It's not me, it's you. My breakup with the Instagram Algorithm.

by Nisha Btesh May 27, 2019

It's not me, it's you. My breakup with the Instagram Algorithm.

Everyone Has Been Talking 

So just in case you've been living underneath a rock for the past year let me quickly break down the deets on how the Instagram algorithm functions today. Beginning sometime around June of last year Instagram updated its algorithm, using “ranking signals” to decide how to arrange each individual user’s feed. Contributing factors that help to determine how your feed gets arranged are things like timeliness of posts, how often you use Instagram, how many people you follow, etc. In an effort to spare you all the boring details, the most important thing to remember is that at the end of the day Instagram is a business, and their bottom line is to keep you engaged as long as possible, and they are using your behavior to manipulate your feed in order to do it.

Why? Well the longer you're on Instagram, the more adds you will see, the more likely you will be to click through on those adds and viola the more money Instagram gets paid. In theory, this means you should be seeing more of the content you engage with regularly creating an authentic feed of content you know and love. But to the contrary, both business and personal accounts have suffered from the algorithm updates, complaining that likes and engagement have dropped significantly over the past year due to their content no longer showing up on their follower's account feeds. AND the cherry on top? The latest is that IG's next move is to have likes removed altogether... EEEK! Have you noticed a drop in likes, engagement and follows or is your IG account running business as usual?

SO that's the VERY short back story on what's going down on the backend. Now, there are SO many ways to look at this and SO many feelings happening on my end but first, let me just say that my relationship with Instagram has always been a love/hate. I deleted my personal account a little over a year ago specifically because of how inauthentic the whole experience felt to me. Posting vacation highlights and #datenight selfies are all wonderful and fabulous but I was craving more realness! Like I want the whole picture. Because if you're going to post the greatest moments of your life then post how you got there, I want to see that too! I want to take notes.

Post when you are struggling, when you are challenged, when your bank account is overdrawn, when the lighting is not "just right", without a filter (literally and figuratively), when you are sick or tired or hungover and you have to pull yourself out of bed to make it to work on time so you can afford all the things and experiences you're posting about in the first place. Show me that! Those are the accounts I turn my post notifications on for because they teach me, they inspire me, and they let me know that I am not alone. I mean if I see one more boomerang of glasses clinking cheers I might gag. And not because I'm bitter, I LOVE A CLINKING GLASS MOMENT, but because I can no longer actively compare my reality to your highlight reel. I was craving real value and IG just wasn't delivering. Everyone is different but deleting my personal IG account was without question the best decision I made in 2018.  

Why? It gave me SO much time back. Stepping away from the buzz of what everyone else was doing socially allowed me the time to dive deep into Hola Gwapa and inspired my mission and my bottom line, AUTHENTICITY. Enter Artist Takeovers. Selfishly I wanted Artists of all mediums, from all over the world to share a day in their life with me! I wanted to get a closer look into their daily routines, how their studios were set up (if they even had a studio), and what they ate for breakfast. I always joke that I want "their secret sauce", (which as it turns out is not so secretly, hard work, dedication, and consistency. Rinse, wash, and repeat.) I found out that not only was I craving this less curated curtain revealed approach to social media but so were other Artists and their fans!

When the Artist Takeover Series first started, stories averaged 135 viewers and I thought that was incredible! I still do. Takeover stories, a year later now often have upwards of 650 viewers. This is how Hola Gwapa has grown and will continue to grow organically, through valuing authenticity over perfection. For the record, I have made the choice to not purchased a single follower or liking bot in the entire 2+ years I've had this account, and trust me, I've been tempted. It's easy to get caught up in the data and analytics of it all, especially when "more" is only one swipe of a credit card away and "everyone else is doing it". But you cannot purchase genuine connections or engagement and in that truth is that is ALL that matters to me. A post with low likes and 16 comments is gold! Even when my replies are 8 of the 16 (LOL) because I will always reply to you. 

In truth though, I think likes are pretty worthless and I always have. It's like a guy/girl winking at you from across the room, flattering but worth nothing of real value unless they take the action to walk across the bar and engage with you. To say hello, to pay you a compliment, to ask you a question. I don't know about you but I will take engaging in an actual conversation about art, process, community, etc than a like any day. Shit, I will even take a complaint or criticism over a like any day, if it's genuine. Likes feel boring and they feel tired. Just me? I'm over the like, I want to connect on a deeper level and really get into it with you, you know? TBH I don't care if Instagram removes likes altogether because I seek no validation in them whatsoever.  

To keep it all in check I like to ask myself, how many likers would show up if I threw an event? Or even better how many likers will show up if I throw a FREE event WITH ALCOHOL? I know the answer to this because I've thrown events! And I've had women I met through Instagram actually show up! It's fantastic. But let me tell you, it's not the likers who show up. It's the commenters. It sounds silly to break it down like this but it's true! I can speak from personal experience that it is the people you engage with through comments, stories and DM's who will get in the car at 6 am on a Sunday to drive 2 hours to vision board with you, and those are the connections that matter to me, not the # of likes.

Shamelessly I've read many articles on "how to beat the 2019 algorithm" but it wasn't until I realized that there's nothing to beat that I felt liberated to write my own rules. Don't buy in! Again there is no secret sauce. What I've learned, is that it's about putting in the time to form genuine connections and cultivating the relationships you do have without looking for more, bigger, better that will set you and your brand/company up for lasting success. Stop focusing on getting 1,000 people to come to your website. Focus on the 50 that are there every day. What value are you offering them? What takeaway are you providing? Because yes, while it's easy to complain about likes dropping, Instagram, the algorithm (and any updates thereafter) can never take away a genuine connection and that is in no one's hands but our own. I can see the women (and men!) who religiously follow each story, post and blog, who tag @holagwapa EVERY SINGLE TIME they post new work in hopes of it being featured, who are clicking through to the online shop and ACTUALLY make a purchase for the same products that they "liked", who are the first to comment, ask questions and provide feedback, who email me and text me and DM to let me know they loved a featured Artist so much they bought HER work or reached out directly to introduce themselves in an effort to collaborate!  @coleebeeart, @kaylamcdart, @ici.coco, @sleepy.clary, @alice_mulder, @mp_collages, @naattyb @cassangles + Lola, @caroarrietag and @toski.stuido to name a few. I SEE YOU. And I know there are obviously more, so apologies in advance for those I forgot to mention. My point is Hola Gwapa is going on the record, as an account who does not give a shit about a like count. Hola Gwapa stands for genuine authentic connections. SO I encourage you to BREAK UP WITH THE ALGORITHM and take control of your scroll! If HG is an account you know and love, TURN YOUR POST NOTIFICATIONS ON and do so for other accounts you love as well! Engage, comment, reply, and DM me. I'm here and I want to meet you. Let's collaborate sister! And SO without further ado, I present my breakup with the algorithm...

Algorithm, I'm breaking up with you. And let me be very clear... this has nothing to do with me, and it has everything to do with you. You see at first I was SO into you, mainly because we worked so well together, it barely even felt like we were in a real relationship! Didn't those require a lot of work? You helped me grow and share who I was with the universe, you elevated me and I loved you for that. But as time passed, things got complicated, more people got involved and your prioritize shifted. I started to feel like I didn't really know you anymore; you were not the algorithm I first met. But shamefully and unknowingly I had already become so reliant on you. It was frustrating sure, but was it a deal breaker? Don't all relationships have bumps in the road? I depended on you to do the work, and keep this relationship healthy, strong and successful. But now, you weren't showing up for me in the same ways you had in the past. For better or worse you changed, and so I changed to please you and in that process, I lost sight of who I was before I met you. (I was fantastic by the way!) Naturally, I began to resent you and complain about who you had turned me into, who I had become. With you, in my life, I felt small and powerless, like I was invisible and no one could see me. But then something magical happened. Lightning struck and it hit me! I'm better off without you. SO I'm breaking up with you. Yes, it will take me time to find myself again, and for others to find me as well. But with you out of the picture I am in control, and liberated and free to be the most authentic version of myself, take it or leave it! It will take more time without you, but I will forage old friendships and make new connections. It will be harder without you but I will put in the work to seek out those who inspire me and engage with them regularly in order to nourish who I am daily. I will have to work much harder to shine without you, but every sparkle will belong to me, and me only. I am no longer under your spell. You may have had me fooled at first but now I see you for what you really are, and you sweet algorithm are nothing without me.  

Thoughts on Moving On: 

In conclusion, #fuckthealgorithm! Not because it's a terrible horrible thing but rather because being so reliant on someone else's formula for your success is a setup for failure. I beg you to ask yourself the impossibly tough questions. Like what would you do if Instagram didn't exist at all? How can you create genuine bonds that can't be compromised by an update? How can you add value to your followers feeds daily? Take the next step and share your answers on my IG stories under the highlight #OTB to connect with like-minded babes on the topic.

 

 

 




Nisha Btesh
Nisha Btesh

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