This is the first in what’s to be a recurring series on “Context Over Dogma”; posts marked #NoFilter are brutally candid assessments of social media trends, best-practices, and industry watchdogging. Call it “truth-to-power”, call it “playing the fool”, but these are the places in which the team from Pandemic Labs will wax politically incorrect (read: more truthful) than an agency probably should.
Today’s topic comes from the recent news that Instagram will roll out an algorithmically-ranked newsfeed, forsaking the reverse chronological order that has, to date, ruled the user experience. Under the new system, which won’t roll out fully for at least another 6 months, posts with more relevance to a user (according to Instagram’s algorithm) will appear more prominently in the newsfeed, upon opening the app. So, the stuff you are more likely to engage with, or find interesting, is to appear at the top of your feed. A few things:
If this comes as a surprise, you’re nuts. Sorry if you thought the free ride was everlong. Like just about every other social network – and like all the ones worth their salt to marketers – Instagram is going pay-to-play. Sure, there will be one-off ways to achieve an isolated modicum of organic success. But if you think for a second you can succeed at scale without promoting your content, you’re wrong.
And think about why. Instagram, like its step-parent Facebook, is a powerful advertising platform. The ability Facebook & Instagram afford marketers to put the right message, in front of the right users, at the right time is unprecedented. It’s in the company’s best interests to push this agenda, and acquire more advertising partners.
And why shouldn’t they? Instagram is under no auspice to give you an ad-free experience. But they do still need you to actively use the app. Ranking the posts of people you follow by relevance, ensures that the organic content you *do* see in-app will grab your attention, especially when mixed in with content being promoted by brands you follow – and brands you don’t.
And this isn’t bad for you (sorry #RIPInstagram). You probably miss out on posts from your closest friends & family, because you’re following 30-odd gluten free foodie accounts, shameless oversharing celebrities, and Bat Dad. The algorithmic newsfeed changes that. Now, just like on Facebook, the stuff that (probably) matters to you more will (most likely) make it to the top of your feed, even if you haven’t opened the app since yesterday. It’s FOMO that leads to endless scrolling in an effort to make sure you make it back to the point in your Instagram feed where you left off on, the last time you were in the app. Now, like on Facebook, FOMO’s effect will be dampened & your feed will get more customized to you, the more you use the app (of course this does mean that down the line, you may tire of seeing posts from the same folks, and fear you’re missing out on posts from that ex from high school who you haven’t talked to in years, but you heard just got single).
Bottom line? This changes little for marketers. Instagram as an ad platform remains a valuable part of the marketing mix. For individual users, the experience is likely to actually improve. You’ll start to see more of the people you Like, and the promoted content you get (if the marketing team behind it is smart) will be more relevant to you.
Oh, and remember Twitter? They’re doing it too.