#TurnMeOn: The When, Why’s and What’s of the Instagram Algorithm Change
Anyone in the Instagram world would have found it impossible to escape the desperate pleas flooding their timeline yesterday, by brands and bloggers asking followers not to miss post notifications. Of course, that includes yours truly, because why not jump on the blogger bandwagon.
If I’m being completely honest, I face a slight identity conflict here: as a blogger, it’s in my interest to encourage you to blindly turn on those notifications. After all, why would I want you to miss the fabulous tales of BombayDelhiGirl? But in my latest avatar as a student of media, I find it equally important that you understand what this apocalyptic algorithm change is really about. So, I’ll follow my instincts and share the news anyway. Besides, I can’t force you to follow me.
- When Will It Happen?
For all the fear mongering that brands are engaging in, it is worth knowing that Instagram has merely announced that it will be changing its algorithm. The change will be implemented gradually, so don’t expect your entire timeline to be turned upside down tomorrow. This algorithm is currently in the testing phase.
To put it bluntly, there’s no need to panic.
2. Who Will The Change Affect?
The algorithm change will affect brands more than consumers. This is sort of obvious, considering brands and bloggers – who are basically personal brands – have been creating the hullaballoo with their posts.
But does that imply the converse: is the algorithm advantageous to the consumer? Sort of. In the words of Instagram, what the algorithm does is to “see the moments you care about first.” Word is that we miss 70% of the posts on our feeds, especially those of us following hundreds of handles. So what the algorithm does is to filter out posts from handles that we seldom engage with, and prioritise those that we do engage with. This may include posts we like, comment on, or even hover on for longer. Yes, you’re being watched.
Essentially, if you’re a consumer, it makes your newsfeed more likeable. If you’re obsessed with likes, it is possible that you may see a dip, but unless you post multiple times a day, that shouldn’t really be the case. If you’re a brand or a blogger, it makes it that much harder for you to ensure that you engage with as many people as possible.
3. Why is Instagram Changing Its Algorithm?
Of course Instagram is promoting this as a ‘customer-experience-is-at-the-heart-of-what-we-do’ move, but the real reason is simple: more money! Facebook, which owns Instagram, has been tweaking its algorithm for ages, to make it harder for brands to reach a larger audience unless they don’t pay money. The organic reach for Facebook pages is estimated to be 2% of one’s audience. In October 2015 Instagram rolled out advertisements for the first time. Once the algorithm changes take effect, brands will most likely find it harder to reach the same number of people without promoting their posts. Naturally, brands that have smaller advertising budgets will bear the brunt of this the most.
4. How Will Turning On Post Notifications Help Me?
Like I said, I have a conflict of interest as given my dual identity of a blogger and a critical consumer. Turning on post notifications doesn’t ensure that the posts of that handle will appear in your newsfeed, but that each time that handle posts, you get a notification informing you that Zomato, or Kim Kardashian has posted. Facebook and Twitter have similar features that allow you to subscribe to particular handles whose activity you want to follow. For example, I use it for NDTV on Twitter to receive real-time updates about current events.
The truth is that if you already engage with certain handles, you’ll probably continue to see their posts even after the algorithm takes effect. So turning on notifications is a good idea, but of course you don’t may not want to go overboard with it either!
5. What Next?
There’s not much you can really do, or need to do at this stage (unless you’re really infuriated with the announcement and care to sign this petition) but wait and watch. Keep an eye out for more advertisements, because that seems like the logical progression from once the algorithm takes effect. As for not seeing the posts for every handle, I have a strong suspicion that this is already being implemented. It could just be my absentmindedness while scrolling down my timeline in the wee hours of the night, but I can swear that I do not see each and every post of each and every handle on my newsfeed. Of course this evidence is purely anecdotal, but the point is that whether it happened n the past or not, it’s definitely happening now.
As a general rule of thumb, be weary of how much time you spend on Instagram, because naturally the point of making your newsfeed more ‘likeable’ is to get you to spend as much time on the platform. That, in turn, means more money for Instagram. In short, and as always, don’t be a passive consumer!