Every social platform now seems to be rolling out its’ own algorithm-driven feed, with Instagram now jumping on the bandwagon. But what does it mean for users and marketers alike?
Since its purchase by Facebook in 2012, Instagram has largely been left alone to develop and grow by itself, keeping a lot of the original team and processes in place. But having cost a cool $1 billion in cash and seeing its user-base grow quite rapidly, monetisation has come, and come fast, over the last few months.
Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, is constantly tweaking its News Feed algorithm in order to show you posts it deems the most important to each user, and, in recent weeks, Twitter has also got in on the algorithm game.
There are a couple of key reasons as to why social platforms are now adopting this way of displaying content;
1. User behaviour (that the platforms don’t like).
While it seems like we’ve had these social platforms in our lives for quite some time, we’re actually very early in the timeline of their existence and usage. And, because of this, user behaviour (along with the platform features and offerings) is still evolving and changing. More tech-savvy users are more regularly utilising the likes of groups and lists to manage the content they see, as well as realising that you don’t actually need to follow every person you know or have ever met on every single social platform.
But, unfortunately, a lot of users are still worried about social faux-pas such as not following people they know, or – even worse – the almost unforgivable sin of unfollowing someone(!) Psychology and user-behaviour that also transcends across to non-personal (brands etc) accounts and feeds that are followed.
This means a lot of users have busy or noisy timelines across their social accounts, resulting in a lot of content not actually being seen – Instagram estimates that its users miss on average 70% of content that is published and viewable in their feeds. And a lot of these users are key demographics for advertisers, and ads not being seen results in a poor ROI and reluctance for advertisers to spend as much on future campaigns.
2. Leading to Marketing opportunities.
With point one in mind, the algorithm allows for Instagram to not only serve followed content it deems important first, but also gives it the opportunity to prioritise sponsored posts from paying advertisers.
Image credit: locowise study
Growth seems to be slowing on a lot of the social platforms, as well as actual post interaction and engagement. According to a locowise study, follower growth (Feb 2016) stands at 0.11% for Twitter, 0.14% for Facebook, and 0.2% for Instagram. The engagement rate for Instagram at this period in time was 0.84% - a 11.58% decrease on the previous month and a huge 70% decrease in the previous 11 months.
Image credit: locowise study
And with users now following an average of 400-500 other accounts, being seen is that much harder and important to ensure marketing ROI. So having the potential to feature higher up on users’ timelines and newsfeeds (possibly based on a combination of targeting and on specific user engagement and overall Instagram post engagement – in a similar way Facebook News feed works and Twitter’s algorithmic timeline is likely to work) is a boost for brands and businesses using Instagram.
While Twitter has been rolling this out slowly following a long beta test, Instagram has the bonus of having Facebook and all its data and analytics behind it to help determine the most effective way of managing the timelines to get users the most important content and to show the best and most relevant ads.
While I’ll be doing all I can to avoid an algorithm-based timeline in Instagram (here’s hoping they allow it to be opt in/out like Twitter has done – although it seems that now the feature is fully rolled-out it’s actually the default view and users that notice must opt out), this will no doubt help the average Instagram user and offer new marketing and targeting opportunities to advertisers.
An abridged, Finnish version of this post can soon be found at Quru.fi