Motivation is a curious thing.
It comes and goes, usually without warning.
One minute I’m making grand proclamations about becoming the fittest version of myself. The next, I’m making all the excuses to not workout.
Or, I get inspired to be smarter with my money – to grow my savings and not fritter away my disposable income on Instagram fashion and Amazon finds. But then I get a little bored or stressy, and I’m adding to cart all over the place.
While motivation is typically elusive for me, there are two times in the year when it shows up, unfailingly: every September, when my body is flooded with an almost visceral need to dive into some hefty new goal.
And for the last three years, every July – when I’m seized by the unrelenting desire to make something of my online presence. Generate more traffic to my blog. Attract more followers to my Instagram account. Get noticed.
To what end?
I’m still not sure.
This summer was no different. Early in July, when I began to shed the stress of the school year like a snake sheds its skin, I could feel the stirrings of that now-familiar compulsion to gain traction online.
Ever since my experience as an overnight Instagram sensation back in 2020, I haven’t been able to move the needle much beyond 200 followers. But I see teachers with tens of thousands of followers. Moms.
What’s their secret to attracting so many people to their feed? What are they doing and could I have similar results if I did the same thing?
With these questions in mind, I decided that this would be the summer I figured out all things Instagram, and maybe – just maybe – grow my own following in the process.
Instagram, like Google, operates under a set of rules that rank content on the platform. This set of rules is called an algorithm. The algorithm analyzes every piece of content posted to the platform, and decides what content shows up, and in what order, on people’s Instagram feeds.
So, if gaining more attention on Instagram was to be my goal, then I needed to appeal to the algorithm.
How the heck do I do that?
You know how things you search for on Google start showing up on your Instagram feed? Like, for example, if you googled what to wear with ankle booties, you’d start seeing sponsored posts by fashion stylists? Or if you were searching for vegan recipes, you’d notice a marked increase in posts from companies selling plant-based cookbooks or online cooking classes?
In my case, Google’s algorithm must have told Instagram’s algorithm that I searched for ‘how to get Instagram’s algorithm to like me’.
Or, you know, something to that effect.
Sponsored posts started showing up on my Instagram feed by people whose chosen profession is called…wait for it…Influencer Coach.
I may have clicked on a few of their posts – which were actually reels, because the algorithm prefers reels to plain old static photo posts. They taught me that…the Influencer Coaches.
So I needed to make reels. But first, I needed to learn how to make reels. I know I’m late to this party, given that reels became a thing in 2020. Let it be known that there was exactly no part of the learning-how-to-make-reels process that was intuitive. Many, many Life minutes spent. But big thanks to Modern Millie and Stephanie Kase for their help and guidance – your videos helped this old dog learn a new trick.
While the reels piece is important, it turns out that there’s one thing that towers far above it in terms of getting on the algorithm’s good side: knowing your niche.
All the coaches emphasized the need to carve out your specialty area – your niche – and not stray from it.
The algorithm favours niches. It likes people who are clear in purpose and direction.
When I used this lens to review the accounts with tens of thousands of followers, I recognized their niches immediately. Teachers who posted nothing but creative lesson ideas and classroom hacks. Moms who shared toddler meal ideas or quotes about raising teenagers or products that made #momlife a little bit easier. Plant-based folks whose feeds were one gorgeous meal photo after another.
My feed didn’t have a niche.
It was as niche-less as can be, with posts (not reels) of everything from my pandemic homeschool set-up to books I was reading to selfies meant to encourage folks towards my blog. Link in bio! LINK IN BIO!
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines niche as a job, position, or place that is very suitable for someone. Parenthood is very suitable for me. So is teaching. I could focus my
posts reels on things that are relevant to teachers or moms. I’m also a first-time novelist, so maybe my niche could be the writing world. But…I’m also newly plant-based and gluten-free…so maybe that?
I guess I need to figure out my niche.
Or do I?
Despite having learned a few things from Influencer Coaches, I’m not aspiring to be an influencer. The thought of me – hot mess me – trying to influence anyone?
Well, that’s just hysterical.
So if I’m not trying to gain thousands of followers for the sake of replacing my teaching income as a content creator or brand affiliate, or trying to launch my own product line or sell a service, then why the heck do I need a niche?
My why has always been about connection. That’s why I write. That’s why I share. To connect. In this world of 8 billion people, if what I write resonates with someone, that means something to me.
But I’m never going to write about just one thing. My writing is as niche-less as my Instagram feed.
You know what? I think ‘niche-less’ will be my niche.
Even if it means Instagram’s algorithm moves my posts to the bottom of the pile. Even if I never gain another follower.
Now that that’s decided, it’ll be interesting to see if the motivation to get noticed online returns again next summer.
I really hope it doesn’t.
This little foray into Instagram’s algorithm has left me exhausted and weary.
Learning TikTok would surely kill me.