And I’m not kidding, I have, you have, we all have! Well, not all actually. I’ve found exactly two people who seem to be nailing it, but the vast majority of people I’ve spoken to have already seen the jaws of defeat. Still, here’s how I fought Instagram and lost, and why you shouldn’t feel bad about losing either.
So for those not up to date with my long-standing battle with Instagram, I had a previous Instagram page “Edgeofthemap_UK” which was doing very well for a while and accrued nearly 13k followers, which is very respectable for an idiot like me, however, in about January of 2022 I noticed a massive slowdown in engagement, followed by the unexpected termination of my account. I got in touch with meta support agents numerous times who all refused to tell me what I had done wrong (although there were some vague suggestions I had broken community guidelines, but they wouldn’t tell me what I had done) until one agent finally told me it was all fine and my account would be reactivated in due time, which was lovely to hear, but it was also a complete and utter lie. My account remained deleted, and after hearing nothing for a while I got back in touch only to be told that my account had been properly, properly deleted. Meta had a habit of unexpectedly ending my support chats, being very unhelpful, refusing to share information and pretty much lying to me to keep me placated, so this wasn’t a huge surprise, but as it was my main source of web traffic, it was kind of like having a large brick unexpectedly placed in my stomach. Unpleasant, unwanted and very unhelpful.
Instagram 1, Matt 0.
What can you do in 2022 if you’re a photographer but have no reach? Well, you try again. I started another Instagram page and I did the best I could, I posted my best photos, and I followed every bit of advice I could find to grow: Fewer hashtags, more hashtags, more reels, fewer photos, no outside links, comment on others posts - everything you think one would logically do to grow on Instagram, but guess what? None of it worked. My reach is/was abysmal. In the world’s biggest echo chamber, I was gagged by anyone who hadn’t followed me, rendering growth impossible.
Instagram 2, Matt 0.
I sought other avenues. I gave TikTok a go and levelled up my video editing - full disclosure, not much personal success on that platform, but I was able to renege the skills learnt into other ventures. I grew my personal mailing list (www.edgeofthemap.co.uk) to create a dedicated audience and was rewarded with slight growth and a much, much-needed boost of website engagement. I should probably mention that at the height of the original EOTM’s Instagram, my web traffic was steady and consistent, but since 9/10th of my audience had vanished, so had that traffic. My single genuine success had been through Vero, which is not only beautifully designed but also saw an incredibly encouraging level of growth, I was genuinely enjoying the content I saw and was met with an astonishingly positive community. Further to that, Vero’s content is not algorithmically suggested, it’s a purely chronological feed with the option to discover using some explore tabs. I wish more people were on it, it’s genuinely fantastic.
Instagram 2, Matt 1 (although Matt is now playing a different game).
The final kick in the teeth came from my new Instagram account’s dwindling reach. The second I crossed 1000 followers I noticed a decline in engagement, and after crossing 1200 I noticed that my reach was completely gone. I persevered for a few days and switched to a video-rich schedule, but after an initial success, even that failed. I reached out to acquaintances and friends to sift through their insights and in all cases apart from one the story was the same. Limited reach within followers and zero reach outside of that. My next step was to plunder Instagram's resources and video updates. I followed those rules meticulously and was shocked that following Instagram's own advice backfired and nothing had changed. So I navigated Meta’s impossibly unhelpful service route and reached out to Meta to try and get some answers.
Our discussion initially came from the concern that there may be a “black mark” of some kind on my account, my representative assured me this was not the case, so surely it was my content? Again, the representative assured me that Instagram has no content bias (assuming the post doesn’t break community guidelines, which is ironic given how overburdened with spam accounts it is). I thought it was best to try and boil it down given how unhelpful I’d found meta, so I asked the following:
“OK, so there’s no preferred content, no black marks on my account and no reason for my posts to get so little reach, but that’s just the way it is on the platform?”
To which I got:
“No, it is just this is the way how the platforms works from our end.”
So there you go, straight from meta, Instagram doesn’t want you to have any reach. If you’re wondering why you’re not growing, if you’re wondering why you don’t see the posts from your friends, if you, like me, wondered why your wife had stopped seeing your posts, it’s because Instagram doesn’t want you to. It’s not you, it’s not your content, it’s just the way it is. For some bizarre, unexplainable reason, Instagram has decided to shoot itself in the foot, kneecap, arm and shoulder all at the same time and with an impressive display of flexibility.
I wish Instagram still worked, I wish my account hadn’t been deleted and I wish I could rely on the platform for traffic, but it doesn’t. I don’t know why this is the way, I don’t even think Instagram does, but ultimately, they don’t care about you or me anymore, not unless you’ve got some big bucks for advertising, which in the interest of full disclosure my rep mentioned “may get more non-followers”. I’m not sure about you, but knowing my ads “may” work, is hardly a vote of confidence.
I’ll continue trying to get my account to grow, because, unfortunately, Instagram has the vast majority of my audience, but I won’t expect to win and I’ll shout and whine and moan about it. Ultimately, we’ve all lost because Instagram changed the game and told no one. If you thought we were playing chess with an algorithm we were, but then the algorithm decided Russian roulette was more its speed and you were playing the wrong game from the start. A company that doesn’t care about its users is just good business at the end of the day, we’re hooked already and we’re always going to see the ads they want us to see. We can complain, and they’ll put out a video guaranteeing a return to the old ways, but they won’t. Why should they? It’s their playground, not ours.
Elsewhere, I’ll be looking at Vero as my saving grace and hoping to see more and more of my previous audience convert to the platform. Alternatively, I’ll just be a photographer with no audience, which is somewhat pointless when we create for the joy of sharing. I think deep down we all want people to admire our work, that’s why we joined social media in the first place, but if we’re beating our fists into a diamond wall and never getting through to the millions of people out there, is there a point? I don’t think so and I’d rather find a softer wall.