Last summer, architects were going into raptures over Instagram because it was free, fun marketing that was also winning them work. Then this year it all stopped.
Architect Amos Goldreich says: “Something is happening with Instagram’s algorithm. It is extremely frustrating. We’ve noticed a huge drop in followers overall. Six months ago we used to get 300 new followers each month." Last month new followers to @agararchitecture totalled just 11.
Goldreich asked consultant Dave Sharp to audit the growth rates of comparable firms and soon realised he’s not alone. With a few exceptions all the other architects Sharp tracked are also losing followers while new commissions have all but dried up
“We're not getting enquiries through Instagram directly. Leads say they found us via social media, but this can be anywhere as we are advertising on Facebook as well.”
Architectural photographer Edmund Sumner agrees.
“They’ve murdered it,” says Sumner. “I’ve noticed a dramatic drop in numbers. In the old days I’d put up a picture and maybe it would get 200 or 300 likes, something decent 600 to 800, and now the same type of images are only getting 12.
“I know young architect clients who were getting three or four enquires a month through Instagram and all of them have said ‘it’s gone…it’s stopped’”.
So what is going on?
Goldreich is right, the algorithm has changed but according to Instagram, this is so users can ‘discover content they didn’t know existed that they might enjoy or love’. This helps explain endless Reels of pandas falling off slides but not why posts you actually want to see and used to get hundreds of ‘likes’, now run the risk of never reaching your eyes at all.
The simple reason is TikTok.
Although the move to video-based content has grown over the years, TikTok has fundamentally changed what captures our attention. So to keep up with the competition, Instagram launched Reels, a poor version of TikTok last summer.
At the same time its algorithm now prioritises highly entertaining short-form videos and because architects are very unlikely to be creating this type of content many practices' accounts are bombing.
In fact, what’s dying is not Instagram but the ability of creative people including architects and photographers to organically reach the numbers of people they once could - which is painful if, like Goldreich and Sumner, you have devoted considerable energy to growing your audience.
But it’s not all bad.
Architect Magnus Strom has gained 9,000 followers in the last month and his practice, Strom Architects, has just won a commission for six houses on Turks & Caios, which "would not have happened without Instagram", he tells me.
“The algorithm has indeed changed. We have seen interactions and likes drop significantly on how we used to use Insta.”
But he has also changed tactics, devoting more time to Reels using the video editing app Splice to make simple videos and he also posts every day. If he doesn’t, he notices that his followers start to drop dramatically.
“You also need to engage with followers and answer comments and so on. At the end of the day, the algorithm wants to keep you on the app as long as possible, so engagement is important.
“I think it’s a shame the way Instagram is going, but Facebook is dead, Twitter is for moaning, and I'm too old and can't deal with learning TikTok, although I probably should”.
Interestingly and despite the meteoric rise ofTikTok, not one architect I interviewed was planning a move to the platform although they are all investing more time on LinkedIn.
Images by Karsten Winegeart & Alexander Shatov on Unsplash