What Instagram’s New Algorithm Means for Brands

By Julian Thumm | 23 Mar 2016

Instagram is changing to an algorithm-based news feed to offer users more relevant content and to drive revenue by tightening its grip on advertising content.

Last week, Instagram announced that it would be moving to an algorithm-based news feed, replacing the former chronological news feed.

In a blog post, the company said “To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most.

“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.”

The changes, which follow the structure of the Facebook news feed, mean that Instagram will have much more say over what appears in a users news feed.

While Instagram is pitching the change as a way to optimise users’ news feeds to ensure relevant and tailored content, the move is more likely a key part of Instagram’s monetisation strategy.

By offering an algorithm-driven news feed, Instagram is able to take control over what advertising and branded content appears in a user’s news feed. This means that regardless of the number of followers a brand has, reaching them will become harder.

Under the old chronological news feed, a post to 100,000 followers reached 100,000 feeds. However, under the new system, regardless of how the restrictive the new algorithm is, organic reach for brands is likely to become much more difficult.

What this means for brands

By restricting organic reach, brands — especially those that rely on Instagram as a major marketing channel — will be forced to look to paid advertising to reach their existing audience or expand to new audiences.

For brands with bigger marketing budgets that rely on Instagram, resources will have to be allocated to pay for media that was once free. Smaller companies that don’t have the marketing resources to start paying will have to be a little more creative.

Without the guaranteed organic reach, brands will need to ensure that their content is relevant and engaging to their target audience. If followers remain engaged with and clicking on your content, then it’s more likely that your posts will continue to appear in their feeds.

As organic reach begins to shrivel, demand for influencers and ambassadors will increase. Social media influencers and ambassadors represent a good way of supplementing declines in organic reach. However, the use of quality (i.e. popular) influencers can be expensive, so brands will need to determine whether their marketing budgets are better spent on paid advertising, optimising content for maximum engagement, or influencer reach.

1 Comment

One thought on “What Instagram’s New Algorithm Means for Brands”

  1. Alex says:

    So essentially, it goes to similar with Facebook direction – free lunch is over, brands should prepare to pay. I wouldn’t say that it is unexpected.

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