Everyone starts out by sharing random snaps of their cups of tea / dog / baby right? Somewhere along the way however, it dawns on you that there are women out there, just like you, who are making money from sharing their own snaps of family life. And they have thousands of followers by doing so. And they say things like “swipe up” when what they really mean is “swipe up and I get paid because this my dear is an affiliate link”. Over on their Instagram stories, they’ve started to
not so casually drop into conversation that SO many people sent them questions and that they will get back to you all as soon as possible – ie look at me Im so freaking popular and busy. Ahem.
Then after a while, that mother who you thought was just like you, starts to seem like the absolute most polished version of you that you could ever imagine…even when she’s just gotten out of her bed, which makes you wonder if you need to get up at 05:00 to work out and apply makeup too. So then you turn your notifications on (because she told you to) so you can make sure you’re doing whatever she is so you can be all self-motivated, quirky yet beautiful and totally Insta-famous as a result. But wait, are you supposed to shop at Aldi, Waitrose or Tesco? Because she #ad’d them all in two days…Which one is she actually using?
And those funny / friendly DMs you used to exchange start to go unnoticed, or worse still are “seen” but not heard. Maybe you’re just not Channel Glamorous enough for her? Sigh.
You get the picture.
This is being repeated all over Instagram and I am afraid that it’s saturating a platform that was supposed to be about sharing something, having a laugh and moving on with your day. If you didn’t know it already the whole thing is bullshit.
I can tell you that with certainty as a woman who has also used the term #ad on occasion and been paid handsomely to do so. I do believe that there are Instagrammers who only work with brands who they use BUT I know that they are in a minority and even when its authentic, it’s so far from reality that it might as well not be. For example, I worked with John Lewis on a Mothers Day campaign earlier in the year and I love their brand so I was happy to work together but the pain of getting those brand-worthy pictures made me want to poke my own eyes out. Not reflected in the pictures naturally because I too wanted to be influencing the shit out of you all. I’ve since woken up and I’m here to enlighten you.
Whether you are ok with paid promotions or not is not the issue though. The issue is with the myth that it creates and the BS it feeds to people who are often completely blind to the backstage world of the gram. This endless stream of #AD on these little squares is filling desperate working mothers (amongst other people) with the notion that if they too curate their lives to look like that Instagrammer who gave up work “to do this full time”, then they will be able to stay home too and the hamster wheel of hideousness that is working and juggling family life will finally come to an end. All you need is 10,000 followers and you too can be #blessed too right?!
If you want to fill your feed with paid promotions enough to put food on the table then that’s absolutely fine with me but lets call this what it is. You aren’t an “influencer” you are an advertising medium just like those annoying pop ups on websites. To become qualified for such a role you are going to have to airbrush the shit out of your life, add a tiny spritz of ‘just-enough-personality’ and then strategise each and every square to make ordinary mothers feel just enough desperation to have a slice of your lovely life whilst maintaining an air of being relatable.
Being paid to share your actual life is probably not on the cards and I am absolutely sick to the back teeth of hearing about funny and talented women trying to increase their following (me included at one point) because they think its the road to a happier work life balance and the answer to their prayers.
It absolutely is not.
Everyone who is trying to grow a following knows how hard it is to do so these days and I think it is because the platform is so saturated with this endless in your face advertising from “people just like us” that everyone else is losing faith and interest. It’s a known fact that #ad will lower your engagement rate right down and that is because we are sick of seeing it. It’s the virtual equivalent of my mum muting the ads on tele in-between Coronation Street.
So if you came to this post to find out the magic secret to growing your Instagram then this is it – you have to pimp, pluck, fake and perfect your life, strategise your content, clothes and camera angles, pretend that you are utterly normal and just like everyone else but all the while totally sticking within the brands campaign guidelines. Then when you post with your legally required #ad and it bombs, you’ll have to go into private Facebook blogger groups to ask other bloggers to like and comment on your post so it looks to the brand as though there was interaction.
There are a few wonderful exceptions to this rule and they are masters (or mistresses) of advertising – it’s a talent though and it’s rare. Just like everyone cannot be a brilliant writer, mathematician or sales person – not everyone can be good at marketing. Chasing this kind of game will make most tired, depleted and anxious working mothers feel even worse about their already over-stretched to do list. But please don’t allow it to do that to you.
You can of course give it your best shot if you really want to or you can buck the current trend and take a different stance – forget about followers, numbers and engagement, fill your feed with people who make you feel good, make you smile, share genuine every day life and TALK BACK to you. You can remember that for every #ad you see, twenty plus frustrating and fabricated shots were taken to meet the requirements of the advert. You can remind yourself that this content was created and designed with the one intention to get you to put your hand into your purse and buy something. And if that isn’t enough you can be totally sure that 10 real friendships created through genuine Instagram relationships will support you, lift you up and make your day a better place but that 10,000 bullshit followers who don’t respond to your attempt at advertising will only destroy your self confidence and make you feel even more desperate than before.
I know it’s tempting when you feel low because you left your semi-sick baby at nursery to go into the office and it seems easier to sit at home and curate Instagram feeds but I promise you it is anything but and it is not going to be your ticket out of here.