On March 15th, Instagram shared the news that in an upcoming update, timelines will no longer be shown in reverse-chronological order, but rather the photos and videos in our feeds will be based on an algorithm that considers the likelihood of interest in the content, our relationship with the person posting, and the timeliness of the post.
The company says that on average, people are missing 70 per cent of their feeds – including posts from businesses – mainly because of the sheer volume.
Here’s what you need to know about Instagram’s timeline update:
Instagram saw a drop in brand engagement in 2015
In the days since Instagram’s announcement, many brands, celebrities and influencers have been wondering aloud why the company would decide to roll out the algorithm change, and why now. One reason could be the significant interaction decrease that Instagram experienced throughout 2015.
According to a recently-published report by Quintly, the interaction rate dropped from 4.96% to 3.10% during the year, as the average number of posts per day for photos and videos rose dramatically. This makes sense, as the more posts there are on someone’s timeline, the less likely they are to interact with each one. Instagram’s new algorithm aims to solve this problem, thereby making it an even more valuable channel for brands.
Organic reach will be more difficult to achieve
As things stand now, well-known brands can achieve large organic reach without much difficulty, simply by pushing out content to their legions of followers and hoping it doesn’t get buried in the clutter. The new algorithm will likely decrease organic reach for most brands, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It aims to stop wasteful impressions and show content to people who actually want to see it, thereby increasing engagement. Facebook, for instance, has seen the average brand post reach drop from 16% to 5-10% in the last two or three years, but engagement is at an all-time high. Consequently, even though Facebook’s average brand post reach increased 39.5% month-over-month in January 2016, the engagement rate over the same time period decreased 11.18%, according to a Locowise report.
With the new algorithm change, marketers are predicting that more budget will be spent on paid social advertising and improving organic content. Much like the algorithm changes that have already been implemented on Facebook and Twitter, this one eliminates the “free ride” for advertisers, indirectly charging them more money to have a healthy presence on Instagram.
Quality content will matter more than ever
Simply put, the new Instagram algorithm update means that the best-performing content will generally surface first, and the images and videos seen will be relevant and highly engaging. The bar will be raised, and brands and influencers will be forced to invest more in the quality and creativity of their content. Ultimately however, if you’re already creating content that is truly engaging and relevant, the algorithm change won’t hurt your chances of reaching your fans. In fact, by creating content that your users have indicated they like to see, you could potentially reach even more people than you would have before the algorithm change. For instance, a post today – even if it’s relevant and highly engaging – can be missed by a large number of your followers simply because they are offline at the time that it’s posted. With the new algorithm in place however, Instagram will serve up that content at the top of a user’s timeline the next time they’re online if it meets the proper criteria.
Nothing is imminent
The good news for Instagram users is that the roll-out of the new algorithm is expected to be gradual, and nothing is imminent. In the days since the announcement, many high-profile users have been panicking, asking their followers to turn on post notifications in order to ensure that their content isn’t missed when the algorithm comes out.
This prompted Instagram to Tweet a response, promising to let everyone know when the changes will roll out broadly.
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.
— Instagram (@instagram) March 28, 2016
What are your thoughts on the new Instagram timeline update? Let us know in the comments section below!
Latest posts by Tzvi Grosman (see all)
- Weekly Roll-Up: Week of Sept 24-30 - Friday Sep 30, 2016
- Weekly Roll-Up: Week of August 13-19 - Friday Aug 19, 2016
- Catalyst’s Nina Soboczynski and Caroline Canlas Receive 2016 Google Search Excellence Awards - Friday Jun 10, 2016