Following Facebook and Twitter’s lead, Instagram recently announced that they would be releasing an algorithmic update to users’ feeds based on their interests and interactions. Previously, the photo sharing social platform’s feed showed content in the chronological order it was posted. Due to the increase of usage and content, and in an effort to show users more “relevant content,” the evolution of social media has resulted in platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and now Instagram updating to an algorithm that determines what content you see and when you see it. These changes are a result of the sheer volume of users that have come to love the social platform. As usage increases, so does the number of people users follow. Instagram worries that because of this, we are missing content we would otherwise engage with had we seen it. For the photo-based social app, a chronological feed just doesn’t make sense anymore. According to their data, engagement is decreasing as people struggle to keep up with those they follow. Looking forward, Instagram believes that updating the feed based on an algorithm will keep users more active and engaged with content they like.
Many users have favored Instagram because it lacked the algorithm so many users have come to despise, especially after Facebook implemented an algorithm update, causing engagement to tank across many business pages. Instagram’s feed renovation has led to favoritism and backlash alike. While many content creators whose material already has astronomical engagement believe that they will benefit from this update, more average users are afraid they will have to work even harder for followers and likes as it will be harder to have their content shown and discovered. Furthermore, many are unhappy that someone else is determining what type of content they can see and discover. It seems a bit Big Brotheresque to many that are complaining about these changes. As the dawn of this update is approaching, it seems more and more like a new age popularity contest. As users anticipate the release of this algorithm update, they feel as if they are losing control of their Instagram feed, a major complaint Facebook continues to experience with their ever-changing algorithm.
For brands, this impending change is quite daunting; it could make or break their social presence. Tech Crunch even went as far as describing this update as “the death of Instagram for brands,” describing this change as a way for Instagram to control ad content for monetization purposes. Many marketers are calling the implementation of algorithms to social media the “death of organic social.” Furthermore, many fear that if they don’t have the budget, their social presence will take a massive hit.
As businesses and brands await this change to Instagram’s feed, they are starting to feel the pressure of turning to experts for help to engage their customers in a more meaningful way on social platforms. Already feeling overwhelmed prior to these updates, they are starting to feel the urgency to optimize their social followings before it’s too late.
Facebook, who owns Instagram made the same update to their algorithm in 2009, and as a result, only a miniscule 2-3% of a page’s posts are shown to its followers with less than half a percent average engagement rate. It’s no wonder brands and companies favor Instagram as their social marketing machine, with an engagement rate more than 25 times higher than Facebook. For marketers, battling Facebook’s algorithm is a constant challenge that costs a lot of money and resources. Now, they may have to face the same struggles with Instagram’s new algorithm.
Anticipating backlash, Instagram promises that “the changes to the feed may be less disruptive than those of other networks, considering Instagram is centered almost entirely on photos, not words,” (source: NY Times) something the social network’s co-founder and CEO, Mike Krieger stands by. They also say that the release of the new algorithm and testing will be implemented with ease, and users are not likely to see drastic changes immediately. With more than 400 million monthly users, Instagram feels this is the best way to optimize user experience on the social app. Their goal with these changes is to cut out the noise and improve the user experience.
Though users and business all have their own opinion of how these changes will affect them, we can only wait to see what the algorithmic update will bring. For now, everything is pure speculation.
What do you think of Instagram’s implementation of a new algorithm? Are you happy to see it? How do you think this will affect you as a user or owner of a business?
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