On Instagram, the disarray of small creators confused by algorithm changes

The way Instagram works has seen many changes over the years.

These are images of wild animals captured on the spot and whose success is withering on Instagram. “My best photos in the past easily hit 3,000 accounts; today they no longer exceed 800 views »regrets the photographer Mathieu Pujol. “I, too, suffered a sharp drop in visibilitysupports the painter Louis Thomas. Like absolutely all the artists and artisans I know. »

Like them, the majority of creators and merchants interviewed by The world perceived an air pocket in the distribution of their publications since the beginning of 2022. And a culprit is on everyone's lips: the " Reels”, these short videos inspired by TikTok that Instagram increasingly favorsand who occupy more place in the thread of users, to the detriment of photos. There followed a general decline in visibility for these publications, which the communicator Thomas Micaletto, who works for artists and cultural institutions, believes “around – 50%”. Gold “Instagram is the network of choice for artistshe continues. For six months, they have therefore been desperately trying to win back their core target.

Read also Young artists reveal themselves on Instagram

"We no longer exist"

For these artists, the consequences can be serious in terms of their notoriety, but rarely immediate: few of them market their works directly through Instagram. On the other hand, the shock is much harsher for sellers of clothing and furniture. " When I started my activity, the progress was very goodtestifies the founder of the second-hand clothes shop Les Placards de Colette. But I suffered a huge drop in income. I thought of making it my main activity, it will only be secondary and occasional. » Anne, who sews clothes, also suffered a drop in orders: “It's very discouraging because my main showcase is my Instagram account, LdDN, which is very time-consuming. »

Some decide to play the game and start posting videos. “I have found that by using Reels, among other best practices, my Instagram account continues to grow”, testifies Nicolas, junk dealer and restaurateur. But for others, adapting your practice takes too much time. "It takes an hour of work against a few minutes for a series of photos", explains Anne. Not to mention that video requires new skills and does not go well with certain activities. "It's easier in cinema, theater, literature or music", judges Alexia Guggémos, a journalist specializing in issues of art dissemination strategy on social networks. For her, moreover, “not everyone is fit to stage themselves”.

Failing to achieve this, many artists and artisans seek to reinvent themselves on other platforms – such as the craft site Etsy, the crowdfunding site Patreon, or even a simple mailing-list – without necessarily rediscover the dynamism that Instagram offered them. While others try to develop their business offline, such as Wendy Malinovsky, a clothing designer, for whom he is "healthy to emancipate yourself from Instagram through means of sale, such as creators' markets".

Finally, there is sponsorship, that is to say paying Instagram to have its posts appear in users' feeds, to which some agree to increase their visibility but whose results are not guaranteed: Anne has thus " tried "but has “not seen much return on investment”. "The cost per click has increased a lot, and I'm seeing ad saturation on Instagram"analyzes Thomas Micaletto.

So, for many, discouragement awaits. "I've been away from Instagram quite a bit in the last few weeks", sighs the photographer Mathieu Pujol. His counterpart JC Pieri, in an article published on the specialized site Phototrend, even maintains that “the photo becomes almost impossible to share. (…) A lot [de photographes] are disgusted ". Beneath the article, the wry commentary from “Mazière” stings: “A change of algorithm, and presto, we no longer exist. »

Waltz of changes

Difficult, indeed, to count on the support of Instagram to register its communication in the long time, so much the history of the social network is marked abrupt turns. “Very few have stayed at the top of Instagram for ten years”, says Thomas Micaletto. In 2016, for example, the social network radically changed its publication rules: the posts are no longer presented in chronological order but chosen by an impenetrable algorithm. The same year, the social network introduced a new format, the "Story", aimed at competing with Snapchat.

To read on the subject: How the Facebook empire transformed Instagram

In subsequent years, publications by small creators found an increasingly sparse audience. According to Thomas Micaletto, " this erosion of circulation has something to do with the increase in the number of creators and competition on Instagram”. But a certain number of users dependent, to exist, on their exposure on the social network, this erosion would also have, according to him, "benefited" to the platform "since it has pushed many small creators to invest in advertising ".

It is in this already ultra-competitive context that the "Reels" have arrived, these videos that Instagram strongly defends since they generate, depending on the companygrowing interest from its members, while allowing it to hopefully pull the rug out from under the rival network TikTok, with its meteoric growth.

These changes in trajectory sometimes seem to confuse the public. According the wall street journalan internal document from Meta – Instagram's parent company – reports that, in mid-2022, only 20% of the platform's users were convinced that it cared about them, compared to 70% in 2019. “I used to find inspiration there[ration] for my photos, but it's over, all I see are copies of TikTok”slice like this a social network user.

Especially since the moults are linked. In the future, the network will rely heavily on the insertion, in the thread of its users, of content which does not come from the accounts to which they are subscribed but which is chosen by an algorithm, referred to as discovery-engine (“discovery engine”), responsible for identifying posts that generate a lot of reactions. The first content promoted by this automaton appeared in the second half of 2021 and remained relatively discreet among users until June 2022 when, their proportion increasinga wave of discontent has formed. This movement crystallized in a petition collecting over 300,000 signatures.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers Accused of copying TikTok, Mark Zuckerberg assumes his strategy for Facebook and Instagram

The social network has backtracked a few weeks later, reducing the share of content promoted by its automaton in users' threads, while warning that this decline was temporary. Contacted by Lemonde.fr on the impact generated on users by the successive changes made to its algorithm, the company did not wish to comment, simply assuring that“Instagram needs to evolve as the world changes”.

The Meta Group's objective remains to drastically increase the share of recommendations on its Instagram and Facebook social networks. If no precise figure has been made public for the first, observing what is happening on the second allows you to get an idea: according to the specialized site The VergeMark Zuckerberg has set a goal of increasing the share of sponsored content on Facebook from the current 15% to 30% by the end of 2023.

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