6 Questions To Ask Yourself if the Instagram Algorithm Has You Down

January 18, 2018

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We’ve talked about Instagram before. In this post, we shared how we quickly and organically grew our following (and you can, too!) and on episode 48 of our podcast, we discussed why we think the Instagram bubble is going to pop–spoiler: it has a lot to do with people trying to take short cuts.

If you use Instagram just for fun, then this post doesn’t really apply to you, but there’s been a lot of buzz from people, like us, who use Instagram as a part of their business and are having trouble getting our content seen by our followers. It can be frustrating! The best thing you can do as one of our followers is to like and comment on things we post if you like it!  It will allow our content to continue to show up in your feed. I always say, if you like it, heart it! If it makes you pause, maybe that’s worth a comment!

On the other hand, if you do use Instagram to reach others, I’ve been doing some research and testing and thinking in the last few weeks and this is the conclusion I’ve come to about the new algorithm: Instagram just wants us all to act like human beings. Not businesses. Not influencers. Just people who want to connect with one another. And Facebook’s recent announcement about wanting to make the platform about connections really confirms that–especially since they own Instagram.

With that in mind, here are 6 introspective questions to ask yourself if the Instagram algorithm has you down:

1. When’s the last time you responded to comments and questions?

Comments are great on Instagram. They’re gold actually. We all want that kind of “engagement.” But, in real life, those are called conversations and how weird is it if, in real life, 100 people said something to you and you never replied? Instagram likes conversations and that means taking time to respond to people who took time to leave a comment–even if it’s just to say that you already answered that question above. Which is a completely different issue I’m still trying to figure out. I don’t answer every comment, and I probably miss a lot of questions, but I try. And hearting comments is easy!

2. When’s the last time you opened up your Instagram app to not just check on your notifications, messages and analytics, but to see what someone else was up to?

It’s very easy to get overwhelmed with all the notifications you should tend to when you open your Instagram app. See #1. Not to mention, the analytics you want to check on. There have been many times that I get busy doing all of that that I put down my phone before I even scroll through to check in on the people I follow! Once I realized, I stopped doing that because that’s not what friends do. Real friends, real human beings are interested in each other. Instagram wants us to act like human beings.

3. When’s the last time you liked or left a genuine comment on a photo, no matter how many followers they have?

In my post about growing your Instagram following, I mentioned the importance of leaving genuine comments on other people’s content. But real human beings don’t care about how many follower’s someone has before they leave a comment or like a photo. Don’t just leave a comment to get exposure on another person’s account. Leave a comment because you like them and their content, regardless of anything else.

4. When’s the last time you shared (with credit!) an account or photo that you love–without it being a trade?

There’s a new trend on Instagram, I’ll promote you and you promote me. And while I’ve never done it personally, I have checked out a lot of accounts because of other ‘grammers that I know who have done it and tagged someone in their feed or stories. So, it works, I think! But when’s the last time you just shared a photo or account just because? I think there’s a lot of humanity in that. Humanity and good karma.

5. When’s the last time you went out of your way to thank someone for sharing your ideas, a photo or account?

Notifications get buried quick–I totally get it. That’s why every time I see that someone tagged us in a comment, photo or story, I reply immediately with a “thank you!” or some sweet emoji or comment–because, goodness! There’s nothing better. They want their friends to know about you. It means so much to me every time, and I can’t even believe how gracious they are when I notice them sharing about Chris Loves Julia.

6. When’s the last time you were excited about the content you were publishing on Instagram?

Lastly, and most importantly, you have to be excited about what you’re posting. If you don’t love what you’re posting, then why should other people? A few months ago, I was in a rut. I was posting a lot of recycled photos just to post something. I wasn’t excited about it. It didn’t feel new or exciting for anyone else, either. In real life, the people you interact with can 100% tell when you’re phoning it in and your Instagram followers can, too. They can tell when you’re not excited. So, whatever it is you’re posting about–be excited to share it. (More posting tips in this post.)


These are all questions I have asked myself, and tried to correct in the last few weeks. In a highly digital world, I think the app is trying to force us to be human again…it’s kind of amazing, don’t you think?

Ps! You can always connect with me over there at @chrislovesjulia!


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What do you think?

  1. Gayathri says:

    Sorry about the big rant that’s about to come. Not aimed at you or anyone but a general observation for an ordinary Instagram user :) . One question that baffles me in all of this – Is this all true? How do you know that Instagram is doing this and that with its algorithm? I think it’s a matter of perception, of course you mentioned that you tested it, but I am wondering if the results turned out to be what they are, cos you started with a fixed hypothesis, that Instagram’s change in algorithm will affect everyone. All this aside, what bothers me more, is that this algorithm theory is completely baseless and since all the big “influencer” accounts are sharing about change in algorithm.. yada yada yada, even normal accounts are doing stuff that you would do in a competition. Trying hard to do promote posts, deleting followers, story rants and all that to save themselves from something, which is yet to be even proved..or perhaps announced by Instagram themselves…

    What if this is just a wide-spreading rumour that would only make people more glued into this bizarre world of likes and comments, that’s already engulfing most of our personal lives? :)


    • Julia says:

      Why would people delete followers? Also, this is not baseless. Facebook, who owns Instagram, just came out with a big push and focus on human interaction. Linked the article in the first paragraph!

  2. Ashley says:

    Love your viewpoint on this topic. I’m new to the concept of incorporating business into my Instagram page. So I read your original post on how to gain 50k in a year. Great info btw, but while I was reading it I was wondering your thoughts on the new algorithm. I scroll through your blog content and BAM and post addressing the topic. I get really discouraged but just being a human and doing what naturally feels good is the best advice I’ve read so far! Thanks for the info!

  3. Jessica says:

    Great post. Thx! Makes me think about what I see and what I post.

  4. Carrie says:

    This is GREAT. Many thanks to seeing people as that – people. Not just a means to an end. Love what you guys do and how you do it. ❤️

  5. KJ says:

    Wonderful article! I want to copy your link and paste it in response to every complaint I see about the algorithm.

  6. Great post! I agree that so much depends on your willingness and enthusiasm to interact. Neither of my ‘decor’ IG or ‘hand knits business’ IG accounts are big but I know and interact with a lot of great people (and actually really consider many of them my friends.) If my business benefits from that, great. But it is so much more than that for inspiration and keeping up with friends.

  7. Erin K says:

    Love your positive insight on this! I listened to your podcast and read the post about how to grow organically and have been employing most of that myself as I try to get my little IG account to grow. I noticed the other day that the amount of engagement vs reach is REALLY high for me! So even though my reach is only about 150 right now, I can easily have between 25-45 engagements on each post. So the “being human” method is the real deal and is helping me build a following of people that ACTUALLY want to engage and are truly interested in the content. I’ll take my slow growth over fake follows any day!

  8. Taylor says:

    It seems like a lot of people are discussing this issue and trying to figure out the best way to use Instagram. This reminded me of this post from The Pigeon Letters – I found it really informative on this topic. And I think your ideas are spot on. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Great insight! Thank you!

  10. Kristin says:

    Love this! I totally have not been on board with the algorithm, but agree whole heartedly with you analogy. Act like a human and interact and it’s fine. ????

  11. Debby says:

    It’s interesting, because you’re focusing on how Instagram is trying to get us to be more human, and have real connections. But at an earlier point you said that since you starting focusing on your instagram account it makes a big difference when you take “real, good” pictures, instead of just a quick, non curated pic on your phone. I’m totally not trying to attack, since you can’t hear the tone of my voice, I’m just wondering, how is this all human? Being human is just being. Sometimes it’s messy, sometimes it doesn’t have good lighting, sometimes its even boring. Sometimes my cute kid is only cute to me no matter how insanely cute she is. So by sharing publicly things that used to be inherently private, like the insides of our homes, the plate of dinner we are sharing with loved ones, our beautiful sleeping babies, we’ve shifted what is expected of being human. I think a lot of what you are saying is encouraging people to be kind, thoughtful and compassionate. I think it’s wonderful that you are promoting those values in this crazy world of living behind screens. However, social media has really impacted just how we “do” human, and sometimes, I just still can’t wrap my head around it. I’m interested in your thoughts. Preston’s too ;)

    • Julia says:

      I still agree with putting your best visual foot forward, as Instagram is a visual platform. But interacting as humans do is just as important.

  12. Brenda says:

    I love this so much, Julia! I used to think of Instagram as ‘insta’ – something that happened in the moment. But it’s gotten far, far away from that with people spending hours and hours and hours to get just the right shot to ‘casually’ post about their day or their latest project. And there are so many people that I follow(ed) that I think could really care less about me or any of the other followers. You’ve given all of us a lot of food for thought and I appreciate it.

  13. Ellen G says:

    Julia! I love this so much!!! Thank you for your insight on this crazy Instagram world we live in. I’m the worst at not liking or leaving comments when I actually do love something. It’s a great reminder to be genuine and connect with people. ????

  14. Kate says:

    I just wanted to take the time to comment and let you know that I noticed you practice what you preach when it comes to this stuff and I really appreciate that. I have commented on two of your posts recently and you directly responded to me both times, which I found very thoughtful. I noticed it seems most accounts with thousands and thousands of followers don’t take the time to respond to people. I also received an email back from Chris last month when I shared with you guys a project I did in my home inspired by you. He replied to my email that same night, which shocked me. Just wanted to take a minute to say you guys really do seem to take the time to engage with your readers/followers and that is super refreshing. Thank you!

  15. Anastasia says:

    As silly as it sounds…..the new Instagram algorithm did totally have me feeling down. I guess I just don’t like the idea of a program curating the content I see. But, such is life these days.
    Reading this post was so refreshing and positive. Thanks Julia! Your positive spin on this was contagious :)

  16. Holly says:

    Great ideas! Thank you ❤️

  17. Rocky says:

    Always love your perspective and candor! Such good points about Instagram…I enjoy it so much more when I am looking for inspiration and encouragement.

  18. Mary B says:

    Lauren (below) took the words out of my mouth! I only use Insta for fun, love design and dream of one day being in the industry, so I follow mostly home decor/design type peeps. I’m looking for inspiration, and appreciate when they share where an item is from. I enjoy getting to know the person and seeing their day to day life. Stories has given it a reality tv feel – like I actually feel like I know some of the folks I follow. Don’t get me wrong, I love someone that has hustle, I guess lately it feels like the personal touch has been lost by too many on my list, and the main focus is now “swipe up”.

    • Rocky B says:

      @Mary B – So true! I feel like a lot of the people I used to love watching are now “swipe up after swipe up”. Not that I mind since they are trying to run a buis…but it takes part of the human element out of it.

    • Susan says:

      I completely agree, well said, I feel like I am on a shopping channel!

    • abby says:

      I totally agree about the “swipe up.” I am getting close to un-following some of my long-time favorite bloggers on Instagram because of the incessant “look at what I’m scrolling through on the internet and buy it so I make some money.” I understand and am absolutely fine with sponsored posts, advertisements, and affiliate links on things that are incorporated into an actual room or post since our favorite bloggers do need and deserve to make money (e.g., I’m still not a fan of a whole post being “Look at all the frames I like,” as if it’s doing the readers a favor, when the whole goal behind it is to make money from us buying them). But the whole casual “swipe up” fest every other day on Insta-stories feels disingenuous and is HIGHLY annoying. I wish bloggers would learn this and try to strike the balance better. As an example, I am a LONG-TIME fan of YHL and even went to meet them at a book signing, etc. I have always championed them and used to tell people about their blog all the time. But I am so sick of what Instagram has become to them that I am to un-following them and only checking in on their blog occasionally. I LOVE CLJ–you guys are actually my FAVORITE blog these days and have been for a while (and I’m a huge fan of the podcast!)–but the constant “swipe up” (especially when it is on a pair of hoop earrings–which, come on, does not relate to your brand) is making me closer and closer to disconnecting with you guys on Instagram and only checking your blog. I hope you don’t get defensive when reading that, because this is coming from someone who LOVES you guys and your brand–really! But, there is a line that I think many bloggers are crossing these days. Instagram has become far less fun for followers, and it’s NOT because of the algorithm, as you might believe. Believe it or not, when I see a new photo from you guys on Instagram, I often actually go click your page to see if I have missed any others. When people like you enough, they will do that. So, the issue is not the algorithm (although I can appreciate the tips such as liking and commenting on photos to help that account pop up in your feed more). The issue, for me (and I imagine many other followers who are non-bloggers) is the “swipe up.” I will always follow what you guys are doing because you’re awesome, have a beautiful home and good style, have great personalities (that comes through on the podcast), etc., but I might eventually re-evaluate what mediums I follow you (and other bloggers–not singling you out) on if Instagram keeps getting more and more out of control with the “swipe up.”

  19. Jackie says:

    I know that I’ve gone back and forth between following and unfollowing you on IG – I don’t think I am currently. I’ve done the same with Young House Love as well. Here is my miscellaneous feedback: 1. The IG posts in your feed I like most are ones that are a reminder of a new blog post I can read on your site. I dislike when anyone advertises their podcasts on IG but that’s easy enough to just ignore and that is only because I’m not a podcast person. 2. Bulk liking or responding to the hundreds of comments you get spams my following activity feed. I like that feed for finding new friends that have joined, accounts I don’t know about that many of my friends like, funny stuff that is going viral that I didn’t see yet, seeing my coworker like a bunch of hot girl photos and giggling that he must have forgot I am following him and can see the type of babe he goes for, 2nd degree friends from college that share mutual friends with me and just had something exciting happen in their life, etc. – I most likely unfollowed you immediately if you did all of your responding at once because I just want to get you out of my feed so I can go back to using Instagram the way I like. YHL spams my feed like no other, it;s much easier to just go search for them on occasion and do so after it’s been referenced in their blog post 3. I follow specific feeds for decor inspiration, I don’t also need the DIY bloggers I follow to post photos that aren’t theirs but are the pics that are inspiring them. I’d rather be able to see you like that inspiration photo when I scroll through my activity feed (see #2), and go to the source myself 4. I like the dog and kid pics of strangers a lot less than I like the dog and kid pics of the people I actually know. Not because they are any more or less cuter – your photographs are always beautiful and so if that happens to be the subject matter so be it, but it’s usually your composition and lighting or concept that I am liking if I am liking a photo of your family. 5. I know you did a post one time about the filters you use so I know this is intentional on your part – so just wanted to say that you really do a beautiful job with this. I think you have the most attractive and crisp blog layout and pallate and it stands out to me. Your portfolio of images are practically meditative for me. I like that your instagram and blog match. I keep up with your blog because I truly think you have amazing taste and your content, even the subtle aspects of it, are an extension of your superior eye and artiistic talents.

  20. I think you’re 100% right. I am still a very small account so I do spend time each day connecting, scrolling and commenting and of course sharing my buddies. I’ve seen amazing growth in the past few weeks just by being consistent. I can’t thank you enough for the podcast you did either. I learned so much and have shared it with so many people.

  21. Karmen Webster says:

    Love your outfit! Where is it from?

  22. Lauren says:

    Love this post! I have felt in the past few months, that Instagram has become another avenue for bloggers to sell me something vs something they are passionate about-which is why I personally followed them in the beginning. Meaning- I feel like every insta blogger eventually partners up with Nordstrom (whom I LOVE) and they all post the same bell sleeved sweater with the words “SWIPE UP” in bold other than – hey I found this super cute sweater and thought I would share it with you! Same goes for home inspiration. I really enjoy finding great deals via bloggers but that’s not ALL i want to see. While I understand we are all trying to make a living, how awful would it be if I came into work and I told my boss I would only complete the task given if it benefited me as a person and not the company that I am choosing to be a part of? I’m sure I’m butchering the message I’m trying to get across here, but I love that you mentioned that followers can tell when you’re phoning it in.. bc we can! Genuine interest in what you’re posting is my favorite content and I find myself liking and commenting naturally on something bc its truly something I love. Thanks for posting this- It is truly a great read and something more bloggers should realize!

  23. Danielle says:

    What a thought provoking post! As a designer with a nerdy background I often ponder the algorithms that inform what we see (and sometimes, perhaps to our detriment, keep us in our own little bubble). I like your thought of the conversation where you never reply to anyone – the monetization of “social” media has turned it into a bit of a one way street. I think Instagram does still have some of that social soul still there though, and rewarding engagement and quality content is how to maintain that. I really appreciate that you guys keep the ‘human’ in your digital presence, thank you for sharing both here and on Instagram in such a thoughtful way :)

  24. Amber Wallace says:

    I just started a new Instagram account. I truly appreciate your openness and posts about it. It’s going to take time to have an organic following and that’s ok! Right before I did my first post I listened to your Instagram podcast for a refresher on your tips and am really keeping them in mind. Need to change my description though lol. Keep remembering how you said that’s important. Anyways, thank you!!!

  25. Jess says:

    These are great, but I’d be cautious about the whole “real friends” in a digital world. Yes, real friends comment and are there for each other, but I don’t feel the same relationship with those that I follow on Instagram. There’s a decent chance that they aren’t my “real friend” but just an awesome person I found online, but that I don’t have any other action with to consider them a real friend. Commenting about something awesome they posted is nice, but that doesn’t make them my true friend and I certainly don’t feel the same obligation to them as I would a friend before the digital age.

    • Monica says:

      I like your comment, Jess. Real people don’t have thousands of real friends. There simply isn’t enough time and energy to keep up with that many relationships in life.

      Honestly, even though I believe Julia’s intention here is really good, and I hope people will listen to her advice, I had a sick feeling by the end of reading the post. Feeling the need to remind human beings to act like human beings is just a reflection of where our society (and the world in general) is at, and it feels super, super sad to me. I’m only 42, but I grew up in a time where real human beings, real friends, real acquaintances, and even real strangers out in public had eye to eye contact with each other (I know people still do that, but I hope you understand what I mean). So much has been lost in the digital age. We feel like we’re so advanced, but it really feels like a giant leap backwards to me. And yes, I myself am caught in it (my bread and butter comes from it), so this isn’t a judgement on any of you reading this. I guess I just felt the need to (humanly) voice the thing that nags at me in the back of my mind on a daily basis.

      So yes, please take Julia’s advice here and make an effort to slow down, and act like the real human that you are. But I’m not sure that means commenting to every single person that comments to you on instagram. In real life, if you were giving a presentation to a crowd of thousands of people, and all of them started saying things to you for some reason, you wouldn’t go and answer each and every one of them. You’d probably just get all of their attention at once, and then answer the question at large for everyone to hear. But if a few of them were able to make eye to eye contact with you, and asked you a question in that way, then you’d probably answer them on a personal basis. Think about what happens when a celebrity gets bombarded by the media and large crowds when they’re out in public.

      Julia, this age of humans attempting to have human interaction through non-human ways is difficult to navigate, so I applaud you for trying to steer people back to human ways as much as you can. But truthfully, there is nothing that will ever be able to replace old fashioned eye to eye contact, physical touch, hearing the voice of someone and responding with your own voice. These human things are so important, that the lack of them, or the replacement of them by some non-human device, actually affects our health. And we are becoming a very unhealthy society overall.

      Anyway, that’s what your post made me think about. But I’m not trying to get any followers on instagram at all. I just like to look at stuff on there. I love your website, your podcast and your style. Thanks for all the inspiration and all the laughs (from your podcast). And I’m super excited to see what you’ll do with your new cabin. That’s a great place for real human stuff to happen!

      • Ryan S. says:

        I know I’m reading and commenting on this post a little late but I just had to respond to say YES (A freakin men!) to this post by Monica. And I’m so glad to know that I’m not the only one out there that feels this tension. While I completely understand the need for businesses and brands to connect with others (and have those people buy whatever it is they are supporting) as it is the life source of their businesses (and I do support this to an extent because bloggers and brands deserve to be paid for all the hard work they put in), I struggle with the fact that it’s not really truly connecting. There’s this pressure that followers feel to constantly be in the know, to intake this amount of information/photos/stories that is impossible to intake in a given day. And the fact that stories disappear after 24 hours only adds to this pressure (make sure you watch before it’s gone! Hurry and get all the information! Put your real life on hold to watch because otherwise you’re going to miss connecting with these online “friends” that at the end of the day aren’t the people you lean on when shit hits the fan). Its quite a dichotomy in that social media allows us to be “connected” yet also creates this pressure and doesn’t allow for space in our lives. I’ll say too that a lot of the times I do try to connect is unreturned. When I have a genuine question for a blogger, and I’m not solely talking about CLJ because you guys do a great job and have responded to me in the past, but 98% of the time, my question goes unanswered. And I’m one to check to see if it’s been answered before commenting too as I’m sure it has to be annoying for bloggers to get the same question 150000 times. So the fact that the times I try to connect and “be more human” with online “friends” I just end up feeling discouraged in the end leads me to ask the point? What’s the point of trying to “be more human” online when it leaves you feeling less human?

        I’m not sure what the balance here is because I really do enjoy reading my favorite blogs but I honestly struggle with the social media side of things. For that reason, I tend to steer away from putting effort in on Instagram and more effort into connecting with people, living and experiencing things in my real world life.

  26. Brittany says:

    Hmm… I’ve seen you and others talking about how the app isn’t showing you new content from people you follow but I haven’t experienced that at all. Generally every single time I open the app there’s a plenitude of new photos — so much so that if I see something and I want to remember it I need to specifically take note of who posted it so I can go back and look when I open the app again. (It gets semi-annoying when I need to quickly close the app for something — checking out at the store or something — and i can’t get back to where I was in my feed) I’m only following about 350 accounts on IG so its not just that I’m following a gazillion people. Odd.

  27. Great tips! I’m just starting so I’m struggling a little with engagement in Instagram so I’m definitely be trying those tips.

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