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Don’t Panic: How to Prepare for Instagram’s Algorithmic Feed

On Tuesday, Instagram announced in a blog post that the network would be moving from a chronological feed to an algorithm that will surface the content that Instagram believes a person cares about most.

As is its way, the internet freaked out:
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As marketers, we tend to get too excitable about changes like this, but this time, we shouldn’t be surprised or upset.

A Very Random Metaphor

I have some friends who are pregnant with their third kid. When they had their oldest, they were freaked out. It’s a big life change. It’s scary and unknown. When they had their second, their terror was much shorter-lived. But when my friend told me they were having their third kid, I asked if he was freaked out. He said, “Nah, the first two heathens prepped us pretty well.”

Instagram’s newsfeed update is not the first we’ve seen. Facebook first adopted this strategy in 2009. Twitter added this feature as an option earlier this year. We freaked out about both of those, and the world has continued to spin.

That said, this will change how you use Instagram as a marketer. Here are a few things we’ve learned from these changes when they happened on other networks.

1. Engagement for CLTV?

With these algorithm updates, the content that people “would be most interested in” is surfaced first. What this means is that customers who regularly engage with your content will see more of it. This can keep your brand top-of-mind for the people who are already interested in it.

As Instagram and other third-party services make it easier to connect to purchase points directly from the app, this can mean the users engaging with your content will have a higher likelihood of buying.

2. Quality Will Likely Be Key: Don’t Spam

When Facebook updated its ranking algorithm in 2013, the network penalized pages that “asked for Likes” (as opposed to posting content that is relevant and engaging).

This will likely become a factor on Instagram as well. Focus on content that people want to engage with, instead of telling them to.

3. The Importance of a Paid Strategy

Like we’ve seen on other networks, this will likely impact organic reach. All this means is that you’ll need to incorporate a paid strategy (as well as an organic one) on Instagram.

Paid and organic social are becoming more and more intertwined, and if your strategies live in silos, you’re missing out on big opportunities.

4. Connect with Your Audience

Like Facebook, there’s a good chance that the relationships between users will have an impact on the content that’s surfaced first. Your follower count won’t be the only audience factor that matters. As a brand, you’ll want to develop a “follow” strategy to ensure that the right users have the highest likelihood of seeing your content.

5. Prioritize Your Influencer Strategy

Influencer marketing is becoming a major component on Instagram, and this will only amplify that. Influencers will likely surface higher in feeds because they’re creating engagement within groups of users that have similar characteristics.

If you use Instagram for marketing, there’s a good chance this change will impact you. Luckily, it’s not the end of the world. If you can stay focused on delivering good content to relevant audiences, the tactical shifts will seem less daunting. Keep an eye on brands you respect to identify strategic shifts as this change takes hold. What can you learn from them?

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Kevin Shively

I lead marketing for Simply Measured. Recovering journalist. My team is embarrassed of my hilarious jokes. Firm believer that the best marketers are the best storytellers and the best storytellers use the best data.

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