Embracing the era of the algorithm

 
 

What Instagram’s new formula means for your feed and your brand

After months of high-stakes speculation and heated newsfeed debate, Instagram has officially announced its entry into the 2016 Algorithmic Games. 

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Easter Monday was the day InstaHQ chose to unceremoniously initiate its new algebra – a newsfeed formula that will effectively reorder the photos and videos you see based on your purported interest in the content, as well as your relationship with the poster and the so-called ‘timeliness’ of the post.

Instagram’s decision to change the process of how it arranges your newsfeed, which up until now was simply chronological (imagine!), is a move that mimics its (older and higher valued) sister enterprise Facebook. With this evolution comes the insta-ntaneous repositioning of the image sharing app as a major pay-to-play social platform, where your audience is no longer your own, your post reach no longer free and a new reality forever in place, whereby brands are left little choice but to cough up cold hard campaign dollars if they want to guarantee their content be seen and heard.

Sound familiar? For any Facebook Business Page owner who lamented their way through Goodbye Organic Reach-gate of 2014 and is still standing after several years of endless algorithm adjustments, it is. Get ready to re-familiarize yourself with Facebook’s Ads Manager and Power Editor, because like it or not, you’re back in bed. 

But lest we get ahead of ourselves – back to the here and now. #Instagrama2016 will surely be remembered for a flood of ‘turn notification on’ posts from many a frantic people crowding up your newsfeed, with individuals and organizations alike attempting to encourage their followers to switch on alerts, guaranteeing their future posts remain seen.

Quickly followed, unfortunately, by the mass realization that something was amiss. Because with Instagram’s new algorithm ruled by interest and engagement, vying for your followers to turn on notifications, beeps, pings and alerts to your every post is essentially an early surrender – a white flag admittance that your content will not truly suit their interests or inspire them to engage with you, and worse, a request for permission to blow up their phone.

The new algorithm is not likely to make drastic changes to your feed, but will instead filter out the content you are less inclined to like or repost. We can only assume that the popular will become more popular and the unpopular (and the new) will remain unseen, unless the user pays to generate their posts as ads. Strategizing post times and frequency of posts will become a thing of the past, and, much like Facebook, no longer be of great help in gaining likes or followers.

So, how can your brand remain seen in your followers’ interest-curated feed? The short answer, according to Instagram, is that you create great content that will see plenty of interaction, appreciation and engagement, and/or pay for your posts to gain some coveted newsfeed footing.

How to achieve the former and spend less on the latter? While the looming end of free social fast approaches, it is imperative that your posts remain posts and do not become ads. Organizations investing their time and energy on Instagram must remember that even when paying for space and reach, a post is not a billboard. Instagram users are NOT Facebook users, and despite the app’s evolution, users will continue to appreciate authentic, original and highly compelling visual content. The moment an Instagram account begins to look like an advertising feed, the ‘unfollows’ will follow, and the frustration will too.

 
Kelly Doody