Instagram recently changed its algorithm (yet again) for how it determines what ends up in your news feed and it’s drastically changing the numbers of likes some of us see for each of our posts. As someone who just passed the six-month mark of posting poetry on Instagram, this is the first time that I have had to face the fact that I am relying on another person’s platform, a platform that I have no say in, to find my audience. As creators on the internet, we tend to rely on other people and outlets to get our word out. We never really think twice about what control we are giving up. To show off our creations, we need a platform to find an audience. There are many options, each with its own unique balance of control and convenience. I am here today to provide my thoughts on why I choose to stay on Instagram each day and hope that this will start a larger conversation.
If you don’t have time to finish this article, here are the four takeaways:
- I am choosing to stay on Instagram because of the people not the platform.
- You have many other options. You are actively choosing to stay on Instagram.
- Numbers are great, but you aren’t writing poetry for numbers. You are writing poetry for the people who already follow you, who appreciate what you have to say, and who respond with “me too.”
- We are all going to be figuring this out together. You are not alone.
I am only a poet today because of Instagram. I am not going to make this about my journey to becoming a poet but I think context is important here. I only recently started writing poetry (January 2017) and I didn’t show another person my work until roughly February that year. Until this poetry thing, I rarely ever used Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, and to be honest those accounts are still sitting fairly unused. Bottom line: I was, and probably still am, totally new to this whole online poetry thing. I almost gave up on poetry in general sometime around February or March because I couldn’t find a community beyond the shelves of dead poets in my bookstore. Then I found Instagram and I started a poetry-focused Instagram account in July 2017. I tell you this because I want to be clear- it took me months to find the courage to post online (and I did it under a pen name - but that’s a different article). Sharing your art with the world can be scary. I wouldn’t have gotten this far if it wasn’t for the other poets on Instagram and the community that I have found there (and a lot of support from my family but also a different article). I don’t know for sure but I imagine a lot of poets on Instagram have very similar stories. We are poets but we are also poets that post on Instagram.
We don’t HAVE to post on Instagram. In fact, I have had a free wordpress site since August 2017. I had an inkling even then that I couldn’t rely on Instagram for everything. I am ashamed to say that I am not really a website person and I fell behind in updating it. I am still posting poems from September. You will not be surprised to hear that it is not very popular. Very few people take the time to find it via the link in my Instagram bio and even fewer come back a second time. While my website’s lack of success is probably due to my lack of visual talent (seriously! I can’t even manage backgrounds for my Instagram posts), it is also because Instagram is just EASIER. You are already on Instagram for other things and reading my poems every once and a while is just a bonus. Why would you want to go out of your way to visit a website for EVERY poet you follow, or worse, sign up for another newsletter to your inbox that you are always meaning to read (but never get around to)? I have a (failed) Twitter account as well as a (still in progress) Pinterest account. I tried Patreon for a week or two before giving up. Each of these are different platforms that required me to look again at this tradeoff of convenience and control. In each case, the platform and I just didn’t work out. What’s important is that I did in fact try these alternatives, rather than just settling on Instagram. I encourage all of you to consider each of these options and more. It helps me deal with the algorithm issues knowing that I have tried alternatives and that it is my choice to stay.
Instagram is where the poets I follow are also posting. It’s where there is a poetry community that I feel a part of and welcome in. Despite my concerns regarding the platform, to find an audience you need a place where there are people. Instagram is where the people are (at least for me). Yes, I could previously count on up to 60, sometimes 70 likes, for a post within a few hours. Yes, the change in the algorithm means I am now lucky to get 40 after a day or so. Yes, I know I might just have gotten worse as a poet. Yes, I have given up control in reaching some of my audience. Yes, I know I am choosing the easy path by simply staying where I am. In the end, I am doing this for myself and I am making the decision that works best for me.
So what is my plan to adjust to the Instagram algorithm change?
1) Reduce the number of hashtags I use and make sure to use different, unique, and relevant ones for each post (per a suggestion from an article I found via Google that admitted it was guessing).
2) Encourage all of my followers to consider turning on post notifications if they want to be notified of when I post a poem.
3) Respond to every comment on each of my poems as soon as possible (within the hour) (per another suggestion from an article I found via Google that admitted it was guessing).
4) Focus on improving the wordpress website that I DO have control over (if only to make me feel better).
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY
5) Take a moment to be grateful that I am able to express myself, that I have found a community that is working through this together, and that I have found an audience for my voice (no matter the size)
It’s a question of control versus convenience that you must answer for yourself each day. Let me know how you decide!
- Emily Roberts, 2018
if you would like to connect with Emily and check out her poetry, click the button below to check out her Instagram!
a special thank you to Emily for giving us a different perspective on the changes within Instagram. It seems the second we get used to one algorithm a new one pops it's ugly head however we must remember that we are always in control of the content we post on our individual pages so we must remind ourselves of that every time Instagram tries to set us back again. There are multiple platforms you could be using but which one is best and most convenient for your end goal? Only YOU will be able to answer that question!
if you are interested in being a contributor like Emily, click the button below to send me a message. Be sure to include the idea for your article as well as your Instagram handle!
love & light,