Instagram’s getting a load of stick at the minute: They’re shadow-banning us. They’re making us invisible. They’re de-valuing our hashtags and therefore us!
It’s much easier to blame others than to accept responsibility when things aren’t going right. We come up with clever, trick-the-system ideas. We try to score extra points by using fewer hashtags. Or we group together in comment pods.
We try anything that might send a big fat F*** YOU to Instagram and its daft new rules.
But instead of looking for somebody or something else to blame, and inevitably projecting negativity onto others, we could take control and figure out what’s really wrong. We could focus on what we can do better.
My Instagram account is growing steadily, around 10,000 new followers a month, and my engagement remains consistently high.
I haven’t come up with any clever ways to trick the system. I haven’t reduced or changed my hashtags. I don’t use comment pods. Here are a few ways you can take control and avoid Insta-blame culture.
Comment pods Vs traditional engagement
I’ve read mixed reviews about comment pods. Some people have likened pods to “brutal popularity contests straight out of Mean Girls”. Some have made new friends through pods, which is great.
Pods appear to make liking and commenting a responsibility, instead of a choice. Surely a like or comment from a non-pod member means more? By forcing the numbers, could comment pods be offering a false sense of achievement?
What can we do?
People are using comment pods to increase their engagement. Maybe the way to increase engagement is much simpler: engage more.
No secret group, no rules, no pressure. Just good old-fashioned communication. Talk to our followers, reply to their comments. Make time to go through our feed and comment on posts by people we follow.
That way, we can’t go far wrong, surely?
In light of the shadow-banning/hashtag algorithm frenzy, Instagram released a statement telling us they were working on the hashtag problems, and that we should concentrate less on hashtags and more on creating better content.
They’re not saying stop using hashtags, they’re not important, but rather if you’re engagement has dropped, instead of blaming Instagram or hashtags or anything else out of your control, take responsibility for the things we can control: our content.
Instagram limit hashtags to 30. We’re allowed to use 30. That’s 30: three-zero. There are at least 30 hashtags for our aesthetic and target audience. Hashtags are really important for audience growth on Instagram.
Using, say, five community-oriented hashtags is far better than using forty popular hashtags. But using thirty hashtags that fit our aesthetic and target audience will drive engagement. So use them.
Make better stuff
Hashtags are great for exposure, but they can’t make bad content better. But content is about more than just nice pictures.
It’s about the work you put in.
It takes time to make good content.
Without it, without engaging with people and using hashtags effectively, we won’t grow our audience.
I write more about my process and making better pictures here.
How are you being affected by Instagram’s changes? Are you noticing changes in your engagement? Have I missed anything you feel is important to the debate?