Instagram is changing. Please “turn on post notifications” so you keep getting my content.
If you’re spending time on Instagram you have seen many messages like these during the last month. Instagram influencers fear the upcoming feed algorithm.
Welcome to our Instagram growth and engagement study for the month of March.
Let’s take a look at things you need to know.
Follower growth down 83.59% as Instagram algorithm tests get underway
Instagram is maturing. There’s so much noise that users have stopped paying attention. Organic growth and engagement have declined rapidly. People miss 70% of content on their feeds on average.
Our latest numbers show that the average follower growth in March was at 0.32% of the total audience. This is a 60% increase compared to February. The follower growth has declined by 83.59% since April 2015.
Post engagement in March was at 1.1% of the total followers. This is a 30.95% increase compared to February. Engagement rate is 60.71% down compared to the 2.8% high in April 2015.
91.23% of all posts in March were images. Images engaged 1.13% of the total followers, while videos engaged 0.91%. You get a 24.18% boost in engagement by posting images rather than videos.
On March 15th Instagram finally announced that “your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most”. All the posts from people you follow will still be there. The order will just be different.
This was inevitable. We’ve discussed it many times over the last few months.
Instagram has to try and surface the best, most engaging, most timely and most relevant content to the users. This is what an algorithm can do. It can make Instagram more sticky to the users and help it grow even further. This will boost their advertising business too.
Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram, said: “What this is about is making sure that the 30 percent you see is the best 30 percent possible”. Instagram algorithm will rely on machine learning technology and a mix of signals to determine which posts to surface to the top.
The testing is underway and will continue over the next few months. The company will be running “a series of small tests with a single-digit percentage of user groups before deciding whether to introduce the changes broadly”.
Instagram in chaos as users revolt
There was a revolt on Facebook when Facebook introduced an algorithm. Twitter users were protesting against the algorithm that the company introduced earlier this year. Same thing is now happening on Instagram.
A lot of users got emotional and made their feelings public. More than 330,000 people have signed the petition to keep Instagram feed chronological.
Many of the influencers have spammed their followers with call-to-action messages asking them to turn on post notifications in order not to miss the future updates. Instagram attempted to calm the users with a tweet.
We're listening and we assure you nothing is changing with your feed right now. We promise to let you know when changes roll out broadly.
— Instagram (@instagram) March 28, 2016
Algorithm should be a good move for the platform. It will hopefully bring new life, and more growth and engagement for those that publish great content that people want.
What do we know about the algorithm at this stage? Not much. Some of the factors the algorithm will take into consideration are:
● The likelihood you’ll be interested in the post
● Your relationship and history of interaction with the person posting
● The timeliness of the post
We can expect something like the Facebook algorithm. Some factors that will impact it would be the format of the post, the organic engagement on the post and the amount of time people spend on the post.
We’re looking forward to exploring the results of the algorithm in the upcoming months. We’ll be experimenting, observing, analysing, and reporting to you right here on the Locowise blog.
Instagram to introduce specific profiles for brands?
Something to keep an eye on is Instagram introducing specific profiles for brands. These would be the equivalent of brand pages on Facebook. They could feature better branding opportunities, more space to describe your company, access to analytics and even ability to post external links when compared to default profiles.
The issue is that brand profiles will make it easier for the algorithm to identify content posted by brands. It could then turn “evil” towards brand content.
Currently all content on Instagram is treated the same. Be it from a blogger, a celebrity, a brand or an individual. The algorithm will not distinguish between the different profile types. All the content, no matter who it is posted by, will be treated fairly and will be given the same chance of success. The best and most engaging content will win.
It could become a problem if Instagram introduces brand profiles and then instructs the algorithm to devalue content posted by those brand profiles. That would be the end of free organic ride for businesses on Instagram.
We could get into the Facebook situation where content posted by pages is seen by a fraction of the total audience. This is how Facebook “incentivised” brands to spend money on getting their content in front of more people. Same could then be the case for those brands that want to stay relevant on Instagram.
Instagram has started pitching advertisers to promote all their content and not rely on organic anymore: “We’ve seen the Instagram pitch to clients twice now in the last month,” said an agency executive, who didn’t want to be named. “It is basically the Facebook pitch: Everything should be promoted, and there’s no point in doing organic.”
Hopefully this devaluation will not become a reality but it’s worth keeping it in mind. Facebook owns the platform and has made the same move in the past.
For now the algorithm should be good news for brands. If you post great content your reach and engagement should get an organic boost. Just watch out for your profile not to be converted into a brand profile.
Here’s what you should be doing right now
Introduction of the algorithm is not a reason to panic, but it’s the perfect opportunity to review your strategy. This is a great time to optimise your efforts in order to get more from the platform. These are the steps we recommend you take right now in order to optimise your Instagram performance:
1. Review the stats of your performance.
Data can show you the way to the optimal strategy. It can help you learn what type of topic works best. What format your audience engages with the most. What day of the week and time of the day you’re most likely to get the highest engagement. Take a quick look at your performance through our Instagram Analyser tool to get started.
2. Large audience is no longer enough.
Your audience may not see your content if the algorithm doesn’t surface it. Growing your follower number as the main goal for your Instagram performance is now outdated and needs a revisit.
3. Engagement takes the lead.
Focus on posting quality content. There will no longer be a guarantee that anyone will see your posts just by opening their app. You need to post quality content that people want to view, engage with and share. You may need to limit marketing and sales focused content at the same time.
4. You might need to reduce your posting frequency.
Brands posted 2.43 times per day during March, but it’s difficult to come up with lots of great content every day. Instead of posting all the time you should focus on posting the best possible content.
5. Still unhappy with the Instagram changes?
Explore Snapchat. It may just be the next big platform for great organic growth and engagement opportunities. There’s no algorithm there either.