As I watched the likes roll in on my notifications, I checked out a few accounts. Emojis next to Arabic, Spanish, and Hindi (?) filled the bios. New followers buzzed my phone – their usernames all with long strings of numbers, and they had few, if any, posts of their own. I didn’t care if the attention was from bots. My first-ever Instagram reel was going viral, and it felt great.
My year has had some unpredictable events, and I didn’t have an algorithm blow up in my 2022 bingo card. During a trail run on Saturday, I had a weird thought to write. It’s not uncommon for a creative spark to come to me on a run as I have always enjoyed letting my mind wander on trails or a road. But these days, I rarely write the ideas down, let alone follow through with a project.
This time, however, I tapped out notes on my phone while stretching, knowing that if I procrastinated putting the idea on paper, metaphorically, it would evade me as most writing inspiration has in the last year. It was personal and a little out there. As someone who uses the internet daily, I do get self-conscious about what I post.
I selected a lovely video of the foggy trail and copy-pasted the words into the caption. Before I could second guess putting this weird thing out into the world, I hit post and put my phone down. Then I picked it up and refreshed the notifications page – nada. Maybe none of my 1300 are on IG at the moment… unlikely, but not impossible. I refreshed again – still nothing. =(
Just as I was rereading the text and considering it from another person’s point of view, I got a like! Then another, and then another. Not only were my close friends liking it, but others were too. It felt sincere and validating. Then the random likes started. I would refresh the notifications, and about 15 every few seconds were rolling in. Something must be up. Even I’ll admit that my writing isn’t that good.
I started checking the followers’ accounts. Lots of folks in other countries and lots of spammy accounts. For one reason or another, my reel had been picked up in the algorithm and gained some traction. However, in the time it took me to watch Pinocchio in theaters with my phone off and then turn it back on, the burst of Instalove had run out.
My posts typically receive 100-150 likes, but my reel broke 1000 with over 17,000 views. What is strange is that most of that came within an hour and a half of posting.
There aren’t exactly rules to what makes content gain traction, but there are things that help. Hashtags, popular audio, and calls to action are proven to push posts to spread across the internet. My reel had none of those. My two guesses are:
- The abnormally long caption cast a wide SEO net and hit on some keywords.
- The algorithm gave me beginner’s luck, similar to gambling, and wants me to get hooked.
Is it probable that most of the attention was from bots and people who couldn’t read my writing? Yes. Does it still feel good? Also, Yes.
Will I take this as a win in my ongoing internet exploration? Absolutely.