When Facebook bought Instagram, we knew it had become a matter of “when” rather than “if” changes would be made to the Instagram algorithm. Well that time has now come and predictably brands and agencies alike are panicking. The Oakbase social team is here to explore the opportunities for brands to come from the latest change to Instagram.
WHAT IS ACTUALLY CHANGING?
Much like Facebook, the order in which Instagram posts show will be tailored to prioritise content that the algorithm thinks will be more relevant to its users. This comes after massive growth on the platform resulting in users missing out on content. Simply, people have struggled to keep pace with the hundreds of daily updates from their followed accounts, so Instagram has moved to show the most relevant posts at the top of user feeds.
Cynics among you could be forgiven for thinking this is a money-making tactic by Facebook, encouraging brands to stump up the cash in an attempt to make up for organic shortfalls in the face of these new seemingly ‘anti-brand, user friendly’ changes. Whilst there may be some degree of truth in that line of thinking, we actually regard this to be a positive change, as the loss of an organic audience will force brands to think differently about the purpose of their Instagram activity. Also, consider the importance of users getting the best out of the platform. A better experience results in more people spending more time on it, therefore representing a bigger broadcast opportunity, and that’s before even considering the way brands approach strategy.
ORGANIC VS PAID STRATEGY
The problem with organic brand communications is that they are typically pretty self-centred. They don’t focus on an audience. They don’t entertain. They don’t appeal. Instead, because it’s free, it’s often seen as a quick and easy, free opportunity to talk about the brand or its product/service. In the same way that a catch-up with a mate shouldn’t be all ‘me, me, me’, brands are often guilty of blindly talking about themselves in an intrusive and boring manner – all because it’s free. Not much thought is given to it. No return on investment is sought and no objectives are set. More often than not, Instagram has been home to strategy-less communications by brands who see the platform as an added ‘why not’ bonus.
Now that freeloading brands will lose the majority of their organic traffic, they will be forced to stump up the cash to plug this gap. Where money is involved, more thought is given to strategy. That will mean brands will have to think more carefully about who to target, what to say and how to say it.
Ultimately the shift to more paid Instagram activity by brands should result in improved levels of engagement. By being forced to invest, brands will actually benefit from more engaged audiences. Further, if used as part of wider advertising strategy, brands will realise the opportunity to use Instagram as a broadcast medium through which to talk to millennials. People sometimes forget that Instagram has an engaged user base of over 400 million. That’s a lot of people, so when utilised in conjunction with other forms of paid media and retargeting, Instagram can be used to add real clout to prospecting and new customer campaigns.