Recently, Instagram announced that users’ feeds will soon be ordered algorithmically, not chronologically – arguing that people miss on average 70 percent of their feeds. The announcement has prompted marketers to collectively wonder how brands will be able to fit into the conversation moving forward. At Olapic, as an Instagram partner and a leading visual marketing platform, we have a unique perspective into how brands, and their consumers, are using Instagram to engage with one another. As such, we’d like to share some insight about the implications of the Instagram algorithm for marketers hoping to unleash the potential of visual user-generated content (UGC) on the platform moving forward.
A natural next step
Changing from a reverse chronological feed to an algorithmic one is the natural next step. This means that Instagram feeds will soon be ordered to show the moments the platform believes its users will care about the most.
We think this change will ultimately benefit consumers, as they will see more relevant content, tailored to their topics of interest. Algorithmic feeds are usually an attempt to increase engagement rates: more relevant content means higher engagement. In fact, Facebook (which owns Instagram) mastered this and Twitter is also working towards solving their engagement challenge. Forrester reported that Instagram’s interaction rate for branded posts plummeted by the end of last year, but better engagement on organic content – as a result of this change – could also lead to better engagement on ads.
The Bar Is Raised for Branded Content
For brands, the writing’s on the wall. In order to obtain a higher reach, they will need to engage consumers with a higher quality of content. This may sound like an enormous challenge, but it’s a call to action for better marketing experiences, and should be seen as an opportunity. Predictably, there has already been plenty of feedback across the industry from marketing and technology leaders, with the consensus opinion being that marketing will need to do more to stand out. AdWeek captured some of these reactions from various industry players: “Tania Yuki, CEO of social media marketing company Shareablee, noted, ‘If an advertiser is still struggling to create a social strategy that resonates with users, these algorithmic changes challenge them to think more about their creative,’ she said. ‘The bar just got raised.’ Brandfire CEO Adam Padilla added that the best content creates ‘reactions and disruption because they are coming from a place of authenticity and know how to clearly communicate their point of view. That is what real branding is. It’s communicating through all the noise and clutter. It’s platform and algorithm agnostic.’”
With Change Comes Opportunity
Others have commented on how the algorithm change is not only something brands can use to succeed, but an enormous opportunity to engage loyal customers and convert them to buyers. According to digital marketing expert Lesya Liu, brands can now look forward to executing more sophisticated analytics on the performance of their content, learning from their customers to adjust their engagement strategies.
There is great incentive for brands to embrace these changes and double down on their Instagram efforts. In a survey conducted by the platform, 60% of users responded that they learn about products and services on the network, and 75% take action after being inspired by an Instagram post.
Instagram has effectively leveraged Facebook’s playbook in everything that has to do with advertising, from their tech stack, best practices, shared buys, and targeting capabilities, so one could expect that this change is just Instagram following an already proven model. But like all changes on Facebook’s news feed, or even on Instagram, when they introduced non-square images for instance, the platform is experiencing a significant amount of backlash from users. Though no doubt users, and the brands that court them, will quickly realize the benefits of this change, and adapt to it.