Why An Algorithm Does Not Mean The Death Of Instagram
Instagram’s announcement that it will be rolling out a personalized feed was unsurprisingly met with much resistance from its user base. Facebook’s transition to an algorithmically driven feed in 2006 received similar backlash, as did Twitter’s in 2015. Bet you already forgot that your Facebook News Feed used to be purely chronological. Bet you also haven’t missed the political posts from the boy who sat behind you in calculus that Facebook mercifully doesn’t show you.
Migrating away from a chronological Instagram feed to one based on user behavior prompted obvious questions like: Will I still see all my followers’ posts? Will my followers still see all of my posts? Will my likes count suffer? The move also prompted disapproval from celebrities and influencers like John Mayer and Jaime King, but instead of getting into a huff about the supposed death of Instagram, here’s something to consider: This change is going to be beneficial for users and brands alike.
On average, Instagram users miss 70% of their feeds. Between following friends, brands, bloggers, celebrities, and influencers, there are not enough hours in the day to keep up with every post that occurs in a typical feed. If you follow as many verified and non-personal accounts as I do (51 food accounts alone–no shame), then you know how tedious it can be to check Instagram after a long period away. The sheer volume of posts on Instagram either makes users slaves to scrolling, or discourages them from engaging long enough to see the pictures they would actually like.
And that’s where the algorithm comes in: Instagram has promised that every post will still be there, just in a different order. For me, that means when I scroll past my third picture of Vinnie’s Pizzeria’s pizza pizza box (thank me later), I’ll know that I can safely stop scrolling without missing anything my friends have posted. Instead, the top posts in every feed will be the content Instagram knows that user will care about the most. The algorithm will take into account relationship to the poster, the timeliness of the post, video engagement, and the likelihood a user will be interested in the post, and display those posts first.
So, users, rejoice: The algorithm will soon soothe tired, scrolling thumbs. But what about brands? A common concern is that the algorithm will dilute the power of organic content from businesses. Well, guess what: If a brand sees less engagement on its posts after the switch, that probably means its photos weren’t that engaging to begin with. If users aren’t liking or commenting on brand posts, it’s no wonder they’re not getting priority in the feed. This is an opportunity for brands to rethink their content strategy and revamp their creative to compete with the great visuals prevalent on Instagram.
Because brands already experience higher engagement levels on Instagram than on other social platforms, businesses know that users are willing and eager to engage with their content if it piques their interest. Retail brands in particular enjoy engagement rates on Instagram that outpace other platforms 13 to 1. With that foundation laid, brands should expect to see the same level of interactions from users that already enjoy and engage with their content. The algorithm will ensure that content is being served to those who care about it the most, like loyal customers or users that have the most potential to become loyal customers.
Organic reach may decline, but think about it this way: If a user never interacts with another user’s content–whether because they follow them out of politeness or because they’re just not interested in the posts–they will start seeing less of that content. Like the boy from calculus, if a user hasn’t previously expressed any interest in someone’s posts, then they probably won’t miss them. The same goes for brands: if their content is served less often to users who never like it, there’s no love lost. It’s quality over quantity. Fewer engaged users beats more unengaged users any day.
Get ready for change because the algorithm is coming.
The original article can be found on MediaPost.