Creating Content For Yourself vs. Conforming to 'the Algorithm' | Being Creative Online
‘The algorithm’ is something that is ominously referred to by pretty much everyone who uses social media for creative or commercial purposes. It is basically what Instagram uses to determine whose photos will be placed at the top of people’s feeds and will be allowed the most engagement, which Instagram gained the power to do after it got rid of chronological feeds (this article is much better at explaining it than I am). No one really knows how it works although there are many theories and assumptions surrounding it, for example, that ‘the algorithm’ prefers iPhone photos to photos taken on digital/professional cameras. But who knows if it really is the algorithm that prefers that or just users of Instagram? Either way, it is true that some posts do better than others based on many things that are often different for everyone.
Because certain posts tend to do ‘well’ (i.e. receive good engagement), it can be tempting to only create the kind of content that performs well. But what if that’s not your favourite kind of content to create? I’ve been blogging for almost a year now and the lines can sometimes become a little blurry when it comes to thinking about what the content I like to create is, because I think I can become subconsciously influenced by the likes and the shares to think the content I enjoy producing is the content that performs well, when that isn’t necessarily the case.
I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently because I really want my blog and social media to remain as a creative, fun and positive space for me to be in. As soon as I started going through my blog and Instagram and picking out the images and posts that were my favourites, it became clear that my favourite imagery is always film photography based. Creating imagery using film photography is, annoyingly, the most expensive and time-consuming way to do so, which is why I haven’t done it consistently, but it’s undoubtedly my favourite.
Despite this, not one of my top 9 images on Instagram are film based. 2 of them (including my post with the highest engagement) are mirror selfies, 2 of them are photos in which I’m wearing outfits I threw on quickly, that I didn’t like very much, and then asked my boyfriend to quickly take a photo of me in outside a train station. The others, minus one, were all taken on my iPhone during day-to-day life. Clearly then, my photos that receive the most engagement are actually the ones that require very little effort to create. This sounds good right? Quick outfit shots are easy enough for me! This is definitely what I thought for a little while.
But I started to feel so creatively stifled in creating this kind of easy content. This wasn’t so much with my blog, as this content largely stayed the same other than the imagery, but very much so with Instagram where the content is purely visual. Just because it was easy, and maybe purely because it was easy, it doesn’t mean it was fulfilling. So I’ve recently decided to shoot more and more of my imagery using my film camera, like with this post! I’m not currently making any money from my blog or my Instagram and I’m trying to look at this as an opportunity to create content that I personally love and creatively fulfils me because there is no real gain to my content performing well other than that it feeds my ego!
Sam, my boyfriend, very kindly spent a day in Liverpool with me last weekend shooting lots of photos on my film camera, some of which I included in this post. I love how all of the photos have turned out, especially these ones! I originally wore this outfit to London Fashion Week but didn’t get any photos of me wearing it, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to re-wear it and capture some images in one of my favourite parts of Liverpool, the beautiful Georgian Quarter.
I’m feeling super excited about more of my content being film photography based! Although it is expensive, it’s an investment I’m willing to make because there’s nothing I love more than sharing my film photography (as well as my writing) and photos taken on my film camera are ALWAYS my favourites.
My content isn’t going to change too much though, especially over here on my blog as I’ve never really felt the creative restrictions I sometimes experience on Instagram through blogging, probably because there aren’t any algorithms trying to dictate what I should post over here! Just expect lots more film photography and maybe some more style/fashion content on the blog.
I’d love to hear about your experiences with the Instagram ‘algorithm’ and being creative online. I am also interested, despite my ramblings about my creative freedom, to hear what content of mine, or generally, you like to read/see online, so please let me know in the comments!