In the wake of the news surrounding Zuck announcing the changes to Facebook’s news feed, these waves reach the shores of Instagram. The Insta algorithm has always been a curveball for marketers, so understanding how it works gives you a big leg up. From the switch in chronological timelines to the ‘what you love the most’ algorithm, we are now going to see the next evolution of the program which determines what the user will see first. It will be a new set of rules to play by, in a game most marketers had just accomodated for the current rules. So what does the future hold for Instagram marketers and their content’s exposure and engagement? Actually, it has more good things in store than meet the eye.
The the main driver behind the changes is Instagram’s desire to improve the experience for the user by freeing the stream of low-quality posts, pesky bot generated responses and artificially boosted likes. With that in mind it may seem obvious to mention that high quality content always wins. And with the changes, the quality content will actually receive more exposure, due to the ‘deemed lesser content’ having been filtered out beforehand.This means, that Instagram will now ‘preview’ content to a limited 10 percent of your followers, to track and analyze its performance. If the content proves itself worthy, it will be shown to the remaining 90 percent. From this somewhat innocent scenario, an important observation can be made: It’s all about the audience. You HAVE to know the audience’s preferences in great detail to produce content that will withstand the 10 percent ‘teaser test’. It may sound like the goal is to please the 10 percent sample size, but that would be a trap. You won’t know the 10 percent of your audience that will see the post first. You can’t consider them a focus group, because they are not statistically significant in this scenario.
The Past: Quantity over Quality
With engagement on Instagram going down as much as 39%, it is important to understand that this downfall in engagement can be chalked up to the quality of content and how it was created.
It is imperative to understand how the landscape of Instagram changed over time for marketers.
The incentive structure dictated a behavior where the quantity and performance of content was the most important. This resulted in marketers and companies cranking out content, then artificially boosting the content to perform better. After some time the legend of the shadowban. (getting secretly banned for poor quality content and spamming) started. Real or not, the intent of the shadowban was the same as that of the 2018 update. Filter out bad content, punish those who ‘cheat’.
Lets look at an example from a different perspective.
Once upon a time, the news were reported at 6:00 PM. Between an incident happening and it being reported on the news, the story had time to develop, to be verified and properly produced. Anything after a certain time, couldn’t be reported until a later edition of the news.
Fast forward to today where everything is newsworthy and news are being fired off in tiny increments, news agencies are competing for the ‘first one on the people’s screen’. The news consist of one or two lines of unverified info, often misleading or plain wrong, getting added to and updated as things progress almost live with an incident happening. The sole purpose of this behavior is to be the first to be read by all. Not to report the news the best.
So now the news are not competing for their content, but for its reach and performance to the people.
This happened on Instagram to many a company thinking it’s the way to go. But this is not how content HAS to be created.
Don’t force the narrative. Stick with the facts
In most cases, content is being created by a human or a group of them, putting in maximum effort, making educated guesses towards a creation that will hopefully inspire the consumer to act. Over and over again, more and more frequently. But what are they actually learning from their creation and the reaction of the user? Not much, because there is barely any time between creating posts to ponder over the results.
Marketers know that you need to create at speed. To bring quality into it, time is needed, but time is an immense investment, so how are you going to solve it?
AI can tackle those problems. Because it is simply about the data and not its interpretation. This will still be left to the human in the essence of creation. Almost every aspect of content can now be measured by machines. They are not trying to take jobs away from humans, they are merely here to assist the process.
Time of post, who liked it, when did they like it. Easy to answer, everyone knows that. Which operating system was used, where was it used, which kind of phone, also questions which are easily answered these days. But there is more. The machine can recognize things. Color patterns, objects, shapes. They can associate successful pictures over a timespan and find their common attributes, they can learn almost anything and everything about a picture and even the post underneath, you just have to train them to do so.
It takes a lot less time than hiring someone to do it full time. In fact, it takes days to enrich data and train a machine on it to understand it. And then every analysis takes seconds and minutes instead of hours or days. Since the algorithm will analyze you, you direct competition, your entire market, your audience and comparable markets and more, the results are more reliable and contain more surprising insights.
And the audience analysis is by far the most important part. To understand 100 percent of your audience is the goal, because then you are given the tools to create content to please 100 percent of said audience. And then, some changes to the instagram algorithm won’t bother you at all.