Taking the ‘Insta’ Out of Instagram

Instagram’s not so “instant” any more. Soon, if not already, your Instagram newsfeed will become scrambled – out of chronological order – based on your interactions on the photo-sharing platform.

As announced in March, starting soon, the posts you see will be determined by Instagram’s new algorithm, which takes into account which users you’ve Liked, Shared or Commented on.

Some Instagrammers are up in arms, even before the feature gets its wide release. Users have become accustomed to scrolling through a literal timeline, liking, sharing and commenting along the way, to the first image they recognize from their last session, thus knowing that they’ve seen all the posts from the people they follow.

Brands, worried that their organic posts will no longer be seen by users who don’t scroll down far enough, have encouraged users to turn on notifications. That’s a clunky solution because nobody wants to get a notification every time a brand posts something.

To wit: In the ramp up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I got caught up in the frenzy and turned on notifications for posts from the official Star Wars Instagram account. That didn’t last long. I was soon being driven crazy by alerts (especially since they show up on my watch), reaching a crescendo on the night of the red carpet premier. This is sort of a big deal because it’s me. And Star Wars. There’s no greater love between human and brand than between me and Star Wars.

So, no – the solution is not to turn on alerts so you don’t miss a brand’s Insta post. Instagram’s numbers show that posts in newsfeeds that have the algorithm turned on have seen higher engagements. But, of course, those users are being served posts from other users with whom they’ve already had interactions, or tend to interact with more. Which is  the way this is supposed to work.

This change means that Instagram is no longer the even playing field it used to be. I’ll no longer see posts from Star Wars and Mikael Jorgensen (Wilco keyboardist and amateur photographer) alongside that guy who I’ve forgotten why I followed ages ago. His (very) occasional gems will be buried further down.

Facebook and Twitter have already long ago implemented similar algorithms to serve up content that those platforms think you want to see. The lesson we learned from those changes is the lesson we will have to learn from Instagram’s change:

Content Matters

Develop better content for the platform and you’ll have more interactions on your post. Then you’ll be served up higher in followers’ newsfeeds. This applies to individuals who want the ego boost of more likes and shares, but it more importantly applies to brands who need to up their game to stay relevant to their followers.

It also means (and who couldn’t see this coming?) paid advertising will be more and more important to brands wanting to get noticed on Instagram. Facebook, Instagram’s owner, already makes it super easy to launch a standalone ad or one that’s part of a Facebook campaign (you have to set up your Instagram campaign using Facebook anyway). Now that your post runs the risk of being pushed further down a user’s timeline, paying to push it to them when they open the app is the best way to guarantee your post is seen.

What does this mean to you as a brand? Develop the best, most engaging content you can, post consistently and budget for paid social advertising. If you need help with any of those three prongs, bloomfield knoble (bloomfieldknoble on Instagram) is always here to help.

Oh, and by all means, follow jeffcarrington on Instagram, and turn on alerts for my account.