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Slaves to the Algorithm

Instagram has shifted again.

I noticed a new update to my Android app, so my feed looks different. One post at a time, like flipping through a box of cards. It's more like stories but vertical flipping instead of horizontal flipping.

The worst thing is that I'm noticing the same four or five people at the top of my feed whenever I check in. I'm not getting posts in the order they are posted; the Algorithm is deciding what I see.

Now every time I post about the podcast, I'm prompted to 'boost' my post. Pay Instagram to show the post to all my followers instead of the small percentage the Algorithm chooses.

I'm sick of it. It's the same play that happened to Facebook 6-7 years ago. Folks start posting and work hard to build an audience, then Facebook steps in between and says if you want to reach the audience you've built, you need to start paying us.

I hear the arguments. What do you expect for a free service? They gotta make money somehow. Well, last I looked, they're making quite a bit of money already. Like, all the money.

But letting the Algorithm decide what you see hasn't covered social media companies in glory either. Because it's not about showing you what you like, it's showing you what will get you riled up so that you continue scrolling.

It's no different from trying to hold onto a consistent coffee buzz, or alcohol buzz, or keep you taking just one more turn at a slot machine. It's manufactured, designed addiction. Find that perfect balance of joy and outrage to keep you checking in and scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. And let you feel you're in control the entire time.

And yet, as creators and business owners, there is a seductive allure to feeding the beast. At the start, it's an easy way to find your first few fans. It's free, if you don't count the hours spent getting that perfectly posed-casual picture and caption build and thrown into the maelstrom.

That lovely post might not reach everyone who follows you, but someone sees it, right? There are mom and pop bakeries with fifty thousand, sixty thousand followers. Even if 1% see this post, that's more people than the number of croissants I baked today. That's still a win, isn't it?

Besides, I'm not like the others. I'm not falling into comparison traps or validation loops. Heck, I don't even check the number of likes I get. And I certainly don't feel bad if my post doesn't get a ton of traction. I'm the one in control here.

Sure you are.

So what's a well meaning, forward thinking business owner to do?

Play a different game. #

Own your platform. Your website, your email list, your direct mailing list. Don't scratch out space on someone else's platform and hope that this time, things will be different.

Own your content. Sure, share it around, but have a home base where everything you create will exist long after the platforms change. Build a body of work, slowly, over time.

Get permission to speak with people directly and personally. And then talk to them.

Quality over quantity. A monthly interaction with a thousand people who are looking forward to hearing from you will create far stronger connections than 50 pictures served up to the Algorithm.