Mar 2016


With Instagram announcing a shift from the chronological ordering of photos to an algorithm-based approach, major changes in the photo sharing platform are on the cards.

An increasingly crowded feed has resulted in Instagram users missing out on 70% of Instagram content, making it tougher to keep up with the images and videos that one wishes to see.

The new algorithm will attempt to fix this, with the ordering of posts now determined by:

  • Relevance of the content
  • Relation to the content or user posting the content
  • Recency of the content

Though Instagram claims that this algorithm will help us see the moments we care about first, the new feed is bound to have both benefits and drawbacks.

Here’s our analysis of how the new algorithm could possibly modify your experience on Instagram:

 The good things in store for you:

  • You will never miss out on absorbing and gripping content: With the present chronological ordering of posts, the feed is invariably flooded with content. We tend to miss out on relevant posts and by the time we look at a piece of content, it’s already stale. With an algorithm in place, you can catch up with interesting happenings or live updates and then later view the remaining content by scrolling through your feed.
  • Brands will be on their toes to create captivating content: The algorithm approach will also encourage brands to replace sloppy content with interesting and engaging content. Social Media content teams can leverage this change to post ingenious, creative content that will enhance a brand’s footprint. Overall, this will positively impact big brands that have a good number of followers.
  • Paid reach may not outdo organic reach after all: In response to the many concerns over Instagram adopting the pay-to-promote path that Facebook took, Adweek quotes Orli LeWinter, VP of Social Marketing and Strategy at 360i: “I don’t believe Instagram will go full-fledged Facebook with its suppression of all organic reach for content. The Instagram community is just different and expects a level of authenticity and accessibility that isn’t reflected on Facebook.”

And some not-so-good things you will have to make do with:

  • Popular content will overtake preferred content: We’d all like to see that photo of a friend winning a trophy, a recent gig of a band we like or live updates from a smaller brand we follow. However, if the feed is based purely on engagement, there’s a possibility that many users might lose control over the content they want to consume.
  • Organic reach of content will plummet: Photos from celebrities and big brands will oust photos from smaller brands that rely entirely on Instagram for organic reach. For instance, the Instagram page of the NUS School of Computing is an education page and has fewer focused followers. It is likely that a follower of this page would miss out on posts from NUS if other popular posts land first in his feed.
  • Interest will become constant parameter rather than a variable one: Keeping in mind the short attention spans and varying interests of consumers, something that doesn’t matter today could matter tomorrow. Relevance is a parameter that varies day-to-day for a user, and an algorithm-driven feed could result in a fuzzy interpretation of relevance.

This move will most likely affect start-ups or brands with fewer followers. However, change is inevitable, and whether this change is a boon or a bane ultimately depends on the campaign management approach adopted by different brands’ Social Media teams.

Mario Moreno, Global Social Media Manager at Forever 21 says, “I am definitely re-evaluating my content strategy with Instagram. Before, I used to look at our Instagram page as a thematic aesthetically pleasing story, but now with the algorithm update, I foresee changing my strategy to include content that will be highly engaging and optimized for our customer’s feed.”

A smart plan, we’d say!

Sumanth Raj