Navigating Instagram’s Newsfeed Update

Earlier this month Instagram announced that it would be changing the way in which it ordered its newsfeeds, moving away from a chronological feed – where posts appear ‘as and when’ they are uploaded – and introducing a new algorithm which prioritises the content it thinks you’ll want to see:

“The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post. As we begin, we’re focusing on optimizing the order — all the posts will still be there, just in a different order.”

It’s fair to say that the update has provoked quite a bit of backlash from users who fear that the change will mirror that of Facebook’s newsfeed update (this resulted in a loss of organic reach for brands and a prioritisation of personal content over branded content.)

While these fears may not be completely unjustified (only time will tell), I think the reaction is disproportionate and that the update isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a number of reasons:

  • It’s not going to differentiate between personal and business accounts (this is something that Facebook does), so any content posted will be on a level playing field
  • Users will still see posts from everyone that they follow; they will just be presented in a different order
  • The changes have been made in order to counter a large drop in user engagement with branded content (37.5% over the course of 2015)

To build on the last point, if user engagement is slowing down it’s a fairly good indication that users aren’t seeing the content that they want to see and the long term consequences of this is a drop in total users. Instagram is prioritising user experience with this new update and while it may have a small effect on reach and engagement initially, it’s something that can be countered by ensuring that any content created has value to the user.

Encouraging user engagement on posts is a great way to ensure that your content remains at the top of users feeds. This can be done simply by asking users to engage (i.e. ‘double tap if you agree’/ ‘let us know what you think’) and replying to them when they do engage.

Hashtags will be key for sustaining reach, so continuing to work out which ones yield the best results for you will ensure that your posts are being seen by the right people.

We saw a lot of users encouraging followers to ‘turn on post notifications’ in order to ‘continue see their content’. This is misleading and we would advise anyone against doing it. It means that every time you post something, users will receive a notification which (from experience), can be quite irritating and may even be counter-productive!

It’s very early days so it will take some time for any long-term results to become apparent (even Instagram admit that they’ll be rolling the update out cautiously) but we’re curious to see how this effects the platform in the long term.