A few days ago, I couldn’t help but notice that my Instagram feed was littered with arrows. I knew Instagram would be changing its algorithm, but this response from regular users and brands alike totally caught me off guard.
What is the “Instagram Algorithm,” anyway?
In an effort to make the user experience better on the platform, Instagram decided it is going to change the way it displays content on the feed. That’s right… I said “going to.” As of 3/30 when I wrote this, the algorithm is still in its testing phase. The apocalypse is not yet upon us. Currently, the content that appears on your feed is sequential, meaning that images and video appear in the order that they are posted. Although this seems like a fair way of displaying the content on your feed, it’s not always the most practical. Think of all the times you’ve scrolled past images and videos without pausing, until finally finding something that caught your eye and caused you to stop. Sure, you’ve chosen to follow all those users whose content you scrolled past. Friends, family, and brands provide a steady stream of “stuff” on your feed. But you’re into BMX and skateboarding… or kittens… or cigars. This type of content inspires you, and you like it… literally – you double tap it every time. You post your own content around these topics. This says something about you, the user. You like kittens. I know you like kittens because you literally like pictures of kittens, you obviously have a kitten because you’re always posting pics and videos of that black kitten, and you follow cat food brands because you love all those cute and funny cat clips they post. Wouldn’t it make sense to see the kitten posts, or the cigar posts, or the BMX & skateboarding posts on your feed first since that’s the content you enjoy? That steady stream of “stuff” your friends, family, and those other brands you follow will still be there, but you’ll have to get past the stuff you like to get to it. That’s what the algorithm does… it prioritizes the images and videos on your feed so that the content you are interested in appears at the top – and it has scared everyone into putting crazy arrows all over their images.
What are the arrows for?
Users and brands have turned to these arrows as a primitive, yet effective way of drawing attention to the area in the top right corner of the interface that contains the settings buttons. This is where users can turn on post notifications. You see, their plan is to get you, the user, to click on this button so that every time this user or brand uploads an image or video to Instagram, you get a notification on your phone. This is their way around the algorithm. They don’t need to be at the top of your feed because they will notify you every time they upload a pice of content. Sounds BRILLIANT! Except for one thing… I don’t know about you, but between my text messages, 3 email accounts, phone calls, alarms, get up and walk reminders, and weather updates, I get more than enough notifications on my phone. In fact, the last thing I want is another reason for my phone to buzz, beep, or hiss. What are they thinking?!?!
So what does the Instagram Algorithm Apocalypse REALLY Mean for Brands and content creators?
If you aren’t getting likes and comments on your content, and are worried that your audience isn’t going to see your images and video, it means you should probably stop what you’re doing and reevaluate your communication strategy. Your audience, the sole reason you are creating content on Instagram, isn’t relating with your content, and that’s a serious problem. Instead of trying to force your images and videos onto your audience, stop and ask yourself: “why isn’t my audience liking my pics?” There could be a variety of reasons why your content isn’t resonating. Perhaps it’s too self-serving? Maybe the creative isn’t right for the audience? Is the tone of the copy appropriate…Are the hashtags?
Brands and users looking to build a following on Instagram (on all platforms, really, but let’s stay focused) need to focus on developing content designed for their specific audience ON THIS SPECIFIC PLATFORM. It doesn’t mean that you can’t market to them – it means that you shouldn’t JUST market to them.
How do you think digital marketers and content creators should address the impending Instagram algorithm apocalypse? Should they resort to arrows, or is the content itself the key?
This article was published originally published on LinkedIn: