A Closer Look At The Instagram Update

Last week, the social media world got a shake up.

Instagram announced a major update and the world has gone mad! Click To Tweet

Not really, but it was big news. Instagram has announced an update to its news feed algorithm. Posts will no longer appear in chronological order, but instead it will be a more personalized feed, designed for you to see the moments you care about first using a variety of signals such as relationship between poster/user and timeliness. It is meant to be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content it shows you as opposed to a chronological order. So essentially, Instagram will choose what to show and when, not unlike the Facebook newsfeed.

Anytime such a huge change like this is announced, as a marketer, I immediately think about what it means for businesses.  So, I decided to pick the brain of my friend and Instagram expert, Jenn Herman. Not only is her blog, “Jenn’s Trends” a Top 10 Social Media Blog of 2014 & 2015, but she has her own exclusive Instagram marketing community, Jenn’s Friends. Check out what Jenn had to say in this brief Q & A:

Instagram made a HUGE announcement this week that they would be to an algorithm based timeline. What has been the reaction of your online community to this news?

Yes, it was BIG news! Everyone has been talking about it. Surprisingly though, my community has had mixed reactions. Of course, when I posted about this on Instagram, it was chaos. Everyone was freaking out, mad, and begging me to stop it (I wish I had that kind of power!). But when I polled my Twitter audience, I had 30 responses, 33% of whom said it was inevitable, 7% actually said it was a good idea, 37% said they wished it was an option, and only 23% said it was a bad idea. And my Facebook audience seemed somewhat passive and more interested in reminding their audiences to focus on creating better content.

I was kind of surprised by these responses, but when you think about it, it’s actually not that surprising, and completely in line with how those people use Facebook and Twitter. And they probably aren’t the more die-hard Instagrammers.

Why do you believe Instagram made this change?

Instagram is a business. And as a business and social media platform they have seen unprecedented and exponential growth. They are having to adapt and scale to accommodate the growth.

A couple years ago, Instagram users were crazy passionate about the platform. But now there are a ton of casual users who don’t log in every hour and who aren’t super active with likes and comments. We’ve all noticed a decline in engagement (even if it is still significantly more engaging that Twitter and Facebook).

So, Instagram is trying to adapt the platform to get the more casual users more active. And, of course, there is some play towards revenue generation…

What do you think users will notice most about this timeline change good or bad?

This is what we all have to wait and see since none of us really know yet. I could be wrong, but my understanding is that this algorithm will not hide any content. It will simply move certain content up to the top of your feed. So, if you scroll enough, you would still see everything all the accounts you follow post.

And, if you already have a loyal, engaged audience who regularly likes and comments on your posts, chances are this algorithm could actually help you as your content will be more likely to get moved up in their feeds. Worst case, it will have little or no impact on your business.

However, if you do not currently have good engagement and if your audience isn’t interacting with your content, then yes, this could impact you negatively. But, if your content isn’t resonating with them now, is the algorithm really to blame?

What does this change mean for marketers and how do you think they will need to adapt?

First and foremost, do NOT fall into the trap of creating more content. This is the Facebook strategy that too many people fall prey to and it will kill you on Instagram. More crappy content will not solve the problem.

Instead, you want to focus on creating BETTER content. Better images or videos. Better captions. Better calls-to-action that invite engagement to keep your posts looking good to Instagram.

You need to focus on building your community on Instagram. Answering questions, responding to comments, providing quality content and value, and supporting your audience will be paramount in seeing success on Instagram.

And, yes, if you want to start using ads, there’s no time like now, right? 😉 Instagram ads are easy to do, effective when targeted properly, and can drive traffic to your website while getting you new reach and exposure. But again, your content has to be the BEST you can create if you want to see real success.

Do you think this makes a hashtag strategy more or less important and why?

You MUST utilize a powerful hashtag strategy. It is even more important now that you are using the right hashtags to get found in searches by your ideal audience. Do not “hashjack” (piggyback on unrelated popular hashtags). Use industry, business, and content related hashtags that will attract your ideal customer.

I certainly appreciate Jenn’s expertise!

So, bottom line is, when such updates are implemented, it’s a challenge to brands to be BETTER. Use better creativity, better content, better calls to action, better captions. Time to step your game up.