A little over a year ago Instagram updated to an algorithmic feed rather than the chronological feed we all knew and loved. This change caused an uproar in the social marketing community, and left many photographers scratching their heads wondering how they would reach their audience.
Well this move appears to have payed off big. The platform’s “growth rate spiked, sharing per user increased, and Instagram has added 200 million monthly active users since to reach 700 million.” said TechCrunch’s Josh Constine.
The algorithmic feed was designed to show viewers content that is most relevant to them based on browsing habits. If you comment or like a user’s photos frequently, then the algorithm will show you their content more frequently. If you stop commenting or liking their content, that user will slowly disappear from your feed.
The algorithm also takes in to account popularity and timing. If a user you follow posts a photo that receives a lot of comments and likes quickly from the time it was posted, the algorithm will make the assumption that this is popular content and will show it to more of their followers. This of course has a snowball effect with the algorithm showing the photo to more and more people sometimes squashing other posts from being seen at all.
This tactic is taken directly from the Facebook playbook. When they rolled out their algorithmic feed, the change in user experience was met with some resistance, but has now become the way of life. It has also become hugely profitable to the company, so why not apply it to the other property they own, Instagram.
From a photographer’s perspective, it has become a pay-to-play ecosystem. If you want your posts to be seen, you’ll either have to create amazing content that goes viral, or pay for placement.
As you can imagine the algorithmic feed is not popular among photographers. What was once a level playing field where all individuals, celebrities, and brands had an equal opportunity to get their content seen by their followers, has now become a battleground between popularity contests and big budgets.
The algorithmic feed is here to stay, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube all use it and the pay-to-play model has become an intricate part of their businesses.
Don’t let the ever changing landscape of social media discourage you from using these technologies. With a little effort, creative content and some strategic planning, you will see results for your business.
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Founder of Current Photographer, co-host of The Digital Photography Cafe Show, Designer, Photographer, and overall tech geek.