I am writing this letter to you because as a long time friend I am starting to notice things about you are starting to change. And I don’t mean change in a good way either. I mean there are things about you that are seemingly becoming very un-cool. I feel as a friend it is my responsibility to bring these things up with you and to hopefully clear the air once and for all.
Firstly over the past six weeks or so there has been a common belief that there has been an across the board post engagement rate decrease with many of your other friends who I have direct contact with – we are talking about 20% – 30% reductions with on accounts with increasingly growing follower numbers which just doesn’t make sense. Now these users are not your average, occasional users – these are heavy users, some you could say have a complete devotion to your platform and who work extremely hard to grow their audiences through quality content. I am personally in the position as director of an online marketing consulting company of having clients who use you a lot, of being in direct contact with some extremely well respected and award winning landscape photographers and professional social influencers, as well as government and privately funded tourism organisations and businesses throughout Australia who all religiously use you. Each and every one of them has the exact same feeling I do – that you are now making serious shifts towards a “pay to play” platform for everyone. You have made it public knowledge that advertising is now open to everyone using Instagram, so it makes sense to us that you are now pushing people to pay you to have their content seen in the same way as you parent company has done over recent years, if first and foremost your aim is to now make money, rather than being the cool social platform you have been for several years .
I completely understand there is a need to make money, but there are plenty of ways to do that other than imposing a handicap or algorithmic penalty in the same way as EdgeRank on your parent’s platform does. You have recently made it much easier for people to connect their accounts to your parent’s network, which as we all know has become nothing more than an algorithmic money making machine for it’s shareholders. Is the only purpose for this connection so that you can show relevant advertising, or like your parent’s News Feed, are you now making decisions for your users about what they want to see, rather than letting our choice to follow any individual account or fully searchable and transparent hashtags being the only decision that is required?
Not only that, but in recent times myself and many of your other actual warm blooded friends are seeing inconsistencies across the information you are delivering. Why are we noticing entirely different “Top Posts” for hashtags across different accounts? Why is it some people see 9 Top Posts and others see 21 or 30? You see, when you are telling your friends entirely different things, this can breed a feeling of distrust, and ultimately friendships are built on trust. If you tell me one thing, and tell others another, which version of the story are we to believe? Why is it we are seeing an entirely different number of total posts indexed across hashtags when viewed from different accounts? Why is it some users are now seeing a “More” tag which needs to be clicked to reveal the text caption on some posts, and other users are not seeing this? Why has Instagram become a platform that is delivering a different user experience to different people, or even to those who are able to compare across the multiple accounts they control?
In the above two images, please notice the differences in the number of “Top Posts” that are appearing across two different accounts. Also please note the variation in “Related” hashtags being presented across the two different accounts. These screenshots were both taken at exactly 3.59pm on Sunday 6th December 2015 from two different phones, each logged in to different accounts.
Instagram, you have been the cool, pure and honest social network for many of us for a while now. When many of us wake up in the morning we look forward to seeing the posts in our news feed. We look forward to the compelling imagery, the stories and for me personally, the inspiration to continue to improve my photographic skills. I want to see the posts from all of the people I choose to follow. If someone chooses to follow me, they have made a decision which should not be algorithmically adjusted just so you can squeeze revenue out of that social connection.
In the above two images, please notice the differences in the number of indexed posts in the hashtag search. There are 130,322 posts visible from one account and 130,615 posts on another. Is this a variation due to differences in data centres or is this something that is being algorithmically adjusted on an account by account basis? These screenshots were both taken at exactly 3.59pm on Sunday 6th December 2015 from two different phones, each logged in to different accounts.
If businesses or individuals choose to advertise and amplify their content outside of their existing followers, searchable hashtags or location searches, then we can accept that. But effectively making people need to advertise when they have never had to by algorithmically handicapping them is not cool. Remember that we as users are the ones who have contributed the content to make you the success you are today. We are the ones who have invested our time into producing the 80+ million photos now being posted every day. Don’t forget that if it wasn’t for us, you would be nothing. Don’t now make us pay you after you have taken our content as well. Don’t offer me one experience, and offer others something entirely different. That is just simply not cool.
In the above two images, please notice the one of the accounts is visibly showing a “More” link to display the rest of the caption and one is not. Is this an account by account test to apply a new post engagement statistic similar to post clicks being used on Facebook? These screenshots were both taken at exactly 4.04pm on Sunday 6th December 2015 from two different phones, each logged in to different accounts.
Now I may be completely wrong here, but as a friend this needs to be said. And as you would know from your now intertwined “social graph” you would be tapping into from your Parent’s vast set of information, sometimes friends just need reassuring that everything is ok. If I am wrong, I would be very happy for you to tell me. All I want is for you, Instagram to remain being cool. Many of us want to spend as much time with you as we can. We just don’t want to have to pay you for you to remain our friend now that you have grown up and are moving in circles that care more for revenue rather that overall user experience. That again would not be cool.