Don’t Panic: Here Is What the Instagram Algorithm Change Means for your Business

Don’t Panic: Here Is What the Instagram Algorithm Change Means for your Business

It feels like it was only a month ago that we addressed the social-media uproar following the announcement that Twitter would be transitioning into an opt-in feature which organized a user’s timeline based on what posts should interest them the most.

Fast forward to the end of our fiscal quarter for most businesses and we have an equally passionate uproar brimming over the pages of our favourite Instagram accounts due to the upcoming change in Instagram’s newsfeed algorithm.

From a business perspective, I can’t say we are too surprised by the announcement. Facebook initiated this change, followed by Twitter and now Instagram. Yet, this week celebrities, social media influencers, brands and businesses are publicly voicing their disdain “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it!” and inundating their followers with posts urging them to turn on “Post Notifications” to ensure they don’t miss their posts going forward.

Basically, the previous Instagram algorithm ordered every user’s newsfeed in simple, chronological order. Now, Instagram will instead piece together newsfeed order based on a variety of social signals, such as a number of post engagements. As well, it will consider content you frequently engage with to order posts based on personal “relevancy”; in other words, what Instagram thinks you will be most interested in.

So, the question remains, is this really cause for a public outcry? Should we be picketing outside Instagram headquarters demanding they leave our precious timelines unchanged? From a business and marketing perspective, is this our social media funeral?

Ultimately, the answer is no.

Here is why you should ignore the outcry and instead, understand what this change really means for your business:

As notes, chronological ordering of a timeline has never provided any significant advantage, unless your business posted to Instagram every half an hour or your followers have a very limited number of handles they follow. Well, according to Optical Cortex data based on 20,000+ Instagram users, the average number of people whom Instagram users follow is 822. Not exactly a limited number, right?

As an engaged Instagram user myself, I can contest that I follow over 1,000 accounts (1,233 to be exact) spanning between my personal interests and those relating to business initiatives. When I load the app on my phone and mindlessly skim through my feed, there are always hundreds of new posts refreshing throughout my line-up, successfully bumping older posts out of reach for my aimlessly swiping finger.

If I see your post organically on my news-feed, it is purely luck of timing. Otherwise, I likely searched your handle with the intention of viewing your content. Additionally, just because I happen to be killing 10 minutes on the app over my lunch break on a Tuesday, doesn’t necessarily mean that the grand majority of people my age are too. Sure, we have generalizations (Instagram traffic is highest for X demographic on X day at X time) but there is no perfect science to it. The bulk of conflicting infographics available online depicting social media traffic rates reiterate this point, if you ask me.

So, chronological order is out and a calculated newsfeed is in, how do we crack this code?

The answer lies in the quality of your content and the strategies you employ to develop a community around that killer content. 

Good news is, this means its time for companies to stop wading in the water of social media and learn how to really swim. As social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk notes in his book, “Jab Jab Jab, Right Hook”, a lot of businesses will populate social media mediums because they feel they should based on popularity/traffic, but they don’t work to understand them, first. They don’t offer up any new information or content and their social media strategy aims to satisfy a posting rate, but not to necessarily engage or excite the platform to which they are posting.

It doesn’t matter if your company was posting to Instagram every 30 minutes, if you aren’t engaging your audience with your content, you aren’t really gaining any ground. You’re just there. Of course, we’ve preached the content of building a community (with audience-tailored content) forever, but now it’s more important than ever.

The question you should be asking yourselves isn’t ‘well how can our posts be seen now?’ it should be ‘how can our posts engage?’ because if you engage, your posts will be seen and, more importantly, will offer influence to your brand.

If your audience isn’t seeing your post automatically on their timeline, what will make them actively search your handle? What will make them turn on those ‘Post Notifcations’ for your account?

Better yet, what will make your followers like, comment and share your post? What style of images do they seem to prefer? What hashtags are they using (if any)? What are they tagging their friends in? What about geo-tags? Upcoming holidays? Popular events? Humor? How can you capitalize on common ground built between your brand and your customer? After all, if you bridge that gap, you are opening the path to true social media reach.

Furthermore, work to make your social media strategy personal. If you want your customers to talk about your brand, initiate comments or tag their friends, don’t be afraid to start that conversation and comment thread. Follow, like, comment, immerse yourself in the customers and accounts surrounding yours. After all, if you engage with your audience and put a real, interactive personality behind your brand, they might just engage back. Then when you hit that sweet spot and have a post which starts taking off, consider the advantage of a paid boost to capitalize on that social media momentum.

Of course, this requires time, dedication and research. You can’t cut corners anymore in regards to your social media content and, quite frankly, you shouldn’t want to. These platforms act as a thriving, direct connection between your brand and your audience. With the right strategy and understanding, you can use this change to your advantage and win the eyes and hearts of your target audience.

Not sure where to begin? Don’t worry, we can help.

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