It’s all just a little bit of history repeating

Like many of you, my team at Camp Tech uses Slack to communicate throughout the day. When we set up our Slack account years ago, I set my avatar to a photo of a very old woman. That’s because of a running joke amongst us: that I’m “Internet Grandma”.

The tech industry has a terrible problem with ageism. The digital world is dominated by young people. It’s awful. Not only because it leads to a monoculture, but because there’s such a wealth of wisdom and skill that comes from longer life experience that is completely missing from most teams.

By most general interpretations of the word, I’m not old. I’m 40. But in the digital world, I’m ancient. I’m not the only one of course, but there are far less digital professionals over the age of 40 than there are below it.

I clearly remember a time before the internet was widely adopted. Before WiFi and smartphones. I remember Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 and whatever the heck our current web is. When I started my career as a web designer, there were only six fonts you could use on a website, and you posted to Twitter by sending a text message. I experienced all of it, and every stage since.

These memories probably annoy my younger colleagues. Me yammering on about the early days of the web is along the lines of, “when I was your age, I walked to school in the snow, uphill both ways!” No wonder they call me Internet Grandma.

But there is something to be said for the memory of the internet. For being able to remember, based on first-hand experience, what has happened in the past. Because the past has this annoying habit of repeating itself.

In the last few months I’ve heard a few of my digital marketing consulting clients say something similar. They’re experiencing a decline in the organic reach of their Instagram posts. Organic reach is a jargon-y marketing term for the number of people who see your posts without you having to pay to increase post visibility. My clients are getting less views, likes, and comments on the content they share on Instagram, clear across the board.

I’ve seen a lot of articles and blog posts about the decrease in engagement on Instagram, and many more full of advice on how to increase it. There are some good tips. Post more frequently and consistently. Experiment with the newer features of Instagram. Try your hand at Reels and IGTV. Do an Instagram Live broadcast here and there. Sure, give it all a whirl. I’m a fan of exploration and testing, and encourage my clients to mess around.

But here’s where my experience kicks in. It’s in moments like this that it really really helps to be an Internet Grandma. Because I’ve heard this song before.

This happened in 2018, when Facebook made significant changes to their algorithm. They announced they were decreasing the visibility of content from businesses and media in users’ News Feeds, in order to prioritize content from family, friends, and groups. Was it an altruistic move to cut down on the amount of “fake news” circulating on the platform, for the greater benefit of society? I doubt it. Was it a calculated capitalist move to drive businesses to pay for increased visibility on the platform? Probably.

Instagram is owned by Facebook. It should be no surprise that this playbook is being used again. It worked quite well, driving record profits for the company. Hell, they’d be dumb to not use this playbook again. And knowing this is key to informing your digital marketing strategy.

No, I do not think you should quit Instagram if it’s where your target audience is. Yes, I think you’re going to have to work harder than before to increase organic reach, and you might have to pay to boost a post here and there.

But here’s the kicker. I want to see you working just as hard (and ideally, harder) to build your digital presence OFF Instagram as you are building it ON Instagram. In my book I talk a lot about not building your digital castle on someone else’s land. I encourage my clients to invest in the digital properties they own and can control (namely, their websites, SEO, and email marketing lists). They continue to see growth and returns year over year, regardless of how Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media platforms futz with their algorithms.

Take it from this old lady, it’s worth it.

[This post originally appeared in my free email newsletter. Tips, tools, and insight for integrating technology into your small business and your life. Delivered directly to your inbox, twice a month. Subscribe here.]




Founder & CEO, Camp Tech. Author of the best-selling digital marketing book, See You on the Internet.

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Avery Swartz

Avery Swartz

Founder & CEO, Camp Tech. Author of the best-selling digital marketing book, See You on the Internet.

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