Instagram is going through some changes, but what does it mean for advertisers?
A lot have been said and written on the recent changes Instagram is planning on its algorithm. If you are an advertiser, a brand owner or a Social-Media fan, and haven’t heard about them just yet (really??) we are here to give you a short briefing on what the change is all about, and what it might mean for brands. Let’s start with the classic opening point, i.e the beginning –
How is Instagram functioning right now?
Social media networks seem to dominate our free time in the recent years. Most of us are on Instagram, a bigger group is probably on Twitter, and the vast majority is probably on Facebook as well. Some of us might remember the good ol’ days where Facebook’s’ News Feed used to show us the most recent updates from our friends and family. When it started supporting more and more brand pages (remember the “Become a fan” button? The early “Like” button?) it also slowly started manipulating its News Feed to show more of the content it though might fit us as users, rather than the most recent updates from our niece’s trip with her children. This minor change in algorithm slowly lead to a re-definition of the valuable real-estate that is our News-Feed. Slowly but surely brands started competing (or bidding, if you wish) on who will show what to whom when and, most importantly, at what price. The era of monetizing our social life have officially started, and Sponsored Content started pouring in to our newsfeed.
Twitter was a bit more hesitant in this aspect. It’s main point of strength is the unfiltered flow of bits of informations, pouring “live” to our news feed as they are being published. It is, by far, its biggest strength at the moment, allowing a constant stream of information and updates from all over the world, without tampering with it. Alas, Facebook proved sponsored content is the new “commercial break” for the new generation, and Twitter had to adapt. It started with providing brands an option of pushing users commercial somewhere in their feed. Until recently it declined to manipulate its News-Feed algorithm. With the slow decline in its market value and the rising influence of new social blood (Snapchat etc.) Twitter was somehow forced to start showing users what it thinks the users want to read, rather than what is been written right now, slowly going the Facebook way. (To Twitter defense it should be added that it still keeps an option of seeing a “live” feed, rather than a “curated” one).
Instagram is the latest addition to the trend of News-Feed manipulations. Until recently users at least had the impression that what they see in their “Home” screen is what is being posted at the moment. Whether it’s the new pair of jeans mom just buy, an average looking Sloppy Joe or the newest Dior perfume. It is worth mentioning here that is was a false impression, as Kevin Systrom, co-founder and chief executive of Instagram says “On average, people miss about 70 percent of the posts in their Instagram feed”. With Instagram growing its commercial revenue in a fast rate, being one of the best commercial platforms on Social Media, it is looking for new ways to monetize its own News Feed (well…. By Instagram we obviously mean Facebook, who owns it). And what is a better way to monetize the news feed if not manipulating the algorithm, which already proved itself as successful for Facebook?
What does it mean?
What the change practically means no one knows quite yet, since Instagram just recently gave the users a heads-up. What it definitely means is that after the change will go into full action (a couple of months from now, at least) what we will see on our Instagram stream is what Instagram thinks we would like to see based on a couple of things (probably) –
- Posts from accounts we have interacted with a lot
- Posts from accounts Instagram thinks we’d might like but have not interacted with that much
- Posts from accounts Instagram thinks we’d might like but might have not heard of (i.e promoted posts?)
Rather than just showing us 30% of random stuff we might or might not interact with (or even notice), Instagram now hopes it will manage to show us more engaging content, that will keep us longer on the app itself, rather than have us scrolling on and on and on with the hope something nice might come along. This is obviously a very positive change for normal users, who will now get a more personalized look for their stream, of content they actually might be interested in, instead of multiple food-porn and kittens (though i’d love my feed to be filled with only food porn and kittens). Worse (depends on the perspective of course) will be for brands and advertisers.
If until now an advertiser could have, more or less, schedule its post for a certain hour, counting on it “just being thrown to the boiling water of evening commute” and hope for engagement, advertisers now might want to start thinking about creating really engaging content. Why? First and foremost – you should always thrive to get the most engaging content possible for your audience (well, for your brand, naturally). Secondly – in a couple of months the competition over the extremely valuable real-estate which is the “home-button stream” on Instagram will start officially, meaning You, and thousands of other advertisers, will compete over whether or not your audience will (or will not) see your content. The more engaging it will be (and to some extent – the more engaging it already is) the better are the chances your audience will see it (putting it simply – more likes = more views). Thirdly – you will (most likely) have to also compete with paid content, meaning that if you have average content with average engagement chances are you will get lost within the hundreds of thousands of posts waiting in line to be seen and engaged with.
Is it the end of the world?
Well, NO. It is you and your CV in line for the best job interview in the world. With thousands of other brilliant candidates waiting in line. You might not have the rich dad the guy sitting next to you has, but your experience might be much richer and valuable than his. You might not be as attractive as the Ivy League candidate across the hall, but you just might be a bit more creative than him.
What can you do? Well, first of all, don’t panic. Sit down, relax and drink a glass of water. You might have learned somehow that the Ivy League candidate know a friend of the wife of the HR manager. A so called “influencer”. But you don’t have such contacts. You’d might want to start wondering if there are other “influencers” that might help you get where you want to. Instagram influencers are almost everywhere – they might be “micro” (with 1K-10K followers), or “super” (above 1M followers). They are what you might call your potential ambassadors. Once you locate the right ones for you, they might be as valuable to you as the “friend of a friend” for that guy across the hall. You’d might think – yeah, but i can’t really get Kim Kardashian to promote my brand, can I? You don’t have to – a recent survey marketing platform Markerly showed that “for unpaid posts, Instagram influencers with fewer than 1,000 followers have a like rate of about 8 percent, while those with 1,000 to 10,000 followers have a like rate of 4 percent. As following base continues to increase, like rate keeps decreasing.” Meaning that having multiple so-called “micro” influencers might be much more valuable to your brand than having one “super” influencer, for instance.
Secondly, (and the opinions here vary) don’t wear extremely flamboyant clothes and be noisey. I.e don’t show people you’re panicked and ask them to turn on the notifications. No one likes having their phone bombarded with notification from the brands they follow. Imagine the stress that goes with it. If each and every work candidate will come to the job interview with this attitude, chances are most of them will go unnoticed, despite the fact their CV might be very impressive. Know who might interview you (i.e your audience) – be comfortable with your CV (brand) – be certain of yourself (your product) and know your (its) stronger points and weaker points, and most of important of all – be yourself, no other candidate is.