Thursday, March 31, 2016

Instagram Update: The Algorithm Change Explained

By Blaire Townshend

A recent email blast sent out by Capacity Interactive—a digital arts marketing consultancy company—focused on the use of Instagram for digital marketing efforts, offering advice on best practices and updating its readership about the recent changes to Instagram—namely, the change from chronological feed to algorithm.

For those unfamiliar with how Instagram has worked up until this point, the platform has used a chronological approach on its users' newsfeeds since its inception in 2010. The projected change means that, rather than seeing your friends' posts in the order in which they were posted, you will now see posts "based on your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post" (Valinsky 3.15.2016). The company has argued that the current format does not maximize viewing potential - in fact, they cited that users miss about 70% of the content on their feed. They believe that the implementation of an algorithm will curate content better suited to user interests. Instagram also assures its users that they will roll out this change slowly, and that it will not affect its advertising procedures. In fact, these adverts already utilize this same targeting technology to reach their intended audience—so in a way, the algorithm change is ensuring that social and marketing content operate in the same manner.

So what does this change mean for the 200,000 brands that utilize Instagram as an advertising platform (Instagram 3.29.2016)?

Not much, actually. At this point, you cannot actually directly target people with Instagram ads as you can on Facebook. On top of this, "organic" posts cannot be used for advertisements—the only promotional material allowed on Instagram is that which has been developed specifically for marketing purposes. On Facebook, on the other hand, marketers can post their own organic content and use it for promotional purposes. The algorithm will not change any of this (Instagram all).

However, Capacity Interactive made sure to remind its readership of a few important takeaways when considering Instagram advertisement for the arts: 

  • Make "thumb-stopping", visually arresting content a priority
  • Remember that Instagram is an overwhelmingly mobile platform, and plan accordingly
  • Make sure you are comfortable with Facebook first before graduating to Insta-advertising
  • And finally, don't worry about the algorithm change. It changes the user experience, not the advertising landscape.
As an Instagram user myself, I will be interested to see how my experience will change. I, for one, welcome the algorithm in theory, as I have often felt that the chronological template did not allow me to engage with my closest friends in a way that I would have liked. However, as a future arts marketer, it is heartening to know that this change will not negatively affect the advertising efforts of the organizations I hope to work for.  


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