They set up their business on Instagram. Then the platform changed

“It started much faster than I expected,” he said. The Midnight Tokar Vintage account has amassed nearly 6,000 followers since its launch in September 2020 and has launched a second account focused on resale clothing. Tokar, a 30-year-old single mother living in New York City, managed to turn her Instagram store into a full-time source of income about a year ago, despite a relatively modest following.

But lately, her posts haven’t been reaching most of her followers and regular customers, which has meant items are selling much more slowly, issues that Instagram thinks may be related to recent changes to its platform. “Things don’t show up. … months later I’m still getting messages [posting something] It’s like, ‘Oh my god, I’ve never seen that,'” Tokar said.
He is not alone. As Instagram increasingly prioritizes videos and suggested posts in users’ feeds to keep up with rival TikTok, some small businesses built on the platform are struggling to reach their followers, facing declining engagement and saying they’re worried. about the future of their business. Some small business owners have joined users in the petition calling for “Rebuild Instagram,” which has garnered more than 300,000 signatures since it started last month. Others have expressed their concerns in posts and stories directly on the platform.

Liz Gross, who has been in business since 2011, said, “I still have a basic customer base… She sells old fashioned through her Xtabay Vintage account. Gross said 98% of her business came from the platform after her physical store closed during the pandemic.

Concerns among small business owners are part of a larger backlash to Instagram’s changes, which some users say is moving away from the app’s photo-sharing legacy and making it harder to connect with the communities they’ve spent years building on the platform. Many users have complained that they are much more likely to see suggested posts, ads, and Reels (Instagram’s short video response to TikTok) that they may or may not be interested in anymore, rather than seeing their friend’s posts in their feed.
After a wave of pullbacks last month, including from social media heavyweights like Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian, Instagram said it would temporarily roll back some updates. In an apparent effort to look more like TikTok, Instagram said it will pause the full-screen option it’s testing and reduce the number of suggested posts in users’ posts until it improves the algorithm that predicts what people want to see. . Still, Instagram head Adam Mosseri suggested that videos and suggested posts remain central to the app’s future.

In response to questions about small business owners’ concerns, Anne Yeh, spokesperson for Instagram’s parent company Meta, reiterated that Instagram is temporarily reducing the number of suggested posts in users’ feeds in response to user feedback. “We know changes to the app can be a regulation and we believe Instagram should evolve as the world changes, but we want to take the time to make sure we’re getting it right,” Yeh said in a statement. she said.

Mosseri said the move to more recommended content is aimed at helping creators on the platform — suggesting that users will be more likely to discover something they haven’t been following before. But some business owners say it’s more important for their posts to reach people who choose to follow them.

“There are people who write to me and say they never see my posts anymore and wonder if I’m still posting,” said Gross, who usually shares multiple posts each day for his 166,000 followers. “Only a tiny fraction of those who follow me actually see them.”

It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly why access to posts fluctuates on any given platform. Instagram provides professional users like businesses and other content creators with a dashboard that shows how their content is performing, including the number of accounts that have viewed and interacted with their posts.

Similarly, Liz Sickinger, owner of Six Vintage Rugs, said that her followers are generally interested in her content, but recently her posts are seen by only 5% of her followers.

“As a creator, I resent my time there,” Sickinger, who started his account by selling antique rugs four years ago and has nearly 42,000 followers, told CNN Business in an email. He added that he wasn’t sure his posts would appear as recommended content in other users’ feeds, but said, “I don’t think so because I don’t post many videos and the growth in my account has completely stabilized.”

Many small business owners are also fed up with the platform’s focus on video, saying they feel they need to create videos or Instagram Reels for their posts to be seen, whether it makes sense for their format product or not.

“I didn’t get into this business for fun,” Tokar said. “Making this content takes a lot of time and is a very time-consuming job in the beginning. I spend my hours sourcing, photographing, listing, researching, cleaning up and submitting. … It’s already a full-time job.”

Accounts can pay to “boost” their posts so they will appear as sponsored posts in more users’ posts; multiple business owners said it now seems like one of the only ways to enable interaction with still images. Sickinger said ad spend has doubled in the past year “because organic reach is dead.”

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For Gross, who says sponsored posts have helped him grow over the years, it’s not fair to have to pay to be seen now. “Well if you’re not really going to show it [my posts] The people I paid to reach in the first place?”

Businesses and e-commerce are key to Instagram’s future growth strategy, and the app has offered a growing list of shopping features in recent years. Instagram encourages business owners to use all the features of the app, including stories, live streams, posts and Reels to enable followers to see and interact with their content. The company also offers training to small business owners on the platform, including in-person events in select cities. Although it doesn’t have a separate figure for Instagram, Instagram parent company Meta says that more than 200 million businesses worldwide use its services each month.

Given Instagram’s enormous reach, it’s hard to let go for users and businesses alike. But some business owners say they’re considering expanding to other platforms because of the changes. Tokar said that he started to make some sales through Depop and Etsy e-commerce sites and he no longer trusts his shop for all his income. Sickinger said the “saving grace” is the ability to reach repeat customers through an email list.

Still, there’s no way to easily transfer an Instagram account’s following to another audience, and other platforms often come with fees and other policies that can make selling there more complicated than Instagram.

“It keeps me up at night because I don’t know how else to reach people,” Gross said. “I mean, I could start making Twitter posts. But visually the impact of Instagram was that you always have an image you see, so losing it would have had a tremendous impact.”

Said Sickinger: “Without this platform, my business wouldn’t be what it is today, which is why I’m investing so much. Still I want their users to really understand who they are and I’m not sure they do.”

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