Scores of Instagram users and agencies recently took to the social network to voice concerns over a unexpected dip in engagement on their posts. Speculation around an algorithmic rule modification was dispelled by an Instagram spokesperson, however it’s left a question mark over what caused performance drops.
One influencer marketing agency told The Drum that over the last few weeks initial information across a couple of clients had shown “a reduction in impressions and engagement when you’d expect it to be similar”.
Alex Micu, a marketer at Hue and Cry agency, and one of the people behind the viral Instagram Egg said: “My feeling is they are completely culling organic reach and pushing their ads.” many users have echoed his complaints.
Comms consultant Ste Davies speculated: “It appears that the Instagram algorithmic rule is going the same way the Facebook page algorithm did in 2014. The golden age for engagement is over and they’ll be ramping up the monetization from now on.”
Elsewhere, Elliott Kurjan, chief executive and co-founder at Wagyu Social, formerly a LadBible and Unilad social media exec, hasn’t detected a drop off in organic reach however has instead seen larger fluctuation in performance from post to post. Some posts that don’t get any initial traction “are being buried by the algorithmic rule faster than ever,” he said.
“This was always the case, but it’s undoubtedly getting more noticeable. Once you have a piece of content that your audience clearly interact with it gets pushed and the reach flies,” Kurjan noted.
The Drum put these concerns to Instagram which said it had not made any recent changes to the “feed ranking algorithm”.
Quelling complaints that users’ friend content was being hidden in favor of brands, it said users now see more than 90% of their friends’ posts in their feed, as opposed to when the feed was chronological in 2016, where less than half of that was seen.
Furthermore, the spokesperson said that “no content is ever hidden” and the content from prominent figures isn’t granted higher priority, contrary to the claims that Instagram has a ‘shadowban’ policy in place.
However, it’s introducing additional monetization features. This week, for example, it allowed brands the option to pay to boost influencer posts as ads into the feeds of non-followers.
These algorithmic rule tweaks together with tests like hiding Likes and cracking down on inappropriate content is resulting in concerns from lingerie and swimwear brands that engagement could be affected, according to We Are Social’s head of research and insight Paul Greenwood.
Social media consultant Matt Navarra said that algorithmic rule complaints occur on a weekly basis on a social media group he runs, which has over 8,000 members. “People say organic reach is being strangled, others report having a record-breaking week,” he said.
Rather than any drastic algorithmic rule change, these frequent reach fluctuations are instead just “part and parcel of the platform,” in line with Sedge Beswick, the founder and managing director of influencer marketing agency Seen Connects.
She said there have been no notable drop-offs with the agency’s influencer set recently however suggested that any reduced reach others are experiencing could be down to the raised prominence and organic reach of IGTV videos, commanding more feed real estate.
“We are still seeing huge value in organic content, particularly with micro influencers which are low value for brands but, brands need to be pulling owned, earned and paid posts closer together to drive the impact they need for their businesses,” she said.
“Those within marketing are more and more savvy to the fact that social platforms are becoming a paid-to-play space, paid media allows you to make sure you’re reaching specific audiences that are right for your business.”
Wagyu Social’s Kurjan urged anyone seeing an engagement dip to “focus on keeping the quality of your posts as high as possible whereas working out the ins and outs of what the algorithmic rule changes will favor.”
The platform has been in flux for many years as Facebook progressively makes its own mark. One of these is Instagram’s push to develop a commerce platform and make influencer posts shoppable.
Instagram users will have to get to grips with regular changes to the service – or migrate elsewhere.
For example, coming out of China is TikTok, the fledgling video app. Brands are increasingly becoming interested in this unsaturated area.