If you've been on Instagram in the last week this image looks very familiar to you.
Marketers across the country became alarmed when Instagram revealed it would be switching up its algorithm in coming weeks from its current chronological format to a new relevancy-based design.
Since 2014, Instagram has captured hearts and eyes of mobile users everywhere, and has outpaced growth of total social network usage for the past two years. 2015 seemed to be "The Year of the 'Gram", with businesses, celebrities, lifestyle brands and viral sensations using the platform to tell their story digitally through captivating, crafted imagery.
This year, 89.4 million Americans will log on to Instagram at least once a month, representing 34.1% of mobile phone users. And by 2017, 51.8% of social network users will use Instagram—surpassing the 50% mark for the first time. - eMarketer
At the late part of last year, advertisers were chomping at the bit for the platform to unveil advertising options, and Instagram listened. Brand Networks, one of the ad networks partnering with the platform was able to increase its ad inventory 13 times over from September 2015 to December 2015, to a staggering 670 million impressions. For the user, that meant seeing more frequent ads from brands they may not be following on the platform.
With all this change, it's not surprising that Instagram has decided to change operations a bit. It's estimated that the typical Instagram user misses out on 70% of their friends' content, because they aren't always on the app when their favorite users are.
I recently found myself commenting to a close friend that I felt bad that I never "liked" their pictures, but each time I went to their profile, I was seeing pictures I never saw in my feed. After talking about it, I realized I was missing out on tons of great content from other users I followed, because my feed was chronological and quickly got buried under posts from other brands that I follow, but am less likely to double tap on.
To help alleviate this, Instagram is slowly (less than 10% will notice at the start) starting to roll out a small algorithm change that allows users to see the content that matters at the top of their feed. Unlike some other social algorithm changes, this change will not cause content to magically disappear from your followers' feed. It will instead put the content you are most engaged with towards the top, so you're less likely to miss a great moment.
To improve the experience, feeds will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe people will care about the most—and that includes content shared from businesses. - Instagram
Arguably, this does cause concern for marketers, who have already seen how devastating algorithm changes can be to organic content. This concern, along with the nature of the internet to 'go viral' undoubtedly sent the Instagram world into a tizzy, with businesses pushing users to allow post notifications. What might have been overlooked was that this was not an easy fix, or even a smart one.
Enabling push notifications for Instagram, ensures that the you will see your favorite user's content.... even when you might not want to. When a user allows notifications for a business, this means a push notification will be sent to their phone, and can disrupt them from any activity, including when they're watching a mobile video, on another social network or using their mobile to pay bills.
The whole idea that you can tell a beautiful story on Instagram through carefully crafted content loses it's appeal when it becomes disruptive to the user. Sure enough, if a fan likes you enough to 'enable notifications', feel assured that they're engaged enough with you organically that you'll remain top of their feed when the algorithm reaches them.
While we don't believe in pushing users to enable push notifications is the best solution, there are a few things you can do to your Instagram strategy that will help you stay ahead of the algorithm curve.
1. Stay relevant - You have a unique audience on Instagram, that likes your personal or business brand. Don't stray away from that to appeal to a bigger audience. Think of your Instagram as a way of reaching your target audience. You wouldn't try to sell on-trend makeup to older gentlemen, and you wouldn't try to sell a sportscar to a soccer mom; focus on who's engaged with your story and stay relevant to that audience.
2. Stay recent - Don't be afraid to play with new and exciting Instagram features and apps, such as Boomerang or Hyperlapse. There are also great apps out there that allow you to edit your photos (my favorites are here and here) and create fun, engaging posts. If you're posting about morning coffee, post it in the morning when it's timely to your followers. Keeping things fresh, new and current will help boost your organic reach, and it's likely the types of posts that are already getting the most engagement on your profile.
3. Forget the clutter - If you're like many marketers you have a schedule that has specific times to post on social. If you are sticking to a strict posting schedule, it's likely at some point you'll end up posting something for the sake of posting. This leads to a low engagement post and could have you reevaluating your total strategy. If you're posting something that you're unsure about or aren't excited to tell your audience, it's likely they will return the same level of enthusiasm for the post. These posts won't make it to the top of anyone's list, especially not Instagram's. Post engaging, fun, beautiful content that you're confident you'll get response to.
One benefit of having a digital agency behind your brand is that you never have to worry about how the next algorithm update is going to affect your business. Our digital marketers are constantly researching the trends, attending events and workshops, and otherwise listening to industry peers on big events. When we have a question about a change, we have resources to check and do our best to get to the source as soon as possible.
You've heard the adage that the only thing that is constant is change, and those words couldn't be truer than in the online space. Do you have a digital team ready to help you process the changes and make the best adjustments in your strategy in order to stay on top? We'd love to talk digital marketing with you.
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