We (almost) all put ourselves on display via the many and varied social platforms with our photography, writings, podcasts and whatever else. We do this in the hope of gaining an audience that understands and appreciates our work and when it happens, it feels incredibly great…
…but social platforms have all started to implement algorithms in hopes of prioritizing our content based on relevance rather than the published time.
This can most definitely diminish the chance your work coming in front of the people who chose to follow you. The algorithms are not about improving that relationship, they’re more about improving the chance a sponsor/paid advert landing in front of you in hopes of enticing you to click through and ultimately spend your cash.
There are countless times I’ve heard from followers that they do not see my work and this is very disheartening. It causes many of our peers embarking on strategies they feel are going to get them noticed more than if they did nothing. Things like creating alliances such as collectives (an idea I am still exploring since I had a brief exposure to that and could see it as a great playground for like-minded souls), and collaborations with individuals who come together for short term projects in hopes perhaps of spreading their nets wider to catch a broader audience.
These sorts of schemes just seem like a wasted effort because the social platforms are like black boxes and we the users are constantly hoping/guessing that we will figure it out. Once we do figure it out, they just move the goalposts, leaving us to scramble. So, I say forming alliances should only be for true collaborations with no expectations other than spreading horizons wider and hopefully learning from someone quite different from yourself.
The algorithms are not about improving that relationship, they’re more about improving the chance a sponsor/paid advert landing in front of you…
Social platforms are not here for us, they are here for their own bottom line: the mighty growth/coin. Even when the tools get loads of eyeballs on your feeds or stories, we the audience don’t really seem to take action. For example, on Instagram currently, I can share a story and it will easily receive 300-400 views. That’s great, but ultimately meaningless if the viewers are not actually there to engage.
It feels as if your story just plays to an audience that’s sort of like the occupants of the spaceship in WALL-E (great movie). The audience is not really there to engage with the work, especially if you’re not a “big name”. Most people (I feel) are only interested in engaging when they feel they have something to gain from the one they are engaging with. I know, that comes across as quite cynical, but I feel like we are in a “follow-for-follow” age. An age where one only gets engagement when there is something to be gained (we have left the Information Age and have entered the Follow for Follow Age, ok let me stop joking). In all seriousness, it does feel sort of less one nation and more like alienation.
The previous paragraph did come across as cynical, didn’t it? Let me step it back a little. I have formed some really great friendships online. I have podcast, photography, and just general relationships that I cherish immensely. If it were not for those I’d be packing it up and going offline like my friend and great photographer Devon Stapleton (who was on Through My Lens with Clay Daly: A Personal Journey with Devon Stapleton where we do go into his leaving online spaces). If I were to leave the social platforms would I lose all those connections I have formed online? I would hope not.
I have a space online to create as my own and share my images and the podcasts I create.
My website is my own space and it is not subject to Facebook, Twitter, et al and their ever-changing algorithms. But… and it is a big but, how do we get the audience to follow? How does someone who is not a big name online personality get the audience to take an extra step to get outside of the walled garden and into the spaces rebels like us occupy out here in the independent web?
I have not done the work, because I fear no one will follow, but perhaps no one will follow because I have not done the work. (Classic free chicken and fertilized eggs situation, amirite?) This is an important question, and the simple answer may just be that we don’t worry about the audience. We just take the leap to create for ourselves and not worry about the audience following, because maybe you’ll reach a new audience.
…or we don’t worry about the algorithms on the platforms and just keep creating on them hoping that perhaps things improve…? Do we just go offline altogether and take our creative creations to the next level and create the ultimate versions of our photography and other art forms (and by ultimate I mean the print of course in the case of photography).
I know many bloggers, vloggers, and podcasters will end their posts with a solution, but I have none. I will simply end with a question.
Where to from here?
Your turn: submit an article
EMULSIVE is all about promoting knowledge transfer across the film photography community. You can help by contributing your thoughts, work and ideas to inspire others reading these pages: check out the submission guide.
If you like what you're reading you can help this passion project by heading on over to the EMULSIVE Patreon page. There's also print and apparel over at Society 6, currently showcasing over two dozen t-shirt designs and over a dozen unique photographs available for purchase.