🇮🇹 ITALIAN VERSION
I remember how excited I was when I first started posting on instagram. I finally had a platform to get my work seen, tell my stories, share my life and get inspired by those of others. It was all about creativity and art and The Work, it was fair and ethical and just awesome! Things have changed a lot since, and now I often find myself feeling sick to my stomach when I have to post a new picture!
Over the last few years Instagram became THE new way to advertise, money got in the way creating a toxic numbers game, and getting our work seen without playing this game is becoming harder and harder. What once used to be about content and originality is now reduced to some meaningless algorithm dynamics and who has the time and the cash to trick this system wins the game.
I’m sure many of you have no idea what goes on behind the scenes and I’m sure even fewer of you know that some of us are using instagram as a business tool to help us make a living.
I’m writing this with a heavy heart as I know I’m a huge hypocrite. I’ve been playing the game for the last 6 moths, and it made me miserable, miserable guys! I tried to play it as ethically as possible but when you are pushed to a corner gasping for air sometimes you have to set ethical aside if you want to survive. But surviving doesn’t mean living and the artist in me is desperate to feel alive again.
I still care about doing things right. So I think it’s time to stop the bullshit and come clean and tell you exactly what’s happening. I owe you that, because if i get to live the life I live today, if i get to do what i love the most—which is traveling, writing and making art—it’s also thanks to you guys!
So here’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, a no bullshit guide to what’s really going on!
WHY NUMBERS MATTER – INFLUENCERS AND ADVERTISING
For some of us there’s serious business behind instagram.
IG became an advertising platform over the last few years, there are more people spending time on the app than in front of a tv screen today. The advertising world is shifting and we(influencers) are now basically walking billboards for brands and companies because through us they can reach consumers(our followers) in a much more genuine and effective way.
I can afford to be on the road only because I’m constantly collaborating with hotels, tour companies and brands. And this collaborations couldn’t be possible if i didn’t spend time building a solid portfolio and an engaged following on IG.
But good content and a genuine community aren’t enough for most brands. They want the numbers! The bigger the brand the higher your numbers have to be.
Usually it works like this:
High followers count+high engagement = good sponsorships, partnerships, gigs, sometimes even money $ (big money if you have over a few hundred thousands followers)
Unfortunately most of these brands and companies are clueless about the fact that some of these numbers they look at are incredibly inflated by the tricks and shenanigans we pull to play the system.
A ton of so-called influencers today have those high numbers because they cheated their way up, but they have no actual influence over their audience because their numbers are empty, they are the result of a scummy strategy designed to win the number game. [I’m guilty of a few petty crimes too and I’ll tell you exactly which ones.]
This game though is not just straight down unfair but it’s actually fucking a lot of people over on both sides, the influencers (especially the honest ones that are working hard and that built something good and useful and that actual have influence over their audience) and the advertisers. It has to stop!
HOW IT ALL STARTED
About a year ago, everything changed in the IG sphere! In the old days instagram used to work chronologically. It was a fair game, whoever posted first appeared in people’s feeds in chronological order wether you had 2 followers or 200K. If you posted at 3pm and a guy with 1M followers posted at 4pm, your pic would be seen first.
But then, to follow their FB pals’ exemple, instagram decided to stop that, and show posts in a an order “based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post.”(…Bullshit!)
That’s when the new algorithm system came into play and everyone started freaking out. People weren’t seeing our posts anymore, numbers were dropping fast and some of us, panicking, started coming up with ‘creative’ solutions to trick this evil algorithm and keep our work seen by our followers.
That’s when the number game started getting really dirty!
HOW TO PLAY THE GAME – Tricks to get followers and high engagement
So here it is, no more secrets, no more bullshit, this is how it really works, this is how many of us are tricking the system!
-WE BUY FOLLOWERS, LIKES, COMMENTS (not guilty!)
The dirtiest way to do this is of course to buy your way to the top. Today there’s a million website where you can buy just about anything to make yourself look insta-famous! Who cares if those are empty accounts that don’t bring any value to the table right?! I was never able to go this far luckily but I witnessed so many people shamelessly do this from the very beginning across all industries!
-WE FOLLOW/UNFOLLOW , LIKE & COMMENT ON RANDOM PEOPLE (partially guilty)
One of the most effective strategies to gain followers is to catch people’s attention by liking and commenting on their pictures so they’ll come to your profile and possibly start following you (I’ve done that before). Another much more unethical way is to follow people so they’ll follow you back and then you’ll just unfollow them like a total douchebag (I never ever done this,not for that purpose, the only time I unfollow someone is if I stop liking their content).
-WE USE INSTAGRESS & CO (guilty)
The above strategy can be very very time consuming and most people don’t have the time to invest in it. But that’s not a problem because there are websites that will do that for you! They’ll like and comment and foollow people on your behalf. Over the last year websites like instagress and Archie started popping up like mushrooms and a lot of us, desperate to get their engagment back on track started using them. I did. I used instagress on and off for the last six months and I always felt incredibly conflicted every time i’d turn it on. I stopped using it 3 weeks ago and ironically instagram had it shut down last week!
-WE GO TO IG SPOTS (guilty)
We are all going to the same places, trying to get similar versions of that same shot because we know it will get us more likes….we go to instagram-spots! What a sad sad word that is, isn’t it?!
A friend of mine told me “Trends never end on IG” and it’s so so true. I know tons of accounts that all post the same things, the same places, with the same style. When I scroll down my homepage the sight of yet another moody picture of Iceland or Lake Braies (guilty!) makes me wanna puke now.
The saddest part though is that when I go to places that haven’t been shot before, trying to do something new and different the picture tanks almost every time, it breaks my heart!
Some of the big guys on IG today have hundreds of thousands of followers because when they were there at the very beginning, they were doing something new, something creative, something ORIGINAL. Today though,forget about that shit! no one cares about being original anymore! Originality doesn’t beat the algorithm, but what has been seen a million times before apparently does!
-WE GET FEATURE by COLLECTIVE ACCOUNTS
A more than ethical way to get more followers is to be feature by collective accounts (themed accounts that reposts pictures of other people). To get feature you have to use their hashtags, tag them in your picture (and following them is suggested!). There are tons of these accounts and many have big followings so if they repost one of your pictures their followers will see it and if they like it they might come check out your profile and possibly follow you. Clean, easy and ethical for a change!
Unfortunately though—even if there are many good and ethical collective accounts that give people the opportunity to get their work seen by hundreds of thousands and built a community with their audience—today some of these account took a turn to the dark side! I emailed my portfolio to some of these featured accounts a few months back and i received an alarming amount of replies where they were asking me for money to get featured! (and we are not talking small money!)
It’s incredibly fucked up that these people, who build their businesses on free content they took from us, are now asking artists to pay to get feature! Imagine if MTV would start asking money to artists to air their music videos…wtf! These accounts today are successful only thanks to our free content so please, don’t you dare, ever EVER pay for a feature! They are the ones that should be paying and thanking you!
[*many of the people involved in the ‘instagram mafia’ i’ll talk about below are also directly involved with the owners of collective accounts getting priority over the regular joe who tags and uses the account hashtags to get feature. There’s an ungodly amount of ass kissing going on with features account so don’t feel bad if your work never gets featured, it just means you aren’t kissing the right ass!)
***The names of the account were visible when I first published this, but I was asked my the account owners to blur them out.
-WE ARE PART OF COMMENT PODS (guilty)
When instagram switch to the algorithm and our engagement started dropping because our followers weren’t seeing our posts some of us instagrammers came up with this idea: ‘We are all in the same boat, we are losing our people, our numbers are lower which means we’ll lose collaborations opportunities and gigs, so let’s support each other, let’s comment at each other pics so we still look legit!’
That’s how comment pods started. Usually this is how it works: A pod includes about 10/15 people, we create a group message in our DM and every time someone posts a new pic also sends it privately to the group, so everyone comments and likes that picture. That way our engagement looks higher.
I’m currently in two different pods. With time some of the people in these pods became friends and we met each other around the world in real life.
A few months after pods started existing instagram noticed something was up and rumors went around that they were trying to stop pods…So what happened next? People took it to a whole new level, creating a little instagram mafia!
-THE MOST WELL KEP SECRET: THE INSTAGRAM MAFIA & THE EXPLORER PAGE (not guilty!)
Now we enter the most well kept, dirty little secret of us instagrammers!
Eventually someone figured out the secret formula to trick the algorithm: if you manage to get high engagement (so lots of comments and lots of likes) within the first 30-45 minutes you upload a picture on instagram (especially from bigger accounts), then most likely that picture will end up in the explorer page, it will be seen by tens of thousands of people and it will get THOUSANDS of likes.
Large groups of small and big influencers (or whatever you want to call us), feeling threaten by the rumors of instagram being on to pods, got organized: they brought their pods out of instagram and transfered them to whatsapp and facebook group chats. This is how it works: If you want to be involved you have to post at the same time of everyone else (the most used time slot is around 2pm nyc time). Everyday you are posting you put your name in one of the lisits created in this chats, you keep your list of all the other people posting in hand, go on instagram, and once 3.pm hits you start commenting like a maniac! This way, most of the time, your pictures will end up in the explorer page and it will get thousands of likes.
But here’s the catch: most of these likes are one time likes, most of the people who liked that picture arent’ your followowers and never will be. But that doesn’t matter cause now you look like the cool guy with the highest engagement ever (even if you didn’t earn it), and you can trick brands into hiring you because you have the numbers! easy right?!
How the fuck did we got to this???? I’m serious! When I found out about this bs something broke in me. I can’t believe this is what it has come down to. The amount of time people are investing in playing these tricks is scary, this time could be used to work on our art, on our happiness, or on just fucking living real life for fuck sake!
People are blinded by the mirage of insta-fame. They want it now and they want the benefits that come from it but they don’t want to put in the work, the real work that takes time and sweat and tears to do. Anything good and durable takes time and hard work to built and trickery is not a durable nor ethical strategy.
What this has become is fucking everyone over in the long run!
There’s still a lot of good on instagram, there’s honest instagrammers that are doing amazing things and earned their way up, there’s good people with a lot of talent, good work that deserves to be seen and voices that deserves to be heard. I met some of my good friends today thanks to instagram. I have work opportunities that I could only dream about before. I have an engaged community of artists, creatives, travelers and amazing people of all kinds that I can share my life and my work with, and for that I’m incredibly thankful.
I found myself caught up into a vicious cycle, playing the game to keep afloat and keep doing what I like to do, but I am sick and tired of playing games. This is not why I started posting on instagram, this is not what I want my life to be about. I started using the app to share my art, my ideas and my thoughts on life and travel with you all, to possibly have a conversation, to transmit some sort of emotion and make you dream harder. I didn’t start this to pump up my ego with empty numbers.
We live in an era where way too often the number of likes we get on a post is the correspondent numeric value we give to ourselves. I learnt early on to not let my self-esteem be affected by numbers. If you are posting good content but your numbers are low, please, please, please, don’t question your worth nor your work! It’s not your fault! It’s not about your content, it’s not about your work. Instagram today is not about The Work at all, not anymore.
It’s about strategy. That’s what it came down to.
So who’s to blame? Instagram and the evil algorithm? or those of us who are playing dirty?
Maybe that doesn’t even matter. Maybe instead of blaming it on someone we should start finding ethical solutions to stop this monster we created and make it a fair game again so that everyone can have equal opportunities.
I’m quitting all the bullshit, I’m done playing games, i want to do this the right way. Now you have all the info I have, and you can make whatever you want with it. You can use this to play the game and join the mafia or maybe, just maybe, you can keep playing clean and know in your heart that the system is flawed and corrupted and you can do your best to make instagram all about stories and creativity and the art and The Work again…
Hi Sara! Congratulations on this post! It’s so real, unfortunately 😩
I have always admired your work, you’re such an inspiration to me, and now you’re even more! Nowadays we got so limited and frustrated by Instagram instead of being creative and happy about our work!
Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I agree with you in every point!
Anyway, keep up with the amazing work! ❤️
Hi Lais! Thank you so so much for the kind words! so happy you read this ❤️
Thank you so much for following along for such a long time ❤️
Wow! You really laid it all out there. Thank you. Thank you for saying what you did and putting the value back on creativity and art and not numbers. Keep it up and thank you for inspiring me to keep going even without thousands of followers.
Thank YOU Sara ❤️ Please please please, always keep going!
Definitely a very eye-opening post. Instagram for me was always about the creative aspect, about connecting with other inspiring artists, (like yourself!) and building in time a little corner to share thoughts, wishes and dreams come true.
You’re truly an amazing creative force in and out of the IG world and I always love reading your work!
Thank you for sharing this article! <3
Thank you so much for the beautiful words Réka, i’m so happy that’s the use you made for it ❤️
Really thumbs up!! I never knew why my posts don’t get that much support although I am an honest instagrammer, it’s hard to get appreciated in this game, and u doing this gave mme hope that my work can be delivered to its ppl some day 💘
Thank you so much for reading and please never lose hope! hard work and perseverance still go a long way! You just need one right person to see your work and everything can change at any time!
Thank you for the valuable information, I must say your work always admire me to see things with a different vision and bring creativeness in that, this is something unique in your work. As a human we always love to see and appreciate what we’re not doing we desire to do and that’s where you touched the audience heart with honesty. So keep up your Spirit for being yourselves. May God bless you!
Thank you so much for the very kind words Atif, it means a lot!
I’m in.. all the way..
Such a honest and truthful post. and I 100% agree with you Sara.
I find Instagram can be very discouraging and its posts like this that really hit home and make me want to keep creating even without the engagement.
Keep up the amazing work, and thanks again for sharing this article. your truly inspiring!
Thank YOU for being so kind! never stop creating!!❤️
THANK YOU SO MUCH for writing this Sara. Lately I’ve been on the same boat as you. I’ve been feeling uninspired and questioning my work a lot all because of this number game bs. I had to leave comment pods because I just didn’t feel right, although I’m happy to have met some of the nicest bloggers and photographers from there. (comment too long, to be continued)
It’s so sad that Instagram sort of killed off creativity, but we all have the potential to be more creative and take meaningful photographs. And WOW I didn’t know about the IG Mafia thing, that is completely BS. All I know is that the truth will always reveal itself, and I’m proud of you for taking the time to go the ethical way. I appreciate you more than ever as an artist. <3
Carmelisse thank you so so much for your thoughtful comment you know it means a lot to me❤️ It’s so fucked up what’s going on with the ig mafia (makes me lmao that now more people will call it like that!). I couldn’t keep it in anymore, I couldn’t keep playing the game anymore, it was sucking my sould out and now i totally understand how you felt when you left the pods!
Cheers to the ethical way!
Hey Sara! I’m the one who peeped this piece (or tried to!) on your IG story. Thanks for the honesty. I truly appreciate your desire to do things the “right way” however, I’m not quite sure what that means. Do we wish Instagram was simply a photo sharing app w/out marketing? That would be the only real way I see for it to be “fair” but soc med is the future of marketing & biz… sad! Big fan btw!
Hey John! Thanks so much for reading! The first step is to stop playing dirty! the second one is to make a shitton of noise and start a conversation with IG itself!!
Thanks for sharing this! I didn’t realize how bad IG got. Although they won’t notice I’m quitting all the accounts that force payment, I realized that a year ago when I tried getting my photos shared. It makes me incredibly angry. I’ve definitely played the random likes and comments for hours on end to hope my posts reach more people. It exhausting and not how I want to spend my time. x
Hi Viktoria! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! Fortunately there are still many accounts that are doing features the right way without charging and picking their shots from their own hashtags and tags but those few bad apples need to stop! Exactly it’s exhausting and i decided i want to spend that time creating or just enjoying life now, so much better! Keep creating!! ❤️
This blog post speaks to me in volumes. I struggled with the exact same issues and decided to delete my blog’s Instagram at the expense of sacrificing increased exposure for my work. Instagram just promoted unhealthy expectations and habits and it is commercialising travel as opposed to educating. Congratulations Sara, and I admire you for such an honest, informative and game-changing post!
Dani, Thank you so much! I know unfortunately that’s were it’s heading but i believe more than anything things can change! I’ll do my best to play my part in it! I think travel, if done right (by leaving our world behind when we go to a new country and embrace its culture with open arms and opean hearts and LEARN from it) can make all of us better people, i hope i’ll show that through my work!
(1/2) Thank you for this post Sara! It really is discouraging that instagram has turned into a numbers game. Thank you so much for your honesty and commitment to keeping your gallery about art and creativity. As the creator of @sheisnotlost, I was shocked when I began receiving submissions from users that asked me what my rate was for reposting their image! I never imagined that was an actual
(2/2) practice used by other repost accounts. The @sheisnotlost community would be nothing without the content submitted by users like you. I admit that my success as a repost account is due to the thoughtful curation of truly inspiring and beautiful images, and I would never accept a user’s payment to post their photo. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I really love your gallery!
Carina, thank you so much for reading and for keep playing clean and understanding the value of our content! I dealt with a similar thing when I was working as a fashion photographer and a few magazines were charging photographers to publish their editorial spreads, insane! Those people should refund every poor soul that fell for it!
Tanvi (Travel OK Please)
OMG! That’s an eye opener! I only knew about the follow/unfollow & buying followers things. I never did any of it. But the other methods I only came across in this post. It’s unbelievable & so wrong!
I always thought as to why my content isn’t getting enough engagement and followers although I’m working so hard and creating great travel content! It’s seriously sick!
I know, it’s so unfair and I’m so sorry I have been part of the problem for a while! I’m glad this was useful! Keep up the good work!
You forgot about loop giveaways where you basically pay big money $500-1500 to participate so you can gain 5-30k new followers from Latino beauty & random accounts. New way of buying followers 😉
Woah never heard of this 😳😳😳 wtf! how does that work exactly?
I feel incredibly lucky to call you a friend. I have always been in awe of your talent and courage, but this post takes things to another level! I applaud your courage to break the illusions that surround Instagram’s world. It takes lots of guts! I’d love to make a mini doc about this, interviewing you next time I see you. Bravissima, you’re a real role model to me. lots of love!
Elena my dear, you made me tear up, you know your words are gold to me! Thank you with all of my heart, it would be a honor to have a mini doc about this! The most amazing thing of doing this it has been the response of people, over 200 heartfelted messages of people sharing their feelings, telling me how they don’t want to create anymore because of how ig makes them feel…
something needs to be done! It’s time for change! it’s isnane that we got to this, selling fakeness as real life is skewing people perception so much that is causing serious demage in people’s mind, killing their self esteem, making them feel their lives aren’t good enough. I can’t sit still anymore in front of this, telling the truth is becoming an urgent matter! much much love 💛
Very fair point, however your time would have been better spent searching for the next big thing and smashing it rather than writing this post. Be positive, this always happens when something gets too big. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it, oh wait…
Don’t undervalue your creativity and skills, be smart and be better!
Considering that in the last 24hours i received over 200 messages of people thanking me for bringing this issues to light and making them believe in themselves again I think this was a pretty good use of my time! If what I create can brighten even one person’s day that’s all I need! I couldn’t care less about the next big thing 🙂 I don’t undervalue my creativity nor my skills, i know my worth!
Consider taking a break from Gary Vaynerchuk videos for a little while; you sound like a braying a*s.
Have a lovely day!
Selena / Find Us Lost
Love your take on all this craziness and the honesty of this post. Your posts are some of our favorites — don’t change a thing. 🙂
Thank you so so much Selena ❤️
Wow so eye opening, I’m not gonna play dumb and pretend that I am guilt free, however some of these blow my mind. It can get so frustrating when you see these accounts faking their way to the top, but I have to hold onto the hope that Instagram are weeding out the fakers and the genuine profiles will be left in the end 🙂
Thanks for reading Sarah! I really hope to see a cleaner game in the future!
This is an amazing article and so true! I can’t believe what has happened to Instagram over the last year. I was actually listening to the pod cast “how I built this” by NPR where they interviewed the founders of Instagram before they sold out to FB. They were talking about it so passionately and really wanted to build an authentic app…. it’s such a shame to see how far they have fallen
It is a shame! When money and power game get in the way unfortunately even the most beautiful thing can turn incredibly ugly!
I am just awed at how you bared yourself here. I recently joined IG and it’s been a struggle. I just go with the flow because I can’t afford not to. I think it should become the way it was. Mark and his colleagues need to cool down with the monetizing schemes because in a short while, they’ll have nothing left to monetize.
Thank you so much for reading! Yeah Mark and Co are making the world a much shittier place sometime!
Thank you so much for posting this. I have been so disappointed and discouraged as I’ve watched all other influencers fly past me in the past year, as I’ve sat almost stagnant. But I never took part in those tricks and at least I can feel good about that. http://www.instagram.com/gentrilee
Thanks for reading ❤️
I never knew about all of this. Thanks for sharing the info. I prefer having less but genuine likes.
Thanks for reading ❤️ and I totally agree!
Thank you so much for this article, Sara! I think it’s really sad that nowadays you almost have to use any of the methods if you want to grow on Instagram. It’s really going on my nerves, especially now when from one day to the next all the engagement I’ve built up on my account dropped down by more than 1/3. It’s so frustrating and makes me want to stop sometimes even though I actually like it 😯
Thank you for reading ❤️ it’s incredibly frustrating but please don’t stop, the system is flawed and corrupted and full of dishonesty but a clean conscience goes further than bullshit!
Sara, thank you for writing this. I am not new to insragram and was a passive user but started using it extensively only recently. When I realised that getting noticed on Instagram involves resorting to such means, I almost wanted to give up. I am trying my best to stay afloat, and keep it real. But it’s almost nerve-racking and stressful instead of being a fun activity.
Thanks for reading ❤️ Please don’t ever give up!
Ali from Home & Plate
Hi Sara. Your blog post is a refreshing wake up call for most of social media not just Instagram. I think a lot of this also applies to Facebook. It’s so easy to get discouraged. I’ve been feeling the algorithm change with Pinterest and it has affected my blog tremendously. I’ve had to rewind and remind myself why I love blogging, take a break at times, and do my best to enjoy real life.
Thank you so much! I couldn’t agree more. In the end what’s the point of all this if we don’t enjoy life!
Thanks for sharing this! IG is no longer fun. 🙁 I really love this comments “awesome”, “Nice one”… I will keep on posting my pictures. Just for my own pleasure, and for my real followers.
Kind regards, Max
Thanks so much for reading Max! I agree with every word!
Thank you so much for sharing this article! I love how open and candid your are about it all and it is so refreshing to hear someone really tell it how it is! As someone who is relatively new to the public instagram world, it is great to understand what’s actually going on and that the things that frustrate me about instagram are all a result of these dirty secrets/hacks that people are doing!
Thank you so much for reading Kelly! I’m glad this helped shad some light onto the darkness surrounding the ig world!
Such a great read! It’s so hard to play by the rules when you know there are so many getting ahead by cheating the system, or at least paying to make it work better for them. I only use Comment Pods because I really like the community you get from them; they are always other accounts that I would follow any way. I actually wish that all of Instagram were more like pods, supportive, fun etc
I wish the same, hopefully we’ll clean up the system somehow!
Niki | Chasing Departures
Whoa! I had no idea about most of it! I am guilty of paying for a service to follow/unfollow and comment/like for me, but I stopped it a couple weeks ago because I started to feel guilty about it! I realized that I want to figure this insta thing out an be successful because I did it, not because a service did it for me.
So I’m in the process of cleaning it up and becoming the authentic me!
Good for you Niki! Being true to ourself and honest is the best thing we can do with our life!
And just like that, you received a new follower, me.
Keep inspiring others!
Thanks so much Dean 🙂
This article made me question everything I see. I’ve always admired some of these accounts with many followers because the posts seem so genuine in their encouragement of people to travel.
Now that I think about it, they only post destinations that they sell and only for specific locations in those destinations.
Sad really because now I don’t think I ever want to do an organized travel group.
Sad to say, I used to be in one of those Instagram mafia things (although we called it an engagement group and it wasn’t a chat but a facebook group). A few months in I finally sat back and realized, what am I doing? The people who are liking my pictures aren’t following me and don’t give a shit about me either, so what’s the point? So a few months ago I quit and it was honestly such a relief.
I have tried some of the other things you’ve listen here and the only one I’m still doing is the comment pod, because we actual leave genuine comments, hold discussions, and support each other. But I’m done with the rest. The sad part about this all is that if Instagram just gave users the option to see posts in chronological order none of this would even be an issue. It’s such a quick fix but
they won’t do it because then people won’t pay for advertising. I want to thank you for writing this post though, it’s so so so refreshing to see a popular instagrammer actually be open and honest about these sorts of things!
Amen Claire! it’s so fucking sad how greed is ruining something that started out as a beautiful thing!
First-time reader! I was directed here after someone in a social media managers group on FB linked this article and I thought it was great. Good on you for exposing the bullshit.
Thanks so much for reading!
Thank you for posting this, I loved reading your story and vision on Instagram and you managed to put down in words what I was thinking for a while now. But I’m just a small cookie (<1000 followers :)) but even I am confronted with the whole follow/unfollow game. I would love instagram to return to the chronological feed but I think that it will never happen…
Thank YOU for reading! It doesn’t matter how small of a cookie you are, you alone can make a huge different in this world!
Great post. You’re right 100% ….unfortunately.
Thanks for reading 🙂
Chistie Moore | Dark Blue Stripes
Thank you for taking the time to write this post!
Some of the the ‘tactics’ I was already aware of and others were shocking but unfortunately not surprising.
Even with my modest following I have been approached by companies that want to utilise these types of dodgy tactics. The sad part is that they don’t understand my decision to decline their “offers” due to ethical reasons.
Some people are too blinded by greed to understand Ethics!
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR WRITING THIS. It angers me so much knowing so many people cheat their way to Insta success when there are people who legitimately spend hours every single day growing their accounts genuinely and organically.
Thank YOU for reading! I feel ya!
Haha omg I love you!!! Someone needed to say it 😅. You’re amazing and I love you’re work. Never change beautiful! Happy that you believe in yourself too. Xox
Hahah Thank YOU so much Radha ❤️
Grande Sarà! Continua così! 💪🏽❤️📸
Grazie mille Deb ❤️
Your honesty and bravery are so refreshing. You are helping so many people with your clear explanation of what is really happening out there. I appreciate your ethics on this topic — it says a lot about you. And yes, it is brave to give up an unethical but common game that can work (at least for now) to move forward from the heart. I know you will succeed.
Thank you so so much, I’m so happy this was helpful to you guys! I think today more than ever there’s a desperate need for truth!
You’ve just said exactly what I’ve been feeling. Why keep honestly working so darned hard and getting nowhere? Because I can’t stomach the games. FB is doing it too. You have to pay for reach now and if you share too much then they put you in FB jail. Thank you for being brave enough to enlighten so many to what’s going on.
Thank you Julie ❤️
This is genuinely the best article I’ve read on this issue. I do consulting for marketing, social and am a social media Influencer manager, and this is the most thorough account on the real issues on Instagram out there.
Thank you for your honesty. Thank you for the transparency. I’m now going to share this with everyone I know.
Thank you so much Cory, yes please spread the word ❤️
I’m less concerned about the number of likes and followers I have on Instagram as I am a hobby blogger. What got me motivated to use the app was the map with all the pinned posts we made after we tagged a place in each of our photos. I am a visual person, so I enjoyed seeing where I really have been in the past. Once Instagram removed that feature in 2016, I was beyond annoyed to say the least.
Hi Sara, thanks for the super interesting article, i belong to igersfrance and we spotted already 4 years ago some members of the community that where cheating. They where excluded from the community but they are now instagram stars earning a lot of money with fake followers and likes. This was well before the new algorithm…is seems that instagram has always inspired cheaters.
Hey Ignazio, thanks for reading! hopefully we’ll manage to clean up the system a little bit 🙂
I quit Instagram a year ago, shortly after they screwed the chronological timeline. In my opinion everyone making money on IG is part of the problem. (And yes – sorry to say – that includes you.)
I understand what you are saying, but though I have been part of the problem in many ways,tilll today i made $0 out of IG!
This is scarry & sad at the same time 🙁 still like IG though…. we’ll see for how long;)
Yes scary and sad, but there’s always hope for things to get better!
Elaine J Masters
Loved Insta when I started too and when followers followed, commented, and became friends, it was a delight. My face still hurts from grinning when I scroll through. HOWEVER Shadowban happened and a lot of us working honestly have been shut out. I’m still posting. Can’t help it. Love great content and I play honestly. Live and learn – don’t abandon us, Instagram! @tripwellgal
I know it sucks on many levels but keep posting and playing it clean ❤️
Great post ! Thanks to you and good luck for the next
We love that people are actually talking openly about his finally. It’s driven us crazy for the past year or so. Stay the course and keep up the amazing work.
This is such a great post and thank you for writing it! Finally someone said it. I’ve gotten so frustrated with Instagram especially when I see all these newcomers suddenly growing their followers so quickly and I’m just left dumbfounded and think “what am i doing wrong???” Definitely miss the good ol’ days of Instagram.
Miss the old days too!
Thanks for your piece here. I literally just challenged my followers on this exact subject this week. It’s good to know that there are honest, hard working people out there, concerned with creating compelling work. I will find you on IG and give a follow, and NOT unfollow! 😄 Look me up, @Beholdingeye!
Thanks so much Paul 😄
This is just incredibly brilliant of you. A pity that Instagram has gotten too big to care about the people who are using it. And it’s a pity that it’s become so commercial. I started insta to be part of a bookish community and now i hate every second of it. Hopefully something else comes up and makes Instagram a thing of the past. Till then I guess we are stuck posting here.
I couldn’t agree more! ❤️
THANK YOU for this. I’ve been feeling the same exact way. Amongst the feels of anxiety, frustration, anger, and helplessness, at least from your post I have the reminder to be grateful for what instagram life has led up to thus far, at least. It needed to be said and you nailed it.
Thanks Sabrina ❤️
Thank you for sharing this. It truly is sad how things has become ! /Anna Munkhammar
Thanks for reading Anna!
So sad to see what Instagram has become, I loved using it in the early days. Its beauty was in its simplicity, I think now it has been ruined with all the bells and whistles that Facebook has added in its race to mimic Snapchat. I don’t use it much now. Interestingly, I was reading an article about Flickr and what happened with that when Yahoo bought it, a similar story.
I will still continue to do my best best to make Instagram all about stories and creativity and the art and The Work again. This is such an inspiring content. You let people know the truth and it’s the bravest content I’ve ever read. It’s wondertful and there’s a lot of stories to learn.
I think, We just need to continue to do what we love, keep on inspring, be good and everything will follow.
Yess!! we need a lot of that! You are so kind Nilo, thank YOU for reading and beside continuing to do what we love I think it’s time we also make our voices heard! For a more honest world! 🙌
For the amount of time and effort you put into trying to game Instagram, which was never about the photographers anyway, you could build a more respectable photography business or work for a real advertising agency. Join SmugMug. Connect with ppl on dpreview forums.
Just don’t try to tell everyone you don’t want to be an IG ‘influencer’ if that’s what you intend to keep doing. 2/2
Thank you for your very insightful constructive criticism lol!!! I am a professional photographer and I do have a respectable photography business, my work was featured by major publications and by Canon and i worked with advertising agencies many times. You can google me and find plenty of stuff 🙂
I am not telling anyone I don’t wan to be an IG influencers, I’m simply saying we shouldn’t play dirty and that the system is flawed and corrupted, simple as that! Maybe give it a second read buddy!
Hi Sara! Thanks for writing about this! This is also what I feel about Instagram now. I don’t think I can even reach your number of followers because of the apps’ algorithm but I’ll just keep on doing what I love to do.
Hi Janis, Thank you so much for reading! SO many of you guys feel the same way! Please yess keep making things you love <3
How hypocritical. ‘Hey I can live and travel for free thanks to Instagram and the ‘dirty technics’ I used. But you should feel ashamed to even think about using them’. Easy to call for a change and talk about ‘what’s ethical’ only now you’ve made it.
Hahaha I’ve made it??? Define made it deary! Beside the fact that one of the first lines of this article is “I’m writing this with a heavy heart as I know I’m a huge hypocrite”, do you really think that having 27K followers on IG means that you made it?! you couldn’t be further from the truth buddy!
Perfectly encapsulates what is going on, and how Instagram lost what made it the best – the inspiring genuine community. I feel exactly the same, and will take away exactly what you are doing – using it for the art. For the work, for the pasison and for the community.
Thanks so much Bec 🙂
Thanks so much for this.its so frustrating seeing accounts fake numbers getting the gigs. I’m so surprised the brands don’t get it. If they don’t do their research on the influencer they are wasting time and money, but I’m not sure they get it?
I don’t think they get it at all! 🙁
Hi Sara, Rock on!
Keep doing you.
Thanks so much Ashley ❤️❤️
This is a post with serious impact.
Not only you share almost every trick in the book but you pin point how it all went wrong. It is quite open and brave of you to share all this.
I shared on FB and twitter, more people need to read this.
Thank you SO much for spreading the word!
I felt the same way and played with a comment pod for a bit but just don’t want to operate that way. Once I started to see bot comments on my feed, I dropped out of all of it.
I wish Instagram had stayed with its chronological order, but I guess there is no money that way.
Brands need to start looking for authentic engagement, and content producers need to stop relying on third party websites and apps that can change the rules any time they like.
Agree with every word!
I hate Instagram. I still post for the people I have following me and I do really enjoy scrolling through still but i hate the culture it has created. I want a new platform that rewards people for being honest, kind and a part of their community. I also hope people get more into blogs as blogging is what I like to do the most.
I hope I’ll get to see that platform one day!
The more I learn about Instagram the more it makes me frustrated and sad. I’ve only started on it about half a year ago, so I was late for the game and it feels like it’s almost impossible to grow your account genuinely, regardless of how hard you try. I’m still posting content, but I feel like it’s not worth the effort and time you need to invest just to survive if you play fairly. Which is sad.
I feel you pain 🙁
So happy to read this, as I think there really lack focus on this! I wrote something similar on my blog a few days ago, and as I see it the ones to blame are the companies that demands numbers and only numbers when they are looking for influencers to cooperate with. It has absolutely nothing to do with quality marketing, and they have to open their eyes for this!
Thanks for reading Heidi! they really do have to start opening their eyes!
I only started IG about 7 months ago. I’ve heard various rumors about some of the different things you mentioned.
Great job of laying it all out there. I don’t have the finances, time or desire to try and outsmart IG’s algorithms.
I love beaches and will continue to post pics of my travels. It may not capture the worlds attention, but hopefully a few will share my passion.
Thanks for sharing
That’s all it matters, do and share what you like!
So sad that you think that all instagrammers with a large number of follwers per definition buy followers. That is a huge accuse that is SO untrue. I’ve never ever done of the above listed things and I will never do. Those of my fellow IG-friends/collegues I see don’t do it either. Although we are all sad and a bit confused about what IG has turned into. But you have to keep your integrity
I never said that ALL instagrammers with a large following buy followers 🙂 maybe you should give it a better read!
Thank you for this reminder ❤️
Thank you for reading 🙂 ❤️
Amazing post. Thank you for your honesty and for sharing your experience! I’m new to the instagram/blogging game and this is great insight.
thanks for reading 🙂
So so true…I must admit ig became a part of my life. Spending more than 1 hour a day it became an addiction.
The more the better, who can blame those big accounts for asking so much money to post a picture, i would do exactly the same (i guess).
My account grew up steady but everything changed with those big accounts and the advertising. Ig is not free, it became a big company for…
Ellen van de Vusse
I have one question I need answered by every single blogger who is insta famous… who the hell is taking your photos??? Do you need an photographer BF to be insta famous cos I just cant figure it out !
haha check out my Q&A post, it will answer all your questions 🙂 🙂
Thanks for your honestly! So good that somebody is finally speaking about the dirty strategies.
Let’s stay real and authentic in this fake world!
Amen to that Kathi!
Thank you Sara for your exposé of the darker side of Instagram – you’re brave to reveal all of these practices and for the good of all involved we should share this information and support those who use IG genuinely and authentically. Let’s all share this and flush out the underbelly. . .
Thank you for a this, Sara. I do hope too that IG will be back to how it used to be. No more games. All should be fair and square again.
I hope so too 🙂
Thanks so much for sharing this Sara. Saw this on FB and pop by to read cos am really depressed to see IG accounts these days. The likes and followers are dropping, no Creative contents either to the extent of no longer feeling motivated.
Great to see your contents and had started following your IG. Keep it up ❤️
Thanks so much for reading Cassie ❤️
I miss the days where you could actually use social media to connect with people. It’s supposed to be ‘social’. I don’t like it when people telle who I can and can’t be friends with. Seems everyone wants to filter what we see, and that’s kind of sad. At least they can’t control the outdoors. We’ll, not yet, anyway :S.
Thanks for posting.
And that’s a dangerous game cause it skews our perception of reality, making a lot of people feel like their lives aren’t good enough!
Sara, Thank you so much for writing this and sharing. I’ve felt so frustrated with Instagram and just, well, annoyed! And your eloquence sums up my thoughts on that better than I can myself. I hope we can find a way to get back to seeing breakfasts at breakfast time and fairness in what is in the feed…..I want to love Instagram like I did, because I really did. Your content is beautiful x
Thank you so so much for reading and for the kind words Isabel ❤️ I really hope it will get back to be a beautiful and creative space!
Thanks for sharing this honest post, I will use it to explain to people how I feel about Instagram! 😉 I have 58k followers but I was told by an influencer agency that I should “work more on the engagement of my Instagram followers” if I want to get more paid work! Comments like these make influencers use tricks and scams to grow their numbers unfortunately.
Thanks for reading Giulia! Think that i have good engagement but I get no paid work because my numbers are too low…it makes me sick to my stomach how it all works!
So true. I have 4 accounts (1 personal) and have lost the original love of IG – capturing beautiful moments. Everything has a ‘filter’ including real. Good article but there were about 3 typos I spotted and I didn’t make it right to the end. Thanks for the read 🙂
English is not my first language and I don’t have an editor so unfortunately i miss typos sometime 🙂
Wow, love the fact how you just cut the crap out and say it as it is!
Such a great post, and so honest! I’m quite shocked to discover that bigger accounts are actually demanding money for featuring your account, personally, I think they have confused and misunderstood the whole concept of the platform itself!
Still, really enjoyed reading this post and glad I came across it!
Thank you so much Anna!
Wow!! I honestly didn’t know about half the stuff you’ve covered. Thanks for this, I now realise that IG is utter bs and I am perhaps never going to grow my business in there unless I am part of the crooked gang. So, I humbly bow out of this and will continue to just do me. Build my empire outside of this system – it is so sad though. Thanks again for sharing – wishing you continued success.
Just not long read your insight into Instagram….I had suspicions of match fixing etc…and wondered how so many have massive accounts in little time…we have been posting 12 months and just wondered what you have to do to get that sort of momentum….pretty much realized that we do it for ourselves what we enjoy and the rest happens as it will….well done in the article & responses
What an honest account of everything that’s going on on Instagram. I struggle with this everyday and even though the numbers are such a ego boost I could never get myself to do. Partly because I didn’t know how and something about it said it was just wrong. It’s time for the content to be king, more power to the people and their work. What a brave piece of work from you and wish you much success!!
Oh Sara… thank you for laying this out. I’ve recently started building an IG account for my own personal amusement. Now I feel better about no reposts of my photos… since I’m not really interested in the competitive aspect of it.
The InstaDouche thing confuses me though. Why would someone follow and then unfollow? I look forward to your insights.
Thank you so much for posting this. It’s true, and it’s awful. I miss what Instagram was!!
This is exactly what Twitter went through in the early days as well. It’s the life cycle of a social platform. I felt the same way as you did.
What I have learned by stepping back from the system to look at the big picture is that the platforms are taking the right steps though. They need to make money. Also if you are a creative, you do need to market yourself and understand strategy to succeed.
I had the perception that istagram works as you say, especially people that follow you for a couple of days to get your like and then unfollow you …as there are thousand of app to get like , followers , unfollowers even for free..it’s so easy to see the most of foklowrs are fake! So good for you to be so straight but nothing new..and I’m not an expert at all!
I miss the old Instagram. The current algorithm and all the tips for beating it feel like cheating. It has become a competition instead of a visually artistic platform.
It’s so easy to lose yourself on Instagram for the sake of likes and followers…thanks for sharing the dirty secrets going on behind the scenes! You’ve got some really amazing photos, so I hope your travels will continue to genuinely inspire you, regardless of Instagram. Also, not to be rude, but there’s quite a few typos, so perhaps a quick glance over would help 🙂
Ciao Sara! Ti ho conosciuta attraverso Roberta, che ho avuto il piacere di conoscere di persona lo scorso mercoledì.
Ma non si riesce a uscire da questo loop instagramiano??? Non si riesce a collaborare tra footgrafi/e????
Io scatto da anni e ho il profilo fin dagli antipodi di instagram e ho grandissime difficoltà a crescere e mi sono sentita spesso inadeguata, perchè vorrei anche cambiare vita!
Hi Sara, thank you so much for speaking the TRUTH! It is greatly appreciated and I truly hope that this starts a much-needed conversation about Instagram culture. I wrote a blog post early this year called ” A midsummer Night’s Dream: The Wonderland Connectiveness of Instagram Culture” that talks about the obsession of beautification that tries to hide shame which is fueling this type of monster
nice post. I had no idea about all these. Here me working my ass off , photographing the daily life of Thailand but no followers at all. now i know why . sad but satisfied at least i’m not a con artist 🙂
thanks for the interesting read – even so one suspects some of this it´s interesting to read and in the end it´s us the user who can change things. I follow a lot of travellers and when they start to post all the same things I just unfollow them – it´s us who curates our stream and I´m just looking for interesting people and content.
Quante parolacce. Lavati la bocca.
I love your honesty, it is more than refreashing! It’s so true about playing the game. I recently decided to quit all of it just like you did, but my account hasn’t grown literally at all in weeks. It’s truly heartbreaking that playing the game is really the only thing that works right now!
I can’t add anything else here… It’s all been said in the comments. I have been intending to write something about this issue too but, obviously, I wasn’t brave enough. There must be a solution to this issue…
Brilliant post Sara, I had no idea this was how instgram was working and I’m shocked that some accounts ask for money! I have become increasing frustrated with seeing the same stuff on Instagram with the lack of originality, I’ve really been hunting to see something else. it’s really refreshing to hear an honest opinion, it’s more influential than anything. And your photography is beautiful x
Grazie mille. I will be starting my own travel vlog and this was a reminder to never forget what your mission really is. Happy for you 🙂
So true Sara! I absolutely admire your strength to come up with such alarming topic.
Great reading, beautiful thoughts. Your work is amazing and I’m glad you play it clean!
Thanks for sharing. Fortunately, my IG account is an experiment in trying to get legit followers. It’s really slow😉. You’ve explained a lot to me and validates what I’ve told others about followers. I check every follower and can often predict the trends in my numbers. Have not hesitated to report commenters advertising to get me likes. Never followed someone for commenting on or liking a post 😉
Nice, Sara! It’s nice that you noticed that you yourself were going in the direction you didn’t want, stopped, took a deep breath, and decided to change it. I am building my Instagram slowly because I really want to be followed by people who like my work. What does a like mean when it’s got nothing to do with actually liking something? Take care xx
Hi Sara, I’ve only been on Instagram for a year or so and it’s been hard work to get organic reach not that I have a big following but like you say, it’s become a strategy game instead of a social platform to share and appreciate beautiful imagery. lts sad that things have progressed to this level but greed gets the better of people and brands. 🙁
I just stumbled across your article on Business Insider and looked you up out of curiosity.
I have to say, it takes REAL courage to stand up against the bullshit and speak your truth, no matter how hard your voice shakes.
BRAVO, girl, BRAVO!!! I don’t even know you and honestly, you said everything that I’ve always wondered about.
I’m officially a HUGE f*cking fan of yours!!!!! YASSS!!!
Thank you! I may never have more than a handful of followers, but now I won’t kick myself either for spending more time on what I love and less time trying to promote myself against an algorithm that squishes the little guy.
Hey Sara! Great article and so sadly true 🙁 I’ll just keep chipping away at my Insta-mountain and growing it organically. I feel better doing it this way personally and I really don’t care what others do. The whole social media world is corrupt af…
Take care and keep clicking 😉
I am confused about why this is Instagram’s fault and why you didn’t just keep posting authentic content. Was it because you were afraid you wouldn’t make as much $$$ with brands? You do realize you’re marketing yourself for free using Instagram, right? And I don’t understand what is wrong with a collective charging; you are buying an ad to market yourself, why should you get that for free?
I’m in. I was a pretty avid instagrammer who used to post the pictures I took on a regular basis. Though I don’t have a huge fanbase, I enjoyed the platform. Sadly with this new evil algorithm started ruling I saw how undue was the priority given to irrelevant posts and how they bagged immense popularity.
I’m rather dormant these days and feels the same as you felt when I even think of posting.
Thank you for this post. I’ve worked hard to grow my Instagram and nothing has worked. I discovered the algorithm about a month ago and was shocked at what Instagram had become. But I’m not giving up. I’m just done comparing myself to unrealistic social media standards. I’m in this…the clean and ethical way.
Great article. It just confirms whats going on at the moment on IG. There more examples of how numbers are being misused and hubs overturned into somethings else. Thanks for sharing
It has always been like that even before “explore”, now more so.
Also, I unfollowed all group accounts a long time ago and I wish I could turn them off altogether in the explore feed as well because all they do is generate traffic and engagement for themselves, hardly anyone bothers to tap through to the actual artist…
Wow, thank you for this article Sara. I just came across you through Mantra Yoga & health and love your beautiful images on Instagram – keep going!
I wander if there is any hope for those of us who are relatively new to Instagram to build our brand. This seems to be happening with a lot of the other platforms too. There must be a more creative and soulful way to share our stories and our art.
“no one cares about being original anymore”
How sad is this.
Looks like social networks -or I’d say we, through them- are killing creativity.
Great post laying it all out! The platform is developing and changing so quickly that I, for one, am still trying to wrap my head around these changes. Really appreciate the time you took to write such a truthful, detailed post that really rings true!
This is such an eye opening and honest post! Thank you so much for sharing! I’ve been trying to organically grow my following on Instagram by posting quality content for the past 2 years, and although it’s a slow and painful process, I never stopped because I loved creating content!
There’s only one way out of this: back to the good old blog posts and RSS feeds. I’m also sick of following people and getting news from advertisers I never choose to follow, this happens on all social media now, even on twitter. I regret people left their blogs in favor of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. I can follow blogs using feed readers in a normal unpolluted timeline.
I so so appreciate this! It’s incredibly hard not to let the game of IG get to you. I started my acct only a few months before the algorithm began and it’s been a struggle to see some explode and others of us sit on the sidelines. But like you said, my worth isn’t in this! Thanks for being so honest and open! @sweet_domicile
Had a travel blog long ago. Never cared for ads or anything, staying true to my ideals and few readers. Put much effort in the articles but had to stop because it was too time-consuming. I sometimes write guest-posts on other blogs and have IG. I considered being active again but I just cant sell out myself. And there dies my dream…
Thanks for your honesty and for staying genuine!
Thank you for this! A friend sent me a link to your blog post after I was complaining so much about Instagram. I think one thing that would be helpful is if Instagram reverted to a more honest algorithm. Just post photos when they’re posted! Can we start a petition or something? I know plenty of people who would sign. Other than that I don’t have any better ideas just yet.
I’m a newbie at this so I joined this Fb group to get advice. Everyone was sharing their links so I shared mine for the 1st time nonchalantly. Then everyone was like, “commented, shared here’s mine.” I remembered your post. Can’t believe I joined a mafia! I never looked at the group before but when I did just now, I was like “omg this was what she was talking about” I just left them just now too.
Thank you for your honesty in sharing all the games going on behind IG. Have you seen the Black Mirror episode called “Nosedive” (season 3, ep. 1)? This numbers game has us tracking towards a future like that and it’s horrifying.
Chronological posting should be a given. Bummer. It’s what ruined FB, and will ruin IG. They should’ve been smarter.
That said, I’m going to go follow your account!
I am getting lots of Italian followers and I was oh cool Italians like my work, but then I saw as soon as I followed them back they unfollowed me. I realized there is a trick behind all of this. How sad is this world we live in? Noone cares about anyone, its just about followers, numbers. I quit my job because I had to trick people (commercial tv) as I dont want to be part of this fake world!
Wow! An article to enlighten us all. Thank you. I found your article whilst searching the web for ” what do people get out of posting to Instagram”. Instagram and Facebook changes have had a negative effect for small business. It works only if you are prepared to invest many dollars and time into it. My time is too precious!
I read your blogs regularly. Your humoristic style is awesome
I know all the tricks but never used them. Im glad people realise what insta had become but its so unfair. I try so hard to create a great instagram and have no visibilty. I realised that everyone is buying everything. Without cheating the only way to have more visibility is the # list but how can i get to the top 9# when people are buying 1k likes in a minute.So discouraging. Thanks 4 ur article🙏🏻
Thank you SO much for exposing the ugly side of getting the likes and numbers on Instagram. I salute you! Unfortunately, where does that still leave us – honest Instagrammers who are trying to grow their brand through original content that we put our time, heart and soul into?? Our work is still not seen! Until Instagram change this algorithm we cannot succeed 🙁
I totally agree! It’s so disheartening creating great content that no body sees!!
Nice shot! — Just kidding 🙂
I really enjoyed this post Sara, thansk so much for shedding light on the strategies people are using.
I’ve been trying to get traction on Instagram in the past year but felt it’s so slow. I grew 2 design blogs with 5 digit email lists ONLY organically and in legit ways and it took me a couple years, but on Instagram I can’t see how I get to that number.
2/2 So my question to you would be – do you have any recommendations on how I should grow my list in legit manners? Are comment pods that bad? And is there any good way to scale my following around my topic faster than just manually uploading every shot through Instagram?
What are YOUR tips for legit workflows for growth on Instagram today for people that have little following?
Thanks a lot!
A big, heartfelt thank you for telling the truth.
Thank you so much, Sara, for speaking for all of us!! I don’t want to play dirty games that IG forces us to play… I have been shadowbaned for no reason for a few days now, second time. I have to decide for myself – fight or flight.. Love your account, although I haven’t seen your posts on my feed for ages ❤️❤️
Hey Sara, omg I ” knew” Instagram scams were out there, but I had no idea how many. I just learned that for $4,500 you can purchase the “coveted” blue tick check mark 😂 to appear famous!! Even if you purchased 99% of your 350k followers. Idk, it gets very discouraging. So many people looking for the quick version of fame and fortune! Love this article and thank you for writing it!!
The dark and the ugly secrets of IG. every platform has its dirty secrets… that’s the nature of the game.
Thanks for putting such brave article.
great post, thank you!
it helped me a lot, i have just opened my third account to try to avoid the restrictions i kept getting from instagram.
my engagement is now down to 18 likes at most.
somehow i have turned a corner though, i’m going to just keep uploading the best work i can for me, my enjoyment, if i make 11 likes then i need to be happy with that.
thank you and best wishes, john
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I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and was curious what all is needed to get setup? I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very internet savvy so I’m not 100 sure. Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you
Just wanted to say powerful and thought-provoking post. I am on Instagram as a way to show my art to people who might otherwise see it. But after reading this, it is clear that I also need to look at having my own website in the near future.
What you have said is a real eye-opener and thank you for sharing this.
Interesting post. I can’t help but notice that you clocked up 25.6k followers on April 26, and 38.5k today October 24. That’s a mere +33% growth in 6 months. I’m guessing you had a hard time quitting.
I’m not sure what you are trying to say by that 🤔 I said I was going to quit playing dirty not that I was going to quit instagram 🙂
I have lost 500 followers in 10 months. I feel Instagram is no longer worth it. My followers no longer see my posts and the ones that do get annoyed with algothrims putting my post on their pages everyday on top. I regret being honest and trying to grow my viewership organically. The cheats now can be organic with the followers they tricked into following them because of false popularity.
Garry Winogrand (bet u don't know who the fkdatis?)
jesus christ who the fuck would follow this weak shit? instagram sucks ass, especially if “Photographers” like you can get thousands of followers. This has nothing to do with photography and your “work” is as interesting and nuanced as a room at the red roof inn. I will give you props for confessing to being just another con job though. Thanks!
Says the frustrated and angry wannabe photographer guy! hahaha i hate to brake it to you but I’m a professioanl photographer and after working successfully as a fashion photographer for years now I work sucessfully as a travel photographer. http://www.saramelotti.com much love jerk!
Thank you for sharing this post. I’ve been working hard on my social media accounts, and I could not figure out why the engagement was so low. You shed light on a lot of practices that I knew nothing about.
Adults really doing this? Sounds like kids thing, all those social media machinations. If people truly believe they “improve business” and that social media machinations are “mandratory netrowking”, then It’s very sad.
If aliens visit our planet I would be very ashamed for humanity.
If you want to make better business, make a better business. Nobody ever need instagram to improve it. It’s only: waste of time and waste of sanity.
It’s 2017, you clearly don’t understand how the world works!
Thanks for this post! Pretty sad to this happening. I’m an artist/designer and have used ig since way back to display my work.
Every year I’d be able to connect with different artists, drum up some work from potential clients, talk to others about our work etc. It was wonderful. This year, not one freelance job through ig & almost no engagement. I’ve tried lots of different things 🙁
But looks like there’s no coming back. If you’re not a “Big guy” there’s no hope. Guess it was good while it lasted! I hope something else for creatives comes a long, maybe we should be the ones to build something new?
such a great post. Thank you for helping me understand the ‘other side.’ I have a small, loyal following for 4,000 fans. I haven’t bought one, haven’t done any of the tricks you found. It doesn’t feel ‘real’ to me, and I’m glad you turned away from that. I did appreciate your advice on ‘collective accounts.’ I’ve seen a few, but didn’t understand why they were asking me to hashtag them
Now that I understand that, I think my ability to use Instagram will increase. Keep doing it the right way, and thank you for showing me some of the bad tricks to avoid and to look out for in others.
Followed you, of course.
Peace, and thank you
I felt compelled to write a comment (i never do this)…thank you so much for writing this!
Im a ‘nobody’ artist/designer trying to be a needle that stands out in this ‘needle in the haystack’ world, and trying to be original in a sea of imitators on ig…. i find myself constantly doubting myself, literally feeling like crap using the same tool that is the only reason ppl know i exist!…
Thanks for your honesty. One idea, that you might have already, is that you and other influential accounts could get together to petition Instagram to go back to the old chronological posting system. If Instagram realise that some of the best users of there platform believe it is being damaged they might listen. A long shot but maybe worth it. I totally agree with your article. Pete
Thank you for this info. It means a lot to me to hear this because I still love the platform and the creativity part of it. The community that create arts and inspires me every day. Best wishes to you beautiful soul.
Well, at least you earned one more follower.
Now, don’t forget to follow back, like and comment! Kidding, of course.
Have you seen episode “Nosedive” from “Black Mirror”?
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. what a breath of fresh air this was to read. There needs to be more honesty like this in the phony world of instagram. I love your work, and please keep creating and continue to fight the good fight!
I am currently writing an essay involving what you talk about throughout this blog. I was wondering if you would be willing to share some sources you used to write this post.
I would greatly appreciate it.
Thanks so much,
Hi Kristen, the only source was my own experience and feelings 😊, thoughts
I have spent hours researching how to grow a new insta account, first using all 30 hashtags which didn’t get much traffic like it used too on other accounts I have had. Then I see videos of follow/unfollow apps and just about to purchase I see a youtube video saying dont do those apps anymore and go to engagement groups. Talk about a ton of work and time! And it’s not even guarantee it works.
Io sono più per la tua parte, ma penso che un minimo di tecniche possano essere utili…in ogni caso, articolo stupendo! Complimenti✏🔥
Hi Sara, I created a food account about a year ago (I’m a pastry chef) but I haven’t touched my account since Dec because of all the reasons you mentioned. The follow/unfollow game drove me crazy & it was mainly accounts w/ a large following who were guilty of this. I’m thinking of getting back into it but I don’t know if it’s too late. I feel like I’m so behind…any advice would be appreciated!
Mi sono imbattuto in questo tuo post perchè, come te, ho provato lo stesso. Grazie per avere condiviso i tuoi pensieri.
ALL THE INFORMATION WHICH YOU SHARE ABOUT INSTAGRAM CREATED A MONSTER – A no bullshit guide to what’s really going on!. its really help for me
Hey Sara. Thanks for this honest and no bs post. I just got instagram 5 days ago solely in the hopes to get blog followers or people to read it. Already I am feeling a little fake & neurotic. It seems kind of fake to me and so do other peoples’ posts. They all look the same no matter how glamorous the picture is. I feel a disconnect between values & wanting to promote my work. Thanks for this!
Nice blog post. I knew alot of what you are writing here, but you definitely added information that I didn´t know. What I find interesting is how much time those of us who consider ourselves influencers spend on Instagram. As for me, I guess 15 minutes every day on my account Johnnybajdzjan, I guess if I spent more time, the number of followers would be bigger. But no, 15 min is enough for me…
Thank you for this! As a newcomer to the blogosphere and actually using my IG account, I felt like I was the only person seeing how fake everything seemed to be. Same lake photos. Same kid blowing bubbles in pastel dress photos. Obvious sponsored product photos. After reading your post, I see I was right about the IG-popular folks. It truly is all smoke and mirrors.
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Great post ! Thanks to you and good luck for the next
Thanks for the post. I was wondering how so many mediocre photographers and good photographers got so many likes and followers. Now for sure I will just stay with what I have been doing and grow organically if that happens. I had been hoping to gain more followers for future photo workshops but it doesn’t seem worth it.
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Your post was referenced to a FB group that I’m in. The subject of IG came up and not in a positive way. Thank you for writing this post, it helps to ground newbies like me on the reality of IG.
Its great to see this post. I really appreciate your work
Great insight – thank you for sharing.
However, on your MTV point and on being featured in other publishers’ content, why would they NOT ask for money? Economics explains it pretty well.
It’s literally the same as any influencer asking for money from other companies or brands for their posts. Your following(eg. MTV) brings eyes and attention and is obviously worth something many would pay for.
Best article, Very please to read it
This is such an important article and I am so pleased you have brought this to the attention of people. I recently closed down all my social media because of this. I cannot believe the competitive and outright aggressive behaviour that is coming from people because they will stop at nothing to get ahead. Pods have created a monster and it has stopped being about the creative element.
such an excellent blog and best way to learn more things.
Wow, I’m so late but am so happy that I just read this, I love what you said. The mafias and artificial influencers discourage those of us who are just starting off and really do want to grow organically. I see their pages and feel insignificant like I can’t reach that point by being me. I want to take the journey but never lose who I am! Thank you for the inspiration. I am so happy for you!
Just look at this work How beautiful those photo Wow! Adorable Love your take on all this craziness and the honesty of this post. Your posts are some of our favorites
wow ! amazing article thanks for sharing!
This is very informative blog thanks for sharing. It is very useful for us.
Many Thanks 🙂
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I agree with the post and in my story, the starting point was the same, and the end was very worst because I do not the ethics of using “Instagram” but your post has inspired me and I am gonna start with a role and I really appreciate the post. Thanks!
I still care about doing things right. So I think it’s time to stop the bullshit and come clean and tell you exactly what’s happening. I owe you that, because if i get to live the life I live today, if i get to do what i love the most—which is traveling, writing and making art—it’s also thanks to you guys! thats i preferd to make animation movies of nature capture things to show other Hollywood
I think this is well put, but for me IG has always been the bubonic plague of social media. From a basic user POV, its the doctored images people post to make their lives look so much cooler than they really are, creating a negative environment and social pressure.
Also, IMO, influencer as a job causes me problems. Traveling and taking pictures is not a job! Its vacation. There is only room for a few of these people. IG, for me, is cancer, subliminal advertisement, a new and more potent form of making ordinary people feel shitty about their lives and I think it shouldn’t exist altogether. Lmk your thoughts. (I know its neg, but not trying to be aggressive) .
wow ! amazing article thanks for sharing!
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WE GO TO IG SPOTS (guilty) really grate an article and features so good and amazing thanks for sharing.
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These are some of the stunning photos for social media. I love these tips for capturing outstanding photos.
This is indeed a monster! Thank you for sharing
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Amazing work Sara Thank you so much for sharing your blessing. I agree start finding ethical solutions to stop this monster!
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Thank you on a detailed impressive guide! Saved your post for the future 🙂