Social Media Analysis: Instagram News Feed Updates

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Instagram is giving users more choices for viewing new content on its platform. This month, Instagram top executive Adam Mosseri posted that the platform would be rolling out 3 new views that users can toggle between to curate their news feeds: Home (the current algorithm-driven feed), Favorites, and Following.

Not sure what the big deal is about? If you or your brand was on the Instagram bandwagon pre-2016, you might remember (and even have loved!) the platform’s chronological feed, where content showed up in the order posted, allowing you to pick up on new content where you left off. As the platform grew larger, the chronological feed made it “impossible for most people to see everything, let alone the posts they cared about,” said Mosseri in a blog post in June last year.

The Instagram Algorithm—a brief history

In 2016, the chronological feed was replaced by what we’ll call “The Algorithm,” a mysterious formula that Instagram uses to feed users content based on their previous activity.

Over time, “The Algorithm” became the stuff of legend. People having a chat about a product offline would later find ads for that product showing up in their feed. (As professional advertisers, we know that our phones aren’t actually listening in on our conversations—this phenomenon is a demonstration of just how much data “The Algorithm” has to work with.)

But then users started to complain about “shadowbanning,” a broad term that accuses Instagram of silencing or deleting content unfairly or in retribution for sharing controversial viewpoints. This is where these new updates hope to improve users' experience. 

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About the New Instagram Feed Views

In an effort to be more transparent and give users more control over their news feed, Instagram is bringing back the chronological feed in 2022, albeit in a limited way. According to Mosseri’s post, the three new feeds will allow users to prioritize content that’s important to them, while still allowing Instagram to wield “The Algorithm” and serve up new content (including advertisements).

Here's how each setting works:

  • Home: This is the current view that uses “The Algorithm” to predict what users will enjoy based on their previous activities. Moving forward, Instagram will always open in this view.
  • Favorites: Users will be served content chronologically from accounts they’ve added to their favorites list.
  • Following: Users will only see content from accounts they’re following, posted in chronological order.

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What Brands Need to Know

Instagram will always open to the “home” setting as a default, regardless of which view the user set last, and chances are that most users will avoid the extra work of toggling feeds and setting up lists. Still, there are new opportunities for brands and marketers to consider.

1. Lock in brand loyalty.
Brands can gain exclusive access to their best customers by developing more entertaining, relevant, and engaging organic content and posting at a more frequent pace. This will entice users to add brands to their “favorites” or “following” lists and give those brands unfettered access to users’ feeds without competition or relying on “The Algorithm” to consider them a match.

2. Prioritize customer lifecycle marketing.
If you’re not already dialed in to speaking to customers at different stages of their buying journey, now is the time to get caught up. Brands might consider putting more awareness-level content out in paid channels, where they will pick up a broader audience versus in their organic feed, which will serve customers who are already in the consideration or purchasing stage.

3. Kick creativity into gear.
And, finally, Instagram is rolling out these changes in anticipation of introducing more “discoverable content” for users. We’re taking that to mean more space and innovative opportunities for ads—paid and organic. As is the case in social media, there’s a first-mover advantage when it comes to using new features, so brands and marketers should be thinking hard about how to leverage any new opportunities here.

Are you seeing these changes on your Instagram feed yet? How do you feel about them? We’re here to help you make the most of these new changes. Contact us to learn more!

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