I’ve never written a post like this before so here it goes… I’ll start by saying I love Instagram. It’s by far my favorite social platform, as a consumer and as a marketer (and as a part-time blogger). I’ll also preface this by acknowledging that I am not an example of every user of the platform, this is just my opinion and my experience.
Yesterday I read some news about Instagram. The platform is going to start showing content out of order and (eventually) narrow down to only show select content. Sound familiar? Think Facebook’s algorithm. So, today I’m asking Instagram to please reconsider.
First, Instagram, what you’re doing is working. Your year-to-year growth is significant. You hit 200,000 advertisers only five months after opening up your ad platform. Your user demographic is growing. Without having any form of ad, brands, bloggers and small businesses built and grew followings. Look at Alfred Coffee, one of the most Instagrammed coffee shops. Customers can’t go to an Alfred Coffee without Instagramming their experience — the stores are that pretty. Instagram helped grow their demand and (I’m guessing) even influenced how they decorate their stores.
Instagram, you have always set high standards for content. Instagram is a visual platform. No links, no annoying articles about politics, no copy posts complaining about something. If a brand joins Instagram and wants to be successful, it has to create stellar content. You set this standard and the users expect it. I push this for all of the brands I work on every single day. If the content is good and people are engaging, why take it away? Speaking of engagement, you are an industry leader in the category, driving significantly higher engagement than Facebook and Twitter. Instagram users clearly love the platform and the content. If this change is to get brands to spend more money, it’s not necessary. Brands will continue to spend especially as consumers continue to flock to the platform and seek out content.
Let’s look back at the history of brands on Facebook. Brands recognized the huge potential of the platform, joined, and started buying page likes (or fans). Once they grew a following through their ads, they could then post to their audience and would reach them every time. Brands started posting too frequently and sharing content that didn’t serve a purpose. Meanwhile, the newsfeed was becoming more and more crowded, both by brands and normal users. So, recognizing this, Facebook decreased brand organic reach and set in place the algorithm we know today, crafting the newsfeed based on content the individual wants to see. Is it perfect? No. But, it did force brands to really think about the content they are going to share. It couldn’t look like an ad, it couldn’t be a copy post about what their fans were doing that weekend, it had to serve a purpose and be a solution for the user.
But Instagram, you set this standard from the beginning. There are no like ads. Every follower grew because the brand was creating strong content. Consumers started sharing their own content as a way to engage with a brand. Now, some leading brands are sharing 75%+ user-generated content on their profiles. Consumers want to engage with the brand in this way, organically, and Instagram gives them the platform to do this. If the home feed narrows, this takes away a lot of that organic day-to-day engagement a consumer might see from a brand.
As a consumer on the platform, I hand-picked every friend, blogger, brand, retailer, dog account and family member I follow. I want to see their content every time I log on to the platform. I don’t want to miss it, and I don’t mind scrolling. In fact, I enjoy it. If an account I follow starts showing me content that I’m no longer interested in, I unfollow. It’s not hard.
I also want to speak to bloggers and small businesses. The Facebook algorithm really hurt bloggers. These bloggers had built a following through consistently publishing strong content. They deserve to reach their following. Instagram has become a huge platform not only for bloggers but people who have built influence exclusively on the platform. It is months and years of hard work and constantly creating and sharing strong content that grew their followings. Let them keep their followers. Small businesses have seen great success on Instagram. They don’t have the marketing budgets large brands do and have built their followings from the ground up using strong content and a lot of user-generated content. They earned every follower they have and deserve to keep them. Think of animal shelters sharing photos of pets available for adoption or a local photographer trying to share their unique take on the world. Should these posts be placed lower on a home feed or eventually removed completely?
Dear Instagram: I’ve always respected you as a company and a brand. You always think about your user and the content on your platform more than probably any other social channel. You have created a new culture of how we eat, how we take photos, how we share experiences. But please, don’t take away the content in my feed. I want it there. I clicked follow so it would be there. Instagram, I ask you to please go back to the company that spent a year and a half perfecting its advertising so the user-experience would be perfect. Don’t evolve into Facebook, it serves a whole different purpose.