A few weeks back, at SXSW, rumors were circulating that Instagram was looking to release a new option which would enable users to switch back to a chronological feed, if they so wished. Instagram denied the report, but it seems it may not have been far off, as this week, the platform has announced two new tools to help connect users with most recent content, in variance to the current algorithm-defined process.
As explained by Instagram:
“We’ve heard it can feel unexpected when your feed refreshes and automatically bumps you to the top. So today we’re testing a “New Posts” button that lets you choose when you want to refresh, rather than it happening automatically. Tap the button and you’ll be taken to new posts at the top of feed — don’t tap, and you’ll stay where you are. We hope this makes browsing Instagram much more enjoyable.”
This is similar to how the feed process works on other social apps – LinkedIn and Twitter for example - and will give users a way to stay up on the latest content, as opposed to what the algorithm has decided you probably want to see.
Instagram’s algorithmic feed has been widely criticized by users for unearthing much older content. I mean, in terms of ‘widely criticized’, the app’s still gained some 300 million more users since the implementation of the algorithm, and is being used more than ever – but then, also, Instagram Stories has been introduced since then, along with various other tools and options. While the feed remains the backbone of the app, Instagram has evolved a lot further than just the main listing.
In addition to a new option to better highlight newer posts, Instagram’s also updating the algorithm itself to put more emphasis on recency.
“Based on your feedback, we’re also making changes to ensure that newer posts are more likely to appear first in feed. With these changes, your feed will feel more fresh, and you won’t miss the moments you care about. So if your best friend shares a selfie from her vacation in Australia, it will be waiting for you when you wake up.”
It’s a something of a concession on Instagram’s part that its AI system isn’t serving users as well as it could be. Maybe that’s because the way in which people use Instagram is different to how they approach Facebook, with an expectation for more new content. Or maybe Instagram is simply responding to user data, and taking into account consistent feedback around the algorithm. Either way, it’s a small win for those longing for a return to ‘old school’ Insta.
In terms of brand impacts, providing new ways to unearth fresh content puts more emphasis on timeliness, and ensuring that you’re posting your Instagram updates when your audience is most active. You can get such insights from your Instagram analytics, enabling you to reach your followers when they’re at peak. That time will obviously vary from business to business, and if Instagram is going to make this a bigger focus, you will need to ensure you monitor your engagement data.
It seems like a good move from Instagram, a compromise to appeal to its audience base. And while it won’t satisfy everyone, it should be well received.
A positive news story for the Facebook-owned app, at a time where Zuck and Co very much need one.