Some of you out there in Blogland may be familiar with Donald Trump Jr’s meltdown over Instagram algorithms last week in which he posted a video of himself lying down, looking exceedingly stoned and complaining that Instagram is basically sabotoging his account too make fewer people see his posts. Now I gotta say, and this is in no way a defense of Whiner Jr., but I’m pretty confident that virtually every Instagram user knows the feeling. You post something one day and it kind of blows up on the ‘gram and you get a little excited and post again to the virtual sound of crickets. It leaves you wondering, what was it about the two posts that made all the difference in the successful one? Or was it just Instagram messing with your algorithm to nudge you into paying to boost a post? It’s hard not think that, to be honest. The point is, there are an awful lot of people muttering expletives followed by the name Zuckerberg under their breath out there in Instagramland.
I’ve been thinking about this because I had a fairly long stretch of mediocre engagement with my posts over the last while. I had done pretty well with some posts of Trailer Park Boys characters, but then my painting of Randy Bobandy did just okay as far as like count. It’s not that I feel like instagram owes me anything, but I really thought the Randy painting was pretty good! And then I posted my paintings of the Shelby Brothers from Peaky Blinders, a pretty popular show, and hoped they would kind of blow up. But again, they did okay. I reiterate, I’m not complaining, just trying to understand. Before last week, the best post I’d had in a few weeks was my painting of Melania Trump which has had the best engagement of any of my paintings of political figures. Gotta say, I was pleased that it did as well as it did, but it’s somewhat surprising. I’m planning to keep making those paintings, but I don’t expect them to do particularly well on social media, or to sell for that matter. I am, of course, happy to sell them if it happens, but I digress.
A couple of weeks ago I was texting with a fellow artist friend with a much healthier follower count than me, who gets pretty good engagement on his posts. He, of course, had all the same questions I had about this. But, I’m starting to think that maybe it’s not simply that Instagram is manipulating the algorithms. I’m sure there are a lot of factors, but it must be that sometimes an image will catch on. And if it catches on early, it keeps going for a while getting in front of more and more eyes and getting more and more likes. So that leads to a number of questions, such as: which images are the most likely to catch on? Can I figure that out in advance? How will that effect what I decide to paint? The fact is, when you are selling art online, you need to get your work in front of a lot of people to even have a chance of making a sale. So this does factor in, at least for those of us who do not have gallery representation.
So last week I posted my painting of Peter Griffin which I was pretty confident would finally break through the dreaded algorithm on Instagram. And I was right. It’s the best post I’ve had in a while, though far from the best ever. That honour belongs to my painting of Alex from A Clockwork Orange, followed closely by Jack from The Shining. A couple of days after I posted Petecasso, I posted my painting of Homer Simpson, which I also figured would do well. And again, it did do pretty well, though not as well as Petecasso. On Tuesday of this week I posted my painting of Fred Flintstone (see today’s Instagram/Facebook posts for all of these images) and assumed it wouldn’t do as well as the other two, but would do better than average. Again, I nailed it. So I think the key word here, is: iconic. All of the above most successful posts are iconic. Got any ideas for iconic images I can recreate in my pychological cubism style? Damn damn damn, it’s frustrating that I still can’t allow comments on this blog. Hello, Artmoi, are you there?