Last weekend, people on Instagram started losing their minds about the possibility of the soon to be released algorithm restricting their audience reach. And that concern's definitely understandable - the introduction of the News Feed algorithm on Facebook, the parent company of Instagram, has limited the reach of brand Pages significantly, with most now lucky to be reaching 16% of their fans. Logic would then follow that Instagram's algorithm could do the same, and businesses who've spent years cultivating their Instagram audience, painstakingly creating and posting specifically honed content, are rightfully fearful that all those efforts could go to waste.
Of course, that's not likely to happen - for one, Instagram doesn't have brand pages, which means they can't treat brand content different to that of individual users the way Facebook does. But also, the platforms themselves are seeking to provide the best user experience - if they're able to deliver the content each user wants to see, that boosts the time spent on platform, giving them more opportunities to monetize that audience. As such, Instagram's algorithm is going to be focused on giving each person more of what they want, whether that's from brands or from their friends.
If your content is resonating, if your audience is engaging with your posts, if you're delivering what your Instagram followers want to see, then you likely don't have anything to fear from the coming algorithm. If you're not, you need to up your game.
Simple, right? Just be better. Just do good stuff.
Of course, it's not that simple. Instagram's a platform fuelled by creative expression and art - and getting better at art is not something that you can necessarily just do. But there are a heap of great examples on the platform, a heap of demonstrations of creative expression and visual styles that can help you unlock your full Insta potential and expand your on-platform presence by adopting different ways of thinking.
And lucky for you, Facebook's recently collected a whole series of them in their 'Pub in Pub' series, highlighting some of Instagram's best creators and how they go about doing what they do (they talk to them in a pub, if you were wondering about the title).
Here are some of the key lessons shared in the video series, which, hopefully, will get you thinking about how you, too, can look at things from a new angle and build a better Instagram presence as a result.
1. Share Your Personality
Brock Davis, an artist and the Executive Creative Director at space150, advises that your work needs to connect with people on a human level.
"I think they can see when an idea feels like there's a life to it, like there's a little soul connected to it"
A photo posted by Brock Davis (@brockdavis) on Feb 12, 2014 at 8:11pm PST
Davis' images have an immediate familiarity and fun to them, taking common, every day items and looking at them in a different way. And while the concept of inserting more human connection into your Instagram content can seem somewhat abstract, the idea is that you let your imagination loose when considering your images. Anyone can do static product shots and framed, staged pieces, but what can you do that's different, that looks at the subject in a way others may not have thought of?
2. Explore Your Passion
Jason Peterson of Havas Worldwide says that Instagram creators need to tune into the passion you have, or that others have, for specific subjects and talk their language.
"Whatever your personal interest is, there's micro-communities that live within Instagram you know, you've got to target those"
A photo posted by follow me into the dark (@jasonmpeterson) on Feb 7, 2016 at 8:54pm PST
Peterson's content stems from a place of learning the user experience, understanding what's of interest to each brand community by getting to know them. Peterson highlights the importance of authenticity, of really knowing your audience, and the best way to do that is to be one of them, to see things from their perspective. What immediately grabs you about a product? What does it immediately make you think and feel? What stands out to you when you look at a scene? That could be a good place to start in thinking about how to present it in visual form.
3. Make People Stop Scrolling
Jessica Walsh from Sagmeister & Walsh notes that the challenge of Instagram is to make people stop scrolling by grabbing their attention - and that striking approach is clearly evident in her work.
A photo posted by Jessica Walsh (@jessicavwalsh) on Apr 18, 2015 at 3:18pm PDT
What Walsh does better than most is she takes a simple idea and gives it a new look. The above image is a perfect example - how many times have you seen inspirational quotes on Instagram in those same, basic fonts and formats? Walsh has thought this through and come up with a new way to present a similar idea, a way that makes it immediately active, alive. It makes you stop because it's a new perspective, and that kind of creativity - thinking of interesting new ways to display your content - can take your posts to another level.
4. Create Striking, Stand-Out Content
Birdy Ben, the Founder and Creative Director of ELMØ (El Motion Lab), takes a slightly different approach, with his focus on animation and bringing Instagram content to life.
A video posted by ELMØ (@elmotionlab) on Aug 9, 2015 at 8:26am PDT
While not everyone will be able to create video content of the level of quality displayed here, the core of Birdy Ben's approach is in standing out - using bright colours and striking visuals to make an impression and, again, make people stop scrolling to take a look. High quality images are definitely important on Instagram, producing image content that looks great, that has an attention to detail that people can feel. But in composing quality images, why not also look to try something new and different, try to stand out with colors and effects that grab attention. And even if you can't create videos on the same scale as Birdy Ben, given the amount of video editing tools and options available these days, it's highly likely that you can create interesting, simple video content that can help you stand out.
5. Do Something That Hasn't Been Done Before
Andrew Zolty, the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer at Breakfast, outlines a more ambitious use of Instagram in his video, underlining the lesson of trying to think of something that's never been done before.
Zolty and his team were behind a campaign for Forever21 where people could use a hashtag on Instagram and have their Instagram image re-created in thread.
This is the F21 Thread Screen. Give it a go at f21threadscreen.com
A video posted by BREAKFAST (@breakfastny) on Jul 22, 2015 at 6:44am PDT
Of course, you definitely can't create a machine that re-creates your Instagram images from 6400 spools of thread, but the lesson here is more about the ambitiousness of the project, of thinking beyond what the platform is commonly used for and considering ways to amplify it. Creative ideas like interactive games on Instagram where posts are linked through tags - different use-cases like that can generate engagement in a way that others might not have considered, and make your presence stand out as a result. Maybe there are other ways you can expand your thinking about how you use your Instagram posts to connect with your audience, beyond the platform itself.
There are some great ideas in the Pub in Pub series, and it's worth checking out the videos to get more notes and tips from these inspirational creators. And what's more, each creator has his/her own entire gallery of reference material to give you more inspiration and ideas - click on their names above and you'll be taken direct to their Instagram profile.
The core idea that all these artists communicate is, essentially, to get in touch with your own creative side, to think of things differently. And to create unique, resonant Instagram content that stands out and makes people stop and pay attention. And if you can hold attention, you're far more likely to avoid any potential reach declines, as dictated by the coming algorithm.
Main image via Shutterstock