Longtime Instragram users have grown accustomed to scrolling through their feed to see posts in chronological order, but, like other social media platforms, that will be changing.
Instagram broke the news this week that it plans to shift away from the reverse chronological order it has used since it launched in 2010. Instead, it will employ an algorithm-based personalized feed for users, similar to one used by its parent company Facebook.
This means Instagram will place photos and videos it thinks you will most want to see from people you follow at the top of your feed, regardless of when they were originally posted.
According to an announcement on Instagram, “the order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post.”
The reason? Instagram users miss about 70 percent of the posts in their Instagram feed.
“As Instagram has grown, it’s become harder to keep up with all of the photos and videos people share. This means you often don’t see the posts you might care about the most,” Instagram wrote to its users.
This change is based on making sure that the 30 percent of content Instagram users see if the best 30 percent possible. It doesn’t mean posts from all of the users you follow won’t show up – they’ll still be there, just in a different order.
While it’s certainly possible this will create a better experience for Instagram users, it has set off a furor for those who use Instagram for marketing purposes.
Instagram made this announcement on Tuesday, but noted that the new experience won’t instantly show up – it will appear in the coming months. As soon as the news came out, bloggers, brands, companies, meme accounts, celebrities, and pretty much anyone who uses their Instagram posts for some type of marketing or endorsements started requesting their followers to “turn on post notifications.” Doing this alerts users when accounts post on Instagram.
The reason they’re freaking out is the possibility that Instagram users organically following them may miss their organic posts. The new algorithm will favor user-generated content over branded content due to it prioritizing content that users frequently interact with by liking, commenting or video viewing. For instance, someone may be more inclined to like and comment on a friend’s Instagram post than a blogger, brand, or celebrity with thousands of followers.
As an aside, I turned on notifications for some of the brands and bloggers I follow, and it quickly became wildly annoying, with my phone beeping every couple minutes. And though I only spent a couple of minutes trying to figure out how to turn them off, I had to go back to each individual account I turned the notifications on for to turn them off. No master switch that I could find. So maybe this won’t create a better experience for users.
The new algorithm won’t affect Instagram’s advertising products, which already use similar targeting principles to serve ads to its users. Because of this, it could push brands into increased paid advertising to get branded posts more visible – a lot like Facebook’s post boosting option, essentially urging brands to “pay to play.”
Although Instagram has said these changes will ensure what users see first will be more authentic to their interests, the big worry is that the only way to get your brand visible in the future will be to pay for it. Just like with Facebook, if the algorithm rules what Instagram users see, paid ads may be one of the only ways to guarantee your content gets in front of the audience you’re reaching for. For smaller brands with restricted marketing budgets, they may find it harder to make gains on a platform that was once free for them to use…which is why there was a boom in the requests for users to turn on notifications instead.
This Instagram change is another reiteration to marketers that when we rely on media outlets or social media platforms to gain access to their audiences, we’re renting someone else’s audience. When you build on “rented land,” the landlord can change the rules. And then you might have to start all over again somewhere else.
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