Is Boosting a Post on Instagram Worth It?

This article is a follow-up to my Instagram is Dying — For Photographers article that I published last month. It won’t apply to everyone reading this. If you have an Instagram “professional account” or have considered changing to one, this post is for you. Specifically, I wanted to look at what happens when you tap “Boost post”—an option only available for pro accounts—and find out if it’s worthwhile to do. What’s the process? How much does it cost? What do you get in return? Is it worth it?

To start with, I don’t recommend switching to a professional account on Instagram unless you really “need” to. The moment I switched to a pro account, my engagement dropped in half. You do get tools, such as analytics, and various other features in the “Professional Dashboard” to help you build your brand, but, unless you feel those things are necessary, I’d steer clear of switching. Meta basically says that the pro account will help you, but then they handicap you and want you to pay them money to solve it. I have had no interest in giving them my money—I simply want Instagram to show my posts to my followers, but that’s obviously not happening. After publishing that other article and reading all the feedback, I thought it would be worth exploring “Boost post” because there are probably many others who feel similarly, and are wondering if it’s worthwhile to try or just another scammy thing that Meta is doing.

Before I get into this, I think it’s worth going over some of the statistics. I’ve discovered that over the last year my Instagram posts tend to fall into one of four categories. About 50% of my posts get minimal engagement (likes, comments, etc.) and are seen by 15%-25% of my followers. About 30% of of my posts get moderate engagement and are seen by 40%-50% of my followers. About 15% of my posts get strong engagement and are seen by 60%-75% of my followers. About 5% of my posts get exceptional engagement and are seen by 85%-100% of my audience. If Instagram simply showed my posts to more of my followers, they’d get more engagement. Some of you might only see 5% of my posts. Half of you might only see one-in-three posts. I think only about 15% of my followers see all of my posts, which is crazy. You might notice similar statistics with your posts and your followers.

Under each of my posts, Instagram has a “Boost post” icon that taunts me. It’s intended to do that. “If you just press me, all your followers will see this post,” it says. But is that true? I didn’t know. I assumed, but I was ignorant, and I didn’t want to be ignorant. So I tapped it.

When you tap “Boost post” you are presented with three options: more profile visits, more website visits, and more messages. Under your boosted post, which is actually a sponsored ad, is a call-to-action button that will do one of three things, depending on the “goal” you select. I get about 50 messages a day on Instagram already, so I took that option off the table immediately. I ended up running two sponsored ads, and selected “more profile visits” for one and “more website visits” for the other. More profile visits is a call-to-action to visit your Instagram profile. Once there, I have no idea what people do, but they’re apparently taking a look at you. More website visits is a call-to-action to click a link to whatever website you want people to go to (I chose RitchieCam.com). More messages is a call-to-action to get direct messages on Instagram, I assume.

After that, you’ll be asked to “define your audience” so that Instagram knows who to show your ad to. You can select Automatic (“people like your followers”), or Create your own. I chose the latter for both posts. With that, you have to select the interest of those you want to target. Fujifilm is an option and photography is an option, but straight-out-of-camera, JPEG, and film simulation recipes are not—in other words, it’s more broad, and popular brands and common interests are what you have to choose from. Then, you have to select where those people live. I tried United States, but that was too large of a group apparently, so I had to narrow it down by state—you can select about 10-15, depending on the populations of those states. I’m sure smaller countries could have been chosen. You could select specific cities, too. I don’t like how Instagram set this up, but maybe it would work well for you, I guess depending on your situation. For most people, I imagine that Automatic is likely the best option.

Lastly, you have to select your budget ($5, $7, $20, and custom) and duration (1 to 30 days, or indefinitely until paused). For the first post I chose $5 each day for 5 days ($25 total), with an estimated reach of 4,000 to 10,000. The second post I selected $7 each day for 6 days ($42 total), with an estimated reach of 6,300 to 16,000. Tap “Next” to review, and your ad goes live. You can pay with a credit card or PayPal, which you setup the first time through.

So, how did my boosted posts (a.k.a. sponsored ads) go?

The first one, which had the goal of profile visits, was one of those 5% posts with tons of engagement. Unfortunately, when you boost a post, Instagram doesn’t tell you if the accounts reached were followers or non-followers (like they do otherwise), which was disappointing to learn. My suspicion is that they showed it to more followers plus more non-followers—a combination. This post reached over 37,000 people (I have 26K+ followers), so my assumption is that Instagram showed pretty close to 100% of my followers this post, plus 11K non-followers. That’s excellent! I wish all of my posts got this attention. However, Instagram claims that only 5% (less than 2K) saw this post as a result of the ad (less than half the reach that Instagram estimated). And, only 64 people viewed my profile as a result of the call-to-action, which is a small number (I think) for $25. I have no idea if any of those 64 learned of Film Simulation Recipes or followed me or anything else. Was this a rare “exceptional engagement” post because of the ad or in spite of it? I have no idea—I really didn’t get any answers.

The second one, which had a goal of website visits, was one of those 30% posts with moderate engagement. This post reached 15,000 people, and (just guessing) 10K-11K might have been followers. Instagram claims that 26% (less than 4K) saw this post as a result of the ad (significantly less than Instagram estimated). There were (supposedly) 52 people who visited my website as a result of the call-to-action, which isn’t a lot for the $42 spent. I have no way to know if that led to anything further.

I would have to boost a lot more posts to gain any real data to draw any conclusions. The odds are that one of these two posts “should have been” in the common 50% category that receive minimal engagement and views, but neither were. There were three other posts—one before the first ad, one in-between, and one after the second ad—two of which had minimal engagement (seen by less than 25% of my followers), and one had moderate engagement (seen by about 50% of my followers). It makes me think that Instagram does show your boosted posts to more of your followers, but I cannot say that with certainty, or give any kind of guess on how many it might be. It would be great if Instagram had that as an option: show post to all followers. Maybe charge $5 for that. But, that’s not an option. I do find it interesting that one ad was a top-30% post and the other was a top-5% post, so I do believe that boosting a post does just that—boosts a post. Imagine that. But I really don’t feel that the $67 I paid did much of anything other than that.

I think it was good to try, but I don’t think I’ll do it again. I paid about 40¢ per profile visit for the fist ad, and I paid about 80¢ per website visit for the second ad. That’s probably a decent price (cost-per-click) for digital advertisements, but definitely not something that I want to pay—maybe if I was selling something expensive it would be worthwhile. I just want Instagram to show my posts to my followers, and I do think boosting a post does that to a degree, but it’s an expensive way to do it, and not really “worth it” in my opinion.

By the way, be sure to follow me on Instagram if you don’t already.

Instagram is Dying — For Photographers

Instagram is a dying platform for photographers.

Still shocking to me, I’ve gotten a lot of followers on the Fuji X Weekly Instagram account over the last two years: over 25K right now! I topped 10K followers on May 11, 2021, and 25K on July 9, 2022—it has grown 150% in roughly 14 months. That’s amazing, and all thanks goes to you! I never thought that was possible.

When I reached 10K followers I signed up for a business account. While it certainly has its benefits, it also has one huge negative: Instagram wants me to pay them money to show you, my followers, my posts. They purposefully hide your content from your own followers—if someone seeks it out they will find it, but it won’t show up in their feed—unless you pay Instagram a fee. My engagement dropped in half the instant I signed up for the business account. You might think that engagement—likes, comments, shares, etc.—would have grown at the same rate as the followers, but not so. The average post at 25K has a similar engagement as a post at 10K prior to signing up for a business account. While my followers have increased by 150%, my engagement has only increased by 100%—back to where it was before Instagram cut it in half.

Instagram is a great place to feed your envy. There are people whose pictures suck that have 100K or more followers and are basically earning an income from Instagram. There are people who capture amazing pictures who have less than two hundred followers. I’ve seen both of those circumstances personally, and maybe you have, too. Now I’m not the world’s greatest photographer by any means. I see many, many photographers who are more talented than I who have fewer followers, and I also see the opposite, too. Nobody’s self-worth should come from Instagram, and the followers and engagement (or lack of it) don’t actually mean anything. Unfortunately, it’s more of a popularity contest than anything else; however, Instagram is a good way to connect with others across the world.

Once upon a time Instagram was the place to see wonderful photographs. You could find a lot of inspiration. It still is, but less so now. Why? Instagram (which is owned by Facebook/Meta) recently claimed that engagement in still photographs is down nearly 50% over the last two years, so that’s why they’re focusing on video. I call B.S. on this.

I know two things: Instagram will hide your content if they want to, and Instagram (Meta, actually) doesn’t like competition. Whenever a new social media app comes along that Meta perceives as a threat, they buy it; if they can’t buy it, they make their own version of it to incorporate into their own apps. Right now that competition is TikTok, and since Meta can’t buy it (I’m sure they tried at one point), they’re becoming “TikTok” in order to win—at the expense of you, the photographer.

I believe that Instagram has put into place algorithms to suppress still photography and simultaneously push video content (Reels, as they call it). Then they say that still photography is dying and video is booming, so they need to be video-centric. They’re paying people money to publish videos. I’m not a video guy myself, but by far my most popular post on Instagram is a Reel, with triple the engagement of my most popular still-photography post. Is it because you all are more interested videos, or because Instagram wants you to be more interested in video? In my opinion they’re trying to transform their app into TikTok, which means that photography needs to take a back seat.

You can still be successful on Instagram as a photographer. Since Instagram is pushing Reels so hard, you might consider using those to show your pictures (instead of a traditional post, or in addition to it). I’m personally not a fan of what Instagram is becoming, but that doesn’t mean it’s not useful. A lot of people have discovered my Film Simulation Recipes through Instagram. I’ve made a lot of connections (I get about 50 DMs on IG each day!), and even made some friends. There are definitely still some positives.

I do think the time is ripe for an Instagram-alternative for photographers. I know that many have tried, and no one has really succeeded. I don’t know what its unique shtick should be, but there has to be something that sets it apart. Money is obviously an obstacle, because everyone wants a free app, but an app like that would be expensive to produce and maintain. I don’t have the solution, but I do know that an opportunity exists right now for someone who thinks that they might have the solution.

Now it’s your turn! Do you like or dislike how Instagram is evolving? Would you try an Instagram alternative if there was a good one? Is there a current app that you prefer to Instagram and why? Let me know in the comments!

Be sure to check out my Apps!

The Fuji X Weekly Moment CineBloom Giveaway Winners!

The Fuji X Weekly Moment CineBloom Giveaway has ended! I want to give a big “Thank You” to everyone who participated—there were over 400 submissions! The winners, who were randomly selected, are:
@alex_fricke_365
@stephen.wells
@bruce_martin_photographe
@fotografik_westphalen
@henrikbratt

Congratulations to these five winners! I know you will appreciate using the filters!

CineBloom diffusion filters are a great way to take the “digital edge” off of your photographs, giving them an analog-like feel. Diffusion filters have been popular in cinematography for awhile, and people are beginning to realize that they’re great for still photography, too. These filters pair especially well with my Film Simulation Recipes, and are a wonderful tool for the JPEG photographer.

I want to give a huge shout-out to Moment for teaming up with Fuji X Weekly to make this giveaway possible! They did it because they’re big fans of this website, Fujifilm cameras, film simulation recipes, and the Fujifilm community. Moment’s website (shopmoment.com) is definitely one of the better camera stores out there (yet, really, they are so very much more than just “a camera store”). If you’ve never visited Moment, be sure to do so—you can thank me later.

Even though the Fuji X Weekly Moment giveaway has ended, please continue to use the #fujixweeklymoment hashtag on Instagram. I love seeing your Fuji X Weekly moments, and I hope you continue sharing them!

Also, while I’m here, if you haven’t downloaded the Fuji X Weekly App, be sure to do so. It’s free, and available for both Android and Apple. If you are looking for a way to support Fuji X Weekly and all that I’m doing for the community plus unlock the best app experience, consider becoming a Fuji X Weekly Patron (available in the app)!

#FujiXWeekly Episode 002 – Your Instagram Photos Are Impressive!

I just published Episode 002 of the #FujiXWeekly video series on the Fuji X Weekly YouTube Channel!

Fuji X Weekly is on Instagram, and when I created that account I also created the hashtag #fujixweekly. I’ve noticed that many of you are also using that hashtag, and since I follow it, whenever you post using #fujixweekly your pictures show up in my feed. You guys are creating some impressive images! It’s very inspiring to me, so I wanted share that with everyone.

Please keep using #fujixweekly on Instagram. I’ll pick some of the pictures to showcase in the next video. Obviously I can’t use all of them, but I’ll pick some that I find interesting. If you used one of my film simulation recipes, include which one you used in the description if you don’t mind. I’d love to know which recipes you guys are using!

I appreciate every one of you! Keep up the great work! Below I’ve included a link to everyone’s Instagram accounts who had pictures in the video above. Be sure to check out their work!

@503_x100v
@max_street_photography
@leongoossens_film
@jassonwu0529
@alensinthelandscape
@neopanacros
@yongjie1220
@hugovangool.nl
@smile_n_shoot
@1080paolo
@apollokreed
@mirrorlessron
@dennyf
@effzwo.thommy
@seize_the_moment
@cederaiz
@fujisbyjakob
@spicy.eye
@drjkgas
@kato.dng

New Video Series: #fujixweekly

 

I posted a new video on the Fuji X Weekly YouTube channel today! It’s the first in a new series that I hope to do once or twice a month, maybe weekly if I can manage my time better. It’s a short yet very important video because it features your pictures!

If you didn’t know, Fuji X Weekly is on Instagram. When I created that account I also created the hashtag #fujixweekly. I’ve noticed that many of you are also using that hashtag, and since I follow it, whenever you post using #fujixweekly your pictures show up in my feed. You guys are creating some wonderful images! It’s very inspiring to me, so I wanted share that with everyone.

Please keep using #fujixweekly on Instagram. I’ll pick some of the pictures to showcase in the next video. Obviously I can’t use all of them, but I’ll pick some that I find interesting. If you used one of my film simulation recipes, include which one you used in the description if you don’t mind. I’d love to know what you guys are using!

I appreciate every one of you! Keep up the great work! Below I’ve included a link to everyone’s Instagram accounts who had pictures in the video above. Be sure to check out there work!

@vincent.images
@jamiechancetravels
@damlandberg.photography
@guyfromtor
@drjkgas
@camandcoffee
@sampl_images
@raphvikkivoyages
@rolandfelberphotography
@leoncinialain
@effzwo.thommy

Also, I want to give a big “Thank You” to my wife, Amanda, who put this video together. Really, this was her work, not mine. She did such a fantastic job with all of the editing! Amanda is an important behind-the-scenes member of the Fuji X Weekly team, and the YouTube channel especially is much better because of her talents. Thank you, Amanda!

Fuji X Weekly is now on Instagram

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I’ve been on and off Instagram a few times over the years. I think it can be a fun way to share one’s photographs, but there are things about it that I don’t care a whole lot for. There’s a lot that’s fake, such as people buying likes and followers in hopes of reaching fame and fortune. I’ve been away from it for a number of months and it has been nice. If you are ever feeling frustrated with Instagram, I highly recommend stepping away from it for a period of time, perhaps six months or a year. It feels really good, like a social media cleanse. It helps to reaffirm what is and isn’t important in life. And Instagram is most assuredly unimportant.

With the growing popularity of Fuji X Weekly, I get asked frequently what my Instagram handle is. People are interested in seeing my photographs in a different forum than this blog. People also want to share their Instagram feed with me. I figured that it was a good time to jump back in, so I created a Fuji X Weekly Instagram page. Search for @fujixweekly and it should pop right up. I invite you to follow me. If you do, I will check out your feed as well, time permitting. That “time permitting” statement is an important one as I do not intend to spend gobs of time on Instagram. I like social media to take up a very small space in my life. Other things come first, and that’s a priority for me.

If you’d like, follow Fuji X Weekly on Instagram by typing @fujixweekly in the search box on your app. I hope to keep it interesting and fresh so that it’s worth your time and attention, but I also don’t want it to become time-consuming. It will be a balancing act for sure. Hopefully it is one small thing that I can do to improve the experience of this blog.