Instagram and the paranoia of #turnonnotifications

James Whatley is the digital director at O&M London. He drives digital integration across multiple clients and spends his days helping deliver campaigns that are loved and shared by millions. You can find him on Twitter @whatleydude.

Over the weekend, spreading like an internet virus/chain letter, several hundred thousand influencers (and subsequently the brands that follow them) began posting images like this.

And, if you manage an Instagram channel, either agency or client side, you could be forgiven for arriving into work this morning in a state of notification-driven panic.

The knee-jerk reaction would be for you to create a 'PLEASE TURN ON NOTIFICATIONS' Instagram image for immediate posting.

Aside from this being completely the wrong thing to do for the followers you have (at the time of publishing the ‘please turn on notifications’ call to action only works on iOS devices) there are a few things you should consider first:

1. There is no evidence to suggest that the algorithmic change is happening today.

Zero. Nada. None.

Quite the contrary in fact; the Instagram community drove itself into that much of a frenzy that Instagam itself posted a note last night stating:

2. Is it inline with your current overall content strategy?

If you've read or heard the recent Ogilvy 2016 Digital Trends Report on the subject you'll know this already.

The direction that social and content should be travelling, both in 2016 and beyond, is around microtargeting – aka: speaking to an identified audience directly via paid posts in-feed.

Ideally, we should be all be driving [clients/brands] towards this way of thinking and away from solely relying on organic reach – which is what begging fans' to #turnonnotifications ostensibly is.

3. This is influencer panic

Instagram reach figures are still relatively unknown. Unless you're doing paid support no one has access to his or her own full Instagram metrics (yet, video views are available, and I'm sure the rest will follow soon – for brands at least).

So this is influencer panic* at best and sheer paranoia at worst. If you/your line manager/your client is getting caught up in said hysteria then please, be the epitome of calm. Let the dust settle. Remind all that we saw the same thing when we hit 'Facebook Zero' way back when and the advice then was as it is now: understand the audience first and invest in paid thereafter.

Naturally, brands will always be anxious about the performance of any channel when a technical change is made and it's our job, as social media professionals, to quell that anxiety and provide a rational and strategic response – which I hope the above will help with.

*It's understandable that a lot of influencers are panicking about these changes as traditionally follower count and engagement has been a high point of negotiation when working with brands. The fact this could be in jeopardy is largely what has driven the panic. However – see point one above.

James Whatley is digital director of Ogilvy & Mather London. He tweets @Whatleydude and will be co-hosting tonight's (29 March) #SMBuzzChat which you can join in with on Twitter from 7pm BST.

James Whatley

An eight-year veteran of social media, James Whatley describes his career as “wide and varied”. From mobile apps with the start-up Mobizines (now Mippin), to larger more global brands such as SpinVox and Lucozade, he’s worked on a range of digital projects.

He eventually made the move to agency-side in 2009 to 1000heads, where he helped to establish the agency’s reputation as a leading word of mouth consultancy.

Currently heading up the social team at Ogilvy, he is responsible for leading integrated social thinking from planning through to creative execution.

He recently worked on Converse’s content brief for the launch of the brand’s Chuck II design, as well as creating digital campaigns for Expedia, Kronenbourg and Pizza Hut.

All by James