Is instagram hiding your artwork?

by Jess Wilby on October 31, 2017

Ever since Instagram changed the way they arrange content on the home feed, users have been noticing a decrease in follower interaction. In a matter of months, as the new algorithm rolled out, budding instagram artists complained that their uploads are now virtually invisible. Photos from up to a week old featured at the top of their once chronological feed and it seemed as if new user content was relegated to the bottom.

So what happened?

Whilst t may seem somewhat superficial to complain about a decrease in likes on a social media platform, for artists in particular, social media interaction is a life source. Some of our favourite creatives have spent years building their audience online, only to be held back by Instagram’s moving goal posts.

Artists were once able to interact with their audience in real time. Now a complex combination of secret ranking factors judges who sees your artwork and when. The issue is that digital marketing experts don’t actually know what these ranking factors are. Instagram’s algorithm is what makes it unique, so the tech giant is particularly tight-lipped on what users need to do in order to make it to the top.

After you’ve put in the hard work to grow your audience are you really going to throw in the towel? No! You’re going to fight back to give your content the exposure it deserves.

Plan your grid
Instead of posting on Instagram whenever the moment takes you, post with purpose. There are plenty of apps that will help you plan your content and create an upload strategy.

By planning your grid in advance, you’ll also be able to see how each image looks alongside one another. You’ll find plenty of apps that will help you with this. Our favourite is Plann App, which allows you to pull images from cloud storage instead of clogging up your phone with high-res files.

Carefully curating your feed opens up new ways to display your artwork. Maybe you want to create a mosaic or a coloured theme? Using a grid planner takes away all the guess work. You’ll also no doubt enjoy planning your uploads in advance, instead of struggling to find something new to post each day.

Go back in time
Is there a particular post that performed better than all the others? Perhaps you uploaded something one day and suddenly all eyes were on you? It’s hard to recreate those magic moments, but if you know what you’re aiming for it’s easier to hit the target. Go back and find your key social media breakthroughs and think about what made them capture your audience’s attention.

Was it the time of day you posted? Did your content relate to something newsworthy? What did people say they liked about it in the comment section?

These little breadcrumbs of information will help your build a bigger picture of what content your followers want to see. The trick may well be hidden in your history.

Choose between business or personal
Instagram users now have the choice between using a personal or business account on Instagram.

Switching to a business account will give you access to analytics that will help you build a social media strategy. Whilst there are other apps which claim to give you similar information, nothing is quite as accurate as Instagram itself. You’ll be able to see where the majority of your followers are from, their age and how they interact with your content.

On the other hand there’s the personal account, which you’ll probably currently use. ‘Why would anyone stay on a personal account?’ we hear you ask… Well, there are unconfirmed reports that suggest personal accounts are favoured by the algorithm and that business accounts are held back in order to manipulate companies into spending more on Instagram advertisements. This is a theory based on Facebook’s similar strategy but it does lead us on to our next point…

Pay to play
The unfortunate truth is that, like Facebook, Instagram is becoming a pay to play arena. This means that to get the biggest reach you’ll have to invest. Organic reach has been cut dramatically in order to push more people towards advertising. However, this can be a little tricky for the average Instagram users who simply want to share their art and don’t have any prior knowledge of ad targeting.

If you’re new to paid Instagram ads you could simply check the ‘boost to my followers and their friends‘ option and increase your reach that way, but you’re assuming that all of your audience have friends that will be interested in the same artwork which isn’t always the case. If you work within a small niche, you’ll need to think a little differently to create an audience that targets the right people, or you’ll risk wasting your money on ads that don’t lead new followers to your page.

Watch your hashtags
The quickest way to kill your engagement is to use a banned tag. This becomes more and more difficult to avoid as Instagram temporarily bans even the most seemingly innocent of hashtags.

The reason for the bans? Spam accounts. Have you ever been followed by someone who was clearly a ‘catfish’ or a company promoting less than desirable products? These are spam accounts and Instagram hates them. Most of them are computer generated in bulk and post annoying advertisements under popular hashtags. They often post content that goes against Instagram’s terms of service, so when other users see them clogging up their favourite hashtags they rightly report the accounts.

However instead of dealing with each account individually, after a high amount complaints under the same tag, Instagram shuts down the hashtag to stop spam accounts from promoting their content there.

We suggest that before uploading your picture and using any hashtags, you should double-check that none of the ones used in your caption are banned. Once you use a banned tag, it taints your upload and limits the amount of exposure you receive.

Admit your sins
Ok, it’s time to own up. Have you purchased fake followers? They could be coming back to bite you. It’s been suggested that inactive accounts bring down your ‘engagement ratio’ – the amount of followers who actually engage with you compared to your potential organic reach. Whilst Instagram has not openly said that this is part of their new algorithm, they have been trying to dissuade users from buying fake followers and this could be part of their strategy.

Anyone with a spare £20 can buy followers, but you’re not really investing in your social media presence when those static accounts don’t engage with your uploads.

If you want to make sure that inactive/fake followers aren’t scuppering your chances, we have a trick to get rid of them! It’s tedious work but to get rid of fake accounts you’ll need to put your profile on private which gives you the option to manually force unfollow each account. It will take you a fair bit of time, but the rewards might just be worth it.

Broadcast live
Your static images may be beautiful, but Instagram’s new live broadcast feature has changed the game completely. By live streaming, you can show your audience exactly what goes on in your studio. Open the curtains and let them peep through the window. You’ll be amazed at how responsive live audiences are.

Instagram also gives people push notifications when someone they’re following goes live, which might reengage old followers who no longer see you on their home feed.



It’s tricky to navigate Instagram’s new algorithm and we’ve no doubt that things will swiftly change again once we think we’ve cracked it! But with a little perseverance and some artistic magic, you’ll be bringing in the numbers again in no time!


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