I follow a lot of small businesses on Instagram.
Bespoke jewellers, illustrators, independent fashion designers, sculptors, furniture designers, tattoo artists… It’s where they have their communities.
Instagram is such a visual medium and the way it works (a fast emotion-led double tap to store it in your liked posts forever) has made it a very loving place to be a creative.
And yet! Instagram is planning on changing our timelines from chronological (as they happen) to ‘curated’. That bloomin’ word again. This means people you interact with less will be given less prominence. Small businesses with fewer followers will fall behind.
What on earth is the point of this?
You may well ask. As with everything Instagram has done since they started trying to make it a money machine, it’s blatantly about advertising.
They want to give higher priority to brands with big followings – Starbucks, Coca-Cola, American Apparel – because those guys spend money.
The same thing happened with Facebook, and small businesses struggled to keep their heads above the tides of paying promoters.
Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom reckons users miss about 70% of the posts in their feeds, so “this is about making sure that the 30% you see is the best 30% possible.”
Well KEVIN, most Instagram users I know actually scroll through their feeds morning and night to catch up on all the accounts THEY CHOSE to follow. The accounts they relate to and enjoy.
How would you feel about Instagram switching to an algorithmic feed?
— FutureShift (@futureshift) March 15, 2016
The moral of the story
We think we own these platforms because we’ve customised them and flooded them with our content. But at the end of the day, they’re owned by corporations that need to make money.
Several ‘walk-outs’ have been doing the rounds – “Boycott Instagram for 24 hours to show them what happens when they mess with our feeds!!!” – but the fact of the matter is: we’re a captive audience. We’re obsessed. Small businesses can’t leave because their fanbases are there, their entire business history is there.
Illustrator Mab Graves’ plea to Instagram
“Oh no Instagram, please don’t do this. As you guys have probably heard, Instagram announced it’s going to be changing their news feed algorithm from chronological based to popularity based algorithm on what their computers think you want to see. One of the reasons I love Instagram is its equal platform for all artists – big and small – and I want to fight to preserve that. Just because you are new and no one knows you, doesn’t mean your content [should] be pushed to the bottom of the pile.”
What you can do if you rely on Instagram for brand building
1. Ask your followers to turn on notifications for your posts
Users can tap the three-dot symbol on one of your posts to turn on notifications for when you post stuff. It’s not the greatest solution but they’ll understand why. And remember – they’re following you because they want to see your posts!
2. Encourage people to interact with your posts
Instagram’s infamous new algorithm is based on social signals. Ask your followers to interact with you but make sure you’re interacting with THEM too, in your comments. It all counts as good buzz around your business and will make people want to heart and comment more.Instagram may be ditching chronological timelines - a huge blow for #smallbusiness Click To Tweet