The new Instagram algorithm: how will it affect me and my brand?

Since its launch in 2010, Instagram has presented images in chronological order. That’s just the way it has always been. Until last week, that is, when Instagram officially announced it would be testing a new algorithm on its users’ feeds. Something the marketing world has been expecting for some time.

With over 400 million active users, the now ubiquitous photo-sharing app is no longer the baby of the social networking platform pack. It was only a matter of time before Facebook, who purchased the app in 2012, decided to incorporate algorithms in Instagram as well.

Facebook implemented an algorithmic feed in 2009 and, with Twitter recently announcing it would be introducing a catch-up feed, it looks like algorithms are the way forward, especially if Instagram wants to keep up with the big boys.

The worry for businesses is the app will follow in Facebook’s footsteps, reducing the reach of brand pages to the point where most are lucky if they reach 16% of their followers. As long as Facebook remains relevant, this move has ensured that paying for advertising units is necessary to leverage the platform.

What does this mean for users?

Instagram hopes this change will benefit the overall experience. As the amount of users has grown, so has the amount of accounts users follow. With the algorithm, content will be tailored to the individual and the likelihood that the user will actually be interested in it.

Instagrammers’ main concern is they will miss some of their friends’ posts. However, the counter-argument is logical: there is now so much content that there is no way a user would be able to see it all anyway.

Some users are even hailing the move to an algorithm-infused feed as a welcome change, as it increases the likelihood of spamming pages being quashed. Goodbye spammers, hello quality content.

What does this mean for brands?

The days of setting up a profile just to be on social media are over. Urging followers to ‘turn on post notifications’ is a temporary and inefficient solution. Content is going to have to be of such quality that users find it more interesting than a video of kittens meeting puppies for the first time. And that is no mean feat.

Instagram is a great (and, for now, free) platform for brands, but its ever-growing popularity means that, like Twitter and Facebook, feeds have filled with so much content that much of it gets lost amongst the noise. If Instagram follows Facebook’s pre-set path, brands will have to pay to reach an audience they worked hard to attain and were once reaching for free.

On the flip side, now money is involved, there will be an increase in pressure to produce content that is actually worth paying to promote.

Primarily, the switch to an algorithmic feed is bad news for serial low-quality posters. Instead of constantly having their content at the top of users’ feeds due to sheer quantity, spammers are having their advantage levelled. This allows better quality content that resonates with the user shine through.

But we’ve gotten a little bit ahead of ourselves. The switch to algorithm has not been implemented yet, so it’s not too late for brands to build up their following and engagement to prepare for launch. What is certain is that the Instagram-filtered tides are changing, and quality content will come out on top.



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