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 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.

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6 Comments

  1. Except I was told they are not fake likes. It was explained to me that this just allow your post to be placed at the top and on random people’s page that would otherwise not see your post. Once enough people like your post then someone else gets the opportunity to take your place in line?

  2. A very insightful post, one worth everyone sharing. I get discouraged as Istill have a small following and it seems almost pointless sometimes to post with the purpose of getting noticed by __ amount of followers. I post because I like to, but also trying to build a bigger following of organic followers. You have proposed a great solution!

  3. Do you know if this applies to personal and business accounts? I have hesitated switching my page to a business profile for fear of the algorithm. Love the message! Let’s help insta! ??

  4. Yes! Finally someone who addresses the issue! I see this ALL The time with photographers too {since I am one}. Girls will have thousands of likes per image and you’re like “What? How is that possible?!” People compare themselves to something that isn’t even real. So good job sister, preach!

  5. LOVED THIS! I feel ya!!! As a small shop owner myself the struggle this past year trying to match what I made the previous year has been so time consuming and disheartening! By the way I just blew up your post on IG with likes! I have always loved following you! You are so real and genuine and we need more people like you in the the IG community! XO Michelle

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