Phones encouraging notifications to be turned on

The Instagram Algorithm and How We Win


The social media landscape is ever-changing, and this week’s news about the new Instagram algorithm brought an ensuing firestorm of public opinion.

In the past, Instagram users were able to curate their feeds and see what they wanted from whom they wanted. With the new update, the algorithm will determine which photos are displayed on users’ feeds.

Turn an ear in any direction, and groans of frustration can be heard about this update. However, the truth of social networks is that they change — and change often. The people and brands that adapt most rapidly will win.

One of the knee-jerk reactions to this update has seen Instagram users asking their followers to “turn on notifications,” and the requests are currently clogging everyone’s feeds. Here is why that is a bad idea: Turning on notifications does not ensure that our content will be seen in our followers’ feeds. It does ensure that our followers’ days will be interrupted by our notifications on their smartphones’ lock screens. Consumers will likely tire of those notifications very quickly and turn them off — we’d bet on that.

The reality is that if we have posted great content and our audience regularly engages with our feed, then the new algorithm will reward us for that. If our posts do well, they will be shown to more of our followers, and our numbers will likely increase.

Putting out great content is the best way to use the update to our advantage. We should embrace the system instead of trying to fight it. We should never ask people to change their behavior to pay attention to us. We should map out our tactics to intersect with their behavior.

Remember that all of social media is built upon an attention graph. Where are the eyeballs, and how do we grab them? With this new update, engaging content will be given the best seat in the feed.

Win the crowd, and you will win the algorithm.