The ups and downs of Instagram's new algorithm

16K Agency founding partner James Towers
By 16K Agency founding partner James Towers | 4 May 2016
16k Agency founding partner James Towers

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how Instagram’s new algorithm was being tested on my personal account. It was strange and pretty confronting when a 15 hour-old post of a baby stared me down from the top of my feed. Death of the ‘Insta’ part of the ‘Gram seemingly was going to be a big deal.

But I’ve moved on. And so will you. You’re better than all that unsightly content cluttering your feed and you just haven’t realised yet how you fell in love with a gorgeous Instagram that was in its prime and your relationship got more cluttered and confused as time went on. You were in too deep with your average of 822 followers* and you settled for average content day in, day out. Missing the posts you should love all along.

There’s a new Instagram out there for you and there will be positives and negatives but don’t worry, it’s for the best.

The Seven Signs of Grieving Your Bad-Content Breakup

1. Shock

“OMG. They are what now? Changing my feed? But I don’t want them to meddle in the things I see! I follow the people I want because I love ALL their content”

No you don’t. On average you follow well over 800 accounts and you’re not really liking what you see let’s be honest. You want to feel proud of the decisions you made because at one stage you clicked “follow” on every one of those accounts. But you’ve been too lazy to unfollow the lousy ones, you’d rather scroll past and engage less than playing executioner and cutting your followings. Twitter had this problem and it’s become a cesspit of rambles you don’t even get close to looking at. You only go there to complain when Instagram is down.

2. Desperate For Answers

“Why would they do this?”

Well you’re not seeing the things you want to really see anymore because those little glimpses of what your Instagram relationship used to be get drowned out by what your feed has now become. Everyone hates change but sometimes ripping off the Band-Aid is the best way forward.

3. Bargaining

“Well I’ll sign this petition and everyone knows the Internet loves a petition and I’ll just not accept the change.”

Yeah, because those Japanese whaling petitions you signed really curbed that behaviour didn’t it? Instagram has seen a halving in engagement on their platform and I speak with clients daily that tell me their content seems to not resonate like it used to. There’s too much clutter and it’s hard for the great brands, influencers and content creators that you want to see to break through.

4. Relapse

“I’ll quit Instagram and that will show them.”

You won’t.

5. Anger

“Social media makes me so mad I’m going to just go off the grid because I hate the way they control me!”
Algorithms are actually pretty neat but not always perfect. For example Facebook and LinkedIn’s ‘people you might know’ suggestions are usually old one-night stands but on the whole algorithms are very advanced and arguably they’re essential to keeping you glued to social media in one of the biggest shifts in media consumption we’ve ever seen.

6. Initial Acceptance

“OK, so I know I said I was going to quit Instagram but I’ve just sat down to breakfast and my smashed avo and coffee is totally gramable right now so I’ll post it even though I’m still mad.”

You will discover early glimmers of hope with the new algorithm and although you hate change (you’re human) you’ll be seeing the content you originally started using Instagram for greet you each time you open the app. The sun will come up and a better Instagram will win you over.

7. Redirected Hope

“My Instagram feed is so hot right now.”

Sure you’ll not see everything that your friends posted but you weren’t anyway. You’ll see the best of the best from your favourite friends, influencers and brands that understand what Instagram should be about. Beautiful images and visually thoughtful stories which turned this small start up into one of the most widely used apps on the planet.

There are some unknowns here that Instagram don’t have an answer to. Not everyone is a great purveyor of arty, creative content. They’ll see the little engagement they have drop away and might this just cause them to drop off the platform all together? Possibly they’ll stop posting content that doesn’t fit the feed but still participate on the platform but this is a critical unknown.

The new Instagram will need to be adjusted to but you’ll accept it and move on pretty quickly. Or you’ll go through with your threats, delete social media and buy a heap of cats. But how will people know how cute your cats are if you don’t have Instagram anymore?

Are you dreading or looking forward to the new algorithm taking affect? I’d love to chat with you: Twitter & Instagram @jtowers1983 or introduce yourself on Snapchat @jt1983

By James Towers, founding partner, 16K Agency – Melbourne, Australia & Stockholm, Sweden.

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