When Instagram announced last Tuesday that it will be introducing an algorithm based feed (a la Facebook), it caused quite a stir in the social media world.
With a blog post titled “See the Moments You Care About First,” Instagram explained that people are missing “on average 70 percent of their feeds.” The switch to an algorithm-based feed is designed to ensure that users see more of what they care about and less of what they don’t.
It seems like a logical step to deal with the platform’s growth, but not everyone is happy.
More than 190,000 people have signed a Change.org petition to “Keep Instagram Chronological.” They fear that the changes will negatively impact the reach of small businesses and artists, as well as undermine the egalitarian nature of the “most recent” style feed.
It appears likely that the changes will happen, regardless of the opposition, so what impact will the changes have and how can brands, marketers and influencers prepare for them?
Number of followers will grow …
Instagram is looking to make the overall experience more engaging and relevant, while at the same time grow the platform as a whole. With the chronological feed, there are only so many users you can follow before it becomes cluttered and unusable.
Instagram hopes to solve this by only serving posts it thinks you will like the most.
The impact of this? Users can follow more accounts with less consequence and, thus, follower numbers will likely grow.
… But follower count will be less relevant
Currently, a post to 100,000 followers reaches 100,000 feeds. In the new model, it won’t be so simple.
At this stage, it’s difficult to tell just how restrictive the algorithm will be, but if Facebook is anything to go by, we can expect organic reach to become far more difficult. When it comes to reach, things are likely to become a bit more complicated, as total number of followers won’t carry the same weight it once did—even more so as people begin to follow more accounts.
Engagement rate is king
Engagement rate will become even more important. With an algorithm that prioritizes content it believes you will be interested in, engaging content will be the key to unlocking reach.
Brands, marketers and influencers will need to put a priority on creating engaging content if they want to compete.
We can also expect up-and-coming influencers with small audiences but great engagement rates to become more in demand.
Brands, marketers and influencers will need to create more engaging content
Without the luxury of guaranteed reach, the pressure will be on to ensure that content is relevant and engaging. It’s logical to assume that the higher percentage of engaging content you post, the greater your overall reach will be, but time will tell.
This means that posting average, generic content could bring down your overall reach and, as such, perhaps there will be a greater focus on quality over quantity.
One thing is clear: Brands will need to invest more time and effort to reach and engage with their audience.
The demand for influencers will grow
As it becomes tougher for brands to reach their audience organically, they will explore other means. This means that the demand for influencer marketing is likely to grow.
Working with high-quality, relevant influencers will provide brands great opportunities to reach their audience and supplement their own reach. As that demand for great influencers increases, so, too, will the cost. Influencers themselves will also be under pressure to perform, with their reach also being impacted.
Paid Instagram advertising will be more common (and effective)
The change in feed is also key to Instagram’s monetization strategy.
In restricting organic reach, Instagram will open up new revenue opportunities as brands seek ways to gain greater access to their audience (and new ones).
By plugging into the Facebook ad platform, Instagram is in a great position to deliver high-quality, targeted advertising to its users. And as the aggregated feed eventually replaces the chronological one, we can expect Instagram ad offerings to become more sophisticated and effective.
Brands and businesses looking to market through Instagram will need a mixture of organic, influencer marketing and paid advertising to get great results.
Now is the time to start thinking about your Instagram strategy so you can be ready when the change rolls out more broadly.