Last week I watched a series of Instagram stories in which a photographer friend of mine showed two screenshots: an Instagram photo from six months ago, and an Instagram photo from two days ago. The picture from six months ago had over 4,000 likes. The picture from two days ago had around 1,000 likes. Six months ago, her following was much smaller.
To recap: she now has a bigger following, but less people are seeing her photos. Because of that, less people are engaging with her content, and because of that, her website traffic is down and her bookings are at "an all time low." I nodded along in solidarity. Our C+C Instagram has also grown quite a bit this past year, and simultaneously our engagement has dropped. We practically doubled our following in 2017, yet only a fraction of our audience even sees the content we publish.
I'm not going to waste my breath bashing Instagram or Facebook. Do I wish Instagram still showed every single post from people I follow in chronological order? Of course. Do I wish my Facebook feed was not full of bra ads? You betcha.
But we all know that Facebook is a business, being run like a business. Facebook bought Instagram, and now Instagram is run like a business. We do not pay any money to use these platforms; therefore, we have no say in how they work.
I'll say it again. That sucks.
So, what can we do?
It seems like every day a new e-course pops up on my feed. How To Get 100 Followers A Day! How To Start An Instagram Pod and Beat The Algorithm! How To Buy Likes and Sell Your Soul!
(Okay I haven't really seen that last one offered, but it probably exists.)
The truth is—I've never taken one of those courses. I don't read marketing blogs or keep up with the latest trends. Someone told me once that people buy robot followers on Instagram and I legitimately gasped out loud. Moral of the story: I am not a social media expert. Far from it.
BUT. As a person who has been creating content on the Internet for almost ten years now, I *do* have some ideas on how we can better support the writers and artists we love, both on social media and beyond.
If you've ever wondered how you can support the people in your life who inspire and encourage you with their art, here are a few ideas to get you started:
1. If they write something lovely that resonates with you, leave a comment. When you leave a comment on a blog post or essay or article, that is your way of saying, "I'm here! I read this!" Comments (well, nice ones) make the writer feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. You don't need to leave a comment on every post---just once in a while when something really resonates with you.
2. Share the link on Facebook. If I were to rate Facebook engagement options on a scale from 1-10, 1 being not helpful at all and 10 being the *most* helpful, clicking the SHARE button is a full on 10. Because the Facebook algorithms are what they are today, even really popular sites with tons of "likes" struggle to get their content seen.
For example, when I share a link on our Coffee + Crumbs page (19k likes), without shares—it might reach around 3,000 people. Out of those 3,000 people who see it in their feed, 200 people might actually click on the link and 30 people might actually engage with the post (via a "like" or a comment).
Now compare that to: a post with shares. I posted something a few weeks ago that got 308 shares. The result? 68,535 people saw it in their newsfeed. More than 15,000 people clicked the post, and almost 3,000 people engaged with it.
To recap: shares can be the difference between 3,000 and 68,000 people seeing the content, the difference between 200 and 15,000 people clicking the content, and the difference between 30 and 3,000 people engaging with the content. In other words, sharing is caring!
(And now please pardon me while I step on a soapbox.)
Friend, I know there is a LOT of crap on Facebook vying for your attention. Cute videos of cats and clever listicles; memes and gifs galore. Add in a few click-bait political articles and this is what people are sharing on Facebook 24/7. And while I can certainly appreciate an occasional Tina Fey gif (obviously), the sad truth is: content like this takes up so much space that there's hardly any room left for anything meaningful. When I scroll through my newsfeed (which I curate regularly!), I am amazed at how little "quality" content exists there. So my challenge to you, dear reader, is this: would you please think twice about hitting share on that cat video? And would you please NOT think so hard about sharing that 1500-word essay that validated an experience for you, made you think, or otherwise encouraged you?
I don't think the cat cares if its video was shared two million times. But I can tell you with absolute certainty that the writer who poured her heart and soul into that essay is validated by even one share of her words.
3. Send them an e-mail. Reader e-mails ... I could cry attempting to explain the impact these messages have had on my life. Every single one goes into a special folder called "Don't Quit Writing" and when I feel especially insecure or overwhelmed, I just read a few of those e-mails and I feel better. Those messages are like virtual vitamins. In other words: it takes less than five minutes to send someone an e-mail that says "Keep going!" and you might buy that person six months of confidence.
4. Support them on Patreon. Tons of artists are hopping on this platform to invite their readers and fans to support them financially through small monthly donations. It is SO EASY. Consider: what is this content worth to me? $3 a month? $5 a month? $10 a month? Is it worth the price of a latte? The price of a movie ticket? More? Speaking from experience: setting up our Coffee + Crumbs Patreon account was life-changing for our finances last year. We are still well under the dream goal I set, but every single month, money gets deposited into the C+C bank account, directly from PEOPLE WHO LOVE US. I can't even begin to explain how much that fills me up emotionally. Every dollar that comes through that account is one less dollar I have to worry about finding. I can pay my team, cover all of our expenses, and I didn't have to sell my soul in the process. Which is why, again, I'll offer this shameless plug: if you love the art we create at Coffee + Crumbs, you can support us on Patreon for as little as $1/month! ($5 and $10 Patrons get fun rewards 4x a year.)
5. Leave them a review. Does your favorite artist have a book? A podcast? Something else that accepts reviews? Leave one! This always feels like a daunting task, but I swear it only takes a few minutes. Don't feel like writing? Goodreads and iTunes will let you leave a 5-star review with no description. YOU JUST HAVE TO CLICK THE FIFTH STAR. This is a two-second task! For podcasts specifically, this is a huuuuuge deal. Shameless plug: you can leave a 5-star review for the C+C podcast right here.
6. Subscribe, subscribe, subscribe. Subscribe to their blog. Subscribe to their newsletter. Subscribe to their podcast. This really does matter (especially with podcasts!).
7. Tell your friends. Tell your online friends. Tell your real life friends. Word of mouth will never not be significant. Back when I used to do photography, my business was 100% worth of mouth referrals. This matters!
8. Buy their things. Did your favorite writer publish a book? Did your favorite artist open an Etsy shop? Did your favorite designer create a gorgeous line of printables? Look. It takes a lot of courage to put your art out into the world. It takes even more courage to ask people to pay for it.
9. Go on a liking spree! I saved this for last because it's easy, not because it's unimportant. The next time you have five minutes to kill, when you're sitting at a swim lesson or waiting in line at the post office, whip out your phone and go on a liking spree. Head to the pages and feeds of the artists you love and like! like! like! like! like! Double tap everything. Double tap all the things. Not only does that make the artist feel warm and fuzzy on the inside, but it also helps the algorithms. Every time you like, share, comment, or otherwise engage with a post, you're telling Facebook and Instagram: hey! I like this person! Show me their stuff more often! Seriously: treat it like a science experiment. Every time you get five minutes, go on a liking spree, and see how it affects your feed.