Update 6/3/16: After months of delaying the update that has caused a social media uproar and has been petitioned against to keep the popular social media platform chronological, Instagram's new algorithm is now live to all users starting today.
The eighth most popular app in America is piloting a non-chronological feed. In a move that already has a Change.org petition to stop its rollout, Instagram announced the biggest change in its history since adding the video feature in 2013.
Of the change IG's CEO, Kevin Systrom wrote, “You may be surprised to learn that people miss on average 70 percent of their feeds. This means you often don’t see the posts you might care about the most.”
And then, the Internet exploded. (Sorry, Yeezy, we'll get back to talking about Kim K. mañana.)
“To improve your experience,” he continued, “your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most.”
Therein lies the problem: “We believe.” (Also, newsflash: live band videos are actually the worst, please don't put that at the top of my feed.)
Facebook implemented this strategy first with News Feed, a feature that was introduced seven years ago. The backlash was palpable then as well, until everyone simmered down-- and started spending more time on Instagram, where their feed was still an of-the-moment, choose-your-own-adventure tale. In an over-saturated tech world, where consumers know they are constantly being marketing to, IG still felt authentic. (Plus or minus a Valencia filter or two.) It was curated, not by a team with a computer program crunching out an algorithm, but by you. It was yours.
In an over-saturated tech world, where consumers know they are constantly being marketing to, IG still felt authentic.
At our recent pop-up at SXSW there was a lot of talk about putting the “humanity” back into the machine. It’s a reason why Facebook Live is a platform that people are betting on.
What IG is doing, is the opposite. Chronological works because it feels real, even if it is filtered. There is a sense of ownership in what you’re seeing. We don’t need another app optimizing the order in which we see things. Real life isn’t like that. Let us explore for ourselves.
Putting personal aside however, you might be wondering what this means for your business? Just like Facebook, the likelihood of a pay to play option for brands to spend the dollars to land at the top of your feed, is high. Valuation based on engagement is still hard to quantify, and money needs to be made. (Figure that out yet Snapchat?)
How the algorithm will effect how brands interact with followers is clearly yet to be seen, but we can be certain that companies will have to evolve their social strategy to keep up with changing platforms. Brands will need to engage their followers more in order to stay at the top of their feeds, and possibly, work harder for their attention. In a way, this could do for brands what people feel so strongly against: a matching brand-to-consumer algorithm means that company will have to engage on a human level. If nothing else, it certainly keeps social strategy directors on their toes.
In a New York Times interview announcing the change Systrom stated: “What this is about is making sure that the 30 percent you see is the best 30 percent possible.”
Which sounds pretty, but some days you don’t want to see the best. Some days you want the worst 10 percent. You want to see the sh*t photo of your friend’s breakfast and feel better about your life.
Some days you want to see the sh*t photo of your friend's breakfast and feel better about your life.
Arianna Schioldager is Create & Cultivate's editorial director. You can find her on IG @ariannawrotethis and more about her at www.ariannawrotethis.com