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Are the Golden Days of Instagram Over?

Published: 15/07/2019

Author: Tony Colangelo

I will start this article with a confession: I only opened up my first Instagram (IG) account just recently. Yes, this makes me an IG late-bloomer to say the least! I'd been feeling increasingly self-conscious about my lack of IG presence because, over the past few weeks, it's seemed that almost all my friends and family have asked me why I wasn't using it. The exclamation point on this came just a few days ago, when I received a very-pointed bit of feedback (to put it politely!) from a colleague, which included a stern chastisement regarding my lack of presence on IG.

In my own defense, the primary reason for not using IG has been that I’ve been very fortunate in my marketing, in that I’ve been able to sustain a healthy and growing business without much attention given to social media. My growth has been completely organic--i.e., either word-of-mouth or from a new client calling after visiting my website. Fortunately, this has kept me quite busy. That said, I’ve taken this recent barrage of questioning/criticism as a sign from the universe that it was time to step into the IG-world. So I've opened an account and, while I haven’t had the time to upload photos and do the hashtag thing with each of them, I feel good that I've at least taken a step forward with it.

Interestingly enough, while scouring the internet for relevant “Instagram-for-dummies” type resources, I stumbled across an article that reported a very alarming trend in engagement rates regarding IG posts. The article cited an increasing number of users reporting that, over the past couple of weeks, they'd seen “a reduction in impressions and engagement”. The article went on to quote Stephen Davis, a London-based online brand strategist and communications consultant, who speculated: “It seems that the Instagram algorithm is going the same way the Facebook page algorithm did in 2014. The golden age for engagement is over and they’ll be ramping up the monetisation from now on.”

So, if you're a big-time IG user/fan, and you start seeing that IG has, in fact, changed its algorithms, thus negatively impacting engagement and reach, will you still use it? Also, speaking on behalf of other newbies, I'm curious if there are other features/elements within IG that you will continue to utilize and would suggest?

Tony Colangelo is a residential and commercial photographer, as well as a photography coach, based in Victoria, BC, Canada. He is a long-time contributor to PFRE and is the creator of The Art & Science of Great Composition tutorial series.

16 comments on “Are the Golden Days of Instagram Over?”

  1. Like you Tony, I too just started this game and to be honest, not sure why. I too have been fortunate that my brand has sustain itself and keeps growing. That said, I felt that I should at least be up to date on the new trends to see if that indeed had any results.

    So far, I have not heard one peep from the clients I use that I have hash tagged along with other hash tags. I purposely did not tell anyone what I have been doing, to see if there was any notice. When I post, I usually get a hundred or so likes and comments, yet there no "New" business that I can say came from this added chore. I am seeing a lot of contacts that want to help me with more exposure for a $, but I beginning to think this is a fools errand.

    Anyone had success in this? Or is this just a "Look at me"

  2. Marketing is a long game. Business may be good right now, but when things dry up and you have no reach past your regular clientele, you may not be in as good as a position as someone who is Putting in the effort on all fronts now... including Instagram. I go where peoples attention is. For designers, they are on Instagram (as are realtors and builders depending on the market). Likes and follower counts don’t matter as much as Genuine engagement. A lot of business can be generated by simply starting conversations with people. I’ve landed some incredible opportunities just through DM and have made some great connections. while people complain about the algorithm, I’ll be continuing to send messages through DM and hopefully secure some future business or relationships.

  3. Indeed before Instagram was owned by Facebook it was an engagement platform and after Facebook bought it, it continued a few years as an engagement platform while the original team oversaw it, then the product manager of the Facebook Timeline took over and started to rollout advertising first in the Feed then in the Stories. And there has been an increase of Black Hat spam with accounts claiming to give you followers after payment. Instagram promotions do work but a Facebook Page is required to be tied to your Instagram account. Most of the traffic likes the promotion and doesn't ever visit your Instagram feed to look at the rest of your work. You can have 500 followers and get 50 likes at most depending on how interesting the post is and the number and choice of hashtags. At this point, I do get a feeling that Instagram is a time waster, if I only focus on the number of likes. But when used to engage your followers in conversation, it becomes your personal community. Like a slow-grown friendship over time. Make several accounts, one for each niche in your business (if you want to grow engagement) or just one if numbers aren't important or it's too overwhelming. Use the Feed for showing your best work and the Stories for behind the scenes. If you have only one account for everything, use the Feed to show your best work and the Stories for behind the scenes and your personal life but keep it family and kids friendly in the content you show and speak. Expect lots of spam and expect some people to repost your work without asking first. It's hard on Instagram to report Intellectual Property Theft unlike everything else that can be easily reported, the former ends with a QA page instead of a checkbox so what I do is state on my profile and each photo that the work is mine and I place a watermark. My original image might be 4000px width but the Instagram image posted is 960-600px width. At the time of this writing (July 2019) links are only allowed in the profile description but will not link in the post description. After a huge amount of followers you can use links in your Stories. Aside from the engagement, I would rather keep my website blog filled with similar posts before it gets to Instagram because like MySpace and Google Plus, I can't expect Instagram or Facebook to be around for long or allow all my followers to find my posts. Put more effort in your website because it's being paid for and others aren't even if you are paying for promotions. Don't put all your eggs in one basket.

  4. It all depends on what your targeted market group is responding to. From an online marketing perspective it's not about number of clicks, it's all about number of conversions. This is measurable, but Instagram can only see "clicks" that take place on their platform. They would not be able to see conversions from any activity that took users to a 3rd party site or solution that resulted in a lead or sale.

    Personally, I see much more activity from a well optimized (SEO) web site that people can search for. But, I do use Instagram, Facebook as a way to keep my name out in front of people and let them know what type of shoots I've been working on.

  5. Don't forget the added SEO that facebook instagram etc provide. When someone googles your name or business name those Social accounts will come up below your website listing and fill up the search so that your competition doesn't end up right under your listing on a search.

  6. I do not really use instagram, I post a couple of photos a year, it’s not particularly interesting to me, but to go in and see what’s new with friends or people that interest me, I do it almost every day. As for monetization, yes, it is noticeable, but I do not think that fewer people began to use the instagram, if Facebook dies, then the instagram keeps good.

  7. Welcome to Instagram Tony! I have had an IG account since it began, and created my business account (just for photography) two years ago. It is definitely my favorite social media platform, in that I am able to create a visually appealing mini portfolio separate to my website. It’s part of my overall brand, and I would not rely on it completely, but it has allowed me the opportunity to organically connect with so many designers, realtors, builders and photographers. I have gotten a lot of business via Instagram, and my clients love when I tag them on my posts. I post about 1x week (not a lot) and spend time getting the hashtags correct, to attract an interested audience. I don’t have a ton of followers or engagement, but I feel it’s worth it!

  8. Tony, I don't do social media. I had a Twitter account for a while, but wound up getting rid of it when it stopped working on my old Mac. I know several people that spend endless hours on FB and IG because they get a job or two each 4-6 weeks from them. I consider that a pretty poor trade for all of the time put in, the granting of unlimited rights to their work and the privacy issues.

    If your schedule is booked and you are getting steady referrals, do you really need to spend a whole bunch of time developing a following on social media? Is the clientele in your area looking for services like yours on social media? You may be better off keeping your website fresh so it lists as high as it can on the major search engines. You can also spend time out from behind the computer going out to meet agents at open houses and other events. Just like any other advertising, the ROI on developing a social media presence is pretty low. It doesn't help most RE photographers to have fans outside of their local service area. What would I do with followers in Brazil? Their likes aren't going to pay my internet bill and buy me one of those new Mac Pros when they come out.

    I'd suggest putting together a presentation that you can give at RE offices about the beauty of hiring a professional photographer that you can give to agents. You might have to cater lunch, but that's not as much as an ad in a magazine. Having a few different presentations is a good idea so you can present something different at a larger association meeting than you do for an office at a weekly meeting. Targeting your local area should be much more effective than hitting the whole world.

  9. Well to be honest I think social media is all bit of a wank? I got rid of my Facebook business page it was like watching grass grow such was the activity on it and I have better things to do with my time like get out the door meet my market have coffee with clients and friends, shake hands and kiss babies even pick up the phone (Now there is a novel idea?) I do have a personal Facebook profile which is locked down tighter than a fishes cyber pass as I don't want the western world to read my daily life like watching a reality TV show, just a safe place to stay in touch with my close and trusted friends including family domestically and abroad which really is what Facebook is good for IMO. However, I choose to be on Instagram mainly cause my 13-year old daughter is on it and I can keep one eye on what she is posting. So my IG account is for business but I mainly get international following that say (Hey follow me?) and brand ambassadors that want to connect with me which really does not generate lead generation for local work, so again nice to have but sort of a time waster IMO or good for an ego boost if I'm looking for a feel good. What has worked for me is just organically grow with the business, referrals, word of mouth, getting out networking, laughing, smiling having fun with community etc! People still hire people has been my experience and while I got started in the Jurassic period before social media I'm still employed for taking photos. Is that a miracle? Maybe? But it was not because of social media.

  10. @Tony Colangelo thank you so much for your post. I have been using IG for a while now because my clientele has changed from older realtors to the younger ones and they are empathic about IG. I have found that the algorithm has indeed changed and there are more ads. I have also seen a lot of my clients (usually older ones) who are "buying" followers. It's interesting that their posts are always up top and they start with 965 likes.....hmmmm. So I did a little investigating and found that most of their followers are middle easterners, asians, russians and people from south america and mexico, and I am not being racists in the least! So please do not go there.

    I like IG. You post there and you have the option to post to your Facebook business page as well. You figure out the best times to post and that usually received more likes. My "younger clients" love it because I tag them and it is just another added bit of marketing for them and for me.

    Don't knock it until you try it. I have received calls from clients that I have not worked with in years and it also helps to show that I work with the top realtors in my town.

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