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Keeping Up With Instagram's Algorithm

By now we’re all familiar with the recent uproar about Instagram’s algorithm change, the latest “ploy” for a platform to “manipulate our preferences and behaviors.”

These types of updates are an often-unwelcomed change by users who prefer to maintain control of their content streams and make sure friends see their posts. But from a brand standpoint, if this change worries you then you’re not doing something right.

Here’s why.

The beating heart of most social media sites are the user feeds. This is where people get their news, not just about friends but the world around them. It is where they receive product information and purchase/shopping recommendations. And it is also where they go during a quick break for content that makes them feel inspired, motivated, outraged or even happy.


To ensure people want to keep coming back to those feeds, most (but not yet all) social media sites rely on an algorithm that decides the order of content. The algorithms push content deemed engaging ahead of posts that have been published hours and even days earlier.

This should be a good thing for brands. Unfortunately, too many companies post generic, ad-like content at a high frequency in a misguided effort to gain reach. This may be through their own brand pages, or in partnership with social media influencers who have a lot of fans and followers.

And it is exactly this kind of content that is getting downgraded on social media.

As the paper The Digital Social Contract states, revenue grows when it disappears. People hate being sold to in an obvious way, therefore revenue streams that amplify – rather than interrupt – the creative experience are a must.

The same holds true for brand content. Fans don’t want to see ads in the form of status updates. This doesn’t fool anyone and only interrupts the news feeds. Fans want content that resonates, excites, and engages them in the experience. Good content like this will always rise above.

So if you’re a brand on Instagram, you shouldn’t be joining the cries of an unwelcomed change. Rather you should welcome this change as a moment of self-evaluation, not just for Instagram, but also for your full approach to social content.

Evaluating Your Brand Self

Yes, business results are the ultimate goal of any social media, and engagement is a solid path towards that goal. But don’t mistake that to mean you should increase the number of posts or play “wolf in sheep’s clothing” by posting ads in the form of status updates. As I’ve covered above, this is not going to work.

Driving business results from social content requires using a publisher mindset to create great stories, experiences, and meaningful conversations, or as we call it Deep Social.

Here are a few questions to help you evaluate your approach to social content and gauge if you’re set up to drive real results:

  • Do I maintain relevance and resonance at the speed of culture?
  • Do I excite fans in the era of distraction?
  • Do I engage and bond with fans spoiled for choice and holding little loyalty?

If being honest, I would suspect that many of you either answered “no” or a hesitant “yes” to these questions. Or even if it’s a confident “yes”, I invite you to reflect on these questions further and explore how you might move closer to Deep Social.

And the beautiful thing about brands who employ Deep Social is there is no need to worry about an algorithm change. Their practice is rooted in something much stronger than platform functions; it’s rooted in a sound understanding of their consumers.

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