What does Instagram’s New Algorithm Mean for my Brand Page?

Everyone uses Instagram in different ways. Some use it as a portal to view and post our most buzzworthy photos, check the pulse on our favorite celebrities and parody accounts, or stay connected with old friends. Most people follow at least a few brand accounts. As Instagram grows in its role as a social media platform, there’s even more for people – and brands – to take notice of.

The idea of a “news feed” may seem like a natural way to consume content online, but it wasn’t always that way. At the dawn of the internet, users had portals like AOL and Yahoo! where time spent on the internet would begin. These portals would offer a wide range of links to lead the user to relevant content or prompt users to search for it themselves.

Social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter introduced us to the News Feed. This revolutionary concept of consuming content tailored specially for you (generated by media sources, businesses, friends and family) is now what we’re accustomed to. But with the evolution of social media as our primary platform for communication and receiving information, social networks must adapt to the various implications of what this means.

Social media platforms are reaching record numbers of users. You may follow thousands of different accounts on several platforms and couldn’t possibly see all of the published content. In 2010, Facebook introduced the “algorithm” for determining what shows up in what precise order in your news feed. Twitter followed suit in 2015. Just about a month ago, Instagram did too.

What is an “algorithm?”

The term “algorithm” is certainly used more these days with the advent of social media than ever. In math, an algorithm is a series of steps completed by a computer in order to solve a problem. In the context of social media, the “algorithm” is a precise and calculated way of determining what is shown to a user in their news feed.

The objective of social media platforms like Facebook, the host of the content in your news feed, is to show you what you will be most interested in so that you will spend more time on the site. This, in turn, grows profit for the company by allowing it to place more paid advertising among the organic content in front of users who are now spending more time on the site.  Showing users what they’re most interested in is achieved using an algorithm. It takes several things into account: how interested you have been in the past in content of this kind and the place it’s coming from, how other users are reacting to it (popularity), the type of content it is (i.e. photo, video, status), and how recent the post was published. If a piece of content meets all of the criteria that the algorithm identifies based on your historical behavior, then it will land in your feed beginning in descending order of popularity.

How does this affect my brand page on Instagram?

Since users now have “personalized” Instagram feeds, it is more important than ever to know your audience and place an emphasis on content quality. Your Instagram content strategy must now be tailored to the interests of your target audience. If your content is more general, you will risk wasting your social media investment on content that will fail to perform because it is simply not seen as valuable by your audience. The upside of the news feed personalization is that the clutter and oversaturation is reduced, therefore your high-quality content will work twice as hard for you organically.

Invest in Paid Advertising

It’s becoming clear that in order for your brand’s presence on social media to have an impact on your bottom line, you must invest in paid advertising. On Instagram, this means “sponsored” posts. In other words, your brand’s Instagram makes a post or series of posts and you can pay to have the post show up in the feeds of users who fit your target demographics within a geographical range. Sponsoring posts is actually relatively affordable and can put your message in front of thousands of users.

Post sponsorship is best done when your brand’s content has a strategy. This strategy may be in place in order to build an audience, raise awareness of your product or service, build your brand’s affinity, or drive traffic to your website. Consistent messaging, branding, and targeting are all key to help your brand achieve its social media goals. Agencies like Big Idea work with clients daily to collaborate on the best paid advertising strategy for their brands on social media.

Publish Videos

The hottest social media trend of 2016 is video & motion graphics on social media. We saw a huge rise in video consumption on the internet following the 2006 launch of Youtube, and Video 2.0 is here. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all prioritize video (especially live video) in users’ news feeds and apps like Vine, Snapchat, and Periscope are hugely popular with the younger demographics.

Utilizing video on Instagram is a great way to gain engagement with your audience. Instagram videos play automatically when a user is scrolling through their feed on a mobile device (as opposed to requiring the user to press play) which increases organic impressions. Instagram also recently changed their restrictions and now allow users to upload 60 seconds of video instead of the standard 15 seconds.

There are several easy ways for brands to introduce video into their content strategy. One way is by telling your brand’s story. The value in telling your brand’s story is in getting your audience to feel something. Emotion drives engagement. Another way to use video is by creating a unique video series, perhaps educating users on a particular element of your offering or going behind the scenes.

Leverage Influencers

Whether you have a small brand or a global one, you have “influencers” in your community. Influencers are the users who are part of your audience that engage with your brand and have a large personal network on social media. Therefore, the types of things they discuss and post about have a large influence on other users.

By offering your influencers special incentives and ensuring to interact with them when they mention you, you gain access to make an impression on their networks. More and more people are turning to social media for opinions and reviews, so a positive genuine review by a user with a large network is highly beneficial for your brand.

Big Idea is a fully-integrated boutique advertising and marketing agency in New York City. We help companies find a brand voice that resonates with consumers for attention-getting creative that delivers real results.