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Hello! My name is Ashley. I am a Utah mom of 4 kids, and I LOVE Instagram! In fact, I was on the wait list to get the app the day it came out, so I have been using and loving it for what seems like, FOREVER. I  started using it as a tool to share snippets of my life and motherhood with friends and family, and after a couple years of active gram-ing I saw an opportunity for more. As a busy stay at home mom, I loved sharing recipes and tracking my healthy eating and fitness goals and I decided to share on Instagram what I was doing. I was able to grow an active and loyal community organically full of like minded women- who valued what I did. It was natural growth, usually by word of mouth that people found me. Other Instagrammers would share my recipes and the community I knew grew and grew to a point where I was able to monetize.  This became a HUGE blessing for my family. As a wife of a school teacher, the extra money was needed and this was a perfect fit for my family. I was able to work from home, caring for my children – and run my own business, a thriving one at that.

Over the years I have enjoyed selling recipe ebooksproducts, and even business courses on how anyone could grow their own Instagram business. I also was able to partner with companies to endorse products I love, I was able to connect with thousands of women who supported me and my family. I put a massive amount of time into creating content and products they would love and I was SO GRATEFUL I had a platform to do that on, for free.

Now here is the thing. Instagram gave me an amazing platform, for free. A platform I was able to make a full time job from home out of, for free! I was so grateful for that platform- I didn’t even complain when the ads started. I thought they absolutely should be allowed to monetize as well! They built this, they should earn from it. When others complained, I supported 100%.

Once the rumors of an algorithm change came- I still stood my ground. I wasn’t worried about it. I knew I had worked hard enough to gain the trust of my followers over the years – and felt confident they would continue to support me. I didn’t beg them to turn on notifications for my posts- I just continued on doing what I was doing, after all it had been working.

I noticed a drop in engagement right away. Posts that normally resonated with my followers were getting lower likes than ever. I knew something had to be up, I know my audience- I cater to them, and still- nothing. Engagement drops and drops and drops. So I finally decided I would “pay to play” I would try boosting my posts through the Instagram ads they offer and see if that helped my engagement. The problem with this is I soon discovered the only way to boost your post through Instagram is out to “strangers” based on demographics. I can share my post to males or females, of a certain age, in a certain demographic location- that’s it. Not surprisingly the boosts didn’t do well, because the random people I paid to reach have no clue who I am, and frankly could care less about what I make for dinner, or how adorable my kids are. They are not invested in me. They don’t know me. They aren’t my people that I have worked for years to gather, build, inspire and embrace in my community.

SO HERE IS MY ISSUE::

There is no way to be seen by my OWN followers, unless a post gets favored in the algorithm. Meaning, my posts need to be interacted with (likes + comments) asap when the post goes live, and FAST. So unless I announce a pregnancy or marriage (which that boat has sailed for me!) the post is likely to get buried below all the “popular” posts. Ok! So how do I get pegged as “popular” by the Instagram algorithm?! I needed to explore other methods to get good engagement, quick! I assumed this in turn would help my post be stacked to the top of my followers feed, so they’ll see what I post, I hoped.

So I tirelessly started down that road, SO. MUCH. RESEARCH. I would track posting times and post when interactions were highest, I started using relevant hashtags to get my posts the interaction they needed, I joined comment groups with dozens of friends who we could notify each other when we posted in hopes anyone who was able would hurry and go comment and like quickly so our posts could stay relevant and stacked, and I do the same for their posts. Where I used to be able to just post and know my followers could see my content when they had a chance, I was now investing a huge amount of time into figuring out the algorithm to choose my post as one worthy of my followers seeing. Its exhausting, and time consuming.

But guess what? There is a way around it. And lots of people we know are doing it.

BUYING LIKES from 3rd party sources. “What?!” you say?! YES. Its happening BIG TIME, and you can spot them by using these tips HERE.

Lets not even get into buying followers- that happens too, but that’s not the beast I want to tackle right now. (Because you are either insecure and need validation from a fake number or you are selling yourself to companies as something you are not. In the “real” business world bringing fake numbers to a table to negotiate deals is straight up fraud, but in the Instagram Business world many seem to think this is ok?! Read why its not HERE)

So back to what I was talking about – if Instagram stacks a picture to the top of the feed based on quick interactions, buying likes makes sense- from a business perspective. You post a pic, hurry and buy some likes from some shady website, and BOOM. No comment groups, no hashtags, no time of day research, you just have hundreds of likes so fast that Instagram incorrectly assumes your post is just THAT awesome and will stack it to the top of your followers feed, for a long time- and your followers are likely to see it.

The problem with that for me, is the dishonesty. Its a moral dilemma. The likes aren’t real. They are deceiving to your followers, they are deceiving to companies who you are working with and they are not a true show of your actual engagement. When SO many influencers do it now, its hard to compete. The algorithm favors the dishonesty.

I have put so much time & energy into composing my thoughts about this, its hard and its complicated but at the end of the day I am trying to build a business and I am NOT willing to make others fall as a result of buying fake Instagram interaction. I am asking those who do it to stop, and for companies who don’t know about it – to realize whats going on to protect their brands.

Whether you have 10 followers or 10,000 it affects you- because when someone is buying fake interaction, it will put their picture above yours in the feeds of your friends and family. Its hurting us all!

I realize to those who don’t do Instagram as part of a business plan, this seems ridiculous to care about. But to those of us who feed our families with the income they have worked tirelessly making here on Instagram, IT MATTERS.

SO Whats a girl to do?

The problem is SO many Instagrammers buy likes right now. I almost don’t blame them, its a quick way to reach your own followers. Its cheap, its effortless and it gets you seen by the people who you worked to get into your community. But the problem is, for those of us who just can’t justify doing it, we are buried alive by comparison.

My post with organic REAL likes, coming in at a slow and steady pace will never be able to compete with so & so who gets 500 likes in 1 minute. Because, in comparison it will appear as a low performing post, it will be buried and not be seen by a majority of my followers. But if you buy likes, the algorithm “thinks” your post must be SO popular that a huge majority of your followers should see it. The likes aren’t real, but the Instagram algorithm doesn’t detect that and will stack the post from the fake interaction to the top of the feed, guaranteeing more of that persons followers actually see the post with fake engagement, while my true engagement post will be buried in comparison and barely be seen by 25% of my followers.

Why does it matter?

Because my business depends on people seeing my posts. Whether its a sale, an affiliate suggestion or an event, they wont see my post meaning they wont buy and I become irrelevant and unable to earn an income. They wont ever pick up my recipe book, or help a business I recommend to them. Its hurting the small businesses I work for, and its hurting my business as well.

Why can’t the small business just buy an ad on Instagram instead of going through an influencer? They can! BUT The average viewer generally will not purchase from an ad, but if an Influencer they know love and trust recommends it- they are much more likely to purchase and support that small business.

As an advocate for small businesses, I can tell you – they are hurting. Many are unaware of this scam until its too late. They pay an influencer to post for them based on a following or interaction they assume is legit- and they see themselves empty handed with virtually no ROI.

What can we do?! 

For starters if you do this, STOP BUYING LIKES. Its unfair and really hurting what we all worked so hard to build. Its ruining Instagram.

Next, INSTAGRAM help us help you! I believe that if you offered an option to “Boost” to our own followers, not demographic strangers– MANY of us of would gladly pay. I know I would pay to take the stress of comment groups, hash-tagging, researching times of day etc off my plate and just focus on boosting the content I love to create to the followers I earned.

Its a win win, Instagram! You get the income from the boosts (which I am happy to pay to YOU for providing this platform, as opposed to paying some shady website selling fake likes and followers) and WE can finally get the posts we pour our hearts into SEEN by the people who want to see it! After all, They chose to follow us!

So I am begging you guys to please SHARE this article! Spread the info to anyone and everyone you know. Companies need to know this is happening, I also hope if the word spreads about it, those who think they are getting away with it will STOP. To those who get down on themselves because their engagement is dismal in comparison need to know this is happening too! Don’t let this be a self esteem thing either, its most likely fake (FYI all research I have done usually shows, if it seems to good to be true- it is!) and if the powers that be can somehow get this to the eyeballs of anyone at Instagram- PLEASE let us boost to our own followers, not demographic strangers. Let us pay YOU INSTAGRAM, and not shady websites and apps. Give the option to all Instagrammers to boost, and even the playing field. 

At the end of the day, I am just a hard working mama trying to uphold some honesty in a business and platform I LOVE.

I have been so fortunate to build a community and career here and I don’t want to lose it all to dishonest social trends.

Once again, I have put so much time & energy into composing my thoughts about this, its hard and its complicated but at the end of the day I am trying to build a business and I am NOT willing to make others fall as a result of buying fake Instagram interaction. I am asking those who do it to stop, and for companies who don’t know about it – to realize whats going on to protect their brands.

43 Comments

  1. Could no have said it better. Thank you for taking the time to compose this post! Buying likes and followers is 100% dishonest and I can’t believe how mainstream it’s become. Love your idea to boost views to actual followers.

  2. I’ve seen a drastic change in my likes and followers since the change. I don’t run a business, so it’s certainly not devastating like it has been to so many of my friends with small businesses, but it’s sad nonetheless. I’ve made so many awesome connections through Instagram and it just seems like those connections I’ve grown so accustomed to are dwindling. Come on Instagram…I have yet to talk to anyone who likes the “new” format. You know…if it ain’t broke… 😉

  3. I love following you! You have such a kind heart–about everything–even social media. I hope someone at instagram sees this and takes your advice.

  4. I love the solution you propose: to let us boost posts to our followers, people who already want to see what we are sharing. The algorithm has also made it difficult, if not impossible, for new voices to gain influence and momentum, which is so sad, because the world needs fresh ideas from a variety of sources. Thank you for being a passionate advocate for honesty in social media.

  5. As a small business owner we have been greatly affected by the IG algorithm. Which in turn has hurt our sales.. We used to DEPEND on bloggers and social media influencers to wear and post about our brand and it was 100% guaranteed to work every time. Now you could never get us to pay unless it is an affiliate program. Even then, your post is not guaranteed to be seen and in turn no sales for us and no monitory gain for you. It’s heart wrenching to think it’s so controlled! Just months ago we were all thriving off of this platform. Now we’re are dependent on using other outlets to market because IG is not where the money is anymore. It’s frustrating and sad. Hoping for change

  6. Great post. My first instagram died after my hashtag featured totally failed. This was right after the major changes with IG. I’ve started a new page and can’t seem to capture the same rhythm. I’m not willing to buy followers because eventually they WILL unfollow. I’ll just continue what I am doing and stick with organic followers.

  7. This is a well-meaning post and I get your sentiment. But this just business. This is how businesses work. Uber came into the market and destroyed the game for traditional cabs. Airbnb changed the game for hotels. Instagram and filters completely changed the game for photographers. Professional photographers hate Instagram for how much business and income they have lost but they simply have to deal with it and move on. This is why its important to build your own email list. Have people hit your OWN website and not rely heavily on third party platforms.

  8. hi there!

    I love how you phrased this as “my people.” I feel exactly the same way. Odder still is that my most active pre-algorithm followers, ones who commented and interacted on every post, no longer see my photos in their feed. At all. They have to search for me. It’s absolutely bananas. All I can think to do is plow forward, keep engaging in the bookstagram community that brings me so much love, and hope for the best. Great to read your thoughts!
    @outofthebex

  9. hi there!

    I love how you phrased this as “my people.” I feel exactly the same way. Odder still is that my most active pre-algorithm followers, ones who commented and interacted on every post, no longer see my photos in their feed. At all. They have to search for me. It’s absolutely bananas. All I can think to do is plow forward, keep engaging in the bookstagram community that brings me so much love, and hope for the best. Great to read your thoughts!
    IG: outofthebex

  10. I know that Facebook bought Instagram, but a lot of people see Facebook as a dying platform because of the SAME change. I wonder when they will realize that this is turning off a lot of users and not just small businesses.

  11. So glad you took the time to write this and put out there what so many of us honest bloggers are thinking! My engagement has dropped lower than ever and I’ve worked so hard to get a trusted and organically grown following! Wish it was paying off right now over dishonesty! Sharing everywhere.

    Keep smiling!
    Molly | http://www.stylemissmolly.com

  12. Thank you for this. Cheaters make me so angry and so many people are doing it. Hope instagram removes the fake likes soon. Evie

  13. Thank you for penning what many of us are thinking! I have been thinking lately that it is just so hard to blog/use instagram with integrity because there are so many who are being fraudulent or cheating the system to get ahead. I hope a lot of businesses read this so they can be aware of the scams.

  14. As they say this hits the nail on the hammer, I have been on Instagram for around 4years now and have grown my audience steadily over that time. I have had notice a drop in my likes a lot and it is bumming me out a little. Great post by the way and I am glad it is not just me.

  15. Thank you so much for writing this! I hate that Instagram hasn’t realized this problem and I hope they are trying to fix it! It is so difficult to grow organically nowadays because so many people are paying for followers and likes. Love your picture! So cute with the matching PJ’s! I would love to Pin this post but there isn’t an image coming up for it. Just wanted to let you know😊

  16. This is an absolutely brilliant post! Perfectly said and explained. I’m a fellow blogger and since I started years ago, authenticity and honesty has always been important to me above all else. Hand on heart, I can say I’ve never bought followers or likes… I can’t imagine being fake feels good. We owe it to each other and our communities to just be genuine and real. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to compete with practices like this and I’m so glad you’ve shared it so wonderfully.
    Thank you!
    Lauren

  17. Thank you for writing this! It makes me sad I don’t reach the people I had in the past, my engagement has dropped in half! It’s so hard to get my posts seen and I know my followers want to see the content!

  18. Truth! Thank you. Instagram should be an enjoyable way to engage with your following and build your brand, not about a way to cheat/beat the system.

  19. Thank you for sharing!!! I have noticed this so much. It really hit home for me when my best friend asked me the other day why she never sees my posts anymore in here feed! This is someone who liked every single picture of mine before the algorithm change, and now she has to remember to purposely visit my page and catch up. It’s really disheartening that my likes are the same or fewer than they were months or even a year ago. I really appreciate your insight and I totally agree with you!

    Xo. Genevieve

    http://www.thestylesauce.com

  20. I totally agree! , I do get quite a lot of likes straight away , but I do ingage in a lot of photo comps which is where a lot of them come from.
    However I tried to Join a well known advertising brand but they said my followers and like were inflated suggesting I was buying them! I was horrified! It shouldn’t be allowed it defeats the object. So very well said! X

  21. Such a great post! I honestly had no idea so many people bought likes. My engagement has gone way down and it makes me feel bad. Not to mention that it of course hurts my brand as well. To know that so many people are buying likes is so sad. Why would Instagram make this change? Who does it benefit? I just don’t get it!

    xo Megan, Lush to Blush

  22. So well written and I completely agree! I had no idea that people buy users. But that makes sense because I see some users that post with a 1000 likes in under 2 min. And that can’t be possible unless they have a super big following.
    It’s all a popularity contest and it’s getting old. 😞

  23. Thank you so much for saying what us HONEST & organic blogger/social media mama’s have been wanting to say for a while. I just wanna share my journey with my peeps, be relevant and use integrity, while being the REAL me. No gimmicks, no themes, just doing what I do, and if people like or comment, GREAT!

    You should start a honest mom blog FB group so we can all support eachother! I want real interaction with other women like me!

    Xoxo Carleeh

  24. Well said. I had no idea people were doing this. I knew the algorithm really shifted things but I just thought I needed to come up with a better strategy. Glad I read this before I started working on a strategy. Thanks so much for making it clear!

  25. I’ve also noticed a serious dip in my Instagram likes and activity. It’s taken me awhile to build up my following, I’ve been losing likes and followers the past few months and is super discouraging. Buying likes is cheating and I’m no cheater. I’m sharing this article!

  26. I couldn’t agree more with you! From the algorithm to the inconsistent number of “followers” and “likes”, this is becoming unbearable. I have seen it affect my blog, which is not a business.

    In this part of the world where many businesses are literally throwing their marketing budget at anyone who calls themselves an “influencer” is only making matters worse for legit bloggers and businesses like your own. One can literally create a page, buy followers and demand so much money, it just irks me. Trying to explain this to clients sometimes falls on deaf ears.

    Sigh…

  27. Hi my names Robert and I am the founder of boostgram. I would love to offer you a free trial in return for a review of the product.

    It will get you real engagement.

  28. If you think for a second that the social media folk give a damn about the people using the app; you are high. THEY are profiting from US building the content FOR FREE. You and I are being USED!! Choose your level of exploitation accordingly.

    You are crazy to wrap up your marketing efforts in an arena controlled by someone else. You are being used as canon fodder.

  29. maybe engagement has dropped for many bloggers because so many bloggers are doing sponsored/ads/care of free stuff posts. As a reader, post after post of free stuff is incredibly disingenuous and leaves to stop following on instagram, i’m certainly not going to comment or like a post. Plus we all know there are instagrammers who delete so called negative comments.

  30. Thank you for sharing. I really feel bad when everyone is just buying on Insta for growth. I have organic growth. Didn’t knew about this new thing but yes I am facing low engagement. But can you please share how you monetize your insta 🙂

  31. I feel the same way… check SelfieMark a new app that reviews compared to instagram but with a lot more features like adding a link in a post, creating a poll to ask followers about looks or what to wear and more! plus you can post content and vids. They wont block your posts and your followers will see all your content if they follow you.

  32. Yeah Ashley it ruins me.

    I was close to taking out the 100k follower goal, the algo came and i got stuck at 98.9k. Now i’m back to 96.5k a couple months later.

    The problem is, i already know these people buying likes. Not all but some. I see my friends hitting 25k followers per post, ALWAYS. I have been hitting some high numbers before but it’s due to huge engagement groups with friends.

    I did videos up to a million views, now i cant even get them to 100k.

    Photos always got +4-6k now i get +1-2k

    It totally sucks!

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