Your agency’s social media manager isn’t going through a bitter divorce. Their dog isn’t sick. They didn’t get fired. They’re reacting to the news.
The day of reckoning has arrived at last: Instagram is getting an algorithm. And a good number of folks won’t be happy about it.
Yesterday, Instagram announced plans to replace its chronological feed with a content algorithm. Under this new system, posts will be prioritized based on “the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post.”
Casual users may find this change jarring, but to avid social media consumers and those working in digital marketing, it was only a matter of time. Facebook has been refining their algorithmic content distribution model for years with so much success that it recently permeated into the twittersphere. It was only a matter of time before Instagram hopped on the bandwagon.
When users are comfortable, they are happy. When things change, they tend to react in disapproval. But before we mark this moment as the end of days, let’s take a closer look at exactly what this new change will mean:
Battle of the Brands
Instagram’s organic engagement rate is one of the primary selling points for brands, often reaching nearly 5 times that of the organic engagement on Facebook. With an algorithm in place, this dynamic is set to shift quite dramatically.
Under this new system, however, a premium will be placed on content deemed more exciting and engaging. To stay relevant, brands will be increasingly pressured to veer away from stock photography and other content shortcuts, which are likely to be buried by the impending algorithm.
While this change may be a last call for uninspired creative and half-baked strategy, great content is unlikely to face much in the way of repercussion. Even the most demanding algorithm will struggle to pose a threat to engagement if what you're posting is interesting, engaging, or in any way resonating with an audience.
Hope those pockets are deep!
Of course, the best way to work around the algorithmic system is to spend money.
In recent months, Instagram has made great strides with ad placement capabilities (which, in retrospect, may have been the final stone on the path towards an Insta-algorithm). The ability to leverage Facebook’s user-friendly Power Editor and in-depth targeting options have allowed brands to push their content to the right people at the right time—and it’s working! Select HZ clients have seen higher click-through-rates and greater post-level engagement on Instagram paid media efforts over Facebook.
With an increase in Instagram advertising comes an increase in the need for creative execution and strategic targeting measures. Users have seen excellent examples of creative ad placement on Instagram since this component launched, but the fire is about to be lit under their proverbial branded behinds.
Tailored Content Feeds
Users will soon discover their favorite content at the top of their feed every time they open the app. This giving users what they want to see, quicker, allowing for a more personalized experience. Brands may find this beneficial when leveraging communities loyal to their vertical. For instance, a clothing brand could find itself pushed to the top of a fashion bloggers’ content feed, leading to further engagement, a boost in following, and higher top-of-mind retention.
The Instagram community is either rabidly obsessive or incredibly passive in usage. One such habit is the need to scroll to the last seen post on the feed. Implementing an algorithm will effectively jumble the posts so they are no longer ordered chronologically. For a casual user, this shift will make no difference. To more dedicated users (read: me), this is like taking a perfectly organized desk and throwing it upside down.
┬──┬ノ( º _ ºノ)
But I digress.
More Money, More Innovation
As we’ve seen with Facebook, the imposition of an algorithm means an increase in revenue for the social network, ultimately leading to more expansive developments and capabilities. This might mean more tools and toys for brands, agencies, and Instagram aficionados to play with when creating and sharing content. Imposing an algorithm on Instagram might prove to be just the shift the IG community needed to reach the next level as a storytelling medium as users seek new ways to engage their audiences.
Keep an eye-out for the algorithm and share your thoughts with us @HZDG! How do you feel about the Instagram algorithm?