Does Paying for a Promotion on Instagram Improve Engagement?
It's not what you might think...
Anyone who works online will know that Instagram's recent algorithm update is leaving so many people invisible on the platform, including me.
My Instagram account is only small - some refer to those with less than 10K as 'micro-influencers'. I have my own opinions on that label - I'll save that for another post. About 6 months ago when I first started my Instagram page for @leabellablogs , I had way less followers than I do now and yet a higher rate of engagement. I genuinely connected with other bloggers and influencers on the platform and started to make blogging buddies.
Fast forward to now, and those blogging buddies grid posts no longer appear in my feed and their story posts have dissapeared way back into the abyss. I can only think that the same has happened to my grid too.
If I am being blatently honest, although I enjoy Instagram as a platform, when it comes to using it as a business tool, I don't really see the benefit any more. My followers are dropping like flies and my engagement has hit rock bottom. I don't make any income as a blogger directly from Instagram so it doesn't really annoy me as much as it would others. Nevertheless, it's still annoying when you've taken the time and effort to create a bangin' grid post and no-one sees it.
Paying for a Promoted Post: The Experiment
If you have converted your Instagram profile to a business page, when you look at your own grid you'll see a little button to the right of the photo saying 'Promote'. Basically, this button creates a paid promotion where Instagram pushes your photo into other people's feeds of a certain demographic (you can adjust this during the setting up of the promotion) and you're meant to get more visability and engagement by people clicking on your picture through to your website, profile or another link of your choice. This is meant to result in gaining more followers, likes and comments on your grid pics.
So, given the circumstances and controvosy that Instagram is creating for online businesses, bloggers and influencers at the moment - I thought I would give it a go and report on the results.
Is it worth paying for your post to be seen on Instagram?
Here is the photo I chose to promote. It's not overally special, it's certainly not instagram perfect. But, it's me. The beach is covered in seaweed - real. It's filtered - not real. No photoshop, not editing my fat bits out. No other touch ups other than a filter.
As this was an experiement, I didn't want to splash out on a massively expensive promotion (unlike what Instagram suggested for me £43 per day for 6 days with a reach of 50K - sod off) so I chose to have my post promoted for 2 days at £2 per day with a reach of between 2 and 5K. I let Instagram decide on the demographic of people it felt my post fitted - I'll get to that in a second.
During the promotion, I left Instagram alone to do it's thing.
Below is a screen shot of my results:
Let's talk about my reach...975 people. Pants. I was reaching more than that before the "change". It certainly didn't reach between 2K - 5K impressions (1,245 in total). Not. Worth. It.
41% of people visited my profile as a direct result of my promotion. I don't know if this is good or bad. It's just less than half, which means around 1 in 3 people scrolling visited my profile as a result of seeing my post in their feed. I'd say that's not a bad result.
I gained 91 likes and 11 comments in total. Some of my earlier photos have lots more than this without any paid promotions. Bit of a let down tbh.
The worst bit... is I only gained 1 follower as a direct result of my payment to instagram.
Now let's just touch on the audience that Instagram created for me and the kind of people who were visiting my profile and commenting. As you will already know, Lea Bella Blogs is prodominately a Travel Blog and I also write about lifestyle stuff too. World issues, that kinda thing. I'm assuming that Instagram pushed my photo into a demographic of mostly males who were aged 50+ because I was in a bikini with a mum bod (even though I'm not a mum - just fat). I was getting likes off men who would never normally be interested in my page, I am guessing, and comments including the fire emoji. Now, don't get me wrong, for the sake of this experiement I suppose you can say that people were engaging with my post but I was horrified at this particular outcome.
Does instagram only assume that women posting pics of themselves in a bikini is worthy of male attention?? What about women supporting women? What about the body positivity hashtags I had used? Instagram clearly fails to recognise the actual message behind my picture - but it's nevertheless a very interesting result which I will no doubt pick apart for weeks to come. Such a feminist.
Should You Pay Instagram To Have Your Posts Seen?
Well - that's up to you.
Will I pay to have my posts seen on instagram again? No. I did this as an experiement anyway, but I'm pleased I did it because it's shown me that even if you pay for promotion on social media platforms, the pay off is not always what it's promised to be.
The take home message for me on this is to be authentic if nothing else. Stick with what you know, and engage with your followers - even if it's only for 10 mins a day.
You can get stuck in a numbers game on social media and it's really not worth the hassle that you can put yourself through for someone else to 'like' a picture you have posted on the internet. Much like MySpace, Bebo and the slow demise of Facebook, the chances are this social media platform wont be around forever.
If you are a blogger who is reading this, focus your efforts on your blog. No-one (as far as I know!) can take that away from you even if social media dies. Be yourself and the followers will follow you if they feel they can relate or engage with you.