The year is 2017 and at this point, it's fair to say that most people are on Instagram. Now I don't think that you have to be and I don't believe that an Instagram presence is a requirement for your success. If you've chosen to forgo this particular media app you're not necessarily missing out. IG is a tool at your disposal and as time goes on, that tool becomes increasingly useless. Here are three reasons why Instagram's algorithm is garbage and may not be worth your time anyways.
1. The Feed Constantly Shows You the Same Images That You've Already Seen and Already Liked
Have you guys noticed this one before? It seems to be a more and more frequent issue these days. The algorithm is repeating the same images in the custom feed over and over. Images that I've already seen, many of which I've already liked. It appears to be opting to show the same content that has already been viewed over fresh content even when something new is available. It's frustrating to open the app only to scroll through images that it showed me the night before and that I already liked. From your potential viewers perspective, imagine that you've just posted a new image, one that you're super proud of and really hope it gets some attention, and the code decides that your followers should see the posts they already saw the day before over your new post.
2. There Are No “Up and Comers” or “Real People” Anymore
The algorithm does a great job at making it seem like there are no real people on Instagram. In theory, everyone's search feed (the screen that it fills with content that it thinks you want to see) should look different based on what content you like and respond to. This means that the experience may vary greatly from person to person. My search feed is full of portrait photography, modeling and retouching work, landscapes, and the occasional cute animal image (who doesn't like a kitten or puppy). The problem is that the overwhelming majority of the images it's displaying are from sources with tens or hundreds of thousands of followers. Of those, it's not clear who is paying for their engagement and placement (a topic for another time). Where are the everyday people posting content? They still exist, right? They have been buried by posts that feel sponsored regardless of whether they actually are or aren't. How is a new artist supposed to be discovered on Instagram when every inch of the screen is already spoken for with influencer content?
To test this, I ran a quick, simple, and admittedly not scientific (so don't freak out too much) experiment testing the average follower count for search feed posts that the code chooses to display for me. I'm talking about the search feed, not the feed of content from people I already follow. I cleared the app cache, refreshed the search screen with a new wave of content, flicked the screen for a quick scroll, and then tapped a random image without looking at what it was ten times. These are the follower count numbers for those ten random posts -
Of those ten random accounts from my search feed, six of them were “feature accounts” or pages that post other peoples work and not an account of a real person posting unique content. The average follower count for those ten pages is 220,300. Only ten posts is a very small sample size but still illustrates the point. My question is where da real people at?
3. Engagement Is in Complete Flux All the Time
This is one I'm guessing everyone has experienced all too often. Engagement seems to be completely unreliable regardless of a person's posting habits. One day a given post might do moderately well or at least meet whatever your expectations are, and the next day a similar post will do wildly better or worse for what seems like no reason at all. Engagement is either up or down all the time, never steady. You can read all the “how-to-Instagram” articles that you want, but if the algorithm is making the final decision about your content, your efforts may be wasted. It's difficult to formulate a plan or identify problems when the numbers are all over the place. Is it possible that because of reasons number one and two the algorithm can't seem to deliver reliability?
These are just three reasons why Instagram's algorithm is garbage. Have you experienced any or all of these problems yourself? I know it seems like I'm giving IG a hard time and I definitely am. That's because I like Instagram. It's the only social media app that I enjoy and though I know that it's going the way of Facebook and its implosion is inevitable, I still want to enjoy it while I can. There are tons of great artists out there posting amazing and inspiring content. Some with only one hundred followers others with hundreds of thousands. Genuine art and creativity are out there. The problem is that an algorithm has been deciding who gets to see what for a while now. Lines of code are deciding what you want to see for you before you see it. What do you guys think? Do you think that there is any hope left for Instagram (especially anyone new to the platform) or do you think that it's too far gone? Too big-business at this point? Leave a comment with your own Instagram experience.