Two weeks ago, at the end of July, Instagram reversed recent changes to the platform to reduce the video content pushed to users. The changes came as a response to widespread backlash and criticism from users, creators, and celebrities against its push for video content, specifically Reels. The Kardashians joined the movement, with Kylie Jenner sharing a meme on stories to display dissatisfaction with the platform “Make Instagram Instagram Again. Stop trying to be Tiktok, I just want to see cute photos of my friends”.
According to the Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, Instagram is committed to delivering a better user experience, supporting and helping creators. But will Instagram go back to its heritage and prioritize photo content rather than short-form reels video content amid constant user backlashe? And how can you adjust your social media strategy to support your brand growth amid a challenging algorithm? Just keep reading to find out.
First things first: what are the Instagram Changes and Updates?
Display Changes: Instagram is set to revoke the test of the full-screen feed display. The design feature will be phased out in the next 2 weeks.
Algorithm Changes: The changes feature 2 aspects: Recommendations and Reels. Instagram decided to reduce the number of recommended posts, thus pushing less recommendations in the feed. Recommendations show users content from unknown users with the goal to discover new communities, content, and accounts they might be interested in. The change surged after Instagram received complaints from users who were unhappy seeing content from unknown users rather than their friends. Their feed mostly included content from people they were not interested in or even following. Additionally, Instagram changed the algorithm pushing Instagram Reels content to users from people they do not follow. While this might present a challenge for brands and creators in terms of increasing exposure and having their content seen by a wider audience, it is yet unknown how to what extent it will impact reach.
New Launch for Reels: Instagram just launched “Dual” Camera Mode for reels, enabling users and content creators to create videos using the front and back camera at the same time. This update is similar to the feature of a new photo-sharing app called BeReal. Reels Templates, Video Merge and Remix Improvements were also launched.
Focus on Creators: Instagram is focused on supporting and helping Creators, especially small Creators. Despite the algorithm, the growth and reach of creators depend on user behavior. Creators need the support of users, whereas Instagram needs the activity of users to retain creators on the platform. The situation is challenging, especially if users do not want to be exposed to content from unknown users.
When and Why did the backlash start?
It all started in June 2020 when Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, announced that Instagram is “no longer a photo-sharing app” and that they were focusing on video content. As the Instagram algorithm changed and it started to push Reels more than any type of content on the platform, the user experience was negatively affected for both users and creators.
People using the platform to interact with friends noticed Reels from unknown users in their personal feed and complained about not seeing content from their friends, but from strangers and people they don’t follow. On the other hand, influencers, creators, and small business owners were struggling to grow on the platform and were forced to move to TikTok. Due to changes in the algorithm and Instagram prioritizing and pushing Reels content rather than photos, they experienced a slower reach which prevented their content from being shown to more users. Moreover, accounts that posted more reels rather than photo content were benefiting from a higher reach. What is more is that Instagram was not even pushing their content to all their current followers let alone other users, thus also limiting impressions and engagement.
Despite complaints and backlash from users and creators, Instagram refused to reverse the changes and adjust the algorithm. Adam Mosseri addressed the issues and concerns in a video statement on Twitter on Thursday, July 26th, while sharing the new updates designed for a “better user-experience”. Instagram confirmed they are going to continue supporting photos, but also focus more on video content as the switch to video is mainly driven by user behavior on the app and by market demands. Additionally, they are committed to supporting and helping creators, especially small creators to grow and reach more people on the platform.
“I do believe that more and more of Instagram is going to become video over time. We see this even if we change nothing. We see this even if you just look at the chronological feed. If you look at what people share on Instagram that’s shifting more and more to videos over time. If you look at what people like and consume and view on Instagram, that’s also shifting more and more to video over time, even when we stop changing anything. So we have to lean into that shift while continuing to support photos” Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram via Twitter
Upon further backlash and complaints from users across all social media, in an interview with Casey Newton on July 28th, Adam Mosseri readdressed the Instagram changes and shared the new updates. Read the full interview here. In a challenging and highly competitive social media environment, Instagram needs to evolve to meet user expectations and support creators while leveraging video content to stay competitive on the market. As there is high demand for video content, it makes sense from a strategic perspective to encourage video content.
How can you adjust your social media strategy?
Since it has only been about two weeks since the Instagram updates and the algorithm changes are still undergoing, it is yet unclear how the new updates will impact your brand’s reach on the platform. There is still uncertainty about whether Instagram will push photos as much as video content, but one thing is certain: video content is here to stay. Instagram will keep pushing Reels and your social media strategy might need to be adjusted.
So, what can you do?
Here are 5 steps you can take in the meantime.
- Keep sharing posts, stories, and videos. Having a consistent posting schedule and engaging with your audience by utilizing different Instagram tools such as posts, stories, and videos is key to increase brand reach, drive impressions and engage with your audience. Additionally, it prompts you to show up every day for your audience and consumers and boost brand awareness and identity.
- Start sharing reels. Video content and Reels generate higher reach and are more exposed to users in comparison with photo content. Additionally, video content is in demand, and it seems to generate the most growth. Start by sharing one to three reels a week. A simple way to produce more reels content is to leverage and share UGC.
- Community Management. Engage with your audience and customers daily by replying to comments and direct messages, and sharing interactive stories such as pools, questions, and calls to action.
- Collaborate with influencers and creators & leverage UGC from brand lovers. This would not only allow you to reach a wider audience but also higher engagement, as influencers already have an engaged and loyal community. This means that users will most likely comment on the post, but also visit your feed and watch your reels to gain more information about your brand. This will generate a higher impression rate and your content will be perceived as interesting to users; thus, the algorithm will push your content to more users, increasing reach and brand discoverability. Additionally, sharing influencers and UGC is an effective strategy to produce cost-effective and efficient content.
- Invest in Paid Ads. Ads represent a great solution to boost your brand reach, but also your conversions. However, before investing in ads, it’s crucial to already have strong brand content on your feed – that is, educational and entertaining authentic content. The content will convert users, while ads will only expose your content to a wider audience. When the person visits your Instagram feed after being exposed to the ad, it can choose to stay and engage if the content is valuable.
And most importantly, be consistent and active on the platform. It not only signals Instagram that you are an active and engaged user thus pushing your content more, but it also allows you to connect with your customers and target audience, building a stronger brand community.
Do you need help with your Social Media and Reels strategy? Get in touch. Our experts will be happy to assist you.