The new Instagram algorithm allows you to see the moments you care about first

By Alicja Gados

You may be surprised to know that you can miss an average of 70 per cent of your feed on Instagram.  Since Instagram has grown so much in the last few years and because there are so many users, people are posting more photos and videos and many of the interesting feeds and updates you want to see simply are not displayed.  In order to improve your user experience, much like facebook, Instagram has released an algorithm so you will see more of the posts that you care about the most. 

The algorithm takes into account whose photos you visit the most often, and the ones you interact with given a like or comment. The order of photos or videos displayed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in that content. It’s also based on your relationship with the person posting and the posts’ timeliness.  The new algorithm will basically optimize the order of your feed. Everything that you used to see will still be there, but now it will be prioritized according to what they think you will like first.

This new algorithm makes sure that you won’t miss all your favourite posts.  For example, if your best friend posts photos from their travels around the world, or your food aficionado friend posts meals of their favourite restaurants, you’ll still see them.                                            

What does this mean for marketing?

There was a lot of panic in the industry when Instagram announced the news feed algorithm.  This is because of what happened on Facebook, which coincidentally (or not) is the parent company of Instagram.  The Facebook news feed algorithm has limited the reach of brand pages by a huge amount, so organically, brand pages are lucky to be reaching 16% of their fans. In fact, organic reach went down from 16% of followers in 2012 to 11% in 2015, according to Facebook data (source: Ad News).

When the Facebook algorithm first came out, average reach from pages was 2.6 per cent, and less than 2.3 per cent for large pages, those with over a million ‘likes.’ So larger brand pages felt the sting more than smaller pages. 

Instagram users have spent years developing their audience for Instagram, creating specifically targeted content for their users, fear it may all be lost. However, this is not likely to happen for several reasons. First of all, unlike Facebook, Instagram does not have brand pages, so brand content can’t be specifically targeted or segregated the way it is on Facebook.  So Instagram content can’t be treated differently given the nature of the accounts.  Instead, Instagram will now give you more of what you wanted to see in the first place: so if you have an audience engaged around your brand, then you won’t loose it.  The idea is to give users more of what they want. So if you already have a solid following, you won’t be affected.

Instagram aims to improve user experience, and they will do that by delivering the content that your audience wants to see.  The more time spent on the platform the better from a business perspective, and gives more opportunity to monetize that audience.

If your Instagram strategy is not working for you, you really need to consider revising it.  Figure out what your audience engages in and keep giving them opportunities to continue engaging. 

The platform is based on expression, creativity, and art. It’s a very visual platform.  It’s not always easy to do, but there are many examples of creative expression that may inspire you for what you can do for your brand page.  These points may allow you to get a new angle and start thinking about how to build an effective Instagram presence.

Your Instagram strategy

So are you wondering where to go from here?  The algorithm will challenge users to create better content. Some brands may struggle to adapt as they look at Instagram as an advertising platform, rather than a creative platform.  The update challenges marketers with the need to share unique content.  Traditionally, brands already account for less engagement on Instagram, brands will automatically appear less in feeds.  The news is bad for brands who have not been putting the energy required into their ads, and will have to improve their approach, as Instagram follows the “pay to play” strategy of Facebook.  If you’ve already been putting in a solid effort with creative content, good for you, you’ll continue to enjoy the audience that you have built.

Some believe that users will move away from Instagram now that some organic reach may be lost. Time will tell, but in the meantime, you should improve your Instagram marketing strategy by posting engaging content.  Here are five tips on how to do this.

1. Connect with people

Share your personality. Share a human connection to your Instagram presence. Though this may sound somewhat abstract, try let your imagination soar and look at things a different way, a way that describes you, reveals a bit of your personality and welcomes others to connect with you.

Example: This photo of a grizzly bear invites you to connect with nature in the Yukon, and showcases the wild side of Yukon Territory.

Image from the Travel Yukon Instagram page.

Image from the Travel Yukon Instagram page.


2.  Tune into your passion

What inspires you? Use Instagram to post images that inspire you. Whatever your passion is, there are communities on Instagram that share those passions with you that you can target.

Example: This aerial photo of Barrier Lake in the mountains, from Canmore Kananaskis tourism is inspiring.  

Image from the Canmore Kananaskis Tourism Instagram page.

Image from the Canmore Kananaskis Tourism Instagram page.


3.  Grab attention

Make people stop scrolling by showing them something that really commands their attention. Many tired, old ideas can get a new look. We’ve all seen our share of inspirational quotes in the same font. Think of a new way to present a common idea that will resonate with people.

Example:  Not just a tired mountain shot, this photo from Tourism Jasper is stunning, and romanticizes the call of the open road and sense of adventure.

Image of Jasper National Park from the Jasper Tourism Instagram page.

Image of Jasper National Park from the Jasper Tourism Instagram page.


4.  High quality, striking images

If you can’t create a compelling video from your users, consider using impressive visuals like bright colours to make people stop and stare.  Your attention to detail is very important, and will not go unnoticed.  With the variety of free photo editing software out there, it won’t take you long to create something very visually appealing.

Example: The Brooklyn bridge has certainly been photographed enough times, but this image presents a new way of looking at it with attention to symmetry and a single splash of colour from the umbrella.

Image of the Brooklyn Bridge from the New York Instagram page.

Image of the Brooklyn Bridge from the New York Instagram page.


5.  Something new

Get really in touch with your creative side. Think beyond what the platform is used for, and invent new ways to amplify it. 

Example: Rocky Mountain Soap presents us with a recipe for London fog tea while introducing their latest soap creation. The image suggests peace and relaxation, qualities which the brand wants to be associated with.

Image from the Rocky Mountain Soap Instagram page.

Image from the Rocky Mountain Soap Instagram page.

Instagram is a very visual platform. Get your company involved, and have fun with it.

Further Reading

Instagram Blog

Ad Week

Social Media Today

Ad News