Yep, it finally happened. That thing I've been warning you all about for months; Instagram changed their game and you are no longer guaranteed to show up in the feed at all.
Before the panic sets in let me calm your nerves and tell you that this will all be okay. I'll be honest, when I first heard the announcement I was so annoyed and thought "here we go, this is going to be just like what happened to Facebook" but I'm already changing my tone.
Let's start at the beginning with a little history lesson. Instagram was purchased by Facebook in 2012 for a cool 1 billion dollars (no, that isn't a typo). For a while business owners continued to majorly favor Facebook for business promotions and Instagram was more for personal photo sharing. In the Fall of 2013 Facebook began using the algorithm that many business owners now curse. It changed the way that Facebook users see posts in their newsfeed reducing many business owners organic reach by over 70%. Those using Facebook to grow and promote business would now need to pay for ads to guarantee exposure. Around that time savvy hairstylists and other business owners migrated their focus over to Instagram and the Instafame really started to blossom.
On Tuesday March 15, 2016, Instagram announced that it had started using a very similar algorithm to what Facebook put into place in 2013. Instagram believes that users miss many images and videos that appear in their feeds due to time restraints. Their theory is that by pushing preferred content to the top of your feed you'll be much more likely to engage with the content.
Here are some of the changes that you can expect to see in the coming weeks:
Format change: This has already taken place. When I woke up Tuesday morning and scrolled my feed with my morning cup of coffee I immediately noticed the format change. The feed we were familiar with was in reverse chronological order and the time lapsed since a photo was posted appeared in the top right corner of the post. You'll now notice that the time lapsed is hidden at the bottom of each post below the comments.
Content changes: Instagram will now fill your feed with pictures and videos from accounts you have just recently started following and those you tend to engage with the most. If a picture posted by somebody you follow starts going viral that will also show up in your feed. This is essentially an Instagram popularity contest and you are in essence the Regina George (any Mean Girls fans out there?). You decide what is cool to see and what is a waste of time in your feed based on what you are liking, commenting and sharing through the app. Each time you engage with the app you are adjusting your algorithm slightly which will alter what you see each time you login.
Way more sponsored posts: For nearly a decade businesses have been able to publish a post to their 100k+ followers and a great portion of those users would see their post. Those days are gone. Think of how many companies or individuals you follow but don't necessarily engage with. You will see less and less of their daily published posts and those businesses will need to start paying for advertising if they want to get guaranteed placement in your feed.
For stylists who are already Instafamous, this could be no big deal. They are already getting tons of likes, shares and comments to their viral reach will be really strong. You may start to notice some of your favorites fade off of your feed if you don't engage with them so be sure to like, tag and comment on accounts you enjoy starting now.
For the other 95% of hairstylists, this is a real game changer. If you have 400 followers and are only getting 15-30 likes per photo, few comments and no tags this will be a big problem. Instagram is likely to deem your content as uninteresting and it won't be shown in the feed any longer (just like Facebook does).
Ready for some good news? We can get through this. Instagram was honest with us about what is happening and now you have no choice but to rise to the occasion. If you want to get the likes, comments and shares that Instagram is looking for you need to engage your audience. Most stylists will be letting their clients know about this change and asking them to interact more with their page but that is truly the tip of the iceberg. If most stylists use that as their technique, you'll be merely keeping up with the Joneses and that will only get you so far. I've created a little quick guide with some tips for getting through this transition and it can be downloaded now below.
What we really need to do now is rise to the occasion. If you post quality content that your audience appreciates, you'll be handsomely rewarded with prime placement in the feed. Think of all those times when you posted photos at odd hours and barely got any engagement because of poor timing. If you can focus in on your target market, branding and use Instagram correctly, you can nearly guarantee a strong position within the algorithm. Click here if you are ready to truly master branding, target markets and Instagram to learn more about the Thrivers Society.
Hang in there fellow Instagram lovers! We will continue working through this transition and fall back in love with Instagram soon enough.