In 2016, Instagram made a colossal shift in the user experience to put its acclaimed algorithm to work, booting out the chronological feed for good. For years, brands, community managers and content creators have worked tirelessly to combat the ever-changing and ominous algorithm to ensure their content was being seen by their intended audience.
In late 2021, Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, announced the platform would be rolling out three options for the core feed experience putting the power in the user’s hand to decide: Favourites, Following and Home.
It’s understood that the Home option will be an algorithmically sorted feed that will feel similar to the experience users have engaged with since 2016. Mosseri stated that the Home feed will feature “more and more recommendations over time” offering expanded discoverability for accounts users may not have otherwise come across. Favourites is an interesting new concept that will allow users to prioritize seeing content from accounts they want to receive updates on such as family and friends. And lastly, Following is the change we’ve all been waiting for: the option to return to the chronologically sorted feed.
With questions and theories swirling about the impact of this change, here are our predictions about what this update means for brands, community managers and more in 2022:
Algorithm-First, User Education-Second
Similar to Instagram, Facebook also pivoted to an algorithm-first feed and with over 70 updates to the platform since 2006, it’s no surprise that the bulk of users likely have no idea that the default experience can be toggled back to a chronological feed. With little to no data reporting what the breakout in preferred user experiences looks like, it begs the question as to whether the bulk of Instagram users will be educated around this available option and second if the experience is accessible enough for them to understand how to make the shift.
A recent survey conducted by Talk Shop found that 21% of users would happily continue with their existing algorithm-first feed while another 21% would opt for a Favourites-first option and the remaining 58% would toggle over to the traditional chronological view we all knew and love.
Tapped into Target Audiences
Surely, every brand or community manager recognizes that understanding your target audience is paramount to KPIs such as engagement, reach, impressions and more but more than ever before will be understanding the social media behaviours of your target audience be crucial. If the bulk of your audience pivots to a chronologically preferred feed, posting dates and times will become an ever-evolving strategy in itself. Does your audience scroll before work, during their lunch or late in the evenings? Where do they live and what time zone does this reflect? These are all new factors that brands and creators will now need to consider if they feel the bulk of their audience has subscribed to this kind of engagement with Instagram.
Thankfully, Talk Shop is a GWI partner and proudly couples consumer behaviour market research with social media strategies for all consumers. If you’re curious as to how this market research tool can be used in your social media plan, feel free to get in touch!
New Changes, Old Tactics For Brands
Assuming the bulk of users toggle to a chronological feed, brands will reach for tried and true tactics from yesteryears to reach new users: influencer marketing and engagement hacking. Influencer marketing skyrocketed thanks to the likes of Instagram and Facebook but an abrupt shift in the feed crippled their ability to ensure content was shown to the appropriate audience at the intended time. Engagement rates for creators dipped and carefully crafted content was buried amidst other content Meta deemed to be relevant. This power shift leads us to think that influencer marketing should be a top priority for brands in 2022 and years to come.
In addition, strategies to ensure brands are discoverable on the Explore page will continue to dominate social media strategies. This calls for video content, exploring Reels, a savvy hashtag strategy and timeliness of posting to ensure optimal engagement deems your post worthy of a spot on the Explore page.
For brands who believe that the bulk of their audience will continue to rely on the Home page for their user experience, it sounds as though discoverability for brands will continue to flourish. While this feed rollout is still in beta mode, we must remember that Mosseri claimed that Instagram would offer “expanded discoverability” for users to engage with influencers, brands and other accounts the platform feels would appeal to their behaviour.
While many are applauding Meta for listening to their user base, it is worth noting that there are 2 major bills rumoured to be passed in the U.S. in 2022 that would serve to protect users from the algorithm which has been positioned as a dangerous experience. The Filter Bubble Transparency Act will require platforms to add a toggle that allows users to disable algorithm recommendations. So rather than applaud this as a positive PR move from Meta, it’s more likely that the platform is simply preparing for long-awaited congressional changes.
In conclusion, it begs the question: do you prefer a relevant and optimized feed curated to ensure you don’t miss great content regardless of your scroll time or will this change and your feed preference perhaps shift your perception of Instagram to feel like more of a real-time news feed?
If you’re a brand looking to optimize your social strategy in 2022 in preparation of these changes, feel free to reach out.