On March 28, Instagram announced it would soon be moving to an algorithm based feed. The announcement sent wavers of panic over the social media world. The change will have far-reaching implications for bloggers and businesses alike.
In many ways, the change reflects a shift to a Facebook-style feed.
Specifically, instead of displaying the newest posts on top and then the older ones below in reverse chronological order, Instagram will now rank posts using an algorithm based on the perceived quality of both the posts and the account posting.
Instagram Algorithm Basics
The old newsfeed in Instagram was ordered chronologically: new posts appear at the top and push old ones downward.
This has the advantage of simplicity and rules that everyone understands. It also means that everyone has the same stream of content if they follow the same accounts.
However, there is a flaw with this design. Instagram found that up to 70 percent of all content on the social network never got a single view. Users didn’t look all the way back through their feed when they logged in, so most content got buried before anyone could see it.
Facebook bought Instagram in 2011 and ever since Instagram has enjoyed a kind of parallel existence in its old form.
The introduction of Instagram attracted a lot of users, which meant businesses had a big reason to create their own accounts and start trying to advertise or build brand presence. However, it didn’t generate much revenue for Facebook, who paid a lot of money for Instagram.
These two factors are the main motivation for the Instagram algorithm change. The first and most immediate goal was to solve the content problem. The algorithm now displays content that is most connected to the user, gets the most attention, and comes from the most popular accounts on top, even if new posts come out afterward. Through changing the composition of the content most people will see, Instagram’s engagement problem will hopefully be solved.
The Future of Algorithm Based Feeds
When Facebook first moved to an algorithmic newsfeed, nothing changed because businesses could rely on free organic posts reaching a large amount of their audience.
As time went by, Facebook began to roll out paid advertising options that promised a big reach. At the same time, the social network weakened free organic posts.
Today, organic posts have effectively no reach, while promoted posts have an almost unlimited ceiling.
The end result was that businesses had to make an investment if they wanted fans to see their content and posts. It became nearly impossible to reach people without putting money into it.
Instagram is now beginning to make the same kinds of changes.
It is easy to draw the conclusion that the rest of the process will look quite similar. While the everyday usage of Instagram won’t change for many users, it is businesses who will need to make a bigger adjustment.
How Businesses Can Use The New Instagram Algorithm
The first thing for businesses to know is that they should expect to see promoted posts or another form of paid advertising appear on the platform in the coming months.
That means they should alter their outlook for Instagram to reflect the possibility that it will take a significant investment to achieve reach.
In the past, marketers could look to Instagram as a means to get in front of users without needing to spend money just to reach them. This is unlikely to be the case anymore.
Furthermore, the nature of posting needs to change. Posts must be customised for Instagram and incorporate highly engaging content if they are to gain any traction.
The new style must emphasize quality over frequency.
Posting just for the sake of it is a fast ticket to obscurity. This runs the risk of the brand fading out of the consciousness of viewers. High quality should offset the lower frequency of posts.
The bottom line is that the Instagram algorithm change is going to completely alter the landscape of social media marketing. Expect to devote a larger marketing budget to Instagram, both in terms of the money to promote posts and the time to craft quality content.