Much like its parent company (Facebook), Instagram is always rolling out changes to its business model. It’s a part of the social media game to make such efforts in staying fresh and improving engagement. Last month, Instagram introduced suggested posts to their system rather than their traditional mode of simply stopping when the user is “all caught up”. This makes it so the user receives posts based on their preferences after their feed has run out of subscribed content.
The feature is optional and Instagram have provided instructions on how users can turn it off. But, in all likelihood many will keep the default settings, so this new element is worth considering in terms of its impact on social media strategy. Of course, like any change to a major platform this opens up quite a few opportunities. Such a system has major implications for how businesses should approach Instagram content marketing.
While the company’s own stated modus operandi is to enhance the user experience by catering to their interests, there are other effects it may have. Such a shift makes it easier for companies to find consumers, and vice versa, along two different lines: advertising and algorithmically chosen content. The change brings in far more engagement through automatic suggestions and more possible ad space for third parties to utilise.
How Instagram Suggested Posts Work
The platform has been testing various versions of similar features for a while now. It appears they’ve landed on a formula they like with the current iteration, however. Under this system, when the user depletes content they actually follow, the algorithm will suggest things they may like. Crucially, this only happens after they’re all caught up on their followed content. Thus, this is separate from their regular feed and the app highlights it as different content.
This move has a pretty clear business logic from the company. Previously, Instagram had a very clear stopping point for content, and this lets them overcome that with additional posts. As with most changes to any platform, the primary end goal is to keep people scrolling. With that, comes a degree of new benefits to take advantage of. It also provides opportunities for certain accounts to obtain a boost in engagement and possible followers.
It has to be noted, that the company denies that increasing engagement was the end goal. However, intended or not, that is the effect it will have. It makes Instagram similar to TikTok, in that it will have an endless feed of content to sift through. According to the company, they are merely offering a chance for consumers to delve deeper into their specific interests.
This feature may, at first glance, seem redundant since the Explore option already exists. However, there is a slightly different logic to both of them and they provide different content. “Explore” points people towards broadly related content they might like but suggested posts are in a more narrow, targeted interest. This is the part that holds very crucial features that social media strategists can utilise.
Implications for Online Strategy
The greatest benefit to this new model is patently clear. This format opens up more opportunities for cross-mobility into the feeds of users who don’t yet follow your account. By using the correct descriptions and hashtags, companies and influencers can engage new viewers within key demographics almost automatically. The possibilities for growth are far stronger now, especially on a platform like Instagram that has far stricter controls on what pops up on the feed.
As an example, head of product at Instagram Home Julian Gutman highlights that if his interest is in space and astronomy content, Explore will turn him towards physics and science content in general. On the other hand, suggested posts will look at what he likes and suggest much closer content. Suggested posts may see the specifics and offer similar content from people users don’t follow. Suggested posts would be more akin to photos of space narrowly, as opposed to general science content.
It would be advisable for companies to employ of user interests in the future. More active posts that build into user hobbies would be a better sell under this system. Hobbies like photography or travel would be a pretty good bet, so marketing content should target them specifically. Events happening around the world are also easier to market, i.e. gatherings, music festivals, clubs etc.
Another implication of Instagram’s suggest post system is that of ad space. This opens up the platform to a lot more ad revenue and gives 3rd parties a lot more room to play with. Ad revenue is becoming an increasingly important model for a number of social media companies and online streaming services. Engagement is often followed by advertisers looking to make the most of it, so clearly there will be a lot more companies vying for consumer attention now.