Instagram users are in a frenzy. 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. For years, Instagram users saw content chronologically. Like Twitter, what you saw first in your feed was entirely determined by when your friends post and when you signed on. Instagram has now flipped the switch to an algorithm-based feed, similar to its parent company, 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 revert to the chronological feed.
Why is this so scary for brands? Well, Instagram posts from brands used to be seen by every single follower, assuming that the followers are willing to scroll down far enough. Now, similar to Facebook, which uses an algorithm, branded posts are seen organically by less than 10% of fans. Knowing that, it’s easy to see why the change is forcing brands to take a hard look at their Instagram strategy.
How are brands being seen 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 puts too much responsibility on the shoulders of the consumer. So what can brands do to keep as much reach as possible? We’re glad you asked.
- Focus on the content
Think of Instagram like Facebook. Content needs to impact its audience enough to drive engagement. Brands must think about their Instagram content the same way. Purely promotional posts, thinly veiled ads and posts with poor images will be flushed by the new algorithm. Brands must work on creating the type of posts that resonate with
users and demand engagement. Be creative, bold, unusual, unique, and honest. Authentic content that speaks directly to the users’ life will always produce bigger reach metrics and encourage sharing.
- Quality over quantity
The chronological Instagram format favored brands and personalities that spent the time to post several times a day. No matter when someone logged on a post wouldn’t be too far down their feed. With the new algorithm, posting several times a day might dilute a post’s overall reach. The new best practice will be to focus on creating and posting just the best pieces of content each day. The best content will find users, no matter when it was posted.
- 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 the changes now in effect, the only way brands will be able to guarantee that their content is seen is by investing in paid placement. Brands need to remember that Instagram is a business with a plan to become profitable. Brands should not be surprised that Instagram’s revenue plan is being put into action.
No brand can afford to become too comfortable with its social media strategy. Best practices simply change too fast to settle into a single plan for too long. Ideas Collide advises following the data behind each platform and post to determine what content best connects with your audience and build off of that. While the the rules might change on Instagram or other platforms, creating unique, custom visuals that tell compelling stories and create emotional connections will never be a bad strategy.