Instagram recently announced they are testing a new algorithm for their timeline that will change the way users experience the platform. Instagram will move (much like Facebook has) from a chronological photo feed to one that prioritizes content. This news has struck fear into brands that, until now, have had an easy time reaching audiences through their Instagram posts.
Brands are legitimately concerned that Instagram’s new algorithm will result in less content reaching consumers and that a dip in organic reach will force them to activate paid content to compensate for the loss. However, this isn’t necessarily the doom and gloom many brands are making it out to be. There are some best practices that a brand can take to ensure their Instagram content stands out now – and whenever the new changes roll out.
1. Content Is Still King
Because Instagram’s changes are similar in nature to how Facebook adjusted their News Feed a couple years ago, we have the benefit of hindsight in how exactly these changes will affect a brand’s exposure. What we’ve learned is that the old adage of “Content is King” is still very much applicable to a brand’s engagement and presence on social. Instagram’s algorithm isn’t being planned to punish brands. Its very nature is asking brands to produce high quality content that, if successful, may reach an even larger demographic of viewers than a traditional chronological timeline. By producing well-received content, your current fanbase will continue to like, comment on, and share your posts, signaling to Instagram that this content is worth sharing at an even higher volume. Ultimately, this ensures that the 30 percent of brand content a consumer does see is the best 30 percent possible. One brand that has consistently proven they understand this concept is Ben & Jerry’s. While the brand is easily communicated through the content provided, no post is ever the same and the persona is casual, fun, and fresh. Ben & Jerry’s have genuinely funny captions and creative posts that make you want to keep scrolling through their feed; and they stay true to their Vermont roots and constantly showcase the beauty of their state and partner with causes that suit their target audience. Most importantly, they draw on user-generated content to showcase the strength of their consumer base from around the globe.
2. Build A Community Through Contesting
Instagram’s new algorithm will likely increase the success to be had with contests and promotions. The new algorithm will benefit engaged content, so running contests, which feature unique hashtags and user-generated content will boost the overall performance of these campaigns. User-generated content also provides a workaround for the algorithm: by having users post brand associated content and reposting that content on your own brand channels you’re exposing that content to two unique photo streams and organically driving likes and shares. One business that understands the power on Instagram contests is Wedding Wire. The company frequently asks their followers to enter hashtag-driven campaigns that also offer the opportunity to enter through user-generated content. Wedding Wire then reposts that content on their own account, building a brand persona around their community and organically raising the interest and engagement in the contest.
3. Bite The Bullet & Pay Up
It is extremely likely that organic post reach on Instagram will drop. While high quality posts will keep your fans engaged and contesting will draw in new users, paid posts will become even more relevant in this new landscape. You’ll need to design paid posts campaigns that will help you reach your ultimate goal. Paid content should direct viewers to optimized campaign pages, where brands can track the engagement of this content and hopefully generate a new customer either through an ecommerce experience or an in-store purchase.
4. Analyze The Results
Tracking how well your content performs and the rate of your follower growth and engagement will allow you to adapt your Instagram marketing strategy over time. This will be vital when it comes time to developing future campaigns and tracking how Instagram’s changes affect your overall growth and engagement. Metrics such as overall follower count and growth, hashtag mentions, and external link redirects can be valuable in understanding follower behavior. You can also use post performance data to understand other factors, such as the best time of day for your audience engagement. Keeping a record of your brand’s Instagram’s performance will highlight the most promising content, which will allow you to post more content of that nature, thereby increasing post performance and likely post visibility in the new Instagram landscape.
Yes, the change to Instagram’s feed will affect how brands showcase themselves on the platform. But it isn’t the end of the world. Just like Facebook before, brands will have to refocus their efforts on Instagram and make a more concentrated effort at showcasing the best content they have to offer.