Your Favorite Instagrammer Probably Buys Likes.

Your Favorite Instagrammer Probably Buys Likes.
I know, I couldn't believe it either.
Yeah, I said it.

Truth be told, this post really isn't about all of that (kinda is, kinda isn't). I just said that to get you to cliiiiiiick (Ma$e voice)
Your Favorite Instagrammer Probably Buys Likes.
I just said that to get you maaaaad! Image source
(Don't act like you don't remember that line from Phone Conversation, before Cheat on You on the Harlem World album. Don't play me.😂)

Today's post is inspired by a few things. One, my honest feelings. Two, the fact that my Detoxing from Social Media post was the most-read from the Self Care with Soultanicals series. And three, my girl Ijeoma (aka Klassy Kinks) wrote a post of her own, which pretty much confirmed that I needed to purge these thoughts if I had any hopes of moving forward with new energy in October.

So grab a glass of your finest tea, coffee, or wine (I don't judge) and settle in.

I'm about to get real.

Fun fact: I took these photos in the yellow sweater back in January, playing around. It's almost like I knew some tomfoolery would be afoot.

The Problem with Instagram
If you've been within 200 feet of an influencer, then you've heard about the fallout of Instagram's many algorithm changes - from killing organic reach to putting your timeline on shuffle mode. The honest truth is, everyone's hurting - but Instagram is a business. And owned by Facebook, at that. 

Snapchat ain't turning a profit no time soon (Google it), but that's another subject for another time.

I bring up the business aspect to say, that Marky Mark and the FaceBunch are in it to make money. Period. Instagram is a pay-to-play economy. Yes, you can try your hand at beating the algorithm with comment pods (more on that later) and such, but gaming the system doesn't work in the long run.

To truly succeed at Instagram in 2017 and beyond, you've got two options - put in the work to build an organic following, or pay to let Facebook do it for you. But some influencers across all genres, and non-creatives with a general thirst for attention and validation have created a third and fourth route, of Joanne the Scammer proportions.

Pods, and Purchased Likes, Oh My!
Full disclosure - I just left the 1 pod I was in like, two days ago.

Engagement pods were created in an effort to "beat" the Instagram algorithm by tricking it into thinking your post is poppin', because in theory, the more people organically engage with a post, the more visible it becomes on timelines, explore pages, etc.

In theory, engagement begets increased visibility, which begets more followers, which begets more sponsored collaborations.

The problem with this model is that ultimately, it doesn't work.

As someone who works in marketing by day (I'm a Copywriter & Account Manager), I'm always A/B testing something - blog content, posting times, copy, images, and more. You can best believe I A/B tested the efficacy of comment pods. Now, my experience is based on 1 pod. There are influencers out in these e-streets in 15, 20, 30 pods but that's not my business, or my lane.

And by the way - this is NOT an e-dragging of the pod participants in any way, shape, or form. I honestly believe I was in a great pod - and had the chance to meet some of these ladies in real life. They're dope creatives, and their work deserves to be seen.

Now back to this A/B testing. I found the law of diminishing returns alive and well in my posts that I selected for pod support. Meaning, that over time, engagement steadily declined. Sure there were outliers and anomalies, but the general trend was stagnant or declined engagement, even as my number of followers went up. The kicker? My non-pod supported posts either performed at level or above the podded ones.

My conclusion? The pod life ain't for me - but not just because I found it ineffective.

It started to feel disingenuous.

When I collaborate with brands, I do so because I believe in the products. I want them to grow and prosper. Heck, I want to grow and prosper. But forced engagement does nothing to help either. Solicited likes does not equal blog clicks, and does not equal sales for the brand. It's like buying flowers for yourself and hoping your ex notices. The truth is, he probably won't care, and you've wasted time and energy that could be better spent elsewhere.

It's basically like...buying likes.

Yes, Buying Likes is a Thing, and You'd Be Surprised Who Does it
I know, you scrolled down here thinking I was dropping Instagram handles and screenshots. But I've got plans for heaven and y'all ain't gon' make me petty myself out of the rapture. No ma'am.

I will say this - there are plenty of Instagrammers (and businesses!) buying likes.

Yes, businesses.

Never mind that businesses buying likes is the epitome of hustling backwards. Let's get into why buying likes is fraudulent AF and almost pushed me out of the blogosphere completely.

Your Favorite Instagrammer Probably Buys Likes.
Hey there business owner, you do know buying likes doesn't mean they're buying product - right? #helpfultips
For the longest time, I was having an existential crisis with The Mane Objective. I felt like I wasn't poppin'. Like my Instagram wasn't growing how I thought it should be. Like there was some magical "it factor" I lacked. Was my hair not big enough? Do I need to hire a photographer to take photos of me pretending to do stuff? Should I post pretty pictures of me brunching with girls I don't really like? Am I not taking advantage of the cool street art in LA to stand in front of for selfies?  Is it because I don't know how to wing eyeliner (or put it on at all, for that matter)? What was I missing?  Did my curls need to be blonde to get noticed? Is it because I don't have those long claw nails that I can't for the life of me figure out how people wear and function daily? Should I start practicing whatever it means to "slay"? WHAT AM I NOT DOING?!

I like to pretend I'm too prideful and above the fray, but I was really in my feelings y'all. Seeing people who I thought were peers soar ahead of me. Watching chicks come out of nowhere and all of a sudden jet set around the world with brands and land exclusive partnerships.

I was on full Bitter Betty mode, in spite of what God had already done for me (ain't that some mess). I used to legitimately stress - like how am I still getting slept on? I've been blogging since 2012, and 20K+ followers is ALL I can get?

Issa conspiracy.

Then I learned, that not all is what it seems in the land of perfect selfies and great hair days. Some folks are really out in these e-streets buying likes, and faking the funk all the way to the bank.

As if the Instagram Rapture of 2014 wasn't a thing.

And here I am, trying to complete with folks that are literally buying their way into brand partnerships, and compromising the integrity of influencer relationships for all of us. If you want to be able to spot fake likes on IG, read up on Klassy Kinks's thoughts. She breaks it down pretty clearly.

Thank God for reflection and redirection, because ya girl was about to throw in the towel. Like, I legit planned to hang up my hat (and even take down all my posts so nobody could steal more of my content), and shut it all down. I was literally about to throw The Mane Objective in the trash.

And then, Samuel told me I was being stupid. In those exact words.

He reminded me that I don't blog for Insta-fame. That I've got an entire audience that's been rocking with me since day 1, and to ghost on them would be hella disrespectful (I agree). He also reminded me that despite what the social media numbers say, my blog performs. It's full of content that I've poured YEARS into creating.

He asked me one question - why did you start blogging in the first place? The answer was the same that it has always been - to help people by sharing my own journey with natural hair. To show the ups, downs, good, bad, frustrations, triumphs, and blessings as I learn about my hair and leading a healthier lifestyle.

And at the end of the day, it's mine. I own it. It's my own little slice of internet real estate. Actually, I've got a couple of slices - but that's another story for another day.

I can't say the same about Instagram, Facebook, YouTube or anything else. I don't own any of those platforms, or my content on them for that matter. If Instagram disappeared today, what would I still have? My blog. If YouTube ceased to exist, where does my content still live? Right here.

I had to fall back from obsessing over houses built on sand.

I'll probably never have the respect or adulation that influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers and subscribers get - even though my blog traffic is legit. But I'm at peace with it.

My Path Forward
I spent a lot of time trying to "make" my Instagram pop. For a while, I tried to do things like everyone else - showing off my hair, posting video clips with cool covers, obsessing over hashtags, joining a comment pod, posting only at peak times, trying to organize my feed, and more.

I stopped just short of makeup and fancy photos of me sipping lattes at hipster coffee shops.

But in all those things, I was getting further and further away from who I am, and why I joined Instagram in the first place. I had become calculated and methodical, attempting to compete with chicks who either weren't thinking about me, or were too busy buying likes to be concerned with my feed.

To invoke 808's Kanye, I was worried 'bout the wrong thangs. The wrong thangs.

After disappearing from the 'Gram for a few days, things started to click. There's nothing wrong with wanting to see growth and progression. There's nothing wrong with wanting to reach more people. But I had to do it the right way, and for the right reasons.

Your Favorite Instagrammer Probably Buys Likes
Smiling more because there's a sense of freedom that comes from being who you are authentically, and not who people think you are on social media. #issaword #betruebeyou 
Instead of hacks, trying to beat the system, corny gimmicks and those awful loop giveaways where you have to follow 95 random international people, I'm turning inward and challenging myself to step my game up. To become a better writer. A more creative photographer. To enhance my current knowledge of SEO. To break away from the pack while leveraging new opportunities on and off social media. To make sure that I'm helping, inspiring, and educating by sharing the totality of my journey. To continue to walk in authenticity.

Even if those things don't bring more followers, more likes, and more readers - I'm good with that. Why? Because the end result is a more dope version of Christina, and time spent working on yourself is never wasted.


I'd love to hear from you in the comments - influencers and community members alike. How are you feeling about the current trends in social media? What are you longing to see that everyone is ignoring? Speak ya mind!


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