There has been a lot of chatter about Instagram’s algorithm, and what that could mean for your feed in the past few weeks. And when we say change, we mean widespread panic. About a month ago, you may have noticed a full-scale barrage from brands urging you to “turn on notifications” or risk never seeing their content again!
Then…. Nothing. There have been no major changes thus far, and now that the dust has settled it feels like a good time to take a less, emotionally charged look at the situation.
First, this is not the end of the world. Instagram is not an evil internet overlord. People are, by nature, change-averse and there’s even a whiff of monetization on social media platforms, people start hurling despotic insults. But it’s important to keep perspective. Instagram cited that in its current model, people miss about 70 percent of their feed — that’s a lot! And if Instagram does indeed start curating feeds algorithmically, that likely means you’ll see more of what you’re interested in and engaging with on the platform. A better user experience means Instagram retains its massive user base and everyone is happy. Whew! Glad we got that out of the way.
Second, this change is not unexpected. For those of us in the weird and wonderful world of digital marketing, there have been predications that Instagram will follow the “Facebook model” for years. They only got louder when Facebook bought Instagram in 2012, and integrated it with Facebook’s ad platform in 2015. With an increased user base would, inevitably, come clutter. And with content clutter usually comes filtering. If the past is any indication, that filtering means moving to a more “pay-to-play” model. And in the flurry of activity surrounding the algorithm announcement, people seem to have forgotten that Instagram already serves users promoted content. So, still nothing to panic about.
Third, organic reach isn’t dead… but it will be affected. One major source of outcry around Instagram’s coming changes has been ad agencies. They say Instagram has recently told them not to rely on organic reach, instead pitching paid advertising options. However, paid content has already been a major component of many brand strategies and an algorithmic change wouldn’t be the first time sponsored content is seen on the platform. It’s also worth mentioning that at the end of the day, Instagram is a business that needs to make money. It’s easy to forget that technology we use daily and enjoy cannot be sustained by love alone. Sponsored content is a reality, and hopefully the algorithmic changes will help maintain high quality standards so the content you see on your feed as a result of it is content you’ll enjoy.
We’ll be watching carefully to see what happens in the coming weeks, but for now it’s safe to say that our ‘gramming habit isn’t going anywhere fast. Now, anyone else in the mood for an impossibly pretty latte in a place with good lighting?
(Featured image c/o @obviousbutamazing)