My thoughts on the new Instagram algorithm

Hello everyone,

 The long awaited – and somewhat dreaded – new Instagram algorithm is here. Posts are no longer chronological, and Instagram now dictates our feeds with the following concept in mind, “See the moments you care about first”.

I decided to blog about this today because I know that I, along with thousands of other people on the internet have mixed feelings about this development. I’ve been thinking about this new update for a long time, and hoping it wouldn’t happen, but this morning I came across a tweet from a fellow Dubai blogger.

news of the new Instagram algorithm being rolled out

The new update is a double-edged sword, especially for bloggers and ‘influencers’ (I hate that term, because in this region it often focuses on the number of followers an individual has rather than the quality of the person’s thoughts, content and achievements).

The plus side

It is no secret that many people on Instagram buy followers and likes, it’s something I rant about regularly on Twitter and I’ve been contemplating doing a post about it for a long time on Surena Says. However, I felt that this was the perfect time to address the issue, which could potentially improve now!

It is glaringly obvious to myself and others when bloggers have bought followers. How can we tell? I have 1,419 followers on Instagram (I try to block spam/fake accounts as soon as they follow me and as often as possible), I currently average 60-100 likes for my posts and though I try to block as many spam accounts as possible, I’m sure I still have a few in there. However, accounts that have 10,000 followers, but are averaging 200-300 likes per picture, have clearly bought their followers. That, or their pictures are horrendously awful (unlikely).

Update: After speaking to several bloggers following the publication of this post, I’ve realised I have massively generalised my thoughts on follower to like ratios. Though I am aware a huge number of factors come into play with engagement levels regardless of whether you have 100 or 100k followers, I do tend to look out for patterns and try to base my judgement on that. However, my example of 10,000 followers receiving 200-300 likes per picture seems to be wrong and this is actually quite normal. There are so many factors that affect likes and engagement that it could be a blog post in itself, so I’ll leave this issue here. I was mostly trying to point out that bloggers with large fake followings would feel the brunt of this update quite quickly, due to the reach declining with the lack of engagement they get from these fake followers.

Many brands who work with bloggers in the region (and globally) have previously ignored this, because in their eyes, those 10,000 followers will be seeing the picture while scrolling through their chronological feeds, so they will continue to work with individuals with large followings.

With the new algorithm, I believe (and hope) things will start changing. The importance of follower numbers will begin to pale in comparison to engagement rates, because without the likes and comments from authentic followers, the pictures will no longer be seen by as many people. Though it could be argued that bloggers and ‘influencers’ may now just switch to splurging on likes instead of followers, I’m hoping that Instagram will find a way to filter out fake and real likes in time.

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The struggle is real

What is also clear, is that people will now have to work a lot harder for likes. Though it does meant that people who have been posting mediocre content, hoping that the number of followers they have will still help them in terms of brand partnerships and opportunities, will now see this method working less, it also means that those trying to improve their reach organically will struggle.

No matter how Instagram tries to sugarcoat this new algorithm, it is clear to see that it has been financially motivated. Especially as it comes not long after sponsored posts/ads were rolled out, and also due to its parent company being Facebook.

Huge brands, magazines and celebrities will continue to grow with minimal disruption from the new algorithm. Their reach, budgets and existing large organic audiences will still engage at the rates they used to, and if anything they will see a rapid rise in engagement. As we all know, Facebook – Instagram’s parent company – rolled out this algorithm several years ago with its ‘Top stories’ feed.

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Unsurprisingly, my high school friend’s latest photo of her dog has far less chance of becoming a ‘top story’ in comparison to a magazine’s latest clickbait article posted from its Facebook page (see the screenshots of my ‘Top stories’ newsfeed in order). So, Facebook feeds are now littered with huge brands, media outlets and pages that have had the budget reach large audiences as opposed to friends, family and acquaintances. (Many would argue this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; I see far less ‘OMG can’t believe some people’ statuses with about 10 ‘U ok hun?’ replies, thankfully!). However, though I often try to remember to change the feed to ‘Most recent’, in all honesty I use Facebook far less than I used to because of its algorithm changes.

This is something I fear will happen to Instagram, an app I still love, even if it may be a little less now. I hate the thought of not seeing posts chronologically and I hate what it will do to content creators with smaller audiences and budgets. For bloggers like myself, it is a struggle to stand out next to those that already have organic followers in the hundreds of thousands , which will only become more difficult now. Though I by no means compare to the likes of bloggers who have been around for years, experimenting with and improving their Instagram feeds with carefully curated content and perfectly-edited and shot images, I am constantly trying to improve. However, it is a little discouraging thinking no matter how hard I try or how great a photo is, because of my lower engagement levels, it’ll be harder for my photos to be seen unless I start paying Instagram for sponsored posts. Something I’m still reluctant to do.

A sponsored Instagram post

Another factor in this discussion is the option to turn on notifications from particular accounts. When news of this algorithm first broke in March, if I’m not mistaken, a flurry of ‘If you don’t want to miss my posts, turn on post notifications’ captioned-images filled my Instagram feed. Not only were these annoying, but they also amused me. I love the old chronological algorithm because I knew I had a chance to see a variety of posts from a range of the people I follow (I know I wouldn’t see every post from the 770+ people I follow, but I knew I’d see a good selection of them). For example, I could be scrolling through my old feed and see one of the many dog Instagram accounts I follow, then a picture of a travel blogger in Rome, then a calorific ‘freakshake’ by a food blogger in London who’s visited another ‘quirky’ pop up in Shoreditch. I love seeing the posts from all of the aforementioned examples, but not to the extent where I’d want my phone to buzz every single time one of them posts! I’d be surprised if anyone I knew – who didn’t have to do it for work-related purposes – turned on notifications from more than 10 of the people they follow. So, in my opinion, that option isn’t going to make things any better with the enforcement of the new algorithm.

Pictures being posted ahead of the new Instagram algorithm

My parting thoughts on the new Instagram algorithm…for now

In summary (because I know I’ve rambled a lot and touched on a number of points), though I am quite unhappy with the new Instagram algorithm, it does have its silver linings.

I’m eager to see how the reach of those with bought followers and likes is effected, and I do wonder if they will begin to improve their content and work harder to organically grow their followings/engagement.

I am also interested to see how Instagram manages to monetise this new update. I don’t know if they’ll simply encourage more people to sponsor posts and litter our feeds with them, or if they’ll come up with innovative ways to encourage individuals to spend on increasing their reach like Facebook has with ‘boosted posts’, ads and sponsored posts.

I’m disappointed about what this means for content creators, like myself, in terms of reach and find it quite unfair to know that the reach I once had (though it may not have been huge) has been strongly impacted.

I would also like to better understand how Instagram intends to order the new feed. Is it going to be solely based on likes? Are the hashtags I use going to affect what I see? For example, if I use the hashtag ‘beautyblogger’ a lot, that does not necessarily mean that I want to predominantly see accounts that I follow who use that hashtag more. Will I now start seeing a lot more brand accounts? I would often rather see a creative picture by a blogger featuring a product by a brand I love, than a less imaginative picture by the brand itself on my feed. Will those with more organic followers than fake followers appear higher now (regardless of likes)? I think it’ll only be a matter of time before Instagram address this change in more detail. However, how transparent they will be about their motives behind the change and how Instagrammers can utilise it to their advantage is questionable.

For now, I will continue to use Instagram. However, it’ll no longer be a case of me rapidly double tapping a variety of random pictures I love that appear in time order as they did in my old feed. I think I will now be analysing what I see more, questioning why I’m seeing it and trying to understand how I can improve my reach given this new obstacle.

I posted a picture this morning (encouraging my followers to check out this post). It currently stands at just 35 likes, far less than photos I usually post at that time of day and something I feel is not just mere coincidence.

It’s going to be an interesting struggle for those who are trying to grow smaller audiences, like myself, and something that will no doubt be interesting and challenging.

Life after the new Instagram algorithm

Life after the new Instagram algorithm. Graffiti by IHeart Stencils

I hope you enjoyed this post or found it interesting. I would love to hear your thoughts on the new Instagram algorithm. Do you think it’s a positive or negative change? Or, like me, do you think it has its pros and cons? Will you be changing the way you create content and engage with followers on Instagram? Share any of your thoughts below or talk to me on Twitter here.

Oh, and if you fancy following me on Instagram (though I can’t guarantee you’ll see my posts!), you can follow me here.

Thanks for reading!

Surena x

 

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4 Comments

  1. 20th June 2016 / 10:33 AM

    I hate it! I fear it will become like Facebook. I miss most of my favourite bloggers’ updates on the there because they got lost among all the click-bait crap the bigger outlets post. It’s very frustrating and it’s little wonder that people are becoming disillusioned with Facebook. I remember when I used to post updates on my blog’s FB page at the start, I’d easily get 20 – 30 likes on each one, and this was without having the amount of followers that I have now. Now my posts get barely any organic reach :(

    • surenasays
      20th June 2016 / 11:36 AM

      Exactly! I said ‘I agree’ in my head at the end of every sentence I read of your comment ha. It’s certainly going in the same direction as Facebook, and I’ll be really disappointed if it does become how Facebook is now. Exactly, it’s ridiculously hard to stand out among all of the click-bait, so with Instagram, it’ll be just as hard to stand out with all of the sponsored posts and big companies/brands. Such a shame it’s changing.

  2. Patrick
    22nd June 2016 / 7:03 AM

    Just fell into this post on a google search…
    I have an instagram with 18’000 followers, I have never bought any fake followers, I post quality content all the time, yet I only get 280-500 (max) likes per picture. This is because of the algorythms, a page which has 25’000 followers will receive between 800 and 1000 likes.

    And the reason is, people are dumb, yes they are, you’ve probably noticed that when you like the picture of somebody, this person in return adds himself as a follower on your page ? This is exactly the reason why facebook and instagram are going down and having to create those stupid algorythms, it is because of the users, at the end of the day, that person who followed you to thank you, does not care about you and he is making things worse because he is limiting your audience, he could be taking the place of somebody who is interested in your work.

    Also tons of people follow millions of pages without caring for that same reason, it is pathetic but shows the human nature, similar on facebook, these days, you can add quality content and you will always have an idiot asking you where he can buy ”that product” because he only reads his feeds, he does not bother a second to actually visit your page to discover your website link in the bio, and BTW by adding a link in a facebook post, facebook will cut down your audience reach of 20-30%

    We live in a wonderfull world, surely mister Zuckerman does not have any problems having to struggle to find money to buy food or to help his activity grow, if facebook would want you to gain more audience as they say, then why don’t they add a ‘subscribe’ button next to the emotions smilies – ha !

    • surenasays
      22nd June 2016 / 1:07 PM

      Hi Patrick,

      Firstly, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to comment as I really appreciate having a variety of external views on my posts. It definitely helps me to learn a lot more as I have with your comment and points regarding Instagram, its algorithm and social media!

      The point I was making with bloggers, in particular, in this region (the UAE) is that they will have 35,000-45,000 followers, but only generate 100-300 likes per picture. Regardless of algorithms or inactive users, that does seem a little low and does point towards bought followers (something that is quite popular here), but I could be wrong.

      You’re right, that happens quite often. I’ll like a few pictures that appear on the ‘discover’ page or on a hashtag that I’ve decided to have a glance at, and I do notice that they’ll often follow me back and then never engage with my account. So do you believe that they are doing this in order for users of Instagram to interact with others more, rather than focus on getting their follower counts up?

      It is very frustrating how shallow it can be on Instagram (and Facebook), as you mentioned, whereby people only quickly glance at pages, like a few things and don’t bother to delve a little deeper into the bio or website to discover more. I suppose that’s partially due to the nature of Instagram, it’s ‘instant’ and many people use it to pass time or quickly find pictures of things they like, rather than discovering more about the people or brands posting things. It’s not great for brands and consumer conversions due to this, I suppose, as people just look at the pictures, like them and then move on within seconds. Yes, Facebook (in general) does limit post reach much more these days, especially for brands or those promoting websites.

      That would be such a good idea haha! Though they did add the ‘follow’ sort of function to Facebook profiles, it’s not very effective at all.

      Thank you again for sharing your thoughts, Patrick. I’m also intrigued to discover what search you found this post under in Google, if you don’t mind me asking?

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