By Alex Gladu, Writer, Independent We Stand
Social media’s most visual storytelling platform is about to get a lot more complex. At the end of March, Instagram announced several changes that it would begin rolling out to enhance its network of more than 400 million users and 40 billion photos. Among them are new ways for posts to be displayed in a user’s news feed and new options for users looking to share video content.
Despite these changes, though, Instagram shouldn’t get much more complicated for end users, whether they’re businesses, influencers or consumers. For one thing, although social media erupted with frenzy when the changes were announced, Instagram has assured its users that the changes will be made gradually. Additionally, the changes will ultimately bring Instagram more in line with its larger, more robust parent platform, Facebook. The result could be a more useful platform for businesses looking to use social media efficiently and effectively.
A Facebook-like Algorithm
By far the most talked-about change is the algorithm update that Instagram has started to explore. In the past, posts had been shown to users in chronological order, without any preference shown to posts that receive the most engagement. Now, Instagram has begun testing a new algorithm that could change that.
With the addition of an updated algorithm, posts would be displayed in a user’s feed based on engagement and relevance. In other words, the most relevant and most popular posts would appear at the top of a user’s feed, while other posts would appear lower in the feed. This is how posts are currently organized in Facebook feeds.
When the algorithm update was announced, users worried that their content would no longer be seen by followers. If you’re on Instagram, you probably saw several posts asking you to “turn on notifications” in order to continue seeing certain posts under the new algorithm. This isn’t entirely necessary, though, as Instagram has assured that all posts will still populate in a user’s feed; it’s just the order that might change.
To prepare for the algorithm change, you don’t necessarily need to ask your followers to turn on their post notifications. Rather, the algorithm should challenge you to be more thoughtful in your posting. Share content that is truly representative of your business and uniquely engaging to ensure that your posts appear near the top of feeds. Use hashtags strategically, finding relevant trending hashtags whenever possible to garner reach in your posts.
Instagram for Business
Instagram’s business platform has also lagged behind Facebook’s. Now, the photo-sharing network has upgraded its business services by launching Instagram for Business on Facebook. The page gives Instagram’s advertisers the opportunity to learn from Instagram’s experts and ask questions on a platform that might be more familiar to them, Facebook.
If your business is already on Instagram, now is an ideal time to learn more about Instagram for Business, which allows you to place ads – or “sponsored” posts – on the platform. If you’re not already on Instagram, the new Instagram community for businesses on Facebook could convince you to join the rapidly growing community of ‘grammers. Like the Facebook page to receive updates that could affect the way your business uses social media.
More Video Options
Finally, Instagram has announced that it will soon give users, particularly those using an iOS device, new options for sharing video content. The platform has long maintained a 15-second limit on video content, giving users little time to get their messages across in video form. Soon, Instagram will increase the limit to 60 seconds. That means longer videos and more flexibility for businesses looking to advertise on Instagram. Certainly, 60 seconds still requires users to condense their messages into brief videos, however, the new limit does mean that most TV spots would fit into an Instagram post, giving businesses greater opportunity to repurpose content from other platforms.
In addition to longer videos, Instagram will also change the way that users can create videos. If you’re using an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, you’ll soon be able to create videos from multiple clips on your camera roll. In other words, users can be more creative and more efficient about video. If you have two clips that you need to combine for one video, Instagram will soon do the work for you.
Although Instagram’s updates caused a stir on social media immediately after they were announced, the functionality of the platform should remain almost entirely the same for end users. What changes do come will offer businesses new ways to share content and new opportunities to learn from the platform. The result will likely be a more effective system for engaging with fans on one of social media’s biggest networks.