Websites are always changing and adapting to the ever-evolving landscape of the Internet. Staying up-to-date on social network news in particular can be difficult. These days it seems like every business actively manages at least one social media account regardless as to whether they are B2B or B2C focused. And why wouldn’t they? Besides being free to join, social media platforms give brands the opportunity to market directly to their target audience in a comfortable setting.

But here’s what a lot of brands tend to forget about social media: users aren’t on social sites for brands, they’re on there for their friends and family. Users don’t want their feeds flooded with a long list of ads, coupons, deals, and flyers from brands. Algorithms prevent this by displaying content people care about most at the top of their feeds. When this happens, posts are not in a perfect chronological order.

Instagram is the latest platform to announce a change to their algorithm, and a lot of people are angry about it. We explain the Instagram changes below, and what they mean for your social media marketing strategy.

What exactly are these Instagram Changes Everyone’s Talking About?

Instagram will be reordering the posts of those you follow. Currently, a user’s feed displays in reverse chronological order, with the most recent post at the top. The new algorithm, however, will display what Instagram thinks you’ll care about most at the top instead.
The order in which a post appears boils down to three main factors:

  1. The likelihood you’ll be interested in the post

  2. Your relationships with the user who’s posting

  3. The timeliness of the post

What have Facebook & Twitter done before them?

Social network news regarding “cataclysmic” algorithm updates are nothing new. Facebook implemented a similar update to its News Feed feature years ago. The social media giant acquired Instagram in 2012, so it’s no surprise it’s creating an Instagram algorithm as well.

Twitter has also implemented something similar. Users can refresh their feeds, which puts their tweets back in reverse chronological order. Or, users can opt out of the reordering altogether.

Why are they doing this?

Instagram has grown significantly since its creation in 2010, now boasting over 400 million users. With more people on the site, there’s more people to follow. This results in a long session of endless scrolling for users who want to view all the posts. In its current state, Instagram claims that on average users miss 70 percent of their feeds. Ultimately, these Instagram changes were made for the same reason Facebook and Twitter changed before it: to improve user experience.

How are the users reacting to the new Instagram algorithm?

People usually don’t like changes to things they love. Some fear that Instagram (and Twitter) are becoming too much like Facebook, slowly losing the features which make them unique. Additionally, some people predict the only posts they’ll end up seeing first are from highly popular accounts—such as celebrities (looking at you, Kim Kardashian)—that have a lot of likes and comments, rather than their friends who might get only a few likes.

Brands have enjoyed the luxury of marketing themselves for free on Instagram, and worry those days are over. Companies fear they will now have to pay for every post in order to be seen, especially small businesses who don’t have big social media budgets (let alone one at all).

Will everything be okay?

Yes, but only if brands remember one of the most important things when creating posts: quality matters more than ever, and that won’t be changing. Isn’t that a good thing? Brands should always be creative and thoughtful when developing social content, giving followers something they want to see and will care about.

Social networks are made up of people interacting with others, so make your posts about people, not always about your product. Reply to users who comment on your photos and videos. Strike up a conversation and answer questions they have.

In spite of these changes, don’t be afraid to add a simple call to action in your captions to get more engagement, so long as it’s not too pushy. And, if there’s a few extra bucks in your budget, try boosting some posts that utilize Facebook’s ad targeting capabilities to reach a few more potential followers—and customers!