The Great Instagram Panic

Every time one of our beloved social channels whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, makes a major design or user experience change, the world seems to collectively freak out. This time of sheer panic is usually short lived as much like our ever evolving technology, we are extremely adaptable as active social and digital participants.

When Instagram recently announced that it would be changing the way images showed up in our feed, the collective groan was audible. Since its inception, Instagram has served user and brand generated content through a chronological feed, which means that when you scroll through the photos in your feed they are in order of newest to oldest. However, Instagram is looking to change that order and build an algorithm that is similar to parent company Facebook’s that will intend to prioritize content for each user. Simply put, Instagram’s new algorithm will essentially guess which content is most important to you and place that at the top of your feed.

Instagram has claimed that this will best serve their users, as when following a large group of people you can sometimes lose key content because they are posting during times that you aren’t able to be active like when you are sleeping, traveling, or at work. And while that’s a charming thought, the real reason behind Instagram's algorithm is purely revenue based.

By prioritizing content, Instagram, much like Facebook, becomes a pay to play model that allows brands and media outlets to pay for their content to stay at the top of users feeds. Many small brands were able to find initial success through Instagram because it was a level playing field, for example if you follow an independent fashion boutique with a small marketing budget and say Nordstrom, their content had the same prioritization in your news feed, that is changing.

Moving Forward-

This might seem like a folly on Instagram’s UX front, as any social media entity serving their users ads can ultimately create a disengaged community and lead to users moving on to the next big social sharing site (Snapchat, Periscope, etc). However, this is really going to come down to how well brands and companies can disguise ads as native content.

Native content has become a key marketing initiative for many brands who want to serve their audience marketing through a content first perspective, essentially allowing consumers to interact with useful content produced by brands to engage their customer base. Any brand that wants to stay competitive on Instagram will now have to create content that is both engaging enough to keep their audience active, but also not so salesy that it turns users off.

What Brands Can Do-

Now more than ever an informed strategy will be essential for brands to succeed on the platform. Here are some of the ways in which brands can maximize their reach and find continued success.

Engage Your Audience- Instagram is claiming that the more engagement a piece of content gets, the greater its visibility will be with the brand's followers. Therefore it will be essential for brands to build their content strategy around what pieces of content are getting the most action. For example if you are a health and wellness business and your recipe posts tend to get the most activity from your community than it will be key to make recipes a key part of your Instagram strategy

Leverage Influencers- Influencers are already a huge part of Instagram marketing strategies and that trend is going to continue to grow with brands that want to stay relevant in the space. Generally an influencer in any given vertical has a high engagement rate, and leveraging these influencers to keep your brand in front of their followers is going to be key.

Have an Instagram Budget- This is a good time to start planning on how you will allocate some of your social marketing budget to Instagram, as pay to play will eventually be the standard. While Instagram will no longer be a free marketing platform, it will more than likely still be a very affordable way to market your product or brand compared to traditional advertising.

Try New Platforms- Change is inevitable especially in the digital age, so now is a good time to start playing with emerging platforms like Snapchat and Periscope. These new platforms are still free for brands, and will more than likely only continue to grow, especially with some users being turned off by Instagram’s new updates.