If you are like me- you spent the majority of your high school Statistics and Calculus classes eating candy and napping- but regardless of how you performed in math- you are, by now very familiar with the internet’s new buzz word: Algorithm
First off- do any of us even really know what that means!?! Here is a dictionary definition: “a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.” More simply defined in this article from SLATE: “An algorithm is a sequence of instructions telling a computer what to do.” So basically, Facebook, Instagram, whatever- receives information from your activity- it inputs this activity into a series of programed “if this, then that” instructions and next thing you know- Kim K is showing up in your Instagram home page because you went down a rabbit hole of makeup conturing how to vids last night at 3a after you had too much coffee after dinner…
So now that we have gotten THAT out of the way- lets get to the real issue at hand- The Algorithm rules have changed and now even your grandma is reposting that super annoying FB comment begging the digital Avatars of the Facebook community to “Leave a comment so we can stay connected.” Meanwhile on Instagram… the baby bloggers are “literally dead” (in the really bad “OMG I’m actually freaking out though”) kind of way- because all of a sudden their “cute outfit with the street art backdrop” and the “thirsty thirty” hashtags (no shade- I do this all the time) isn’t racking up the likes like it used to (AmIRight?)
Here is a Video that clearly outlines the new guidelines on IG:
Sooooo… Instagram has changed the rules and if I’m being totally honest- I dig it. In my opinion- the quest for numbers as a reflection of status and influence- led to an overgrowth of bots and automated account activity; mindless scrolling and double taps and, let’s face it- was ruining the overall experience of Instagram with… loads and loads of spam. (Check out this fascinating NY Times Article on Fake accounts: HERE) So while some people are up in arms over the new rules- I’m excited to give my fingers a break from typing out all those freaking hashtags on every post, and getting back to what got me excited about the forum in the first place: sharing creative content and cultivating genuine engagement. That being said- everyone wants to know how you get your instagram to “work” (AKA dolla bills y’all) for you- so I thought I’d put together my tried and true successful actions from the past several years.
1) TAKE A SECOND TO REALIZE THAT THE INTERNET IS A MIRACULAOUS FREAKING GIFT! So while everyone is whining into their latte about how “Instagram is killing their business” just take a breath and think about how it was before the internet. If you were a photographer- for instance- you had to develop your pics painstakingly in a dark room and then you would have ONE physical print that you could show people. If you wanted to get reproductions or create a book- it was more time and money than most artists starting out have. So just take a second and send some prayers up to the creators of the smart phone- because despite all we can say about how they are ruining our lives- the fact that you can hold a device in your hand that records and edits high quality video, then have a free piece of online real estate to share it – AND you can do most of this in your freaking bed looking haggard AF- is a freaking miracle of modern technology that no artist should take for granted. Back when I lived in LA and wanted to create high quality video content – I would need to buy a $2000 camera, shoot it, then burn it onto a DVD and run around handing this DVD to people and hoping they would take it to a DVD player and watch it. Now as an Actress, I have the ability to record and edit skits and monologues ON MY PHONE and then upload them to: YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc, etc. I can email that link to people, I can post it in Facebook groups- I can drive people to it with hashtags and I can even throw a few bucks at it and get it rolling through the feeds of people who work in the entertainment industry (Yes, I have done this and YES I have gotten work this way) I can find artists I like and admire, comment on their pics and maybe even develop professional relationships this way! AND, I REPEAT, I CAN DO MOST OF THIS FROM MY BED (I’m in my bed right now- writing this actually) LOOKING HAGGARD AF!! So- utilize social media for the wonderful opportunity that it is and when the game changes, stop your whining and learn the new rules.
2) Post EVERY SINGLE DAY and use relevant hashtags, both the popular and more local/boutique/niche hashtags. Facebook isn’t as much of a Hashtag world- but post often on FB as well and utilize your PERSONAL page. You will get more exposure usually when posting there- so keep your business page updated because, why not utilize the free outflow- however small, and post to your personal page as well. INSTAGRAM HAS CHANGED THEIR RULES (see video above)- SOME SAY MORE THAN 5 HASHTAGS WILL DECREASE EXPOSER. IRRELEVANT HASHTAGS WILL GET YOU FLAGGED AS “SPAMMY” AND DECREASE EXPOSURE. However there are A LOT of opinions. Check out this article from Feb 2018 for some good hashtag information. Even with the rule change- I usually gain 2-5 followers with each post. 50-60% of those are fake/ spammy followers who are going to unfollow or fall off- but a percentage will follow you because they like you. And why are they going to like you…? Because you keep it coming fresh and hot with 1-3 bomb ass posts per day yo!
3) SOCIALIZE!!!! when I say I’ve worked hard for the followers I have- I sincerely mean it- this can not be understated. I sometimes get cranky with people who want to gain more Instagram followers and then they don’t do anything to obtain or engage with these followers. Listen, if you don’t want to do the work and you just want to spectate on Instagram and have a personal account- cool, no judgement- but if you have a company/project/blog/vibe/band/art that you want to get into the world YOU MUST ENGAGE. It’s like if you went to a party and sat in the freaking hallway the whole time- it doesn’t matter how cool you were or how rad your outfit is- no one would ever know you. YOU MUST COMMUNICATE! In the past year- I probably spent an average of 10 hours per week on instgram networking, liking photos, finding ppl and commenting, I spend about 1 hour every morning when I wake up just engaging with the community I have cultivated, responding to EVERY single comment with a personal message, etc. Not only does this help boost your exposure- but your fans (even your mom) have taken time to check out your content and bless you with a nice comment and some feedback- they deserve an acknowledgement and some sincere appreciation. Recently- since instagram has a bullshit algorithm- and I don’t see all the posts of my friends or ppl I follow- I will scroll through my followers and people I follow and click on their pages- liking a few pics and commenting- just to stay in touch and stay engaged. Getting involved in like minded groups and blogger/photographer etc groups on FACEBOOK can also really help.
This is freaking vital- you MUST be ACTIVE and IN COMMUNICATION. Instagram is totally oversaturated- so if you aren’t providing valid, real content and communication to people- why would they want to follow you or continue to follow you?
I have even gotten to the point where I no longer follow a lot of really cool photo accounts- simply because there are already a ton of others just like them. I want to be inspired and motivated. People are looking for a real, interesting, unique engaged, HUMAN who is providing them with interaction, value and content they can gain something from.
4) CONTENT, CONTENT CONTENT!!!!!! I can’t create your vibe for you- there are a ton of great blogs out there about creating beautiful and engaging content and putting your best foot forward- but ultimately you are going to have to go through the soul searching and ever changing hard work of finding your own voice and vision.
You might have shit you really want to get out there and you might share it and get no response- I’ve had that happen, I’ve poured my heart and soul into meaningful posts that got seen by no one and like by even fewer- while some bathroom selfie broke the freaking internet. So do I give up? NO!!! You keep putting out what works while continuing to communicate and build your community until they know you, trust you and start to take the time to read those posts that really matter. You need to create content with value. Each follower is a fan- I don’t care if it’s your mom, she’s a fan. You are providing entertainment, art and value. You are providing a service FOR your fans and not the other way around. It’s not their job to like you and validate you- it’s your job to provide value to them. How you decide to provide that value is your own personal creation- but I promise you that if you are brave, bold, professional, consistent and give them real access to your heart and soul- they will start to catch on.
Another note on content- realize that people are busy, sooo busy and oversaturated- so give them things that are fast. Build up your fan base with a lot of fast, high impact easy to consume content and if they like you enough- they will start to tune in to your longer content. That doesn’t mean you should no longer go live or post longer videos, etc, but don’t get discouraged if not everyone watches it right away- provide them instead with a variety of content in a variety of lengths and formats.
5) USE INSTASTORIES First of all stories are freaking fun (ummm…GIF stickers- hellllooooo) Second of all- they are not as regulated as the formal feed so there are less annoying rules and guidelines. Everyone has their own “Story Vibe” but realize this is also a fun space to share- plus, if you are like me and super Type A about how your feed looks- stories are a great way to get raw and casual, showcase different aspects of yourself, capture behind the scenes, etc. And- if you don’t like to be on camera- that’s okay! You don’t have to talk to everyone all the time (like I do- LOL) stories can be a place to upload all those dank memes that you love but “can’t put in the main feed because it will ruin your aesthetic” Bottom line- stories are short term (except now you can even highlight your favorite stories and keep them on your profile) and interesting way to explore new ways of creating content for your fans. You can reach people and build an audience with stories that you wouldn’t nab with your feed. USE THEM! (and for the love of God- use them well)
6) NETWORK IN REAL LIFE! Whenever I meet new people I immediately ask if they have an insta- then I follow them, engage and do what I can to actually stay in touch. I try to answer ALL communication within a few hours and 24 hours maximum. I have business cards with my instagram info on them and I bring them everywhere I go. If someone likes my outfit and tells me so I say, “Thank you! I have a style blog! It’s really fun I think you’d love it!” and hand them a card. IT’S ALL ABOUT COMMUNICATION PEOPLE!!! Instagram is like a digital business card, it can help you get your foot in the door- but you have to keep it up with personal interaction and engagement. Instagram can be a powerful tool in nurturing professional relationships with people you originally met IRL.
7) LEARN!!! Always research, and learn and teach yourself. Everything you want to be able to do- google it and see what you can find out. If google doesn’t provide, find some Facebook groups to network and ask questions in, etc. For instance- I wanted to be able to post snippets of music videos I had styled on my Instagram the day they released- so I went online and googled how one would do this- watched some you tube vids- downloaded an app from for my phone for ripping videos of youtube and vimeo and now I grab footage from wherever I need to repost (like I was able to download my Facebook Live video of Iris Apfel and post it on my Insta-stories) That’s just one simple example- but I follow a lot of accounts I admire and whenever I see something that I like and would like to emulate- I research how I might be able to do it. Or if I think, “I’d like to be able to do X on instrgram.” I research it and find out how. And yes- it’s good to ask masters, but do your own research as well. As much as I’d love to be able to download the past 2 years of instagram content knowledge I have taught myself to you all- realize that I’ve spent years- reading blogs, searching google, testing apps and trying to learn all the things I know now- so you all need to put in the work and do your own homework as well.
8) STAY AWAY FROM THE BLACK HOLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA DRAMA, AND NEGATIVITY You will find it impossible to use Facebook or Instagram/ twitter, etc, as a tool for Production if your feed is clogged up with a lot of negative bullsh-t. You may need to stay friends with some ppl for business reasons- but you can unfollow them or click the option that says “see less posts like this” On instagram and twitter I follow people who I have worked with artistically and people and artists who inspire me. By utilizing the settings and options to unfollow negativity and boring content and follow those who encourage and inspire- you will increase your experience and your gain.
9) DON’T BE DISCOURAGED!! Listen, I’ve had epic failures, I mean EPIC. I’ve been slapped on the wrist for overactivity on IG- I’ve been freaking shadow banned, I’ve spent hours and hours creating content that no one cared about. I’ve had assholes DM me with rude pick up lines… Once- actually before instagram- I was featured on regretsy (a website that makes fun of bad stuff on etsy.com) and then later someone did a weird photoshop edit of me featuring Charlie Sheens face and strange looking flames coming out of my crotch. Personally I took it as a sign of success. Bottom line: you are going to fail right and left- the key is that you just keep going; throwing things against the wall to see what sticks and what works for you. So don’t stop. Remember that at one point- you really believed in yourself and had some super lucid moments of clarity and belief in what you were doing and why you wanted to do it- so even if you don’t feel that way now- just remember that self doubt is a bullshit lie, and the clarity you’ve had in moments of blissed out inspiration, is the truth.
10) READ I’m currently on this audio book kick- listening to books and autobiographies of successful people. It’s very helpful. When you study success, you will start to see helpful themes and patterns emerge. I am a big Grant Cardone fan and HIGHLY recommend two of his books: BE OBSESSED OR BE AVERAGE (which will really validate you if you’re a unique person who felt like they never fit in with the normal world and are obsessed with what you’re creating) and THE 10X RULE (Which really drills in the point that if you want to make it you need to radically increase your action and outflow)
GIRL BOSS is great- and I know I’m late to the party with that one- but it’s great- whether or not you are a girl.
Gary V also has an fantastic podcast channel (I listen to it on Spotify) with a serious WEALTH of info.
The bottom line is you need to study success so you can learn what successful people have in common. The rules of “What Time to post” “what hashtags are best” will always change- so you’ve got to stay creative- stay in the know by reading fresh blogs etc and PLAY THE GAME (remember it’s a game- don’t get too serious)
I love these guidelines because I can say with certainty that they will withstand all of the various internet trends and algorithm changes that come about as time goes on. A basic rule of success and survival has always been to create great products, work hard on constantly improving yourself and your craft and then communicate your message as widely as possible to as many people as possible using whatever communication channels are available to you.
We have this incredible gift of free global communication forums. Who knows how long they will last. Let’s utilize them to the hilt to communicate, survive and THRIVE.
Never Stop Creating, Never Stop Communicating,
Elisabeth Donaldson is an Actress, Model and Professional Creative living in Nashville, TN.