I was going to write and publish this next week but with the absolute frenzy happening on Instagram, I felt as if it was better to get this out now rather than later. So stop what you’re doing, delete your “turn notifications on” photo from Instagram and let’s chat.
I currently work in social media and I’ve spent numerous hours talking to various people and reading everything there is to know about this new update. Learning about how it will affect a brand (like my work) but also how it will affect my personal (private) and business (blog) accounts. So I’d like to think I have *some* knowledge on the topic but in all reality no one really knows anything besides the people at Instagram. So take this post for what it is: a well-researched, long story with a lot of links and thoughts combined in one place.
All in all, I get it. People hate change. And I’ll be honest that when I heard about the new update I was upset. I think it came to ruin Facebook and I hoped it wouldn't happen on Twitter, but that’s because I don’t like change. You’re talking to a girl who hasn’t changed the background image on my computer (it’s still those mountains in Yosemite) or moved a single app on my phone since day one. But I was upset because I was misinformed. There are a lot of rumors running around and a ton of speculation on a topic that really no one knows much about. So I decided before I was going to make any type of decision, I was going to take a deep dive, learn what I can and go from there.
Users are freaking out that posts will no longer show up in others feeds but Instagram is actually doing the opposite. Let me tell you why:
What We Know:
…About the Update
In Instagram's blog, it says that people miss 70% of the photos in their feed and this update is meant to change that. Imagine if that number applies to you and your following. That would mean a TON of people who, as of right now, never see your posts. Now imagine if they started seeing and liking your photos – engagement numbers would sky rocket!
Influencers are also acting like it’s the end of the world and telling their followers that, because of the new algorithm, they’ll no longer see their posts. This is just absurd because it clearly states on Instagram’s blog that this is not the case: “As we begin, we’re focusing on optimizing the order — all the posts will still be there, just in a different order.”
That’s not to say that it will always be this way (see: Facebook) but I think we should worry about that more when it happens. In my opinion, I don’t even think you’ll truly notice a huge change when the update does happen. With Instagram's last update, they’ve changed the timestamp on photos to be under the comments. Tell me honestly: how often do you look at that now? I can say for sure I don’t.
…About the Algorithm:
So what goes into this algorithm and more importantly, how can you be a part of it? An Instagram spokesman said, as reported by the WSJ, the order is based on an analysis of posts a user has liked, commented on or searched for on Instagram. In addition to likes, comments and searches, Instagram will also factor in users’ “relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post” in determining what will appear at the top of their feeds (source).
It’s also worth a note to mention that Instagram already does a pretty good job at showing you what you want to see (whether you’re aware of it or not). Just take a look at your explore tab or follow someone new and see suggested accounts. It’s not like the new update will start showing you the crappy accounts you have no care for -- they're smarter than that.
We’re all aware one of the main objectives behind this update is to sell more ads on Instagram. You have to think about the money generated from Facebook through ads and how any company, especially a younger brother company, would be dumb not to do the same. Over the years, Instagram has done a great job integrating ads into our feeds and while we hated it at first, it turned out to not be the end of the world. Go figure.
What We *Think* We Know:
People are up in arms because they think the change is happening . But I have no idea where they’re getting this information or what even started this snowball effect. I think the idea came from an article that mentioned it could be happening as soon as March 29th. But all the other articles I’ve read (specifically this one from the New York Times) have mentioned, “the change would not be quick or jarring, and that it would start the shift in a series of small tests with a single-digit percentage of user groups before deciding whether to introduce the changes broadly” (source).
Instagram even posted on Twitter (ironically) yesterday, “We're listening and we assure you nothing is changing with your feed right now. We promise to let you know when changes roll out broadly.” And to really calm your fears, Fader reported Instagram "still has weeks, or even months, of testing to go."
So it’s not happening today and it’s for sure not happening to everyone this week. Unless you're a test subject, mwahahahah!
…About Instagram’s Priorities:
Think about the types of accounts that rule Instagram: fashion/beauty, health/fitness, sports/entertainment and animals. If we know this, Instagram does too. Why would they try to help get rid of or minimize accounts that have helped them become so popular?
They're creating this update for us. To help us grow, to help our engagement grow and to help Instagram as a whole. The more people you follow the harder it will be to keep up. This update is going to try to fix that. Digiday has a good article, Winners and Losers of an Instagram Algorithm that focuses more on this topic!
Good content will always remain king, algorithm or not. That will never change.
…About Strategy (and how to remain on top):
Instead of asking fans to turn on notifications, focus on engagement. Ask followers questions, learn their habits, post content they enjoy, know your followers, respond to them and be engaging! This will keep you at the top of any feed and it will make sure your followers never miss a post.
Think about it in Facebook terms: who's post do you see the most? Family? Close friends? How about that person you're always chatting with or searching for? Facebook knows all of that and puts that profile first in your feed because they know it's what you want to see. Instagram will probably do the same.
It's all about engagement and that's what people should be worried about and develop more. Check out this article from Entrepreneur (more towards the bottom) that reinforces my theory! The people who will be hurt most by this update will be those with already low engagement. Even if you have a small following but killer engagement, you will be OK.
It's just funny to me out that out of all the people freaking out it's bloggers. And in my opinion (and after a ton of research) we're the people with the least to worry about. I can really only see this helping us! So let's all take a big breath in...
...About How it Will Affect Content:
I'll say it again, but content is KING. Good content -- no matter the format, algorithm, platform -- will reign supreme. I of course have ZERO basis to say this (just want to make this clear-- haven't read it once in any of my research) but I have a pretty serious hunch that this update will start to favor video content.
Instagram is making a big push towards video content. Whether it's a 15-second spot, a stop motion film or a video created via Boomerang. You can see it by the way they're updating reporting (seeing video views AND likes), by scrolling through your explore tab and by the featured posts they're boosting. It's the same direction Facebook and Twitter have gone, and I wouldn't be surprised if Instagram will soon follow.
A HUGE plus I see coming is the fact that you'll no longer have to worry about time of day when you post. With this update, you can post a photo at 3am on a Friday night and it will be there first thing (presumably) the next morning on your followers' feeds. This is one of the major factors behind the whole update: seeing content you care about while you're away.
This is not only great for time of day but also for followers not in the same time zone as you are. Ever traveled abroad and tried to post when your regular followers are awake even though it's 2am your time? I know I have. This update will change that and the worry will be no more!
We've see this before: putting all your eggs in one basket (that isn't even yours). It started with Facebook. People were relying on it to drive traffic and to grow their business. but their pay-for-play update over time killed those dreams.
We saw it again with Pinterest. People were making livings off of affiliate marketing and one day Pinterest decided they wanted that revenue and cut everyone else off. I knew people whose worlds were turned upside down and lost a lot.
And now we can start to see that happening with Instagram. While I don't believe this update will be *the one* to kill off influencers, I do believe it's a possibility down the road. It's hard to not think that. Especially when the value of social ads are rising.
So I remind all bloggers and influencers: don't put all your eggs in someone else's basket.
One of the best pieces of advice I've received to this day is to make sure my blog is my number one source of traffic, income, sponsorships ... everything. Because it's the only thing that I 100% control and the only thing that no brand, platform or person can take from me. My eggs, my basket.
You can apply this to life and the blog, but never focus your efforts on things you cannot control.
So what are your thoughts?? I'd love to have a real conversation below in the comments to see what you guys are thinking/worried about/hoping for, etc!