How will Instagram’s new algorithm affect brands?

So it’s happening. It was only a matter of time. Instagram is planning on using algorithms to organise content within timelines, as announced on their company blog this week.

Following in the footsteps of their owners Facebook, who started to move away from a chronological display way back in 2009, and Twitter, who only last month announced their intentions to implement similar changes, Instagram is now joining the club.

The exact wording within the official announcement is as follows:

“To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most.

The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post.”

These changes will be rolled out to a small section of users during a pilot phase, before being more widely applied to their 400 million active users. As expected, there have been online complaints by users of the app, although #RIPinstagram does not appear to have gained as much traction as #RIPtwitter.

The complaints focus around the fact that users would like to decide for themselves what they choose to see, rather than a machine deciding for them. Also, if they enjoy the way they currently use a platform, why change it? Change will inevitably bring resistance.

The two most important words in the statement above are “we believe” – Instagram is essentially saying that based on the behavioural data and insights they have access to, they will improve the experience of their active user base, despite a vocal section claiming that they know best.

The proof will inevitably be in the pudding. If Instagram is correct, users will spend longer using the app, making it a more attractive proposition to advertisers. That’s the ultimate aim. If Instagram is incorrect, and the user experience deteriorates, users may decide to spend their time elsewhere. Advertising dollars may also dwindle.

I personally hope that Instagram is successful with this change, and that the algorithm surprises people with the decisions it makes. If it’s smart enough to prioritise content that I genuinely care about…MASSIVE WIN.

As users though, we have a responsibility to engage with posts we enjoy seeing so that Instagram understands our behaviour. If we don’t, the results may be poor. Whilst as marketers, we have a responsibility to understand user preferences and behaviour before hitting the share button.

Whilst no immediate changes have been made to the Instagram advertising options available, sharing interesting and timely content that spark social actions is likely to have a positive impact on the algorithm. Relevancy, which has always been important, has just moved up a gear.

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