It’s fair to say that almost all Instagram users are peeved at the crazy drop in engagement lately. If this was the only concern we had, I guess we’d stick with the program and find a solution, but it isn’t. The other major curveball that flew in at us is that the photo-sharing app is now apparently focused on anything but photos. Reels, videos, and ads are flooding our feeds, and countless photographers are voting with their feet and starting to build a presence on VERO in Peter McKinnon’s wake. He has put out two YouTube videos to encourage people over to VERO in the past month, which can be found here and here. Now, I’m a big fan of Peter and his achievements, but let’s look at this in the most entertaining way possible: a fight!
VERO is built around being ‘True Social.’ They proudly state that they’re ad-free and algorithm-free. This is where Instagram started, and users are calling for a chronological feed to be brought back as standard, replacing the algorithm-driven feed we have now. There is a way to achieve this, but it requires some tapping around. Let’s give VERO a point for this.
VERO 1 – 0 Instagram
Firstly, as a working travel photographer and educator, networking is an important and fundamental part of my business plan. Sadly, my target market is not on VERO. My target market includes Adobe (not on VERO), Lonely Planet (not on VERO), NatGeo (not on VERO), you see where I’m going with this, right? Brands with an enormous presence on Instagram are totally absent from VERO. So are many of the people working within those brands whose attention we want to grab. Instagram has the users, so Instagram gets this point.
VERO 1 – 1 Instagram
With a draw so far, here’s the next point. Money. Peter McKinnon carries a lot of weight within the photography community. It’s fair to say he’s an influencer for us. In one of his videos about moving from Instagram to VERO, Peter said he is “not sponsored”, but also that he is “friends with the owner of VERO.” While I can’t really go further along this line and on the surface, there’s no money involved for Peter. It’s certainly fair to say that he provoked a chunk of his c.90 million followers across YouTube and Instagram to make the jump. VERO has been around for a few years now, and this spike in new users appears to be directly linked to his two videos. I can’t award any points here, so the score remains a tie.
VERO 1 – 1 Instagram
Next up is links. VERO allows us to post nine different things, including links. What’s interesting here is that Instagram doesn’t allow links within posts. It allows one link in our bio and one link per story. As a platform that cashes in on ads, Instagram wants us to stay on its platform and not navigate away via external links. The aim here is to expose users to their ads to continue building their revenue stream. For us, as photographers who make money (either directly or indirectly) by pointing our followers in a certain direction, it can be tricky on Instagram without paying for an ad. These ads are the reason Instagram has an apparently never-ending feed. If they can keep us on their platform, they can keep showing us ads that make them money. A feed that doesn’t end is one way of keeping us there, and it’s a tactic that works for their pockets but not for our productivity or mental well-being. This time, it’s one point to VERO.
VERO 2 – 1 Instagram
Photos are the next point. We all know that our photo engagement has dropped on Instagram. Reels are taking over our feeds, interspersed every three posts or so with an ad. As photographers, we’re geared around photos, not video. We want to see photos, but what about the everyday Instagram user? It seems people are more interested in Reels, and this is backed up by looking at the popularity of TikTok. Short-form videos may be decreasing our attention spans, but they’re keeping people on the platform, swiping from one cat video to the next. Looking at this from a photographer’s perspective, it’s definitely a point to VERO. Even though the user base isn’t huge (we’ll get to that), we know our uploaded photos are being presented to our followers.
VERO 3 – 1 Instagram
Engagement is a hot topic, particularly for those of us involved in micro-influencing. Measuring engagement comes from looking at the total number of followers, then looking at a post and counting the likes and comments to determine a percentage. An Instagram influencer agency typically requires a 5% engagement or higher. I tried to determine single-post engagement on several accounts with a presence on both VERO and Instagram. Sadly, Instagram allows users to hide total like counts. On Peter McKinnon’s latest VERO post, I can tell you that his engagement is 3.76%. I can also confidently say that I did not see any decline in accounts reached on my own Instagram account. I also did not see any decline in engagement in Stories. I’ve seen a decline in engagement on photo posts, but Reels always perform for me to the same high level as posts used to, pre-algorithm. On this one, despite photos being down, the engagement overall is on Instagram, and that engagement comes from the right audience. One point to Instagram.
VERO 3 – 2 Instagram
Suggestions are next on the list. With suggested accounts to follow, Instagram hits hard (perhaps a little too hard). This means we have the potential to be one of these accounts, suggested to other users to follow. This used to be called being ‘on the discover page’, but that page was merged with the search function after an update some time ago. On VERO we’re only presented with suggestions in one place – the front page. We have several categories of ‘featured users’ organized by category, but this is the only place we can find new content. While it’s true that Instagram has gone a little over the top in showing us content we didn’t ask to see, this is a great way to find new content and new accounts to connect with. As well as expose us to a larger audience. Despite having too many suggestions in my feed, it’s a point to Instagram.
VERO 3 – 3 Instagram
So far, it’s a tie. Each platform has its advantages and disadvantages, which are unique to each user. What are your thoughts? Have I missed anything important to you for which you would award a point?