As part of its crackdown against groups “gaming” the algorithm of its system, Facebook has recently deleted and banned 10 groups that were found to be used for boosting the reach of Instagram accounts. With most brands and businesses today — independent photographers and studios included — relying on social media platforms for their digital marketing campaigns, it’s easy to see why these groups amassed members by the thousands, one of them even had over 200,000. However, it also proves why social media engagement often isn’t a reliable indicator of quality of work.
Since building a real, organic following on social media takes time and hard work, some marketers have found a way to get shortcuts through these groups. According to a BuzzFeed News report, these groups kept threads and “pods” or group chats where members coordinated trades for likes and “follow for follow.” This “gamed” Instagram’s algorithm to artificially boost likes, comments, and number of followers, tricking the system to think that a photo is popular. The platform, of course, wants engagement to be organic and based on relevance, so even attempting to “game” the system could get an account banned.
What could this mean for photographers? First, this is precisely why Instagram (or social media engagement in general, for that matter) shouldn’t be the sole yardstick for the quality of your work. The fact that this bad practice exists and there’s a crackdown for groups involved in this prove that not all the high-engagement posts on Instagram are in any way “real.” Some of those popular photos you’ve seen in the recent months could just be one of the posts propped there by one or more of the deleted groups.
Second, there are no shortcuts to building a brand and doing outstanding work as a photographer. All the snippets of time you’re spending on social media could actually be eating away at your time to work on being a credible photographer outside your online presence. An Instagram feature will soon tell you how much time you’re actually spending on the app — time better spent on actually improving your work, promoting your business to right market, and connecting with real people who can add value to what you do.
Lastly, promoting work on Facebook isn’t going to be any easier either. However, there’s a better use of Facebook groups to get engagement for your business post. Experts have suggested building or joining a community around a shared mindset related to your work. This makes it more likely for you to build a genuine and lasting connection with people who are really interested in what you do and are willing to show you support.