Instagram today is an endless sea of meaningless posts asking you to turn on post notifications for each account you follow. Brands and professional Instagrammers are worried that they are going to disappear from your Instagram feed once the company turns on its algorithmic feed.
We’ve been here before. When Vine or YouTube switched to an algorithmic feed, brands, YouTubers and Viners all wanted you to switch on notifications. The same happened when Facebook became more selective with Pages posts.
And yet, let’s be honest, this is getting ridiculous. People are posting things like this:
Are you exhausted? I sure am. But let’s try to sympathize with these users and understand what’s actually happening.
Like most feed-based networks, Instagram is starting to feel like a crowded place. People now follow hundreds of accounts and receive dozens of new photos per hour. Good posts are getting lost in the middle of not-so-good posts.
As user experience suffers, people are less inclined to use Instagram. And that’s why Instagram has a solution. Soon (but not tomorrow), Instagram’s magical robots will put the best photos at the top of your feed. If posts don’t perform well, Instagram won’t show those posts to all followers.
Instagram might even show posts out of order. In other words, Instagram is going to become more like Facebook, and less like Twitter.
But brands and professionals should definitely freak out. Some community managers spent months of hard work increasing the number of followers they have on their Instagram accounts. And soon, only a fraction of this fan base is going to receive Instagram posts. It’s true, algorithmic feeds force us to compete.
Even worse, Instagram doesn’t provide analytics tools (except video views). They won’t know how many people view their posts. Professionals won’t know if they’re doing a good job and what type of posts are performing well. If a brand’s reach decreases dramatically, some brands will also have to pay for ads like on Facebook. This isn’t a bad thing for Instagram, but brands don’t want to pay for something they could do for free. Update: Instagram is working on business tools with insights on your content. It’s going to be available in the coming months.
In short, if you didn’t know why everyone is freaking out on Instagram today, now you know. Maybe Instagram will become more interesting after this change. And of course, there’s only one possible answer for all those whiny Instagrammers:
Update: Instagram confirmed on Twitter that nothing is changing “right now”:
Update #2: An Instagram spokesperson also sent us a few details about the future algorithm. “Performance or popularity is not what we’re optimizing for. While we are using likes and comments as signals, timeliness and the relationship between the poster and the viewer are also important,” they said. “We’re not removing any posts from people’s feeds, just reordering them. Moreover, as it stands, many people aren’t seeing posts from accounts they care about (on average, an Instagrammer is missing 70 percent of his or her feed). Our goal is to help people see the posts they care about, including from brands.”