We all love to be outraged. Especially when it comes to billion dollar companies telling us what we should be looking at in our time. But is the introduction of an algorithm really going to mean the death of Instagram as we know it? Not really. In fact, writes Rachel Kuryzp, we should have seen this coming.
Instagram has recently announced it will be updating its news feed algorithm. Posts will no longer appear in chronological order and instead be sorted “based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting, and the timeliness of the post.” What this means is Instagram will choose what content to display in your feed, much like it does in your Facebook newsfeed.
This news prompted outrage from thousands of users, with hashtags like #RIPInstagram, #boycottinstagram and #keepinstagramchronological being used following the announcement. And users even launched a petition on Change.org to keep the Instagram feed chronological. But are users and brands overreacting?
Why is this happening?
Facebook, which owns Instagram, just announced $5.8 billion in Revenue in Q4, a staggering 51 percent growth over the prior year. And while Facebook’s growth rate has consistently been over 40 percent, they will struggle to maintain that growth without monetizing their other businesses.
Instagram, one of the fastest growing and most used social networks made $600 million in revenue in 2015 and is forecasted to grow by 149 percent in 2016. And this growth can’t be sustained by users alone, no surprises here.
What are we afraid of?
Brands aren’t happy that they’ve been told to start treating Instagram like Facebook – to rely less on free, organic reach. With brands afraid to fall off their audience’s feed, they’re more likely to boost every post and this could lead to advertising fatigue.
Bombarded by branded content, up to one in every 6 posts, Instagram users might start scrolling past posts and ignoring the “like” and comment feature. Research has shown that 6 out of 10 daily Instagram users are already unhappy with the ad frequency in their feeds.
But if look at what we know: there is no shortage of new people joining the platform with 680 million Instagram users predicted by 2020, and brands complain every time Facebook changes its algorithm. But the one’s producing great content aren’t having trouble reaching their audience either through boosting or through organic reach.
It’s also worth noting that on average 70 percent of people miss posts in their Instagram feed anyway. And the algorithm will now ensure that the 30 percent they do see will be the best posts for them. Your posts won’t be disappearing either. Posts, for now, will still be there, just in a different order. So there’s no need to freak out and ask people to turn their notifications on.
What it actually means for brands?
You guessed it: brands need to continue producing striking, visual content. And really start to have two-way conversations with their audience (aka engagement) within the platform. If you do this, people will continue to engage with your content, whatever the algorithm is.
Brands who are serious about content marketing use analytics. Use your data to inform you when your audience is online and schedule your posts to go out at that time. And if you aren’t already, use your analytics to learn which hashtags perform best and always vary your hashtags to increase your chances of reaching new audiences. Finally, spend a few minutes a day monitoring trending hashtags and jump on board if they are relevant to you and your audience (but be strategic, not spammy).
And if all else fails, ask for it. Yes, you read right. Brands have seen an increase in engagement when they are specific about what they want their audience to do: “tag your friends,” “write a comment,” or “visit the online store.”
The key takeaway? Brands should consider this a wake-up call. If you build your audience on someone else’s platform and it dies, changes or decides to monetize, then you’re in trouble. You should continue to invest in channels like your website and email where you own your data and can control how you use it.