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.
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 ;).
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.
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.
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!