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Marketers say Instagram’s new Facebook-style feed could help improve brand experience

Soon, Instagram will no longer show posts in chronological order and instead serve up pictures and videos it thinks users want to see using a similar ‘personalising’ algorithm as parent company Facebook, writes Jen Faull and Rebecca Stewart

Instagram announced the impending changes yesterday (15 March), saying in a blog post that it’s been prompted by the insight that, with an increasingly global user base, people miss on average 70 percent of content in their feeds. 

The company has stressed this will not impact advertisers on the platform, with a spokesperson telling The Drum that “changes to the feed will not impact ad delivery — frequency and order will stay the same.” Although, while the way paid for content is served looks to remain unchanged, will brands that previously relied on organic reach now have to pay to play on the platform?

“As Instagram has grown, it’s become harder to keep up with all the photos and videos people share. This means you often don’t see the posts you might care about the most,” the social network said.

This means the change could impact posts from brand accounts appearing in a feed if users are not engaging with the content. “We are doing this to show people more of the content they want to see, including content from businesses,” Instagram added.

“To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most. The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post. As we begin, we’re focusing on optimising the order — all the posts will still be there, just in a different order,” it said.

For brands, this “different order” could spell the end of organic content, and push them to stump up cash to appeal to Instagram’s 400-million strong user base, something Jerry Daykin, global digital partner at Carat told The Drum is unavoidable.

“It's sad that marketers are still worrying at all about whether they're organically reaching five per cent or 10 per cent of their followers; the power of Instagram is its engaged audience of over 400 million users and you simply have to pay to promote content and reach them,” he said.

Adding that “any marketer with a meaningful paid media strategy” using the service should be unaffected by the change, Daykin also pointed out that “it'll become easier to reach more people if users start spending more time with it.”

He believes that while the move away from a chronological feed will unnerve users, it’s one that will ultimately make Instagram a “better experience” and will be good for advertisers using it to target the right audience.

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Laura Di Simone head of social at creative shop AMV BBDO, which recently created the UK's first 60-second Instagram ad for Guinness, said that while the re-organisation could “quite possibly” spell the end of organic reach for brand advertising on Instagram, that it ultimately comes down to the quality of their posts.

“Brands looking to rise through the algorithm will need to be selective and single-minded about the content they post, paying greater attention to earning their audience’s attention via quality and relevance, rather than brand-out comms driven by internal initiatives,” she said.

Currently, an unspecified single-digit percentage of users will test the algorithm before permanent changes are made to the platform.

Instagram currently has 400 million monthly active users while Facebook - which shifted from its chronological feed in 2009 – has 1.59 billion monthly users. 

It follows Twitter also making changes to its feed algorithm with users now greeted with a block of curated tweets in their timelines to show what they’ve missed since they last logged in, and Stephanie Bertolone, director of biddable activation at iProspect said it’s no shock that the Facebook-owned firm is following in its competitor’s footsteps.

She argued that the “introduction of an algorithm should be a welcomed update,” for marketers and is unlikely to deter brands as it mirrors its parent company.

Instagram only opened up fully to advertisers last year, and has since provided them with a suite of ad formats to serve content to users. At the time agencies were split in their opinion on its move into the big league, with industry experts raising concerns that the site would be flooded with ads and in turn push its carefully built user base elsewhere.

Bertolone claimed that rather than putting off users, this change should instead increase interaction with branded content because it will allow companies to keep a strong presence across the platform

“It will also allow brands to maximise opportunity around time-sensitive events, ensuring their content remains relevant amongst an ever-updating feed,” she said.

Featured by The Drum