The new Instagram: bad for brands, good for content

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 4 April 2016
Instagram fitness guru Kayla Itsines

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The recent Instagram algorithm change will push users to create better content which stands to impact positively on influencers, however brands may struggle to adapt as they have been more likely to see the social media app as an advertising platform rather than as a creative space, according to social marketing experts.

While many people have been quick to predict the death of Instagram as it follows in Facebook’s footsteps, Tribe founder Jules Lund tells influencers to ‘suck it up’ as the update rewards unique content.

In 2013 Facebook changed its algorithm, making it a “pay to play” platform which reduced organic reach from 16% of followers in 2012 to 11% in 2015, according to Facebook.

Speaking to AdNews, Lund said: “Traditionally brand accounts on the platform attract lower engagement than influencers, therefore now brands will appear less in feeds.”

We Are Social managing director Suzie Shaw agreed, saying influencers won’t be penalised by the changes because they already produce high quality, engaging content. However, brands will need to refocus and consider increasing influencer activity.

“Instagram has made a smart move with the update, rewarding good content in a previously democratised space,” The Remarkables founder Lorraine Murphy said.

“It’s bad for brands who haven’t been putting energy into ads. Creative content always comes first.”

The change will see brands pushed towards creating engaging content that is native to the platform and while Instagrammers have been asking followers to “turn on notifications” to receive a notification for every new post, most social experts don’t believe that’s the answer.

There are sugestions that more Instagram users will now migrate to Snapchat giving marketers even more reason to move into that space.

“Brands will move away from Instagram once they realise they are losing the organic reach numbers they have become accustomed to,” Social Soup CEO Sharyn Smith said. “But brands should be looking at Snapchat regardless if they are moving away from Instagram because of what it can do for storytelling.”

While influencer marketing companies are strategising how to use Snapchat, with Lund’s startup Tribe “exploring possibilities,” it seems no one has nailed how to use the platform yet. Social Soup is currently in the process of recruiting a “level of social boosters” of Snapchat influencers, which it plans to launch in three months.

“If brands can become part of those authentic moments that people share, that’s how they’ll infiltrate Snapchat,” Smith said.

Behind the news

Snapchat has been hailed the future of social media, with Lund (and every other creative in adland) calling it “the app of 2016”. So will Instagram’s changes see influencer marketers finally get serious about Snapchat?

Brands have been playing and dipping their toes in the water, but no one has yet jumped in. With Social Soup bringing on a new level of “social booster” Snapchat influencers, it seems at least one Australian company is finally walking the walk.

However, others are still learning to crawl and most brands and marketers aren’t getting there quickly enough.

With global consulting firm McKinsey estimating digital and social advertising will account for nearly 40% of all advertising spend ($122bn) and users set to move away from Instagram as organic reach drops, influencer marketers need to be doing more than “exploring possibilities”.

If you don’t have a Snapchat strategy already, you’re late to the game.

But in this case, it’s possibly better to never be in the game than have bad content.

Snapchat’s main aim is to emulate “natural” human experiences and influencer marketers are in the business of authenticity, so they should be in a unique position to cut through on the platform, if they get it right.

Now is the time to invest. But it better be good.

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