Instagram's algorithm changes and lack of transparency leave social media influencers frustrated and crying foul

Some social media influencers on Instagram have been crying foul about recent changes in Instagram's algorithm.

Radhika Bose began posting her photographs on Instagram in 2012 when the photo-sharing platform had arrived on Android smartphones. By 2016, she conceptualized @yogasini and began her journey as an 'Insta - influencer'. If you browse through her feed, you see a good spattering of glam-yoga and brand collaborations. Her posts also include intricately planned art shoots, fitness poses, active fashion wear, and beauty-related posts.

Instagram logo. Pixabay/Webster2703

Instagram logo. Pixabay/Webster2703

With 76,400 followers on Instagram, @yogasini aka Radhika Bose posted a picture of herself on 13 February. It was captioned, “I haven’t shot anything new in a while. Also because I don’t feel like creating new content with Insta acting like a total prick. So enjoy a smiling selfie of me. Have a good day folks."

As a keen follower of her feed, I immediately wrote to her and asked what was irking her about Instagram. Radhika sounded quite upset with her favorite social media app, "My posts which were as old as 3 days, started appearing on my followers' feed. To top that, my followers dm-ed (direct message) me saying we haven't seen your posts in a while. Which was quite shocking, given how consistent I am with my uploads.” she further added.

Radhika Bose isn't the only 'Instagram influencer' who sounded upset with the unpredictable algorithms and lack of transparency from world's largest photo-sharing platform.

In 2016, Instagram modified the logic that their timeline algorithms follow. It began showing posts which were as old as 5 days ago alongside most recent posts. The timeline was not linear or chronological, but more focus was given to posts which were from friends and family.

Their well-meaning intention of showing users more content from their loved ones was throwing off social media influencers' content plans and brand affiliations. Mark Zuckerberg's recent attempt to bring more posts related to friends and family on Facebook NewsFeed is an extension of the same philosophy.

I spoke to other Instagram influencers to find out how algorithm changes affect their Insta-strategy. “It is really annoying what they are doing. We put so much of hard work for every piece of content. For some of us it is our bread and butter,” said Sukhneet Wadhwa, a fashion and beauty blogger and an Insta-influencer from Delhi.

Sukhneet, aka MsCococQueen also wrote to Instagram, but she did not receive any response regarding the matter. “I noticed this problem 4 months ago. If a picture does not get decent traction in the first 30 minutes or so, the followers’ attention goes somewhere else. And recent algorithm changes have made it more difficult for followers to discover my new work,” she said. Instagram has over 500 million active users.

This is almost equal to 40 percent of India’s population. And one can safely say that if social media is a world, Instagram is a leading country. To keep the posts flowing and to navigate these changes on Instagram, Radhika kept trying different strategies, but it has been of little help. “Different theories came up, saying post at this hour, reply back to the comments in so and so time, use these many hashtags. But to be honest none of them worked.” According to her, things got worse when she put posts about branded content.

“Branded content struggles to do well on Instagram anyway and with this change, it will suffer more,” she said. Instagram has been notorious for its terms of service. In 2012, Instagram announced its terms of service where it basically implied, that it owns all posts that exist on the platform. Instagram further added that it also has the right to sell those photographs.

Following this change, National Geographic Channel’s Instagram handle, which is popular by the name @natgeo, was pulled from the social network. While everyone was crying foul, a well-reputed publishing house like NatGeo took a stand. The outcry was followed by Instagram reinstating its previous terms.

A post shared by National Geographic (@natgeo) on

While the concerns of social media influencers are genuine, and they have built a career around sharing picture posts with millions of followers, it must be noted that Instagram does not ask for any revenue share from individual creators.

While some are clearly upset with the change in Instagram’s algorithm, those like Siddhartha Joshi have made their peace with it.

One of India's most loved travel influencers, Joshi has a philosophical and a hopeful take on this. “There was a time when Instagram updated its algorithm where it was showing posts of pictures which got more "likes". And all of a sudden people got used to it.”

He further adds, “this is good for you (social media influencers) because your posts are alive for a much longer time. When I see pictures that are old and appear in my feed, I still like them or comment if the content is good. So the good thing is that my content is alive for a much longer time. And the engagement has not gone down at all.”

Joshi also shared that the golden window after posting any photo or video is merely an hour. This one hour is the moment where it will go really well. On an average, I feel a post’s expiration date is two days, beyond that, the visibility decreases significantly.

“The new algorithm is good for you because your post will be alive for a longer time. More than 24 hours. Your content will have a longer life and higher engagement.”

Firstpost reached out to Instagram but the folks behind the photo-sharing app refused to comment.

It certainly looks like there is going to be friction between social media platforms and social media influencers in 2018; and let's face it, they need each other.

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