Algorithmic or chronological filtering, that is the question. And for today’s legions of Instagram users it represents an existential crisis as potent as Hamlet’s. That’s because the popular photo-sharing platform recently announced plans to sort posts according to user behavior as opposed to the established chronological order. Not surprisingly, upon learning this news many fans of the site got their pitchforks out. The move will also have very real implications for those marketers and businesses that have learned to leverage Instagram’s popularity the old way.

But, as in life, there are positives and negatives to change. So in the interests of finishing on an upbeat note we’ll list the cons followed by the pros, and hopefully shed some light on Instagram’s latest “Instaupdate”.


Content will be missed

It’s inevitable. By definition curated content means selected content. And if a robot algorithm is in charge of that selection it’s bound to miss some posts that Instagram users genuinely want to see. With the old chronological system, users could at least count on receiving all posts from those friends and businesses they followed—even it resulted in untold amounts of digital clutter.

Businesses could experience a (short-term) loss of engagement

This new update will hit some businesses hard, particularly the smaller operations. Those without huge marketing budgets who relied on constant updates to keep eyeballs on their profile can and likely will feel some negative impact by switching to an algorithm model. The silver lining in this dark cloud is that the switch will create a level playing field allowing small businesses to compete directly on Instagram with the giant brands: whoever has the most engaging content will win the game.

To succeed, analytics will be required

In order to ensure that their posts show up in a newsfeed, businesses are going to need to think in terms of optimization. The problem with this new reality is that Instagram doesn’t have its own native analytics tool. Therefore folks are going to have to go searching for third-party solutions to measure engagement. Luckily there are some good Instagram analytics tools out there, and many of them are free.


It’s nothing new

Scroll through the newsfeed on your Facebook account and you’ll see sponsored and curated content. Posts on these platforms are algorithmically sorted by relevance and have been for some time. Regardless of whether Facebook users think this is a perfect system or not, one thing is clear: the world hasn’t stopped spinning on its axis. By and large people have accepted the change, and the smart money (as well as the history of social media) says Instagram users will as well.

A smaller target means higher engagement

Until recently, businesses with a foothold in social media could craft a generalized marketing campaign in the hopes it reached the largest possible audience, buyer segments be damned. And while it may be painful for marketers to tear down the old and start from scratch, they might just find benefits they didn’t know existed. For example, Instagram’s entire reason for adopting this change is their finding that users miss, on average, 70% of all content on their feed. To offset this shortfall they want to ensure the posts that do pop up are relevant to the user.

And this cuts right to the heart of marketing in 2016. Businesses will now be forced to deliver relevant, high-quality content to a targeted demographic. In turn this will help cultivate the relationship between brand and consumer, fostering awareness, engagement and loyalty.

There’s an easy compromise

Even the most obstinate Instagram user has recourse to maintain the status quo and see posts in chronological order—and they barely have to lift a finger to do it. All that’s required is to turn on post notifications. Users won’t soon forget about this feature, either, since everyone from celebrities to global brands are now prodding their followers to turn on post notifications in a bid to stay relevant in the face of this sea change. It’s a simple solution—even if the trade-off is receiving an irritating alert every time someone you follow posts something.

To recap, it’s not difficult to see that Instagram traditionalists are going to hate this algorithm rollout if and when it occurs. What history tells us, though, is that they will likely learn to accept it. And by focusing on the pros on this list, folks can keep their chin up and stay positive in the face of the inevitable march of progress.