#TurnMeOn: How The Insta-geddon Terrified Over 400 Million Users
Instagram users were most likely met with a surge of strange posts in their news feed last week, urging followers to “Turn on Notifications.” This reaction was a combination of a blog post from the photo-sharing giant themselves, and the ever-present fear that all social media users share: Irrelevance.
In an interview with the New York Times on March 15, Instagram co-founder and chief executive Kevin Systrom estimated that users are missing an average of 70% of their news feeds, due in large part to the chronological layout that Instagram has used since its inception in 2010. Their new approach modifies your news feed using an algorithm to make the remaining 30% “the moments we believe you will care about the most,” and will be gradually rolled out over the coming months.
This announcement was compounded by rumors that the new system was being implemented much earlier than planned, causing Instagram users of all walks of life to request their followers turn on notifications through the app, spurring the hashtags #KeepInstagramThisWay, #TurnOnNotifications and #TurnMeOn. Users who did happen to turn them on soon found themselves barraged by text-message-like alerts every time a user created a new post. While this may not seem that bad, imagine if you turned on notifications for anything more than family, friends and favorites.
Algorithms Are The New Standard
This change comes on the heels of parent company and social media behemoth Facebook’s newest algorithm modification in February. That’s right; for those that may have forgotten, Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 for a cool $1,000,000,000 in cash and stock. Issuing a nearly identical statement on their own blog on February 1, Facebook stated this newest update was aiming to target content, “which people might want to see near the top of their News Feed.”
The question then becomes how do both companies plan to target content they believe their users want to see? Thumbs up and little red hearts, of course. The algorithms focus on posts you’ve liked, loved, commented on, or shared. By taking these interactions to content, it prioritizes those users and moves them closer to the top of your feed.
Every time a social network has taken an algorithmic approach, it has been met with user backlash; Facebook users protested strongly to the transition into the News Feed we all know and use now back in 2009. Twitter’s algorithmic timeline, implemented in February 2016, takes posts it believes you might be interested in “While You Were Away” and adds them to the top of your news feed. Unlike other social networks, however, Twitter users have the option to opt out.
What This Change Means For Businesses
While this change won’t be anything more than a minor inconvenience the average Instagram user will either adapt to, or abandon the app in defiance, it has the potential to affect businesses using it as a marketing platform. While an algorithmic approach is designed to optimize content to a user’s taste, it also makes paid advertising king; small businesses may be unable to afford relevance on a platform they’ve been using for free for the past six years.
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