If you’re a user of Instagram, you probably have complained at some length about the infamous algorithm. If you Google “Instagram algorithm” 4.5 million results show up. Last year, the powers at be at Instagram decided to change up how users see their photos. Instead of seeing posts in the order they are posted, you saw what the algorithm thought you wanted to see first, which means the posts you’ve engaged with the most. Needless to say, pretty much everyone hated it. People complained (loudly) for long enough that this past week Instagram has announced they will be showing more posts that have been recently uploaded when you first log into the app. It’s not completely chronological but it’s enough for the masses to rejoice. As someone who also complained (loudly) about the algorithm, I’ve come to realize I am not a fan of this new move.
This is what I noticed from having two Instagrams, one I look at regularly and another that I could go weeks without looking at. The one I look at regularly shows me posts from days prior when I am 1) on the app so much that day that I've run out of content posted from that 24 hour period and 2) I haven't been on the app that much and it's trying to catch me up on what I missed. The one I don't look at much shows me stuff from even weeks prior because it's trying to catch me up on what I missed. I don’t believe that Instagram made it clear why people see posts from days prior instead of current posts, but this is just my theory so let’s roll with that.
People follow so many users now that it's even easier for posts to get buried under a chronological timeline. If I post at 9am but most of my followers use the app in the evening, they may not scroll back far enough to see my post depending on how many people they follow and how much has been posted in that time period. Posting times didn't matter when the algorithm was showing posts based on engagement instead of time. I felt the effect of this when I posted a photo this past weekend when I was in San Francisco. I posted early evening which is three hours behind my East Coast followers (which make the majority of my following). That post went hours without likes, which I haven't experienced before this new change to the algorithm.
“Beat the Instagram algorithm” has almost 2.6 million hits. People are thirsty for ways to outsmart the algorithm. But there is really only one way to beat it, and that is engagement. You get what you give and if you’re not showing the love to other accounts, you’re not going to get it back. That typically isn’t what people want to hear. They want to know what are the right hashtags are to use, what time of day to post, and how many times to post in a week. None of that matters if you aren’t engaging with other posts, which takes time, and people want that get rich quick scheme when it comes to getting likes on Instagram.
Blaming a non-chronological timeline for not getting likes on our posts isn't the answer. Posting helpful and entertaining content which inspires comments is going to get us the engagement we are after. Comment back to the people who comment on your posts. Click through the hashtags you use and interact with what speaks to you. Take time to build a community on this platform. We have to wait and see how this new change is truly helpful or harmful.
What do you think about this new change? Leave your thoughts in the comments.