Instagram has confirmed that it is currently testing an algorithm update on ‘selected users’ with the conclusion to effectively remove the original chronologically-ordered news feed.
The photo sharing platform has claimed that this move is designed to ‘optimise’ the user experience by displaying the moments that users care about the most, but that hasn't gone down well with the platform’s user base, with an online petition gaining more than 200,000 signatures at the time of writing.
However, Instagram’s decision is a move designed to enhance its appeal to advertisers, following the example set by Twitter and Facebook.
An ad-focused social media platform
Chronological content streams are not optimised for advertising revenue. Ad content does not stay within the feed for long enough to make an impression, and a chronological feed does not provide advertisers with enough analysis and analytics to target, optimise and appraise their advertising strategy.
An algorithm that better understands the likes and behaviours of a target audience makes the platform much more attracting to advertisers, but there is also another factor that will help the platform to raise revenues.
An algorithm allows the platform to control the organic reach of every piece of content that is published and, as we have seen with Facebook, a constraining of organic reach is a huge incentive for brands to pay to get their content seen.
What about influencer engagement?
Instagram has become a key platform for influencer engagement, and brand influencers now make a significant proportion of the network’s user base and a number of brands, particularly in fields such as cosmetics, fashion, travel and tech, use these as a key marketing channel.
Crucially, Instagram doesn’t see any of that revenue.
It raises questions over if, and how, the organic reach of these key influencers will be impacted. That poses serious questions for the influencer engagement strategies adopted by these brands. This will be an interesting development to watch.