Social Media

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.

Thoughts on social media in 2015/2016 from the Guardian Masterclass

Back in November, I attended a ‘Social Media Masterclass’ courtesy of Tom Szerkeres and Jemima Garthwaite from London-based agency This Here. With brands constantly searching for new and creative ways to stand out on social media platforms, courses like this offer a chance to recap what has happened in the past year, review what strategies do and don’t work, but more importantly explore what the major changes may be in 2016.

A recap of Social Media in 2015

Overall the user is back in control. With devices becoming ever more powerful in terms of what media users can both produce and consume.

Here are some of the major changes, advances and key learnings from 2015.

1. AdBlock changes online advertising

AdBlock (a content filtering and advert-blocking extension for web browsers) is an increasingly large issue for online publishers who rely on advertising to produce and host free content. This has created a huge push for media to be directed through social media channels such as Facebook, a platform which is has shifted from an earned media platform to a paid one.

So unless you are a big brand with a large following, you're going to have to pay to be seen online.

2. Targeted advertising is now even more powerful

Targeted Facebook advertising is nothing new, but the amount of information now shared on Facebook allows advertisers to segment their audience more precisely than before. Facebook’s consumer behaviour researchers analyse a broad spectrum of qualitative and quantitative data based on profile activity, to understand people’s emotional drivers. So do you need to target men, university educated, who live in the South East, listen to Nickleback, have seen them live in concert, are early adopters of technology, have just been married and have an iPhone 6? Facebook has you covered.

Twitter’s addition of Lead Generation cards also offers a helpful way of increasing email signups by allowing you to collect user emails in one click and sign them up to a mailing list in two.

Make sure your social media advertising is taking advantage of targeting options to show your message to the right audience.

3. Quality/engaging content becomes crucial

As users are bombarded daily with content online, yours should be immediately identifiable. If you post through social media whilst on the go, branding your content is now easier than ever. As video is increasingly the content of choice on social media, applications such as Hyperlapse and Boomerang allow you to create captivating videos, at a small file size, and share it online with ease.

There are a few key things to consider to ensure your content gets through to your audience: be recognisable, create posts with engagement in mind and include video content where you can.

What’s likely to change with
social media in 2016?

"Messaging is one of the few things that people do more than social networking" - Mark Zuckerberg, 2015

Brands are now beginning to handle their customer services through messenger applications. Users will soon be able to communicate with companies through apps such as Facebook Messenger to help answer their needs and gain near-instant responses. This has already been trialled in China, being met with a positive reaction. Brands will benefit by moving customer service away from their public social media  channels and users will receive a more personal and instant means of communication.

Another development set to be big in 2016 is buying on mobile devices. Services such as Apple Pay have removed the need to enter your card details when shopping online. As a consequence, 2016 is set to become the year of the “Buy Button”, meaning shopping on your mobile phone and directly from social media posts will be even easier.