photography & instagram

Instagram – how to keep momentum

04.01.17

This year I will mark my fourth anniversary on Instagram. 4 years. It’s fair to say I can’t actually imagine life without it now. The app is ever changing and evolving – it always has been and probably always will be – and some of the changes are completely brilliant. Who doesn’t love a disappearing story that doesn’t have to match your gallery?! A way you can post that silly post or the less than perfect without a care for how it will sit in a curated gallery (maybe that’s just me?). Though some of the current round of changes can be more difficult to manage. Like the posts that are invisible in other peoples feeds or hashtags (oh yes that happens too, I’ve seen  it for myself).

I thought it was time to ask some of my favourite Instagramming friends for their ideas on how to keep up the momentum through the changes. When the going may seem tough and the algorithm looks to favour certain accounts I know I always turn to others for inspiration. I hope these beautiful ladies inspire you too. I have known each of them through Instagram for the last 4 years and I have met all of them in life outside of the app.

Instagram can be a game of frustrations at times. In the beginning it is simple, fun. Easy. Keeping the momentum over a longer period though can be a balancing act. So when those inevitable lulls turn up and knock our engagement how can we find inspiration?

My advise to others has always been change things up a little, it sparks your creativity. It becomes a self inspiration of sorts. Do you have ideas for photos that you’d like to try? Actually the lulls in engagement are a great time to put them to the test. Mixing in the new with photos with those your followers expect and that fit your gallery can be so much fun. Like scratching the creative itch rather than simply posting the same old posts and feeling frustrated when they aren’t received as well as you might hope.

These four ladies are all uniquely brilliant & have had me trekking through fields of flowers, dashing around London on a quest for magnolia trees in bloom, photographing our coffee dates and driving across counties with a cardboard Chewbacca. It has been – continues to be – the most ridiculous behaviour I have been party to these past 4 years and I have loved it all.

You can guess who did what…

Jules of @ThisIsJules

I’ve been an active and committed Instagram user since the day I first downloaded the app, back in early 2011. The way it works now, compared to then in terms of building, growing and nurturing an account is like actual night and day. Though the one thing that has remained throughout is the wonderful community that drives it.

The algorithm of today’s Instagram is either a beauty or a beast depending on which side of it you sit. For me it’s the latter. I find myself fighting against it and having to work really, really hard to progress my account – something which previously came fairly easily to me. That’s not to say I didn’t work at it, because I always have. It takes daily effort and input in my opinion to make an account fly. But now it definitely feels like a struggle.

When you put that much time and energy into something you love and enjoy over a number of years, it’s hard not to be disheartened when you feel like it’s suddenly working against you. Especially when you see others where the algorithm treats them so well.

Funnily enough though that last point is one of the things that motivates and drives me, as I can’t help but think that if I keep producing the best content that I can, then perhaps at some stage I’ll find myself on the right side of the algorithm too – one can hope! I would say to anyone feeling as I do, to do the same. Concentrate on maintaining your account in the way that makes you happy and also remember that the followers you do have are much more important than the ones that you don’t. After all they’ve already invested in you by hitting that follow button.

thisisjules.com

 

Sara of @Me_and_Orla

I feel like Instagram & I are old lovers, these days.

Back when both it and I were relatively new, it was easy. I would share, reflect, learn, grow. My thinking never went much further than ‘that’ll do, I guess’. It’s one thing to be creative like this – offhandedly, for a bit of a play. It became something else once I started to take it seriously, ask it to pay the bills.
Now it seems we all take it seriously, all of the time. We worry about followers or like counts; we draw on inspiration with a sense of need, instead of playfulness.

For me, the secret to longevity has been to try and counterbalance that. When it becomes too formulaic, too much about people pleasing, it loses my interest, and so I’m always looking for ways to keep it fun. Last summer I dragged around a cardboard Luke Skywalker cut out for photographs (& Julia kindly brought Chewbacca for a visit, as well!). Then I became a little obsessed with cinemagraphs for a while. This month I’m determined to capture a flower unfurling.

Sometimes these diversions will interest my audience, and sometimes they won’t. I’ve learned to fall down the rabbit hole regardless; follow the idea to its end and not worry about the result. There’s more to what we do than likes & followers, & creative risks are where the best stuff happens. I’ve got a lot better at seeing the big picture, and letting things ebb and flow. Creativity, popularity, inspiration… nothing is ever static for long, & it’s exhausting to try and make it be. It was creativity that brought me to instagram, and creativity that brought me my success. I figure, then, that it’s my best shot at an interesting future too, so I’ll follow creativity wherever it wants me to go.

And maybe bring cardboard Luke along too ;).

meandorla.co.uk

 

Catherine of @catherine_frawley

Since joining 3 or 4 years ago, I’ve always found Instagram to be inspiring and positive, it’s rare for me to find anything other than camaraderie, encouragement and friendship.

Whilst my follower numbers have grown gradually, it was always increasing. It is a thrill to gain followers, have an image go ‘viral’, it is, I confess a little addictive and I guess it’s that, plus the community I was becoming a part of, that inspired me to continue to post each day.

When all the major changes happened last year; the loss of chronological feeds and the overhaul of the algorithm, my Instagram world turned upside down. The accounts I adored, my friends, the images I expected to see each morning when I logged in where replaced with streams of images from accounts that I don’t remember even following or sponsored posts I had no interest in. Engagement dropped, growth became static and my enthusiasm for posting, waned. I diligently followed all the ‘rules’, posted (what I felt was) good content at a regular time, I hashtagged, I visited the hashtags, I commented, I checked out the explore page but nothing I did, really made a difference. It was disheartening, it felt a little personal, some were going through the same but others were still doing so well, newbies were flying but I just couldn’t get the ‘algorithm’ to like me.

So why persist, why play when the rules have changed but no one can tell me what they are? I decided to ignore the algorithm and concentrate on the community I had built up over the years whilst at the same time continue to challenge myself to post better and consistent content, engage more, be a little more open in my captions, try and start a conversation (which is something I really enjoy on Instagram). I’m staying because I’m inspired by great imagery and the accounts I follow give me that plus I’m finding more by using the Explore feature. I chose to enjoy the bits about Instagram that I had always loved, beautiful images, inspiration and community and forget about the rest.

Thankfully, for whatever reason, there’s been an upturn, I don’t feel my images are as hidden as when the algorithm first clamped down and I feel my little corner of instagram is really vibrant, friendly, fun and encouraging. As I type I’m really enjoying the app and I’m so glad I persisted.

borrowedlight.com

 

Hannah of @hannahargyle

I’ve been active on Instagram for around 3.5 years now and in that time I’ve seen the app change immeasurably. I think most of us who were around before the changes miss the “good old days”, and it can be difficult not to feel disheartened or like it’s not worth it any more.

What I try to remember is the reason why I loved it in the first place – somewhere to find inspiration and learn more about photography, a platform to share my own creative efforts, and a strong and supportive community of like minded folk who are all there for the love of it. I think all of those things are essentially still there, and although it is a more frustrating user experience than it used to be, without it I wouldn’t continue to push myself to be a better photographer.

3.5 years is a long time to keep up momentum though, and I have got used to (and accepted) that my enthusiasm and engagement will ebb and flow. I try to go easy on myself now if my creative juices are not juicy enough, and it usually comes back eventually! My best advise for when this happens would be firstly, don’t panic. Secondly remember why you love photography, and then go out and shoot that. Whatever it may be. Have a bit of fun with it again and soon you’ll find you’ve taken something that you can’t wait to post. That genuine love will shine through and you’ll have a gallery you’re proud of, and I think that’s the most important thing.

hannahargylephotography.com

 

instagram – how to keep the momentum

I really hope this helps you out when the lulls arrive. If you’re maybe feeling deflated. I love the advice given here and actually I find it encourages me to read the way that these ladies deal with it too. Perhaps a shift in thinking is the very best way to approach the app and always remember it’s the fun of photography and community first. The numbers are really not why most of us are there however thrilling it can feel to have a photo do really well.

As an aside – I also wrote a post on creative block last year, if you think it might be useful to you you can find it here.

I hope you find this post helpful to!

J x

You might also find these useful…

on creative block and how to get through it

on finding creative inspiration

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23 comments on “Instagram – how to keep momentum”

  1. I really needed this – thank you. In the past week or so I’ve been feeling like all the momentum I’ve built up through hard work on IG has just sort of levelled out… and I’m starting not to care too much. It’s a bit freeing.

  2. Julia thank you so much for this post. And your other post on creative block. I’ve been experiencing the same thing (both massive creative block & algorithm unfavoritism) for months. I don’t even know which came first (it’s the chicken or the egg scenario!) so it’s been a hard one to work around but I really do find it comforting to know others (who have large accounts as well although yours is WAY larger than mine!) go through a similar experience. I’ve been using it as a reason to develop my photography skills further (and perhaps be brace enough to call myself a photographer at some point) and find out what things really interest me these days. And as another creative, Designer David Fuller, told me, “us creatives can’t be on the boil all the time. We have to learn to sit on the back burner & slowly simmer too. It’s all part of the creative process.” So, I think of myself as being in a ‘slow simmer state’ right now. And I know I’ll be back on the boil again (hopefully with the algorithm too!) soon enough. I also have to say I LOVE your feed, your content, your stories and you really do give me so much inspiration – so thank you! Nicki xo

  3. Such lovely thoughts from everyone, I especially resonate with not looking at the numbers and enjoying the creativity. Otherwise I feel like I’m competing with myself (not a happy position to be in!) It is such a positive app but because of the encouraging community, not the numbers. So I’ll take everyone’s advice when the creativity wanes and try to improve my gallery just to be a bit better as a creative. Love the ladies you’ve shared here, special thanks to you all for sharing your experiences and being so supportive xx

  4. Oh Julia, God bless you for tamping down (some of) my insecurities) I hate the new alogorithms and have to continually reassure myself that IG is not conspiring to get me, and only me, out of total hatred. I switched from posting mostly hipstamatics (about which the less said the better) to mostly still lives a little over a year ago after taking a class with Kim Klassen (blessed be she). Just when I was getting the hang of when to post, and becoming acquainted with some wonderful new accounts, bang came the new algorithms and ever since I’ve felt as though I was floundering. For me, my biggest problem isn’t getting followers, it’s getting real-life people who will actually follow my account as opposed to ghosts or people who are hoping for my business or a follow-for-follow. I am finding the only thing to do is stick with it, ignore my follower and likes count, and concentrate on whose accounts I love and who appears to love me back.

  5. Great post. I always think of why I started my account and it was not for the likes nor the followers, but to reignite my passion for photography without having to buy an expensive camera (which I couldn’t afford at the time) and why I stayed; the community. ❤️

    1. Thanks Steffi, I was the same! It was a creative outlet that turned into so much more – I didn’t even understand it was a huge app for months after I downloaded it, I had no idea you could follow folk you didn’t even know. Your photos are lovely, and actually another benefit is the inside info on places to visit. I know it’s changed the way I travel immensely!

  6. Julia this is wonderful! So inspiring and so lovely to hear that even the spectacular accounts find it a frustration too! What a talented bunch you are!!

    1. Thanks so much Lauren, their words are encouraging aren’t they? We all go through frustrating times there, that alone is comforting in a way x

  7. Julia,
    Thank you for the wonderful blog piece today. The community here is amazing as well as the information, and learning I have gained from being involved with instagram. Again thank you for sharing your feelings and the wonderful words from the other individuals on IG.

    Ann Davis

    1. HI Ann, thanks so much for your lovely words! The community is a big part of what keeps us all there, it is the single most supportive and encouraging place I know! Thank you for being a part of it too x

  8. Such a great post Julia, and it’s so interesting to see all of our thoughts collectively like this. I have actually taken my own advise this morning to try and get out of the doldrums and went out to shoot what I love! Maybe Instagram will improve matters, but I suspect they won’t, so I guess we just have to find a way to keep finding the things we love about it xx

    1. Thanks Hannah, and thank you for taking part! It’s so interesting to me to read that we all stay for creative reasons, for photography and community. I guess as long as we do keep that in mind there’s still a reason or several to post! And look how much we have improved our photography in that time hey?

  9. Oh yes, I have a tiny number of followers and haven’t ever hit even 100 likes on a post (I did almost get there once) even so, if you then post what you consider to be an equally good image and it gets hardly any little hearts, it’s really a bit deflating. So I am to trying not to fret too much – though it can be a challenge; I always want to know how things work, and this algorithm is very difficult to fathom! I am doing my best, instead, to invest in the fun of photography – I’m becoming a bit addicted – and the community, which is the friendliest one I’ve found online. Sometimes I have to go looking for parts of that community as they’ve been hidden behind some algorithmic blackout curtain, and I’ve assumed they simply weren’t posting…but then you meet other people along the way, which can only be a good thing!

    1. I think the algorithm is fascinating and elements of it make sense but then there’s a whole lot that I don’t understand either. And the thrill of a post well received can indeed be addictive but it’s always good to remember the reasons we share. Most of us enjoy photography and the amazing community, I hear this repeated again and again. I admire your determination to share and take part regardless of the numbers, keep doing what you do! Photography is a skill I know I’m so grateful to be improving as it means a whole collection of memories of moments I wouldn’t otherwise have x

  10. Thanks for this post Julia. I try to keep up with all my favourite accounts and often have to really look for them while I find others are just ‘in my face’ all the time. I long for the chronological feed, but alas apparently this algorithm is meant to be better…how it’s better I just don’t know as I am yet to find someone who likes it! It won’t go away, so I’m happy to read how you and all these other wonderful instagrammers have dealt with the change.

    1. Thank you Leanne, it’s a shame in some ways that Instagram have made it more difficult but we are a determined community and many of us are there for more than the likes and follows. It’s really encouraging to hear how others cope with the changes isn’t it? x

  11. This was SO the post I needed to read. I also got a little disheartened at seemingly lessened engagement/visibility since algorithm changes while I saw it favouring others without a clue why. I’ve instead started being more “me” and having more genuine interactions with my own community instead of second guessing what the algorithm will prefer and it’s been far more rewarding. Slow and steady, but at least I’m not counting paces anymore. Thanks for a good read – I’ve followed all you guys for yonks :) xxx

    1. That’s great to hear Reshmi! Thanks so much for taking the time to read it, the advice these ladies share is brilliant isn’t it? And so encouraging to know we all go through the same. I think investing in the followers you have is of more importance that chasing the new, as Jules mentions above.
      P.S. I know your website you make the most amazing cakes! How lovely to meet you x

  12. Thank you so much for this post Julia! It’s interesting to read all of your comments about what’s going on the Instagram and your feelings about the changes. I share many of them as well and I think that focusing on the quality of the content and growing our skills are the most important things that can get us through the rough times. Have a lovely Sunday!

    1. Ah you’re very welcome Kasia, I think there are a lot of us feeling the same way to be honest. It really does encourage me to know we are all in it together and that the community is stronger than ever. I agree with your approach, keep doing what you do, your photos are beautiful x

  13. Thank you for this post, Julia. The algorithm is such a strange beast on Instagram that it can start to send everyone a little bit crazy. So many wise words here from so many talented ladies, and thank you for introducing me to Catherine. That’s what I will always love about this app, always new to me people to find that are creative and inspiring xx

    1. You’re so welcome Claire! It’s been bugging me for months, the injustice of the new algorithm. And I really wanted to share a post that reminds us of other reasons to be on Instagram because the people there are amazing! And inspiring. And I for one am loving having a visual diary of the last few years xx

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