Instagram is making a move to be more like its owner, Facebook.
In a blog post last week, the popular social network said it would begin algorithmically sorting posts to surface what it thinks you want to see, irrespective of when that content is posted.
According to Instagram, the “order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post. As we begin, we’re focusing on optimizing the order — all the posts will still be there, just in a different order.”
Apparently, missing posts is endemic on the site–users miss about 70 percent of the content of their feed. The changes won’t be rolled out immediately, but in the “coming months” and Instagram promises to listen to user feedback along the way.
That’s what we know. What we don’t know, but can reasonably speculate about, is how this will impact Instagram users not named Kim Kardashian. In short, Instagram is going to look a lot more like Facebook, which means it may become much harder to grow your business using the platform without investing real dollars, not just time.
Like Instagram, Facebook used to treat all content equally, serving up posts on a chronological basis without discrimination. If you followed an individual, media outlet or brand and they posted an update, it would populate into your feed, sorted by the time it was published.
Today, Facebook timelines are heavily managed—even manipulated–by the company. By deciding who sees what, when, Facebook can essentially hold status updates hostage, demanding ransom in the form of “boosting” a post for a fee or paying to take an ad. Brands and media outlets (not to mention non-profits) have seen their content hidden from followers, prompting them to either pay up or face declining visibility.
Given its ownership, we should expect Instagram to do the same. If you rely on Instagram to reach followers, especially for commercial purposes, you may need to add a line item to your marketing budget for Instagram advertising.
So what’s a photographer to do? Eric Kim suggests a return to blogging:
Eventually nobody will use Instagram (another social media app will come around. Or perhaps all Instagram users will flee to Snapchat). But once Snapchat becomes more like Facebook, people will flee to some other new service that doesn’t exist yet.
The only way to have any lasting impact as a photographer is the old school method: make prints, share them with friends, and print your own books (zines, print on demand books, or self publish yourself).
Take a hybrid approach: love both atoms and bytes. Don’t make it all one or another; shoot both film and digital, write emails and hand written letters, walk and drive your car, send your friends text messages but also meet them “in real life”…
The last point I want to make is the most interactive and flexible way to do “social media” is own your own blog….
I’m so grateful that I’ve had this blog for the last few years; it has helped open up so many possibilities, given me a voice, given me control over my content, and has given me a livelihood. I used to be suckered into thinking that Facebook was the future; now I realize it is just another social media app (just how MySpace was). I regret spending so much time on social media in general; I wish I spent more time blogging.
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