17 Mar Instagram Introduces Algorithm
Instagram announced yesterday that they will be changing how users see pictures in their feeds. Although they did not specify the exact time, we know that within the next few months, Instagram will put an algorithm in place which will shift feeds from strictly time-based to “the posts you might care about the most.” If history is any indication, we know how users handle these dramatic shifts in how their social network behave:
Why an Algorithm?
It should not be surprising that Instagram, owned by Facebook, is introducing an algorithm, too.
It could also be a way for Instagram to increase engagement. Ironically, data was also released yesterday showing that over the last 11 months, engagement on Instagram has dropped by 70%. Follower growth has also fallen by 45% since January. Perhaps the biggest driving force behind this change is that “people miss about 70 percent of the posts in their feed” according to Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom.
With a user base of over 400 million, and the average user following 400-500 accounts, it does make some sense that a lot of content is likely being missed. Additionally, since Instagram has grown tremendously in global popularity, keeping up with friends in Zurich, Sydney, and Walla Walla can require a lot more scrolling than our attention spans often dictate. Since an estimated 70 percent of posts are missed by users, Instagram’s goal is “making sure that the 30 percent you see is the best 30 percent possible.”
Two Initial Implications to Brands
1. Be prepared to examine your content strategy on Instagram.
Like other social networks, Instagram aims to keep both their users and advertisers happy. While many will have a knee-jerk reaction to any change, there is the potential for this new algorithm to present better, more customized content in users’ feeds. This is a call to action now for brands to examine their overall Instagram strategy and content to see what is working, and what is not – and plan for changes that best appeal to your target audience. As a result, better, more engaging content could lead to users spending more time on the channel and with your content.
2. Be prepared to see a drop in organic reach.
Per the New York Times, this new algorithm “will not affect Instagram’s advertising products, which already use and rely on similar targeting principles to serve ads to users.” The goal here is could be to serve up your branded content to those who engage with it the most.
If this is true, brands should expect their organic reach and subsequent metrics on this network to drop, similar to when Facebook went to an algorithm.
Will this change keep users scrolling through their feeds more? Will ads become more prominent? Will these changes help turn around the downward trends in engagement and growth?
This is not a change that Instagram has hastily thrown together with no regard for their users. Systrom notes that they have been discussing how to alter the order in which content is presented for months in their offices. Instagram knows that people are often hesitant (to put it mildly) to adopt changes to their beloved networks and apps. They want to make broad scale changes like this slowly to avoid potential backlash among users.
Once again, while this change may affect engagement and reach metrics for your organic content, it was made the user in mind. For those brands already engaged with their community through content that resonates and engages, these initial changes may be less impactful.
Time will tell. But there’s no need to panic. In the words of Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom: “It’s not like people will wake up tomorrow morning and have a different Instagram.”