What do Instagram’s new changes mean for brands?

Instagram was met with widespread criticism this week after it announced changes to users’ news feeds. The new algorithm is set to alter the reverse chronological order most users are used to, to one that shows the most popular posts first.

The move comes after a backlash from Twitter users when news of the company adopting a similar feature reverberated through its digital channels. In response, Twitter listened to its audience and changed the feature to allow people to opt out if they wished. So why are these major tech companies making the switch to a more ‘personalised’ news feed?

In a statement made by Instagram, their research shows that people miss on average 70% of the content in their feeds. They aim to tackle this by organising news feeds to show the moments they believe, “you will care about the most”.

Before the Stock Market

In the early days of Facebook (Instagram’s parent company), brands with company pages could post as much content as they desired and all of it would land right into Facebook users’ feeds. After a while, Facebook didn’t like this. It couldn’t make money from this system. This is why it slowly developed a more ‘personalised’ news feed, displaying popular and sponsored content first. The move forced brands to begin paying to promote their content, and thus, the Facebook money-making machine began to grow. It’s for this reason that Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram in 2012 sent shudders through its online community, as questions began to brew over what the organisation would begin to change.

The shift to a more ‘personalised’ algorithm means that brands will have to reassess their current digital marketing strategies, as organic reach to audiences on this platform will be more difficult than ever. Paying to promote content on Instagram will soon be as common as it is for brands looking to grow their audience on Facebook, as these tech giants aim to exploit the growth in popularity among the younger demographic.

If it ain't broke...

The problem consumers have with this change is that it goes against the real-time nature that makes social media so engaging. This is evident with the rise in popularity of Snapchat, as younger generations connect with it’s live and ephemeral nature of sharing content. It seems as though when social media companies begin to cater all their platforms to paid content, many people will be more open to using new platforms to gain a more real-time experience online. Brands will now face the same problem in building an audience on Instagram as they do on Facebook, as images from accounts with the highest engagement will take priority in users’ news feeds.

How can you keep up with the changes?

  1. Embrace video - As Instagram is flooded with images, a well-produced video that automatically plays on users feeds will help grab their attention and boost engagement.
     
  2. Reassess your social media strategy - If your reliance is currently on Instagram, consider using other channels to link to your Instagram account, as organic reach is beginning to gradually decline on this platform.
     
  3. Prepare to pay - It comes as no surprise that regularly paying to promote content on Instagram will soon become the norm, so it’s important for brands to consider this in their social media budgets.
     
  4. Engage with your followers - As with all social media channels, people engage with accounts who actively engage with theirs. For small brands, taking the time to look through news feeds and engaging with content is a great way to build a valuable audience of followers.