Unless you’ve been living under a rock or are allergic to social media (or both), chances are good that you’ve heard about the changes Instagram has made to its app. (Or at least seen someone you follow post this picture.) To say the feedback has been less than positive is being kind. Nay, everyone from Kendall Jenner and John Mayer to the average joe is absolutely outraged about it. As an experienced digital marketer, I want to first say this: people need to stay calm and chill out. Making adjustments to websites or apps is very common (anyone remember Google’s Panda or Penguin updates?), and with such comes an adjustment period for both users and platform admin alike. And while Instagram’s update actually included a few adjustments, people seem to only be focusing on the alteration to their feed. In my professional (and hell, personal) opinion, this is only truly bad for a select group of users (and you wouldn’t want to follow these spambots, anyways). A bit of Twitter trolling, 36 hours of fiddling and years of dealing with algorithm changes has led me to the following conclusions as to what’s really good, bad and downright annoying about Instagram’s recent update.
I'd let a family member get swallowed by a dragon before I'd allow Instagram push notifications to come to my phone— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) March 28, 2016
If anyone has been paying attention (to my latest blog entry or otherwise), videos are currently the hottest type of content for users and marketers alike. Initially, Instagram only allowed users to post videos extending no more than 16 seconds in length. With the updates however, one now can share up to 60 seconds of video and this changes the game quite a bit for an app conceptualized around the idea of short, visual content and copy.
Now to address all you worried celebrities and those who are frantically posting images like the one featured on the bottom-right. Like I said previously, seeing Instagram’s adjustments to the user’s feed is only truly bad from certain points-of-view. History repeats itself in life, both on and offline. If this update is anything similar to Google and Facebook’s algorithm changes of recent years (and since the latter owns Instagram, I’d say chances are real good), one’s feed will not be altered nearly as much as people think. Search engines and social media platforms have one shared commonality and objective: to deliver updated, relevant and worthy content to users based on their personal preferences and connections. As such, other users with whom one often interacts with (digitally) or are interacted with heavily by one’s “followers” will still be prominently featured on the main feed — even if it isn’t in real time. (So don’t worry — you will still be able to like all of your college buddies throwback photos. Disaster averted.) This change truly only impacts the marketing side of things. I won’t deny that it will make it (slightly) more difficult for emerging businesses and brands to gain a following. HOWEVER, if that aforementioned business or brand posts unique high-quality content, engages their user base and is actually legit than I’d bet on Jim Harbaugh that yesterday’s Instagram feed update won’t impact its reach all. This alteration is actually targeting the spambots and crappy plagiarizers that use Black Hat techniques to boost their likes and follower counts. Ideally the goal was to weed out businesses and brands without value, while propelling accounts with value to the front of the line. So like I said, everyone can just go ahead and relax (unless your profile sucks, that is.)
the downright annoying
When taking the above explanation into account, one is left with only one awful and simply annoying side-effect of Instagram’s algorithm update. Some accounts discovered that the option to logout has been removed from the settings menu and seamlessly toggling between accounts has been suspended. It’s understandable why these users are far more upset by this then any alternation to their feed. I only noticed because it happened to me; but I will say, it is a true inconvenience. Most Instagram users maintain their personal profile alone and therefore likely didn’t even notice because they rarely (if ever) have a need to logout of their account. Users who regularly manage more than one account (think business owners, media types and marketers) were delighted when Instagram recently implemented a multiple login feature for up to five profiles. The time this long-awaited addition saves professionals like these is significant, to say the least. So it’s easy to understand our immense frustration upon discovering that not only has our brief convenience been snatched away, but logging out isn’t an option. The only way I have been able to switch to another profile is by completely deleting the app and reinstalling it, each and every time. Fortunately, Instagram’s immediate public acknowledgement of this gives us hope that it is an unintentional side-effect of their update that can be remedied quickly. However only time and a keen eye to detail will really tell what the social media impact will be, on professional and personal accounts alike.
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