PAY TO PLAY PART 2: WHY BIG AUDIENCES MEAN LESS LIKES

PAY TO PLAY PART 2: WHY BIG AUDIENCES MEAN LESS LIKES

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Okay, so now I learnt a few things (if you haven’t caught up yet, here’s the first post):

1. Insights held me back because it made the app think I was in a position to pay to play.

2. Instagram may have been location biased and promotes users that post content in particular locations because high activity means more advertising potential.

Simple enough – except not really because when is anything worth figuring out made that easy to unravel? 

The really interesting point here is that most of my influencer friends in Asia have a much higher follower count than me. And here’s the plot twist -a friend that

had around 20k followers told me she used to get1k likes in 30 minutes, with some of her posts hitting above 3-4k likes in total. After December, she sees around 2k in total, and at the time of writing, she has doubled her Instagram audience. Another girl in Singapore whose content I deeply admire used to garner 5k likes a photo at around 35k followers – impressive right? She also took a hit and her photos now have an average of around 600 likes, although her video content still receives views in the thousands.

Is Instagram really that biased if even their speculatively ‘preferred’ regions are seeing such a drastic decline in engagement? 

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It turns out that everyone, wherever they are in the world, is suffering to some degree from the long-term consequences of the algorithm. And it’s only getting worse, long after we were done kicking and screaming about it. Tactics that we thought would help – upping our activity, using the explore page, those pesky comment groups that I personally do not believe in etc. just aren’t as effective as they had been before. For example, if I were to post at midday, I’d see around 500 likes after five hours and I could almost guarantee would climb to 800+ by the morning of the next day. I’m talking about a situation a few months after the algorithm change. It’s definitely not the case anymore.

From what I’ve been researching, your likes plateau after around four hours, unless you hit a certain percentage of your following and what that is exactly… well I’m working on that one.

 

Let me put it this way, for all the hard work you’ve put in to produce content that people want to see, the less likely it is that it’ll reach your audience, despite having a growing follower base. This is actually what bloggers had predicted when the algorithm was first rolled out and I’ve come across a few well written and informative posts about how this is supposed to be beneficial because it gives smaller accounts an advantage (as it’s easier for a small account to hit a higher engagement rate in relation to their following).

Except that conclusion was blindingly naive and written for people who like to be complacent in life. I would apologise for the bluntness except I’m not sorry and even my friends that would consider their own accounts to be ‘small’ aren’t too pleased about the developments. 

Cue the trials exclusive to 20 brands that Instagram released a press release about, around a few months ago that allows users to shop directly through a photo.

 

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Our beloved app is becoming a science lab for mobile commerce and it’s entirely Facebook’s prerogative. Now that the volume of content that an average user uploads has gone up in a bid to be seen by more accounts (reach/impressions), engagement doesn’t need to be the main metric for Instagram to measure its advertising value.

It’s similar to how Twitter was just for any average person to rant about their feelings or make jokes. The era of comedy accounts are over and the app is populated primarily with publications, businesses or influencers. Where did the common man go? Before I make any drastic conclusions about Instagram heading in this direction, bear in mind that normal people like you and I have built careers off this app for free and it was only time that the platform itself decided it was going to up its commercial gain.

So for us bloggers that walk a fine line between sponsored and imaginative content, it’s a lot trickier for us to navigate when we’re not quite a business and certainly not defined as a ‘casual user’.

 

This is why I have come up with several suggestions:

  • All of our likes are shit, so who cares about that anymore? Let’s focus on the comments where quality engagement is really measured.
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  • Brands are still looking at numbers, numbers and numbers. However, the good news is that a few of the PR agencies that I’ve spoken to are a lot more clued up about what’s going on than we think. They know that looking at likes alone won’t cut it. Some brands actually offer to pay you per like, which I find pretty demeaning but they’re also not really the ones you want to be dealing with. The brand managers that really know what’s going on value the creativity and content itself. So let’s focus on making the content that we like instead of what we think people that are browsing on Instagram will -because here’s the catch, if they’re already following you they’ll support whatever it is you upload (within reason, don’t start posting rows of Spongebob memes if you’re a beauty blogger).
  • Finally, don’t look at girl with the highest engagement that you know of. Do yourself a favour and don’t make those comparisons. To help you stop this horrible habit, I’ve actually worked out the answer to ‘what should be considered high engagement’. It’s a question no one really wants to ask in fear that we fall short but let’s get serious. If you care enough to have read this post in its entirety then you actually do want to know the answer. And I’ve got the numbers for us UK bloggers – complete with a chart – but only for those of you that are kind enough to stick with me and wait for part three…

XOXO you know you love me (but maybe not after I’ve done this to you ha, sorry guys.)



Shot by Yip, @iso95

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