If there is one thing that is to be expected in the world of social media, it’s that changes are inevitable. It seems like social media platforms are constantly changing something.
Now it’s Instagram’s turn. It’s time for an Instagram algorithm.
Instagram recently revealed that in the coming weeks – or months – they will be introducing a news feed algorithm that changes the order in which posts are organized within users feeds.
If you are like many other Instagram users, this may have caused a little bit of a moment of panic. Especially if you are currently using Instagram as part of your real estate marketing activities.
In this post I am going to break down the “why” behind the change, what it is that they are actually changing, and how it is going to affect you and your real estate marketing.
Why Instagram is Making the Change
In an interview with the New York Times, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom says, “On average, people miss about 70 percent of the posts in their Instagram feed.”
Why is that?
With over 400 million active monthly users, Instagram may not be the biggest social media network, but it is one of the fastest growing. While this growth has been great for the platform, it has meant that some of the things that used to work well no longer produce the same results.
The news feed is a perfect example of this.
One of the things that has set Instagram apart from it’s big brother, Facebook, is that up until now users news feeds have shown 100% of the posts posted by all of the users they follow.
The way that Instagram has organized these posts up until now is with reverse chronological order.
When you log into Instagram and look at your news feed you are seeing the most recent post from all of your followers. As you scroll down you will see each and every post that each of the people you follow has posted, each one older than the previous.
The further you scroll down the page, the further back in time you go.
The great thing about this type of news feed set up is it allows you to see 100% of all the posts that have been posted by the accounts that you have chosen to follow.
However, now that Instagram has grown much larger and most users on the platform are following more people than ever before, the ability for a user to see all the posts from the accounts that they follow has started to become unrealistic.
Let’s break it down into simple math…
If you follow 100 users on Instagram, and each of those users posts on average 3 times per day, you would have to scroll through 300 posts every single day to see 100% of the content that has been posted by all the accounts you follow.
Assuming that you have the time and desire to scroll through that many posts you would be able to see everything. But that’s if you just have 100 users you follow.
What if you follow 1,000 users? Or 5,000 users?
You can see how the numbers could become a bit overwhelming as you follow more and more people.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time in my day to scroll through 300 posts, yet alone 3,000 or 15,000.
There has to be a better way to approach your news feed so that you can see the things that are important to you without unfollowing all the other accounts that may be a little less important to you….right?
That is the question that led Instagram to work on implementing a news feed algorithm.
What Is Actually Changing?
As of right now the change that Instagram is working on is to create a news feed algorithm that would rearrange the order posts appear in the feed.
Unlike big brother Facebook, Instagram is not going to be limiting the amount of content that appears in the news feed.
At least not yet…
Many people believe this is just the first step towards that type of an algorithm being implemented on Instagram, and they may be right.
Instagram’s goal – at least for now – is to create better organization of the content that is displayed in your news feed so that the posts you see first are the ones that are the most important to you.
Remember how I mentioned earlier that on average Instagram users miss 70% of the posts in their news feed?
Instagram isn’t making this change to address those 70% of posts. They understand that the quantity of content available is overwhelming. Not every post can be seen by every user.
According to Kevin Systrom, “What this is about is making sure that the 30 percent you see is the best 30 percent possible.”
How are they going to do this?
Rather than using the current reverse chronological order, posts will now be displayed with a personalized relevancy order.
In the current set up, posts at the top of your news feed are based upon when they were posted. If you happen to log into Instagram at a time that the accounts that are most important to you are not posting, you may miss their posts – assuming you don’t scroll down the feed far enough to find them.
With the new algorithm, the posts that are displayed at the top of your news feed will be based off Instagrams estimation of how likely you are to enjoy seeing and interacting with the post. As you move down the feed you will see all the posts from all the accounts your follow, organized by your estimated interest in the content.
What Does This Change Mean For You?
First and foremost it is important to note that this change isn’t happening right away. According to Instagram they are going to “take time to get this right and listen to your feedback along the way. You’ll see this new experience in the coming months.”
Since being announced on March 21st 2016, Instagram has received quite a bit of backlash from a number of their users.
A petition to “keep Instagram chronological” is currently on Change.org and it has over 330,000 signatures as of the time of this post. Other Instagram petitions and calls to boycott Instagram are all over the internet.
So does this mean that these changes won’t be put into effect?
While people claim that they will boycott Instagram if they make these changes, the likelihood that they actually do is extremely small. I would even say closer to non-existent.
In fact, after the changes are implemented and users get used to the new algorithm it is more likely that most Instagram users will like the platform better than before.
But that doesn’t mean there won’t be some growing pains with getting used to the changes.
As a real estate agent there are 2 things that you need to know about dealing with these Instagram changes:
#1 – Notifications: To Use or Not To Use
You may have already seen a number of users already posting images encouraging you to
“turn on notifications” for their account so that you don’t miss anything.
Should you do the same?
While this will help to make sure that users see all of your posts, it is equally as likely that it will annoy them.
There seems to be a misunderstanding of what notifications are. Many people seem to think that by encouraging their followers to turn on notifications, their followers will just see their posts more often within the Instagram app.
But that’s not the purpose of notifications.
When you turn notifications on for an account you follow, you will receive a text-message style notification on your phone each time that user posts something. If differs depending on the type of phone that you have, but notifications will come through the same way they do when someone comments on or likes a post you posted.
These type of notifications are helpful in that scenario, but can you imagine if you turned on notifications for even a handful of accounts who posted a few times per day?
Your phone would be going crazy with notifications.
It is up to each user if they want to have notifications turned on or not, but encouraging followers to turn them on for your account could lead to them getting frustrated and ultimately unfollowing you.
The other thing to consider is the fact that these notifications are completely unneeded with the new algorithm.
Think about it…
Almost anyone who would be willing to receive notifications for every single thing you post is probably pretty engaged with your account already. Since the goal of the new updates is to feature posts that user will be most likely to “like” or engage with at the top of their feed, there will be no need for them to receive notifications as well.
The only people that it would be helpful for are those who are not likely to “like” or engage with your content, as a way of getting it in front of them more in hopes that they will begin to engage with it eventually.
The problem with this?
If a user doesn’t currently “like” a lot of your content or engage with it often they are also unlikely to want to receive notifications from you for every single thing you post.
Asking your followers to turn on notifications may mean frustrating the ones who are currently the most interest in your material, and still failing to reach the ones who aren’t.
So if notifications aren’t the solution, what is?
#2 – Content is King. Engagement is Queen
You may have heard the saying “content is king” before, and in the case of the Instagram algorithm change it is more true than ever before.
The changes to the news feed mean that posts Instagram believes the user will “like” or engage with are prioritized and put at the top of the user’s feed.
Want your content to appear at the top of users feeds?
Create content that inspires the users who follow you to engage with it. Focus on quality over quantity.
Create content that is “likeable” and worthy of comments.
But engagement is not just a one way road…
Creating great content by itself does not guarantee that users will begin to engage with it.
One of the best ways to get users to begin “liking” and engaging with your content is to begin interacting with them on theirs.
Search for users who fit into your audience and begin interacting with them on their page. Like and comment on their posts.
But remember – quality over quantity. That applies to your interactions just as much as it applies to your posts.
Don’t be that person that leaves the “awesome” or “amazing” comment on every single post you comment on. Add a valuable comment or question on the post. Doing so will help you to stand out to that user. As a result it may lead to them coming over to your profile to follow you and engage with your posts.
Have you ever heard the saying, “if you want to have a good friend, first you must become a good friend”?
It’s kind of like that on Instagram – and all other social media platforms for that matter. If you want others to engage with you, if you want them to like your posts & leave valuable comments, first you need to do the same for them.
The changes that are coming to the Instagram news feed in the upcoming weeks or months are going to change the platform. They are going to change the way you approach your Instagram marketing strategy.
But at the same time they are not going to…
Up until this point Instagram has been one of the easier networks to build a following on. With per-follower engagement rates of 4.21% Instagram sees 58 times more engagement than Facebook, and 120 times more engagement than Twitter.
So are these changes going to change that?
Yes. And No.
It all depends on how you have been marketing on Instagram up until this point.
If you have been taking advantage of how easy it is to grow a following and get engagement on Instagram by putting out content that is just okay, then yes it is going to change things for you. You won’t be able to do that anymore.
But if you have been creating great content and engaging with others, then no. Keep doing what you have been doing.
Create great content. Interact with others. Be social. Don’t be “sales-y”.
In fact, if you approach your Instagram marketing in this way the change to the Instagram algorithm may even help you out.
The algorithm changes are going to make Instagram a better platform. They are going to ensure that those who are truly interested in and engaging with your content will be more likely to see it more often.
These Instagram algorithm changes will help to ensure that you are included in the 30% of content that your true fans see.
Get excited about these changes, and more importantly get excited about the future of marketing on Instagram. This year – as well as the next few years to come – seems very promising for using Instagram as a major weapon in your real estate marketing arsenal.