How should my brand’s Instagram strategy change now?

The Instagram algorithm changes, then Facebook makes major changes to the Instagram API.

Should your Instagram strategy be changing too?

Let’s talk through it.

Got a question or something we missed? Find us on Twitter @UnionMetrics.

All about the algorithm

We’ve written everything you need to know about the Instagram algorithm before, including how it can help you strategize your video marketing.

The basics we learned from a presentation at the Machine Learning @ Scale event in February of last year (which you can watch here) about shifting Instagram’s algorithm from chronological to the format we have now just got an update; the Instagram team invited reporters to discuss how the algorithm actually works, plus do a little myth-busting. According to TechCrunch, these are the main factors affecting how feeds work:

  1. Interest: How much Instagram predicts you’ll care about a post, with higher ranking for what matters to you, determined by past behavior on similar content and potentially machine vision analyzing the actual content of the post.
  2. Recency: How recently the post was shared, with prioritization for timely posts over weeks-old ones.
  3. Relationship: How close you are to the person who shared it, with higher ranking for people you’ve interacted with a lot in the past on Instagram, such as by commenting on their posts or being tagged together in photos.”

And then these are further affected by three more signals:

  • Frequency: How often you open Instagram, as it will try to show you the best posts since your last visit.
  • Following: If you follow a lot of people, Instagram will be picking from a wider breadth of authors so you might see less of any specific person.
  • Usage: How long you spend on Instagram determines if you’re just seeing the best posts during short sessions, or it’s digging deeper into its catalog if you spend more total time browsing.”

Previously we’ve said that features like Stories most likely play into the algorithm as well, especially since you can respond to Stories and those responses are sent as DMs. Instagram doesn’t directly address that in their myth-busting, but TechCrunch reports the following from the meeting:

  • “Feed ranking does not favor the photo or video format universally, but people’s feeds are tuned based on what kind of content they engage with, so if you never stop to watch videos you might see fewer of them.
  • Instagram’s feed doesn’t favor users who use Stories, Live, or other special features of the app.
  • Instagram doesn’t downrank users for posting too frequently or for other specific behaviors, but it might swap in other content in between someone’s if they rapid-fire separate posts.
  • Instagram doesn’t give extra feed presence to personal accounts or business accounts, so switching won’t help your reach.”

There are a few other common myths busted in the TechCrunch piece, so we definitely recommend reading it in full. You can read another take from Social Media Today, too.

All about the API

We hosted an emergency webinar about the recent changes to the Instagram API, as well as writing a few blog posts on how business profiles work and the 5 metrics you should be paying attention to now on Instagram.

Both go into more detail about the API changes and what those changes mean for your brand.

In the next section, we’re putting that and the algorithm together.

So what does that mean for my brand?

We always encourage brands to have an experimental mindset- one informed by smart data and tracking- when it comes to social media because the landscape is always changing, and audiences are always evolving.

With these changes, brands should shift from a focus on hashtags to tags and mentions, and to cultivating real relationships with their followers (there’s a reason this is evergreen advice). The latter not only because those factors- like DMs- are likely weighted in the algorithm, but because it’s also a honest, community-built connection between a brand and its fans and followers. That reverse-chronological feed just isn’t coming back anytime soon.

And if you need help measuring to make those smart choices, we’re always here to help.


Photo by Toni Hukkanen on Unsplash