Since starting my own marketing company, I have been promoting myself and my travel blog online through social media. I always knew about social media as I am a millennial and I grew up with these platforms, but I didn’t realize how much social media has dominated society until this latest encounter. I never was one dreaming of becoming an Influencer, but in this wave of Influencers and Influencer Marketing, everyone seems to be shooting for that.
As the age of Facebook is dying and Instagram is at its peak with Tik Tok coming around the corner pretty quick, it has been interesting for me to delve deep into the realm of Instagram. In a short time, here are several things that I have learned from Instagram about social media, about society, but also about me as a person and as a marketer.
1. A New Algorithm
Instagram apparently has a new algorithm. It is no longer how many likes you receive, but rather how many people or accounts engage with your profile and postings. The more comments and interactions you get, the more likely your posting and profile will be seen by others; thereby, increasing your followers. And, with Instagram cutting down accounts that have bought followers and likes, people are now resorting to creating and using Engagement Pods. People are even hiring others to make sure their account is engaging with enough people and their followers to maintain and grow. This is becoming a totally new career position.
2. Engagement Pods
These are groups that people join in order to guarantee their postings will get likes and comments to play into this new algorithm. There are an assortment of groups with a variety of rules. Some are small such as 10 or so while others can be hundreds or even thousands. These groups can be held through Facebook or Instagram or any other chatting option. The rules of the one I was briefly in were:
- A. You had to follow new members
- B. Within 24 hours you need to like and comment on everyone’s posting of that day
- C. If not, you will get kicked out
I am a part of a few groups for blogs and the 24 hour rule is too stressful to me. I was even bullied because I went over 24 hours in one group on Facebook. For me, the rule that this group could be over 100 or 1,000 members and you had to participate with everyone, scared me because I was already put down beforehand.
There are numerous articles about these engagement pods. One I read mentioned how she had to use a software to help her catch up, but it still took 15 to 30 minutes in a group of 1,000 or so. As an entrepreneur myself, I have a lot of things on my to do list. I have even found entrepreneurs that are parents commenting in these “24 hour” groups apologizing because they had to take care of their children and would be late to complete the task. When did parents have to apologize for being good parents?
I left the group to save myself the stress and anxiety and I am not even a parent yet. I realized later as I was engaging with those I already followed, I am very happy to engage with fellow entrepreneurs and accounts that I like, but once you have these restrictions and rules on me…it ruins the fun. What you enjoy should not be stressful. Engaging with others, seeing cute photos, getting inspired by travel stories, should not cause me stress, but rather, should uplift me, empower me, and motivate me in a good way.
Stories have been around for a little bit now, but due to the new algorithm and the new wave of Influencers, stories have become more important. Not only are companies hiring to have people post consistently and engage, but one of the job requirements for social media managers is that they post stories often throughout the day. Some accounts even have 2 different brand identities: one for what they posts and the second is for their stories. Perhaps in their postings they are the perfect model, but in their stories they show how they handle being a mother. This has led to some followers and fans not liking this difference and prefer the original branding. Some Influencers have remained silent in stories and just repost their postings there instead. Time will tell how society will handle all of this.
Some are even hiring people to help them respond to comments from their stories because their engagement is too high. This is great! I am glad they are achieving that level of engagement in their business. However, I have found that these entrepreneurs are so stressed they might lose their followers if they don’t respond in time. It is creating new jobs, but I question how it is affecting the health of those involved?
I didn’t realize how big filters were until now. I knew people would filter and edit photos, but it wasn’t until I started to see the same accounts….oh wait, different accounts, but the same photos….oh no, the same FILTER that I realized how absorbed people are in the appearance of postings. There used to be the trend “#nofilter,” but it appears that particular hashtag is no longer used and I see why. The latest trends at the time of writing this article are filters that are pink, tan, and a beige coloring. There are even companies that have arisen to meet these demands to sell special filters. Which, as an entrepreneur myself, I don’t disagree with. When there is a demand- the supply will come! However, the more I am connecting with other bloggers and Instagramers, the more I see the same profile/account. #sorry #notsorry
5. No Diversity
My final point. I have always been a big promoter of being yourself. Do not be fake. Do not follow trends. Just be YOU!
What I mean by “don’t follow trends” is that when the latest thing is to buy a certain brand of shoes, it doesn’t mean you have to buy that shoe. As a marketer and entrepreneur, you have to go where your target market it. That is not following a trend, that is just good business practice. Being active on social media is great, but be active in YOUR brand identity and personality. Not the brand identity and personality of every other account.
I am going to be honest here, this past month and a half of being (super) active on Instagram, yes I have reached almost double my following from when I started being active, but this month and a half has made me depressed for society, for where the world is moving towards.
For travel accounts and photos specifically, it is no longer about travel and experiencing new places and cultures, but it is instead what spot would look good on Insta, what pose is best, or what clothes to wear in front of this mountain view. There are even blog posts commenting on the best spots to take an Instagram photo in Paris, Montreal, or Los Angeles to name a few. Because of this, we have all moved away from authenticity.
It appears these Influencers or those aiming to be called Influencers are all the same. There is no longer diversity. There is no longer passion, but rather a copy paste.
I will continue to be active on social media for right now though I look forward to the day where I don’t have to be. But I refuse to bow into this trend and the pressure to make everything perfect when LIFE IS NOT. I want to be real. I want to be authentic. Above all, I want to enjoy the time where I am at. I want to be who I am and not what society determines.
It is rather interesting because studies have shown that people trust companies with a social media presence more than companies that do not have one or are not as active. However, with this trend of being the same and having similar fake images, is that really trustworthy?
Studies further show how social media is ruining the younger generation in terms of self-confidence, bullying, and stress. How can we expect people to live happy healthy lives if already at a young age they feel pressure to be this fake perfection they see. I am older and I still have this sense of pressure and anxiety.
As a marketer, I want people to connect with the brand, connect on a personal level, because at the end of the day, beauty runs only skin deep. What lasts are the emotional connections. I want to make brands stand out from the crowd and not just be one of the many. I want the brands I work with to shine and be memorable and as far as I can see in today’s society and trends, the only way of doing that is to be different.
One last story, before leaving that engagement pod group, I noticed one profile. I looked her up and saw she had about 37,2000 followers. Her photos were all the same- that pink filter with her in different poses and nice outfits. However, when I looked into her likes and comments, they ran short. She was only getting an average of 5 to 7 comments each picture. Statistically for 37.2K following, it is a bit strange, one would think it would be a higher number.
I don’t know where her followers came from, but I do know, as a marketer, I rather have a smaller customer base that connects with the brand, that loves the brand, that engages with the brand, rather than a high number with little to no engagement. People who are passionate about something will share it with others and continue to be loyal to the brand. Like anything, a long-term meaningful relationship is more special than a one night stand.
In terms of my own Instagram, I have found that I get more likes and comments on photos that are different such as photos of me when I was a young girl or a photo of me skiing with a watermark on it because I didn’t actually want to pay for that photo (Thanks Alta ski resort!). Or even, a picture of a board game I played with my family the night before.
At the end of the day, it is between the marketer and the owners of the actual brand to decide the brand strategy. My last thoughts:
- If you are stressed and have anxiety over this or anything, leave it. Your health is more important.
- Love for brand is better than high numbers.
- Be unique, be different, be YOU