The Instagram Algorithm is Coming — Why it Matters (or not?) & What to Do About It

Remember how last week I said that Instagram isn’t social media? Well, it’s certainly getting blown up on all of the other social channels this week for announcing that they’re going to use an algorithm to curate your news feed.

Pretty much any time a major network tweaks even the smallest feature, the internet grabs their pitchforks and demand the head of whoever they believe is messing with the “real” experience. The last time we saw that on Instagram was when they allowed photo-uploading. Since then, they’ve been the internet’s darling, especially once they allowed us to switch between accounts without logging out.

Then they went and did something like this, and some people are saying that there will be no redeeming themselves.

Here’s what’s got everyone so upset:

  1. Instagram gets popular (like, crazy-popular)
  2. Instagram sees engagement rates dropping
  3. They attribute that to people missing as much as 70% of posts
  4. Solution: Use an algorithm to surface the content that they’ll like most
  5. Outcome: They’ll like more stuff
  6. Bonuses for everyone!

But why are they so mad? People are saying that the reason that they love Instagram so much is because it’s a real-time representation of what the people they follow are up to.

I don’t buy it.

Most of the posts that we see are already Thrown Back, Flashed Back, or just pulled from old albums that show us doing something more interesting than sitting on our couches trying to figure out what to post.

And that’s just individuals. What about brands?

We’re notorious for posting out of sequence — of shooting one day, then posting weeks (or even months) later.

But that’s what makes Instagram awesome.

It’s an escape. A beautiful scroll through the highlights of our lives where we get to see each other at our best, funniest, happiest. When breaking news happens, or any sporting event is going on and you want to see what’s happening in the moment, the best source (and it’s not even close) is Twitter.

So what does that mean for us?

If you believe Instagram, the algorithm is going to treat people, organizations, brands, etc. all the same. Right now there is only one class of Instagram account, so they are claiming that they’ll be surfacing the content that’s most likely to resonate, regardless of the source.

If that’s true, then we’re actually better off, because we’re all out there creating great stuff (right?).

Remember, however, that these are the same people who told us all to invest in Facebook Page Likes before they pulled the algorithmic rug out from under our feet.

Regardless of the outcome, there are two things that we all should be be doing to plan for the end of chronological-Instagram:

  1. Step up our content game. This should be happening anyways, but if Instagram really does agnostically promote the best content, then the best of us could actually benefit from the update.
  2. Look at Instagram as an advertising opportunity. Out of the Facebook-disaster came one shining positive: The brands that created great ads and targeted them intelligently got some bananas results because they were the only brand messages in most people’s feeds (and most promoted posts were brutal).

If you’re relatively new to this digital marketing world, then welcome: This is how things roll around here. Massive, business-altering changes are as common as inside jokes in Silicon Valley. Speaking of the Pied Piper crew, the season 3 trailer just dropped, and it looks pretty phenomenal, so that’s how I’m going to leave you this week: A bit pissed at Instagram, somewhat optimistic about what Insta-ads might bring, and more excited than ever to see which VCs get roasted this season:

Originally published at

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.