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Adding Algorithms to the Picture

Published on Thursday, April 7, 2016, at 10:25 p.m.
by Rachel Chandler.

It looks like Instagram will be added to the list of algorithm-based feeds. On Tuesday, March 15, a statement was released to reveal Instagram’s plan to re-order its photo feed so users will not miss posts they care about most.

Instagram discussed its concern about its chronological system, stating users “miss on average 70 percent of their feeds.” The new and improved feed will let users see posts “based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post.”

With such a large clientele, Instagram believes users are getting lost in content. It is nearly impossible to keep up with a feed following hundreds of accounts, so Instagram wants to present users with the best, most captivating content that will keep them logged in.

In February, Twitter released its algorithmic feature to let users choose if they would like to see “the Tweets you’re most likely to care about” at the top of their timelines. Analytic research revealed that users who have this setting turned on engage in more conversation.

Instagram is stirring much controversy with this big change at hand. Many users are tired of social media companies acting like they know exactly what the people want, when in reality, many people just want their own control. There are already several accounts protesting the change with hashtags such as #boycottinstagramalgorithms and #keepinstagramchronological.

Adding Algorithms

Adding Algorithms

Similar posts appeared when Twitter and Facebook came out with algorithms, so it’s no surprise that some avid Instagram users are critical. No severe loss of site engagement resulted from Twitter’s recent modification.

Steph Goralnick, a freelance designer and photographer in Brooklyn, voiced her opinion about the algorithmic style.

“I’m not a very avid Facebook user, precisely because I find the way the feed is organized to be incredibly annoying,” Goralnick said. “Similarly with the new Twitter ‘While you were away’ feature, I see the same few posts float to the top over and over again, while there’s many I never seem to see. Perhaps it will turn Instagram into a similar experience that may lead me to another platform to showcase my work and keep up with friends.”

On the contrary, Instagram verified account user and chief creative officer of Havas WW North America, Jason Peterson, believes Instagram will not lose users. He said he actually likes the feature.

“It’s like having all of your favorite TV channels in order,” he said.

Sam Horine, a photographer and educator whose Instagram account was recently voted best in NYC by the Village Voice, also shared his positive thoughts on the change.

“All of the content will still be there in chronological order,” Horine said. “However, there will be some posts from people you’ve interacted with that now get priority. To me it seems like a great way to make sure that you don’t miss posts from friends.”

Horine does not believe Instagram will lose users because of the way its feed is displayed.

“I think it’s going to improve engagement overall — hopefully now that posts will have longer shelf life we can get past the ‘I only post at specific times’ attitude,” he said.

Looking back, Facebook implemented its algorithm-based feed in 2009. Now, as the owner of Instagram, it can use this strategy not only to boost user experience but also to produce more benefits for the company in its entirety.

According to an article in TechCrunch, Facebook “needs to grow an incremental $3 billion more this quarter next year.” Anything is possible, but “this places an importance on monetization in new areas such as Instagram.”

Brand advertising on Instagram is a widely known approach to pull in consumers. So when the algorithm-based feed takes off, gaining consumer attention will prompt brands into spending for attention.

“I think brands will pay a premium to be at the top of people’s feeds. But none of it will matter if brands aren’t relevant to those consumers,” Peterson said. “And more than ever they will need to make rad relevant content, or consumers will reject it. People don’t hate advertising, they just hate bad advertising.”

So, whether its users like the idea or not, it appears Instagram is set on making this algorithmic change. It is not clear when exactly the revision will take off, but one can only hope Instagram will stick to most of its authentic standards and keep its users satisfied. Only time will tell.

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