The Relevancy Filter: Your Brand’s Strategic Guide for Mastering Instagram’s New Algorithm

On March 15th, Instagram announced its most impactful filter yet: an algorithm which sorts your feed by the moments you care about most. The decision, which will be implemented in the “coming months,” comes as no surprise; Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, has long mastered its own algorithm for monetization. The opportunity is ripe to increase Instagram revenue in the same light. For the general Instagram community, the change in user experience will take a gradual readjustment–undoubtedly met with some resistance. Brands however, must immediately re-think their Instagram strategies or suffer the consequences of a social plan tailored to an expired reality.

Instagram’s new algorithm is designed to generate more revenue for the company; inevitably, promoted posts will benefit the most. Secondly, Instagram users miss, on average, 70% of the their feed’s content. By featuring popular content (highly engaged with) and the accounts a user regularly interacts with, Instagram hopes to improve the user experience and therefore keep users in-app longer–both per session and over the long term. Not all brands will be equally affected by these shifts. Your brand’s new strategy depends on your available social budget and the size of your existing follower base; follow the guide below to establish an approach best suited for yours:

Large Brands, Big Budgets, Developed Follower Base
Objective: Promote Away

If you’re a large company that’s already been promoting posts on Instagram, this change won’t affect you too much–if anything, the algorithm will likely give your paid posts a bigger boost. Remember that your promoted content should be geared toward follower acquisition and brand awareness; is your content enticing and educational at a first, very-quick glance? Will they be able to absorb the problem your brand solves or the value you offer? Focus on making your post relevant for the users you hope to convert. If you’re new to promoted content on Instagram, this algorithm presents the perfect breeding grounds for your paid initiatives.

Medium-sized Brands, Limited Budget, Growing Follower Base
Objective: Promote Strategic Content Smartly

Your brand may not have a large enough budget to promote posts at-will, however, there is a significant opportunity to design and identify posts worth promoting. Pay attention to posts that most closely align with your social objectives. Perhaps your brand is running a contest, just launched a new project, or achieved a major milestone–big news deserves an extended reach. When you promote exciting, interesting content, the engagement it receives will add credibility to your post. Focus on producing engaging content first and foremost, then promote with purpose!

Small Brands, No Budget, Undeveloped Follower Base
Objective: Drive the Engagement of Organic Posts & Gain Followers Strategically

Don’t fret if your brand can’t play in the promoted post game. If your followers regularly interact with your content, you will be rewarded with continued exposure. Additionally, you’ll want to focus on high-quality, visually appealing content. Think quality over quantity–a few detailed, highly creative posts are more valuable than spur-of-the-moment posts for frequency’s sake. Drive engagement by asking questions and encouraging users to tag a friend in their comments. Since you’re not promoting content, your efforts to achieve new followers should be achieved by pushing new users to your Instagram account through external channels, using relevant hashtags, following relevant users, and identifying influential users to feature you in their posts. Big opportunities don’t surface overnight–plan to build & nurture influencer relationships over time.

Follow the Relevancy Trail

Twitter announced its first ever algorithm just last month. Facebook is tweaking theirs all the time. Major social channels are taking advantage of the value that relevant content produces for both their revenue streams and efforts to maintain and grow an active user base. Millennials have developed high expectations for personalized content based on their interests and behavior. If you don’t produce engaging content, users who are following a plethora of accounts may rarely encounter your posts at all. None of this is news–yet, now social algorithms automatically punish those who fail to keep up.

Natalie Cullings
Marketing Analyst, Marketing Technology

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Posted on March 24, 2016 in Brand, Marketing, Social Media, Strategy

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