth of the situation. Your account could get hacked and all your photos deleted or Instagram could wake up one day and decide to close. While they probably wont do that while they are still making money, they still can change the algorithm at anytime. So instead of fighting the man and pushing to break the algorithm, switch your energy and time to something you do own and can control – email! It’s a more effective way to reach people anyways, and then you can stop worrying about algorithms (YAY!) Everyone has been saying this but now more than ever is a good time to start on this!

I have yet to write a post on why I loveΒ ConvertKit (I need to get on that!) but that is the email marketing solution I switched to, love, and tippled my newsletter with! If you are looking to start building your list I suggest ConvertKit!! If you have any questions at all, leave them in the comments or shoot me an email!

KEEP THE BLOG

You also own your blog content so keep it up. People said “blogging was dying” with the rise of Instagram influences but with every changing algorithms nothing is guaranteed. Keep your blog as your home base for all your content. You can still promote it on social media, but don’t let everything hang there in a life or death situation.

CARE A LITTLE LESS

It all boils down to caring a little less. Why do I care that I reach 10K? What will that do for me? Why do I fret over loosing 100 followers or being shadow-banned? What is it compared to my health, my family, my friends & relationships? How does it compare to the things that really, deeply matter? When I find my value in the likes I get on a post and when I define success by Instagram growth, I set myself up to be disappointed.

When we step back and let Instagram be Instagram, we can take the stress of the changes and just let it be a platform to share. We can come back to our “why” for Instagram and share things to encourage, inspire, teach without the pressures of growing and reaching as many people.

Whew, that was a long post. And honestly it may not be answered the way you wish it was. I wrote this post and answered these questions to show you that I too am walking through this journey. I too am shadow-banned and wish I could just reach that 10K. I know what it is like to stress and struggle. My answer isn’t perfect and it may not be exactly right, but it is how I am dealing with Instagram these days. I need to care a little less about my Instagram because I was pouring too much energy and emotion into it and it wasn’t worth it. When I answer questions on Ask Elizabeth, I don’t know everything, but I know what I’ve learned. That is what I share here – what I have learned to encourage, inspire, and empower YOU!

What are your thoughts on Instagram? Have you been noticing this? What has your plan of action been? I would love to start some good talk around this!!

ASK ELIZABETH

Do you have any questions you have been wanting to ask?! Click on the button below to submit your question and it may be the next “Ask Elizabeth” question featured next Friday!

Photo Credit:Β Ashlee Kay Photography

Author: Oak & Oats

  • Kim Ridings

    Very well said Beth!

  • My most recent IG posts have all been banned, haha! Maybe the most ridiculous thing ever. Great thoughts, Beth! Let’s rock our email lists, woot!

    • Also, real quick. Is the “banning” actually working? One of the photos that said it was banned had a decent amount of engagement and followers that were related to the hashtags I used ( they will probably unfollow, that’s the name of the game, haha). Just food for thought.

      • Abi Tomberlin

        I don’t think shadow-banning can always blamed for low engagement, but it does prevent your photo from appearing underneath those hashtags – which is an area I always gain followers/comments. It allows my photos to be seem by people of similar interests – via the purpose of a hashtag. So I do think it’s frustrating when it happens, even if my followers react well to a photo.

  • Love your thoughts on this whole Instagram thing. Their new changes are so annoying but there is nothing we can do about it. I’m trying to focus more on other social media account now since all the changes.

    • Thank you so much Krystal! Yes! It is so true. Continue focusing on quality content and shake off what you cannot change!

  • Thank you for writing a much needed post on Instagram. I went to the link and I too was shadow-banned and I don’t do any of the “banned” things either (nor have I even been posting lately). Keep your head up and remember that you’re awesome!

    • Allison! You are always so sweet and encouraging! Thanks so much for your comment! And yes, it is crazy but we can’t let things we cannot change get to us!

  • Girl, same. Same! I’ve seen a huge decrease in my engagements. And, I’m trying to lose interest in Instagram because of it.

    • Yes!! I agree. I am trying to go back to the Instagram just for fun season and focusing my time on my website and newsletter!

  • GOOD STUFF. Thank you for this, friend! I have been feeling so similarly… just need to step away and care less!

  • I had no idea all of this was going on!! Thanks for sharing. I hope to utilize more of Instagram stories πŸ™‚ I think it’s such a great feature, but I haven’t been taking advantage of it yet!

    • I know, it is a bummer but it is what it is! Stories are fun! You should play around with them!

  • Rebekah Gaspar

    Great perspective and advice Elizabeth! I hadn’t even heard of shadow banning, that’s crazy!

    • Yeah! haha. It is crazy but I find we can either move forward in stride or complain about what we miss. It isn’t ours to control so we just have to find new ways to share πŸ™‚

  • Abi Tomberlin

    Ugh I feel you. When you’re working for each follow/comment, each one matters. I HATE the follow/unfollow game too. (SIDENOTE: I purposely will not follow accounts if they do that to me, even if I would have totally loved too.) I’m an actually person on the end of this account, and I actually care. I try to give my content the best exposure that I can, and hold to – organic, authentic, real will always win out. Maybe it won’t seem like that right away, but it will win out over time. And I probably should write a post about this, but my goals and dreams are directly related to my platform. The platform isn’t the end all be all, but in today’s world, it’s a big deal and necessary for a lot of things. It’s a domino effect. So I can’t say that it just doesn’t matter BUT there needs to be a line that I do as much as I can with what I have, and truly give the rest to Him.
    longest comment ever… sorry=)

    • YES! Girl I can so relate. Like all this. Numbers DO matter but they also DON’T matter. It is keeping perspective and putting our energy in the right places!!

  • Girl I can relate!!! Man it’s sooooo dumb that I get so upset but in the end I do like Instagram and it does mean a lot to me to keep a pretty feed. Should it matter so much…. ugh no. Not at all. I personally love blogs more than Insta b/c it gets more personal and real and I just love the idea of still using the internet. But your right, at the end of the day will we stand before God and tell him about our followers…. yeah prob those ones we disciples haha! It is hard to have the eternal perspective sometimes because it’s business but again, one day it will fade. Thanks for always being so real and honest!

    • hahah. I know. I mean I obviously also get upset! lol. I love making a pretty feed and interacting with others, but I can’t let it define my business or let the changes stress me out. I cannot control what Instagram does, but I can control how I react. I’ll just keep posting what I want to post and interacting with the followers who are there. πŸ™‚

  • Amanda | Maple Alps

    Such a helpful post – thank you for writing this! I totally can relate to everything you said! It’s time for me to care a little less!
    PS: I LOVE your IG feed; it inspires me!

    • Thanks so much Amanda! This was so sweet to read!!! I am so glad you can relate – we’re in this together!

  • Arica Heintz

    This was SO GOOD! Thanks beth

    • Girl! Of course!! It is hard not to get caught up in the numbers game!

  • Thank you so much for sharing this! This was very informative, but it’s sad that Instagram is just another social media platform using frustrating algorithms like this.

    • Robin – of course!! It is hard but we can’t really do anything about it! We can’t let it get us down and steal our joy!

  • Jillian Lancour

    This was really informative. Thank you!!!

  • Wow I hadn’t heard of being shadow-banned. I don’t use hashtags at all and don’t care about growing my IG (it’s private and not for my business or anything), so it doesn’t really bother me, but I do wish it could go back to just being in chronological order. It’s so annoying to see a post from an hour ago and then a post from 18 hours ago right next to each other!

    • Yes! It’s weird. They do what they want to make money. It is hard because it’s not just hard for small businesses and brands but also just the everyday user who wants to see things in chronological order. The hard thing with social media is that we don’t own it. and we can’t really do anything about the changes they make.

  • Megan Gilger

    Girl if it makes you feel better, I am currently Shadow Banned. It made me really angry today when I figured it out. It makes me so mad that these people at the heads of these social platforms can dictate these things in our lives. Those choices effect thousands of people just TRYING to growing a business, make money for themselves, and most of the time do good in the creative world. Anyways, thank you for lifting my spirits and for the great thoughts. You are always so positive. Thank you!

    • Megan –
      First off, thanks so much for your comment!! I have been a long time reader of your blog and I’m honored you stopped by and took the time to leave a comment!

      Secondly, that is such a bummer! I agree. They make changes to “try to protect users” but people are following accounts they want to see for a reason! And yes, you get it – our numbers directly relate to the collaborations and jobs we get. It is hard. But we can’t let things we can’t change tear us up. You are such an encouragement to me to! I am glad this post was able to encourage you – your Instagram is one of my favorites!! So you are reaching some of us!! XOXO