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June 7, 2016, 10:47 a.m.
Audience & Social
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   June 7, 2016

Instagram has rolled its new, algorithm-driven feed out to all of its users: Now, instead of seeing posts in chronological order, you’ll see what Instagram deems to be “the moments you care about” at the top of your feed. The change, the company says, is driven by the fact that

people miss 70 percent of their feeds. It’s become harder to keep up with all the photos and videos people share as Instagram has grown. Over the past few months, we brought this new way of ordering posts to a portion of the community, and we found that people are liking photos more, commenting more and generally engaging with the community in a more active way.

This sample of one checked out her feed this morning to see where news organizations’ posts fell in the mix. First up were seven pictures of friends’ babies and families (including 1 Target ad for a baby registry). I’m expecting my second child next month, so this ordering didn’t seem coincidental. The eighth post I saw was from The New York Times — showing an Afghan woman carrying (again) a baby. Further down in my feed were clusters of food posts and then, finally, a couple posts from Humans of New York (had Instagram noticed how quickly I flicked past their heartbreaking Pediatric Cancer series, saving them for a time when it was socially acceptable to cry openly?)

Despite Instagram’s claims that the new ordering resulted in more engagement from a test group, Twitter was (of course) filled with angry reactions from users who don’t want anyone to mess with their feeds. (We started seeing reactions like this back in March when the changes were announced.) Unlike with Facebook, there is not an option to switch to a chronologically ordered feed.

But what might the changes mean for the news sites that are either experimenting with or are heavily dependent on Instagram, and that might not pop to the top of a feed under the new changes? The past few days saw a flood of posts aimed at marketers and brands that need help dealing with the change. As Marketing Land pointed out in an April post:

Businesses, brands and celebrities are already coming to terms with the idea that an algorithm could mean the end of the “free” ride on Instagram they’ve been enjoying up until this point.

Instagram has slowly but surely ramped up its advertising options this year, and then they announced this algorithm update. Consequently, businesses are having flashbacks to what happened with Facebook in the past.

When Facebook’s algorithm and advertising options were in their infancy, businesses were encouraged to gain as many “fans” as possible with the reward being more organic exposure for their content. Facebook created “fan building” ad units which businesses willingly paid for in order to grow their following and thereby post reach.

Along with the algorithm changes, Instagram has rolled out some new tools for businesses: Free business profiles, paid analytics about audience behavior and demographics, and paid post promotion that “lets you turn well-performing posts into ads right within the app.”

Other, free strategies include asking users to turn on notifications so that they see when an account has a new post (something a number of users are already urging followers to do) or, perhaps, posting less frequently so that individual posts stand out more. But there’s also the possibility that news brands simply won’t notice that much of a change; the posts that are being reordered are sometimes just minutes apart.

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