Instagram’s switch from a chronological timeline to an algorithmic feed will force brands to be more focused in how they use the social media platform, say PR pros.
Rather than optimizing a post purely on its popularity or performance, Instagram’s algorithm will take into account the relationship a poster and viewer have and reward users for interacting with each other. The social media platform announced the timeline tweak in mid-March, saying it would roll out the changes in the "coming months."
The change will put more pressure on brands to create compelling content, ending the days of "filler" posts, says Katie Miller, social media director at Olson Engage.
She adds that brands need to take a step back to get to know their audiences and find ways to add value to their feeds. This could mean posting less content each week or changing the types of images that are published.
"The change to the algorithm means brands need to focus on interaction, engagement, and influencers," says Scott Monty, CEO of his eponymous firm, Scott Monty Strategies.
Specifically, the way brands work with influencers will change due to Instagram’s update, says communications consultant Jeremy Pepper.
"Influencers will no longer be able to be hired based on their numbers of followers but based on engagement, which is a good thing for marketing, as it might shake up the pricing and show who really has an audience and who just has numbers," he says.
As a result, Instagram influencers are not happy about the impending changes and have been complaining on social media.
Keds CMO Emily Culp adds that it is imperative brands partner with bloggers who have "meaningful and authentic" relationships with their followers to ensure their content is being seen and valued.
To generate "real engagement," influencers and brands will need to work closely to ensure that the content is of genuine interest to the audience, says Crowdtap's Claudia Page, VP of platform growth and creator partnerships.
"Engagement will be key to ensuring that influencer content is not lost in the shuffle as Instagram begins to prioritize content based on an algorithm," she says.
InkHouse CEO Beth Monaghan adds that moving away from the timeline format makes earned traction on any social platform more difficult from a marketing standpoint, which tends to lead to more paid posts.
"Since Facebook owns Instagram, it’s not surprising to see Instagram move in this direction," she says.
What Instagram’s changes to video length mean for brands
Instagram said this week that it is extending the time limit for videos posted on its platform to one minute from 15 seconds. But experts say brands need to be smart about how they take advantage.
Monty explains that brands and influencers will benefit from the extension due to more options for creativity and deeper storytelling.
Pepper, however, notes that 15-second videos actually required more creativity, as brands could not just repurpose content they may have used on other sites.
"Hopefully brands and agencies will be smart about it, and use sparingly for live events or exclusive clips and not just reuse across platforms," he says.
Miller adds that just because brands have more time available, it does not mean they should use it.
"Most of the data we’re seeing suggests users want shorter content, and there’s not a lot of evidence large numbers of Instagram users are enabling sound on the videos they do watch," she says. "So if you’re going to put a 60-second video on that channel, you need to have a pretty good reason."