In March, Instagram announced a drastic change to the way feeds are displayed.
Instead of continuing to be arranged based solely on chronology, Facebook’s stepchild will begin experimenting with algorithmic display. As you might imagine, the response from marketers and users alike has been mixed, but quite loud. After all, the 1.04 billion daily users on the original social network have not abandoned ship despite their constant exposure to algorithmically-displayed feeds.
The Fear Behind Algorithms
The root of algorithm fear may come from the early days of algorithm experimentation on Facebook, though it could be as easily argued that any change is likely to cause a wave of fear-mongering these days.
When Facebook first started opening itself up to advertisers, companies were encouraged to build huge followings in exchange for organic (read that “free”) traffic. But as time passed and Facebook more finely tuned its algorithms, organic traffic ground to a near-halt, forcing companies to pay for marketing to Facebook users.
Although it seemed like a squeeze from Facebook to put more marketing dollars into its pockets, what actually happened was that the concept of a marketing-friendly social media platform had come full circle. With so many users and so many active companies posting constantly, users were being overwhelmed with content. The flow had to be controlled. The algorithms now in place there are designed so that users see the companies and the content that makes the most sense for them. Today, Facebook offers some of the tightest targeting available in the marketing world, all thanks to the power of their algorithms.
Instagram hasn’t announced the particulars of its first-ever algorithm launch, but it seems logical to assume users will have options similar to the ones they have on Facebook. Even years after the introduction of algorithms over there, users can still choose to see their feed chronologically if they want.
How Marketers Need To Respond To The Change
Temper your panic, at least for the moment.
What the Instagram algorithm update really means is marketers who have been lazily spamming their followers with unwanted messages will actually have to work to see engagement. The rest of the marketing world, those tireless creatives that have already been actively creating top notch content, have very little to worry about.
But, if you’re not sure what camp you fit into and you’re still looking for better ways to engage on Instagram post-update despite your best efforts, give some of these tips a try:
- Limit your target audience. Social media of every type is loud, crowded and confusing for users. When marketers send a message out to everyone on social media, they tend to lose a huge portion of the audience. Instead of trying to deliver one message to everyone, limit your target audience as tightly as possible. We know that millennials respond differently than boomers, limiting your audience can produce a significantly better ROI.
- Don’t forget to be social. The hardest part of social media marketing for many marketers is being social. It’s one thing to create a one-sided marketing message that simply talks to an audience and quite another to give that audience something it wants in exchange for attention. When crafting content, remember the best social media content sparks a discussion or provides new information – an old-fashioned marketing pitch won’t be enough.
- Fewer, but better. Pre-update, marketers on Instagram often got away with spamming messages to users, but that’s not going to fly post-algorithm. Instead of spamming, spend that time crafting better messages and more interactive content. When users respond to your well-planned (not well-timed) messages, more of the same will appear more frequently in their feeds.
Algorithm changes seem to be becoming par for the course for digital marketing – if it’s not Facebook, it’s Google or, in this case, Instagram. After the dust settles, though, the marketers who continue to focus on providing the best content, tailored to their audience, are still coming out on top.
Just as with Facebook, new marketing efforts on Instagram should be social and designed to create a conversation. Social media is a great way to get your message out in front of a very particular audience, but only if you use it the way it was designed.