On March 15th, 2016, Instagram updated its blog to inform users that there’ll be some major changes on how people interact and view their Instagram feed. The social media giant announced that moving forward, users will interact with their feed not on a first-post, first-see basis, rather the app will generate—or curate—the feed based on the order of accounts or posts that users care about the most. JustFly reviews this new move and what potential outcomes might arise from the sudden change.
The first thing that is concerning about the curation of one’s Instagram feed is inherently its curation: who can control what? Posts are shown in chronological order, beginning with the most recent and filtering down accordingly. With the new, curated version of the app coming into play, this basic, chronological order will be replaced instead with what the app giant thinks you want to see instead according to JustFly. This will probably be based on a variety of factors including follower numbers, posts per day, user engagement, and prior likes that user generates from your own account.
But unlike its parent company Facebook, Instagram has yet to install features that let users filter through their own photos on their own terms. Much like a Facebook Newsfeed, users are able to hide, follow or unfollow their friends without them being notified, therefore curating a feed that is important to them. Instagram hasn’t put out any mention regarding how your new IG feed will be curated, or if you have any control over it at all.
In addition to the curated feed, inhibiting user-selected content may mean that brands can now pay for promoted placements on personal Instagram feeds. The app has already implemented paid sponsored posts (which are clearly indicated by the “sponsored” call out), that seamlessly blend into a user’s feed, but are repetitive and annoying. Though there are options to limit the amount of times you see a sponsored post, the social media giant has yet to implement the golden rule all digital marketers know: never interrupt. Interrupting a user’s experience is the surest way to anger said user, and now that the media giant has an algorithm in place for how a user views and engages with their feed, the possibility that paid sponsorship will inevitably dominate the feed is inevitable.
In addition to the paid or sponsored posts (which Instagram has yet to announce regulations for), how will users actually determine what they want to see? In addition, how will the curation affect local businesses that rely on visual merchandising to increase the eCommerce sales? Trying to brand your business in a time when consumers are inundated with ads and campaigns, it’s difficult enough for a new business to be a single voice among a digital crowd. It seems that Instagram will reward those with a high followership (that, coincidentally, can be bought and paid without much regulation), rather than letting businesses or brands grow organically.
But even the most determined social media strategists will have a hard time understanding what the role of a hashtag will play in trying to get their brand noticed. Much like a photo, a hashtag follows a similar chronological lifespan; the newest photos that use the tags are listed first, and so on. How will the social media app that dominated the hashtag culture (sorry Twitter) rearrange itself to fit the new Instagram feed?
Only time can tell what the new Instagram will look like, but until then, it may be time to unfollow all those weird accounts you never wanted anyone to see in the first place, less you want them to show up at every possible moment.