Instagram’s Inevitable Shift

Say farewell to the Instagram feeds as you currently know them.

It was announced yesterday that the photo platform giant is the latest to hop in the algorithm bandwagon. With this update, users will no longer see posts from accounts they follow in reverse chronological order, but rather, posts the app has deemed of a higher importance and quality to the user.

So what does this mean for Instagram users and marketers? More engagement announcements and less lunch snapshots?

According to the press release, all of the content will “still be there,” just in a different order. The example Instagram provides aids in the understanding of this switch:

“If your favorite musician shares a video from last night’s concert, it will be waiting for you when you wake up, no matter how many accounts you follow or what time zone you live in. And when your best friend posts a photo of her new puppy, you won’t miss it.”

Instagram Optimization

As far as the details of the algorithm Instagram plans to use, they’re keeping that one locked away in the drafts. Remember, they are under the Facebook umbrella, so bloggers have begun to hypothesize how closely mirrored these two formulas will be.

The original algorithm that Facebook implemented helped kick off the use of formula-based news feeds.

The original EdgeRank formula that calculated which content was better suited for each user. Since its first implementation, the algorithm has undergone several revisions to continue optimization.

If app developers directly implement Facebook’s algorithm, that will affect brands that have cultivated their success on Instagram. For instance, Facebook’s program is set to discourage sales, sweepstakes, or app installations. They strive to have the user experience feel organic and seek to deliver posts that will encourage the user to engage with the content (So clearly, the best way for Facebook to achieve this goal is to eliminate the possibility of users seeing these “sales-y” posts).

Keep in mind: Instagram stated that on average, users miss 70% of their audience’s daily content. By switching to an algorithm-based timeline, Instagram will make sure that the 30% you do see is the 30% you’re most likely to engage with.

While users may complain about all of these social changes, the facts prove otherwise. Despite these content shifts, the platforms aren’t hurting for users. Facebook has continued to grow rapidly globally.

The latest report shows Facebook's monthly active users continue to rise rapidly.

What social media marketers need to know

Social media marketers need to keep close tabs on this news update and begin brainstorming ways to use the algorithm to their advantage in online campaigns. Instead of dreading another social media revision, think of all of the ways this change can actually be beneficial. For starters, can this affect when you make your posts each day? If a large part of your followers engages with your content, will the algorithm automatically place your posts at the top of their feeds, even if you posted it 2 hours earlier than normal? After all, these platforms are called “social” media for a reason – their purpose for existence is to start a conversation.

Look at it this way: IRL, you wouldn’t hang out with someone you don’t enjoy engaging with. The same applies to social media. Why would your high school biology lab partner’s post about their salted caramel mocha take precedence over your BFF’s post about her baby shower? These social media algorithms know who you interact with the most, and therefore, want to ensure your interactions continue. With this news feed update, timeliness will not be the number one factor in determining whose post is the first to appear when opening the app.

Social algorithms are designed to prioritize content in your feeds that comes from those you are closest with.


Another facet of this update is the extension of the pay-to-play game. If you’ve got the budget to put dollars behind your content, do so. Instagram ads already have multiple advantages over organic posts (longer videos, etc.), so go ahead and get a leg up on your competition.

In short, stop worrying about whether Valencia or Mayfair is going to garner more hearts on your selfie because a different filter is taking over. If you want to ensure you continue to see your favorite accounts’ content, get to liking and commenting to save the top spot on your feeds. Higher engagement equals higher priority.

Step aside, chronology. Instagram is playing with the big (algorithm) boys and girls now.