Earlier this month, Instagram announced it was modifying its feed, so that the moments they believed people cared about most, would be featured first. Instagram explained to users, “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.” They went on to assure users that, “We’re focusing on optimizing the order — all the posts will still be there, just in a different order.”
So why the change? And why now? Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom explained it to the New York Times this way, “On average, people miss about 70 percent of the posts in their Instagram feed.” He shared that the future modification to the feed is ensuring that the 30% of content people do see is that which is most relevant to them.
This means Instagram feeds will slowly begin shifting away from the reverse chronological order that the platform has used for over 6 years. Instead, it will position content it thinks you are most likely to engage with (based on past actions) at the beginning of your feed, regardless of the time of publishing.
This announcement caused users of the platform to panic. Agencies, influencers, brands, and even casual Instagram users sounded the alarm. Chaos erupted. But it now appears that perhaps this was a bit of an overreaction.
Consider that users will not likely miss content they care about after the algorithmic feed is established. If the algorithm works as advertised, the feed will prioritize the posts users like and comment on, and predict the type of content they’re most likely to want to see more of in the future.
The good news? Unlike its parent company, Facebook, Instagram (for now) is not moving to an intentional decline in organic reach. Just adjusting the feeds to compensate for the massive volume of content and time of engagement.
Mike Issac of The New York Times observed, “While feed-based networks have grown dominant over the last decade, they must be reinvented to keep audiences coming back and staying longer. This is especially true as older networks face newer competitors like Snapchat — which is almost entirely focused on the camera as the user interface — or text messaging apps like WeChat in China”.
An Instagram spokesperson discussed the change with TechCrunch saying, “Performance or popularity is not what we’re optimizing for. While we are using likes and comments as signals, timeliness and the relationship between the poster and the viewer are also important.” They continued, “We’re not removing any posts from people’s feeds, just reordering them. […] Our goal is to help people see the posts they care about, including from brands.”
Top Things Brands Should Consider:
- Instagram said the change would not be quick or jarring, and that it would start the shift in a series of small tests with a single-digit percentage of user groups before deciding whether to introduce the changes broadly.
- The shift will not affect Instagram’s advertising products, which already use and rely on similar targeting principles to serve ads to users.
- For now, resist the urge to request post notifications. If consumers turn on updates for everyone in their Instagram newsfeed, then they will be inundated by updates. Instead, continue to focus on great content, as engagement will impact the algorithm.
- Instagram is working on business tools with insights on your content, which should be available in the coming months.
While we understand the urgency and anxiety that change can bring to both brands and agencies, we encourage patience and positivity. As we’ve all seen before, when a social media platform announces a change in direction there is initial resistance and curiosity followed by gradual, but widespread adoption to acceptance of the change as the norm. If this proposed Instagram change follows in the footsteps of its parent then there will be an even greater focus on high-quality content that drives engagement and less emphasis on volume. For Smith Brothers, we’re ready for the exciting challenge to bring even more thoughtful, data-driven and strategically sound content to Instagram feed.