Apple’s iconic Orwellian 1984 themed commercial directed by Aliens, Bladerunner and Gladiator director Ridley Scott saw it launch the Macintosh and premiered, appropriately, during 1984’s Superbowl.
In the commercial an athletic female protagonist, long before Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, running in slow motion, long before Baywatch, initiates a revolution by smashing the large screen projecting the rhetoric of an authoritarian Big Brother figure. The inference is that this figure on the screen is the stuffy and out-dated IBM. At the time IBM was often known as Big Blue. Big Brother and Big Blue, geddit?
The Apple Macintosh is the sledgehammer that smashes the dull conformity and unleashes creativity along with limitless potential. We are led to believe it is the tool that frees the minds of the audience of dark grey, vacant-looking automatons that trudged military style into the viewing room. That’s us, the consumers. This new technology finally frees us from the dull, boring conformity we live in.
In 2018, 34 years on, many feel that Apple is the Big Brother figure with tight controls over their products seeing their customers confined to their own strictly enforced tech-prison, although one that contains holding cells with beautifully designed rounded corners.
Likewise, Google’s key phrase of “Don’t be evil” from its code of conduct in 2000 has already been shown to be hypocritical with the European Commission fining it a massive €2.42 billion for abusing its dominance by giving an illegal advantage to own comparison shopping service.
Technology can start off as a revolution, freeing our minds and allowing us to be creative in ways we never thought possible in a seemingly altruistic way. However slowly but surely new rules are introduced and they end up stifling our creativity and damaging our business.
We can see the pattern continuing today with Instagram. A picture tells a thousand words and on its launch the ability to share pictures with like-minded people, for free, was a revolution.
However, on March 15th 2016 a major change in Instagram’s algorithm meant that you viewed the content that Instagram thought you wanted to see instead of chronologically. Therefore users had to readjust their content and strategies in order to not be lost completely. It is estimated that only 10% of your audience see your posts. The Instagram algorithm is fuelled by engagement, which essentially is the response you get to a post. Post something that no one spends time looking at and not many others will see it. Now the posts you do see have huge engagement and comments.
As Instagram’s terms and conditions gets longer and longer you increasingly run the risk of falling foul of them. It is now easier than ever to get banned permanently, but arguably a fate even worse than the permanent ban is being shadowbanned, where you don’t even know you are banned. Shadowbanning is where your posts are hidden from people who don’t follow you. If someone doesn’t follow you and searches for a hashtag you have used then they won’t see your posts, which makes growing an audience extremely difficult.
To compound matters you are not even explicitly told about this ban and you must figure it out by yourself by testing posts when you become suspicious that your engagement is not as high as it should be. Instagram have been very secretive when it comes to Shadowbanning and in true Orwellian fashion has described as “improvements to our system”. However, users know that these changes are the first steps to Instagram inevitably trying to squeeze as much money as possible from its base of an estimated 500 million daily users.
It can’t be a surprise that when a tool that unleashes creativity in its users that then these users will unleash their creativity to combat the restrictions thrust upon them to try and get the service back to its original form.
Many of us have Instagram as an essential part of our marketing, the increasing number of rules may frustrate us and annoy us, but to continue to build a brand and a business we must carefully and imaginatively skirt along the terms and conditions to efficiently and cost-effectively keep our engagement high.
The use of bots to artificially inflate engagement is increasingly becoming more and more a game of Russian Roulette. One false move and all your work is gone. Besides, think about it, if you know about a bot then there is a chance the good folks at Instagram know about it too. The comments and engagement have to be genuine, so the creative users on Instagram have come up with the idea of banding together and creating groups of like-minded similar users called Instagram Engagement Groups but more commonly called Instagram Groups.