The New Instagram Algorithm: How It Will Really Affect Your Brand. (Hint: It’s Not the End of the World.)

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Brands and influencers are up in arms about Instagram’s new Facebook-like algorithm. Here’s what to do — and why it’s not the end of the world.


Most brands knew this day would come.

Four years after Facebook bought then-bourgeoning photo sharing app  Instagram, the original social network is now increasingly looking to reap returns on its $1 billion investment. After releasing “Shop Now” buttons and a Facebook-integrated ad platform last fall, Mark Zuckerberg and team have nudged their mobile acquisition even closer to Facebook by changing how photos are presented from chronological order to an algorithm-based model.

Yes, the same Facebook-inspired algorithm that caused organic search for many brands to plummet — and drove away many regular users in the process who became tired of only seeing posts from their five closest friends.

The Instagram algorithm, which assesses posts based on existing likes, as well as content a user has liked before and a user’s relationship with the poster, now makes posting on Instagram a little taking the computerized GMAT, where your performance on the first few questions can make or break your overall score. Your content has to perform well with the first few viewers to keep getting more views and therefore likes.

What’s so terrible then about requiring users to create shareable content?  

Nothing, really. Except this:

Ultimately, ‘professional’ Insta users are worried that any “weighted” system will have the potential to recognize posts as ‘branded’ and reduce views for those posts until owners start paying for sponsored ads. These users aren’t wrong to think this — this is, after all, exactly what happened with Facebook. But here’s why the panic is premature:

Myth #1:

The Instagram algorithm will kill my brand’s views and force me to buy ads. 

Truth: Instagram can’t tell the difference between a business profile and a regular user profile. The rules (for now) are still the same for everyone.

Myth #2:

Instagram is doing this even though everyone hates it.

Truth: The change will be implemented over a few months, giving the network time to test with select groups, make changes and roll it out seamlessly. You probably won’t even notice a change to your feed for a few weeks.

Myth #3:

The only way anyone will ever find me is by turning on push notifications and letting me ping their phone all day.

Truth: We don’t blame you for falling for this, or even joining in. This week’s announcement sparked a wave of influencer pleas for followers to turn on notifications for alerts every time an influencer posts.

Because that’s far less annoying than searching a feed and scrolling through. And because influencers don’t post often at all. (Just every hour or so.) So far most Insta users agree that notifications are a terrible idea. Thankfully, they’re not the only way to get your posts seen.

A photo posted by MapleGirl26 (@maplegirl26) on

 

Here’s what to do instead:

Create Quality Content. 

OK, we know what you’re thinking. You keep getting this advice, but what exactly does it mean? If you didn’t think your content was killer, you wouldn’t have posted it. Madeline Popelka puts it best in her post for Elite Daily: make your content highly relevant and aesthetically pleasing.

If you’re honest with yourself, you know when you’ve posted a hurried product shot or snuck in a store front image “just to post something.” You don’t need to do that anymore. Because the algorithm rewards quality over quantity, you can put your energy into fewer, high-quality posts. This means you can wait for magic hour. Go ahead and break out the good camera. Pick your moment. Look back on what viewers have liked in the past and create more of that. Chances are, those images were of genuine moments with vivid colors and an inviting scene.

Capital One has mastered the art of engaging content, but if you notice in their post below, they haven’t just created great content — they’ve created the whole scene. You wouldn’t have a bright, colorful concert photo without a bright, colorful hosted concert:

 

This is too real! @macklemore & @ryanlewis have everyone on their feet, live at the Capital One Beach Bash!

 

A photo posted by Capital One (@capitalone) on

Sometimes “creating quality content” means thinking beyond the post itself to bigger creative ideas. 


Get in touch with us here to learn more about Instagram and Facebook advertising for business.


Engage, Engage, Engage. 

Sure, the algorithm might make it less likely for viewers to stumble upon your photos in their feed, but there are no rules against engagement — one of the most powerful tools brands have in their arsenal. Setting aside time to like and (more effectively) comment on photos posted by your targeted users makes your brand feel more human, and the recognition is something users will likely share with their friends — your potential customers. The dividends of your digital compliments go even further when think of every ‘like’ as a mission to genuinely learn more about your consumers.

This is one reason to do some of this engagement yourself, even if an intern can handle most of it. Every connection you make is the potential to turn a follower into a brand loyalist. Tito’s Vodka is a great example of a brand that does engagement well. While many brands are careful not to follow too many accounts lest they lose their cool factor, Tito’s is relatively generous with its follows, maintaining a follow ratio of about 10% — following roughly 3,400 accounts compared to its 33,000 fans. Compare that to rival Grey Goose, which follows just 137 accounts compared to 124,000 fans, a follow ration of less than 1%.

Tito's Vodka Instagram shows engagement. Grey Goose may have more followers, but an engaging brand like Tito’s will be less affected by Insta’s new algorithm.

Step Up and Advertise. 

Reduced visibility only feels like the end of the world if you are relying solely on organic content — and we get it. Sponsored posts can feel like a disruption. But while posting quality content and maintaining an active presence on Instagram will certainly help you keep your visibility up, Instagram ads can be the difference between a nice-looking feed and an effective one. And when you bear in mind that the FTC has started to crack down on influencer campaigns, requiring that bloggers marked their paid posts as #ads or #sponsored, the prevalence of sponsored content will rise overall on the platform, making sponsored posts feel like a normal, integrated part of the experience.  

As more sponsored posts like this one by German influencer DesignDschungel are required to distinguish themselves as ads, the coveted stamp of “organic” will become less important, prompting more brands to incorporate targeted Insta ads into their mix of content.


As a B2B content marketing agency, 818 Agency generates leads for trade events, fashion, and e-commerce brands using creative content and social media advertising.  Purveyors of real-time event content marketing. Based in NYC and LA. Get in touch.

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