If there is one singular truth about social media, it is that it is always changing and adapting. In the last month, we have seen two major shifts on two of the major platforms - Instagram and Twitter - concerning how their feeds are managed. This has implications for users as well as businesses that heavily rely on these platforms to get their brand messages to consumers. So let's take a look at what this means in the grand world of social media!
The platform that I have been playing with the most over the last year is Instagram. I have thousands - literally - of photos on my phone and one might say I'm obsessed with my fur babies (I did use two of them in this post).
On March 15, 2016, Instagram let us in on the secret that users are missing out on 70% of their feeds. Now, let's be honest, some of that content is worth missing out on - but some of it, you might benefit from. Just the past weekend, I managed to miss multiple posts from one of my favorite brands announcing an unprecedented 20%-off sale. When did I finally see the posts about it? 12 hours too late. To 'help' with this problem, Instagram is now applying an algorithm to your feed - hoping to show you "moments you will care about the most." If this is starting to sound familiar, it should. Their parent company, Facebook, employs a massive algorithm that decides - for better and for worse - what you see in your news feed. The logic behind Facebook's initial foray into tinkering with the news feed stems from the fact that whether we like it or not we can't deal with all the information the profiles, pages and groups we follow post in a single day. As the user base for Instagram has increased along with the amount of content available, we are perhaps hitting this turning point with its news feed.
The press release from Instagram indicated that, "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." In other words, if you keep scrolling enough, you should see everything. I'm not sure how well this will work for people who check Instagram multiple times a day. Will their feed altar every time making it impossible to decide where 'you left off?' Only time will tell, but hopefully next time I won't miss a sale! They are rolling the changes out in the commons months. Regardless, it may make it harder for brands to get on people's feeds if Instagram ever decided to weed out content. My take on this for brands is to start upping your game if you aren't already. Create engaging and amazing photos in your posts that capture people's attention, and you'll be seen regardless.
Twitter has seen its fair share of problems lately with the exodus of top executives, falling stock prices, and flat growth year-to-year. The urgent need to transform and increase revenue and usage is the impetus for some major changes. In October, Twitter announced Moments which has rolled out in several geographical locations. Giving users an easy portal to follow breaking news on trending topics, Moments hopes to provide an in the moment feel related to current events that Twitter is known for bringing you. In Twitter's words Moments are "the best of what’s happening on Twitter in an instant."
Last month, Twitter announced it's "While you were gone" change to the reverse chronological newsfeed and it has now reached all of its user base. When you log into Twitter after being gone, what Twitter considers to be top posts from the people you follow or posts it believe you will be interested in appear at the top of your feed followed by Twitters regular time-based newsfeed. Users can opt-out of this change if they desire, but Twitter is saying there is a low incidence of this. It could be people are lazy or maybe they really want this change in their feed. For me, out of the six or so 'while you were gone' posts I saw last night, only one of them was of interest to me. Twitter is going to have to get a better formula for picking what I want to engage with if it keeps this up. The posts at the top are determined using a variety of variables including what you have interacted with in the past, your interest, people who Twitter thinks are like you interests as well as - honestly, who know. Time will tell if this is a positive change for Twitter helping them to gain new users.
What we might not like to admit to be true is that filtered feeds work. Platforms have seen a rise in usage and engagement when formulas are applied to what we see. Letting the cream rise to the top has its advantages - maybe.
A senior lecturer of marketing at Kennesaw State University, Tyra is a gamer-girl, gadget geek at heart.