Instagram announced this week that it’s testing an algorithm to show users the content they care about most. This isn’t a new move. Facebook did this two years ago, and Twitter recently mentioned doing the same.
Instagram’s update has already created tons of backlash by people don’t want to see their feeds change, but for local businesses, it may change more than just whether fans see posts immediately.
1 – The Instagram Algorithm May Cost You
One concern surrounding the Instagram algorithm is that it may affect business’ organic reach — the number of people who see a post if it isn’t boosted or sponsored.
When Facebook introduced its news feed algorithm in 2014, brands’ organic reach fell a lot. In 2013 the average organic reach was 16%, but plummeted to 2% after the algorithm was introduced. To put it in perspective, if you owned a yoga studio with 5,000 followers on Facebook, your posts would reach about 800 people without needing to pay for a post, but could only reach about 100 after the algorithm update.
The concern is that Instagram will follow Facebook, which has owned the photo-sharing platform since 2012. Their advertising systems are already intertwined through Power Editor, which lets brands target their ads to both platforms simultaneously (if you’re not familiar with how the Facebook Power Editor, take a look at our beginner’s guide here).
If Instagram’s algorithm has the same effect as Facebook’s news feed algorithm did, small businesses may suffer. Because small businesses tend to have small marketing budgets, they likely won’t be able to invest as much in paid ads as larger companies will, so they won’t have as large a reach. But there’s no need to worry yet. Instagram plans to make the change gradually, testing only a single-digit percentage of its 400 million regular users at a time.
2 – Your Ads Can Be More Effective
The main reason Instagram decided to make the update was to reduce clutter in feeds. The majority of users only see about 30% of their feeds, according to the announcement, and it makes sense: Last year, most brands posted 58% more frequently on Instagram, while fans’ engagement fell at nearly the same rate.
So even though organic reach may not go as far thanks to the new algorithm, it’s good news for paid ads. Because the update shows users the posts that matter most to them, the people who actually see your ads are the ones who really care about your brand. These are the people you want to show your ad to because they’re the ones who are most likely to convert. It’s the same concept as Facebook targeting, and it makes your marketing dollars stretch farther.
3 – Customer Engagement Counts
According to Instagram, the order that users see content “will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post.”
So if your audience doesn’t engage regularly with your posts, they’re not going to see your content as early in their feeds.
This means it’s more necessary than ever to nurture customer relationships on Instagram. Take note of what content regularly gets the most engagement and tailor your other posts the same way. Run contests and giveaways that encourage audience participation. Comment and share when users mention you or your most frequently used hashtags. Doing this not only ensures that your posts and ads will show up more often in their feeds, but it also builds a relationship that will keep them coming back.
What do you think of the Instagram algorithm? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Mike Arce is the CEO and founder of Loud Rumor, a lead generation company for fitness studios and independent gyms that supports their customers with sales training and techniques to grow and scale.
Mike has spoken for companies like Infusionsoft, the Better Business Bureau, ASBA, and Local First – all on the topic of Local Business Internet Marketing. He has a passion for local businesses and helping them grow. You can get fresh, updated tips from Mike here.