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Instagram’s Big Change: How Brands Must Adapt

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Instagram users are taking note. You may have noticed brands, Instagram celebrities, magazines, and even your friends demanding you turn on post notifications for them. Many people have gone as far as posting pictures of them pointing to the button you need to click to turn on the notifications. All of this is because of one word: algorithm.

Here’s the quick background. Right now, Instagram users see content chronologically. Meaning, like Twitter, what you see first in your feed is entirely determined by when your friends post and when you sign on. Instagram has announced it’s going to switch to an algorithm-based feed, like Facebook. Instagram says the change is needed to improve the user experience and show users the content they care about the most. This has upset so many people that more than 300,000 people have signed a petition demanding that Instagram abandoned the scheduled update.

Why is this a big concern for brands? Well, Instagram posts from brands can be seen by every single follower, assuming that the followers are willing to scroll down far enough. But, brand posts on Facebook, which uses an algorithm, are seen organically by less than 10% of their fans. Knowing that, it’s easy to see why the change is forcing brands to take a hard look at their Instagram strategy.

What to do now?

The first reaction from the Instagram community has been to beg for people to click the notifications button. But that’s simply not a long term solution for big or small brands. It’s simply not feasible. So what can brands do to keep as much reach as possible? We’re glad you asked.

  1. Focus on the content

Think of Instagram like Facebook. What content gets the biggest reach? The answer is content that impacts its audience enough to drive engagement. Brands must now think about their Instagram content the same way. Purely promotional posts, thinly veiled ads and posts with poor images are going to do down the algorithm toilet. Instead, brands must work on creating the type of posts that users will want to engage with. Being creative, bold, unusual, unique, and true to the brand will produce bigger reach metrics over time.

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  1. Quality over quantity

The chronological Instagram format favored brands and personalities that spent the time to post several times a day because then no matter when someone logged on a post wouldn’t be too far down the timeline. Now, in an algorithm, posting several times a day might dilute the overall reach. The new best practice will be to focus on creating and posting just one or two great pieces of content a day. The best content will find users, no matter when it was posted.

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  1. Be prepared to spend

Until now, brands could get away on Instagram without spending a single dollar on the platform. Creating an account was free, posting was free, and other than timing there was nothing stopping fans of your brand from seeing your content. With that changing in the near future, the only way brands will be able to guarantee that their content is seen is through ads. Brands need to remember that Instagram is a business with a plan to become profitable, which means creating a demand for ads. Brands should not be surprised that Instagram’s revenue plan is being put into action.

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Posted on April 11, 2016 in Digital Marketing Recommendations, News

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