Ahh no, not another blog post about Instagram, I hear you scream! Alas, it’s true. I’m joining the hordes of other young men and women decrying the once majestic beast that is Instagram, and putting in my shiny two pence piece as to how its effecting an industry I became a part of over four years ago.
So let’s start with the obvious stuff. We all hate the new Instagram algorithm. We now also hate people that moan about the Instagram algorithm, and people who moan about moaning about the Instagram algorithm. Nobody really understands it, everybody has some hair-brained theory about how you can beat it, and for some reason, the only person you end up seeing consistently on your feed is your friend’s Mum who you’d love to unfollow, but who you know would be so mortally offended that you’d become the target for a lifetime of thinly-veiled Facebook quote repostings.
Personally, it’s been very up and down for me. Some of my posts receive decent engagement, and others don’t. Some have been fantastic, some have been tragically, tragically bad. Up until now I’ve just ridden the wave of the shit show that is 2017 Instagram, coasting the peaks and the troughs with a “well, life goes on, doesn’t it?”.
As much as we may hate the way that the platform has changed - and how it now seems to be more of a game of strategy rather than a means of expression - we have to work with it. We have no other choice. Instagram has our metaphorical balls in a vice and unless a lot of us want to sacrifice one of our biggest sources of income, we just have to suck it up and plough on. (Side note: *this* is why it’s important to have a back-up platform or source of income; if one day Instagram decided to shut up shop and delete everybody’s accounts - which they would be well within their rights to do - a lot of people might find themselves in a tricky situation).
I have noticed, however, a few trends starting to develop in this new photo-sharing landscape which are making me a little sombre.
Images shot on an iPhone perform miles better than those shot on a camera. The swipe up function on stories means people no longer have to visit your blog to find a link to the jumper you’re wearing. Quick pics in a changing room mirror will skyrocket above your curated busy-gal-in-London shot. Fuck fast fashion, this is even faster fashion, and it’s getting faster yet.
And that’s all well and good - we all love a quick iPhone snap to show off our latest chunky knit or winter loafers, and this approach to sharing style can often feel more accessible. The trouble is, it that it has seemingly dire implications for good old fashion blogging. The hunger for generating commission over generating views means that so many of my favourite bloggers are moving away from the written word, instead opting for a stream of Insta snaps with one word captions.
And you know what? If you want to make money, if you want to grow your online presence, if you want to push to be successful, this is probably the wisest way to go. Over the past few weeks, I’ve posted a number of images I’m really proud of. They’re the kind of images I’ve always aspired to capture - high quality, a little bit sassy, a little bit fashurn - but they’ve absolutely tanked. As in, two years ago, when I had half the followers I do now, I received more engagement than I have over the past week - that level of tankage.
In the fast-paced digital world that so many of us have utilised to build our careers, you have to keep up with the times or you’ll be left behind. I myself, feel I’m now coming to a sort of crossroads.
I either sacrifice the content I truly love - the editorial, walking-in-the-street-with-a-magazine-and-cup-of-coffee type stuff - and start uploading purely phone content, or if I refuse, I have to accept that my career may suffer as a result.
If that’s the way that the industry is going, then honestly, I’m not sure I want to go with it. And I don’t mean that in a ‘if it’s going downhill then I’m not being dragged with it’ kind of way, rather that that’s just not what I enjoy from a solely personal perspective. It’s never been my aspiration to reach Zoella levels of super-blogger fame; if I can pay my bills, buy myself a nice bag every now and then and still afford to top up my savings, then I’m happy. If I have to sacrifice the imagery that I personally enjoy in order to continue topping 1k likes per upload, then I’m not 100% sure that I’m willing to do that.
Blogging, is of course, a business, and for those of us who either aspire to do it full-time or for those of us that do it already, you have to be able to make some business-savvy decisions. Let’s look at it objectively: an iPhone shot takes minutes to capture, can be edited on your phone with free software, can be uploaded instantly and accompanied by a short, 2 minute caption. This will very likely receive more engagement, thus more conversions in terms of affiliate links and more growth in terms of followers, consequently making you more attractive to brands.
If all of this can be done to positive effect much quicker, easier and more affordably than traditional blogging, then it makes business sense to pursue Instagram. You’re saving time and money, and you’re setting yourself up to be more attractive to brands who are looking for high levels of engagement as evidence of return on investment. It just makes sense.
And I’m not saying that there’s no creativity or passion in an Instagram shot - one glance at my feed will show you that I’m extremely partial to an iPhone shot or too, but I would be remiss to not mention that I’ve been actively pushing these for the sake of better engagement, not because I’m genuinely excited to share them.
The real pleasure, for me, comes in sharing images that I’ve spent hours shooting, editing and perfecting - those aspirational, street style type shots that are always offset with a ‘okay this may look glamorous but really I I’ve eaten toast for every meal of the day’ type caption. The truth is, however, fashion is simply getting faster, and our digital landscape is changing with it. We, as consumers, now want same day delivery, instant links and a constant stream of new, new, new. Everything is available to us as the click of a button, and so the blogging world is adapting alongside it by picking up the pace in how we share and react to content. Whereas we once had the traditional press, then online websites and then blogs, we now have Instagram becoming somewhat of a shorter, sharper and snappier micro-blog, continuing the pattern of information becoming more instant and quickly attainable.
It’s true that I feel a little deflated at the moment. Like I said, I feel like I’ve come to a crossroads wherein I have to decide whether I want to satisfy engagement by pushing iPhone shots and sacrifice the photographic side that I love, or accept that if that really is the nature of the Instagram beast and I don’t want to comply, that potentially, my career will suffer.
It goes without saying that all of the above is my personal opinion/preference/experience. Plenty of lads and ladies that I know prefer iPhone content as they’re jaded by how glossy and editorial certain corners of blogging have become, so it really comes down to what you’re looking for in the people that you follow and why. For me, I’m just going to plod on as normal, post the photos that I want to and take the shite engagement on the chin. Fuck it (for now, anyway).
Until next time lovelies x