With over 800 million active users, Instagram continues to thrive as the world’s top photo-based social network. Like a major artery, Instagram has served as a carrier of new ideas and innovation; pumping inspiration into brands, publishers, and influencers worldwide.
With the rise of Snapchat and other photo sharing sites, the Instagram empire has been forced to adapt and develop their own versions of tech already made famous by their competitors (think Stories). Because of this ongoing Instagram vs. Snapchat war, Instagram has arguably lost that spark of originality that made them popular in the first place. Nevertheless, the site is as popular as ever and its’ spread of influence continues to intrigue users and content marketers across the globe.
Over the years, brands of all varieties have turned to the photo sharing site to boost their organic reach and appeal to visually minded consumers. They have refocused their organic social media marketing strategies and have forked over hundreds of dollars to promote and create engaging visual content on Instagram.
However, the ease of which marketers have been able to share and promote content is about to be rattled. On December 12th, Instagram announced two new features to their platform. Users can now follow their favorite hashtags in the same way they follow user accounts. They will also be able to discover new content in the upcoming ‘Recommended for You,’ feature.
Before this new feature, users were only able to click on a hashtag or search for a tag in the discover section. Now users will be able to track their favorite topics with ease. For example, if a user wants to stay up to date on content marketing related news, events, and publications, all they have to do is follow #ContentMarketing and the Instagram algorithm with build a collection based on the top posts that feature the hashtag.
For brands within a specific niche or for influencers looking to network with each other, this feature will be a welcome change.
Of course, hashtags can have multiple meanings and Instagram has had to figure out a way to make sure users are seeing what they want to see. For example, fans of the MTV show #Catfish may not want to see pictures of fish clogging up the #catfish page. To get rid of all the fish content a user can click on an image featured in the hashtag, tap a button above it, and tell Instagram that they’d rather not see fish pictures on the hashtag feed.
For content marketers, this new feature opens up a lot of doors for engagement. Not only will a brand’s content be more discoverable, but it will allow organizations to take part in discussions and stay on top of trends that are dominating their niches and social spheres.
For example, a brand like Toys R Us could use the hashtag #Thor in one of their posts. If a Marvel fan is browsing through the #Thor hashtag, they might see Toys R Us’ post. Content marketers who are actively creating branded content on Instagram can, and should, capitalize on this new feature as much as they can.
The ‘Recommended for You’ feature will show posts that friends have liked in your feed. For casual users, It’s a decent enough way to explore new profiles and find new friends and influencers. However, for brands without the budget for massive promotional campaigns, the prospects of this new feature are a little more bleak. Organic content may go unseen in a more cluttered timeline. According to an article by DigiDay,
“The new “Recommended for you” section, which will include three to five posts, will appear after a user has viewed all of their new posts. Consequently, users who open and close the app more often will see the “Recommended for you” section more frequently than those that do not.”
Instagram has said that the new feature will not affect how paid ads are seen within a user’s feed but it’s highly probable that organic content may suffer from a lack of visibility.
This new feature is currently being tested in a limited number of accounts and will be rolled out to all users sometime soon. To improve visibility, Instagram marketers should consider putting a little extra funding into paid Instagram ads or post daily.
As consumers, we all enjoy getting wrapped up in fascinating photos and short form videos. As marketers, we want to tap into our consumer side and create content we would enjoy seeing on our own feeds.
It’s our responsibility to search for new and better ways to improve organic reach and hone our unique brand voice. Adapting to new new app features like the ‘Recommended for You’ section can be headache inducing but it’s up to creative minded marketers to capitalize on more useful features (new hashtags) to counteract the unfavorable ones.
With these new features in mind, it’s important for brands to avoid hashtag abuse. It can be tempting to overload a post with hashtags in order to appear on more hashtag pages but it can take away from authenticity, create cluttered looking posts, and clog up user feeds. Take advantage of people’s natural inclination to minimal, neat looking posts and create content that will expand your following instead of turning people away.
Instagram will continue to be a major vessel for visual content and content marketers will continue to find ways to adapt to new changes and evolve right alongside the platform.