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Instagram is trying to kill your social marketing

What the Instagram algorithm means for brands and social marketing

Social marketing on Instagram is doomed. DOOMED I tell ya! The Instagram algorithm is going to kill your brand. Ok, not really. But given all the hysteria and hyperbole, you’d think Instagram slowly testing and rolling out an algorithm was, like, pretty much the worst thing ever.

OMG social marketing wtf?

What’s really going on with the Instagram algorithm, though?

According to Instagram, the average user misses 70% of their feed. Therefore, our duck-face-enabling overlords have seen fit to make sure we don’t miss the pics we love from IGers we love most. For me, that’s sure to be some strange combo of parenting, lolcats, and motorcycles. For brands on Instagram it means the playing field is no longer as level as you thought it was: you’re going to be pummeled when you post irrelevant, uninspired content.

The Too Long/Didn’t Read (TL;DR) Version: Instagram is moving from the feed being strictly chronological to something more akin to Facebook’s Newsfeed, wherein the algorithm serves you images it thinks you’ll enjoy the most.

Four key implications of the Instagram algorithm for brands and social marketing

So, what does it mean for brands when Instagram moves from a chronological feed to algorithm feed?

  1. If it’s anything like what we see with Facebook’s Newsfeed algorithm, when your brand posts something that doesn’t get engagement– reactions, shares, comments– the algorithm fucking buries you for the next few posts until you redeem yourself. Even if you try to boost the posts. Buried. But when your brand posts something your fans enjoy, the organic reach can be incredible. Then, if you boost that? It’s like rocket fuel and your reach and engagement go to the stars.
  2. Instagram is selling out, but that’s a good thing. It means Instagram is maturing as an ad platform: rather than having to make deals with individual, influential IGers to post our clients’ branded content, we can use the Facebook Ads Manager to place ads. Boom. Whack. Pow. We just saved our clients a shit ton of account management time spent on “influencer outreach” and the associated risks of using a spokesperson. You’re welcome, clients.
  3. Everything has changed. Except it hasn’t. You’ve probably seen it happening already: Instagram began testing this move a while ago by experimenting with hashtag algorithms. People freaked out. The world kept turning. Whiskey is still delicious. Yes, this will change things. But not all the things.
  4. DIY at your own risk. The barrier to entry for social marketing– good social marketing, anyway– keeps getting higher. Gone are the days when you could post something and get a great response from all the other early-adopter nerds. Now you need those social marketing nerds to work their magic for your brand. It may not be rocket surgery, but it is a little bit of wizardry.

Recommendations for brands to leverage social marketing with the Instagram algorithm

We’re proposing a new acronym: SFO (Social Feed Optimization). It’s like SEO, but for Social Feeds. Social Feed Optimization (SFO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a profile or a profile’s content in a social media platform’s unpaid feed. Just like SEO, SFO has many moving, interrelated parts, but the overall approach should be:

  1. Understand your audience. What are their trials & triumphs? How can we reduce the trials & celebrate the triumphs?
  2. Set clear, measurable objectives.
  3. Make educated assumptions, execute, measure, check assumptions, adjust. Wash, rinse, repeat.
  4. Good, engaging content is still going to work.
  5. Engaging with your fans & followers by liking, re-sharing, and commenting is still a good idea.
  6. Think about it the right way: social media is an insight tool, so use it as such. Trying to compete for views/likes/shares/etc. with some dude doing narrated gameplay who has racked up 11 billion youtube views is like a 30 second TV spot comparing viewership with The Golden Girls: you’re going to lose. Every time.