Instagram’s Departure from Instant (and what Brands can do about it)
Once upon a time, Instagram was instant.
It was a way to document every moment as it happened, each day as it unfolded.
Scroll back to the beginning of someone’s feed and chances are you’ll see a steady decline in photo quality as you reach back in time – evidence of memories snapped with the in-app camera, quickly filtered and posted within a couple of minutes of the event in question.
The stunning quality of photography we see across Instagram today wouldn’t be possible without Instagram’s departure from ‘instant’. It began when users became spoilt for choice with editing apps, importing images to VSCO and even wirelessly sending images from an SLR to an phone to be imported and posted on Instagram.
In fact Instagram started to move away from being a document-as-you-go platform, so much so that a new hashtag developed: #latergram. The hashtag, used when you post about something that has happened in the past, has cropped up over a million times. Interestingly, its use has steadily declined as the Instagram standard has transitioned from impromptu to premeditated. This is partly because the standard of photography and content has become so high that followers expect more from other users.
And while Instagram, like all social media platforms, is an extension of the user’s personality or brand identity, the medium has moved beyond that. It’s now a source of income for influencers and a profitable advertising tools for businesses. The introduction of Instagram’s advert features has paved the way for the move that will make Instagram and instant part ways forever: the algorithmic feed.
From the middle of the year, Instagram will implement a Facebook-style feed that uses an algorithm to prioritise posts based on what you care about most. Or, at least, what the algorithm thinks you care about based on your in-app activity and the activity of those you follow. This means you’ll no longer see posts in chronological order. Users freaked out when Instagram made the announcement, desperately posting images with arrows pointing to the settings button in an attempt to encourage followers to turn on their post notifications so they wouldn’t disappear into an algorithmic abyss. It was, ironically, a cry once again for ‘instant’.
Chronology was Instagram’s last remaining link to its early days as an on-the-spot photo posting platform. We may look back one day and think it strange that we once viewed unprioritised images, in the order they were posted. For now, this major change has a huge impact on social media marketing strategies as well as solo users. Both industries and individuals are already scrambling to figure out how to reach new audiences in the face of the algorithm update.
Here are five ways to do it:
1. Use Hashtags
One of the few things that will remain the same in Instagram’s future is the use of hashtags. They remain a great way to target niche users actively searching out new content.
Tip: research the most popular hashtags for your brand or industry and save them. You can copy and paste them in the comments section beneath your caption, rather than disturb the caption itself. If you make a mistake or don’t like how they look, you can always delete the comment.
2. Interact: Instagram is a two-way street
If you like a photo or a post makes you giggle or get out of bed and hit the gym, say so. The more you comment and interact with others, the more they will do the same with you. Ask people to comment on your photos in a natural way, such as “Tag the hungriest person you know!” The higher your interaction, the higher Instagram’s algorithm will push your posts to the top of people’s feeds.
3. Quality AND Quantity
It sounds like common sense, but the better your content is, the more people are going to go for it. If you don’t want to pay for advertising, experiment with posting quality images multiple times each day. This will increase your chances of catching your followers when they are scrolling, regardless of whether it’s when they wake up, take lunch, procrastinate or go to bed.
4. Timing is Everything
This is not just about timing your post when people are online (invest in an affordable statistics program like Iconosquare for more information on your audience), but also posting content that is relevant to trending pop culture and news. For example, check out this PinstaPals blog post that not only posted about David Bowie when he died, but posted about all the dogs who posted about him!
5. Build Relationships with Influencers
The definition of a social media influencer changes depending on who you ask, but we think of it as someone with 10,000 or more Instagram followers who are highly engaged. In other words, followers take note of what an influencer is posting, and then take action. Partnering with or paying influencers to post about your brand should be part of every Instagram strategy.