Jun 06, 2016 / by Jim Dougherty

Instagram has the highest engagement of any social network and has eclipsed all social networks (not named Facebook) in monthly active users. For a platform that is so successful at engagement and growth, it is shocking to imagine any need to change, but despite its success, Insta could be generating more revenue. For social platforms, THIS is the impetus for a lot of change, and Instagram is no exception.

You may not think of Instagram changes in the same way that you think of changes to Twitter, but they are both publicly-traded social platforms trying to monetize. Of course, Instagram is owned by Facebook whose monetization efforts have been successful. It turns out that their stockholders expect that Instagram’s changes are going to be successful as well. In other words, shareholders want Instagram to be a little more like Facebook.

Generally, social monetization changes fall into two categories:

  • User experience – meant to improve the experience and to grow audience
  • Business restrictive – intended to promote advertising spend by limiting free promotion on the platform, sometimes at the expense of user experience

These new Instagram features are primarily the latter, and this is why it is important for marketing and communication professionals to take note. However you use Instagram to communicate is likely to change starting today.

1. New Timeline Algorithm

“Posts are ordered based on factors like how recently the post was shared, your interactions with the person who shared it and whether you’ll find the post interesting.”

Probably the most striking difference between the old Instagram and new is that the timeline will no longer be presented in reverse-chronological order. Instead, an algorithm will determine which posts you see first (Instagram euphemistically calls these the “Moments You Care Most About”). Like Facebook and Twitter, you probably will see posts that you are more likely to engage with (possibly improving user experience) and Instagram will have a way to entice businesses to use their ad product for greater reach.

To get a sense of the challenge that this creates, you can read about the development of the Facebook algorithm here. Of course, Instagram has an interesting challenge because it is exclusively visual content with various degrees of context (writing and hashtags).

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2. API Change/Third-Party Tools

If you use any third-party tools to manage Instagram (I got notes from IFTTT), you probably got a message about the change to Instagram’s API. In a page out of Twitter’s handbook, Instagram completely changed its API rules. For all apps that formerly used the API, they had to reapply by demonstrating that they meet one or more of these criteria:

  • Help individuals share their own content with third-party apps
  • Help brands and advertisers understand and manage their audience and media rights
  • Help broadcasters and publishers discover content, get digital rights to media and share media with proper attribution

What does this mean for you? If you used Gramfeed, Mixagram, Fastfeed and Padgram – note the past tense of “use.” If you used IFTTT or Flipboard to read/manage Instagram, you will have to enjoy the other features of these apps. Twitter did the same thing in 2012, cutting off their API so that they could send users to apps where they could best serve advertising.

3. New Business Tools


For businesses, Instagram is offering some of the better features of Facebook. They are rolling out three new features specifically for businesses in the coming weeks:

  • Business profiles – these are analogous Instagram profiles to a Facebook Page. Similarly they would post business hours and address, and offer a contact button where Insta users can call, text or email the business directly.
  • Insights – this is an improved (mobile) analytics product for business users.
  • Promote – this feature gives users the ability to promote posts directly from the mobile app.

Probably the most useful for many businesses is the capability to put pertinent business information into Instagram. The flip side to that is that it easily identifies you as a business, and the question remains how the algorithm will treat your posts compared to personal posts.

4. Ad Planning via the Facebook Ad Network

This isn’t a new feature per se, but it’s important that people understand that Instagram ads can be run directly from the Facebook Power Editor and Ads Manager (even without an Instagram profile). Especially in light of algorithm implementation, it’s important to understand that Instagram ad planning happens from Facebook (at least as of this writing), and that you need to have a Facebook Business Page in order to create Instagram ads.

5. Video Counts Added

This “change” is a couple of months old but presumably ties into the business analytics implementation. For any video that you post on Instagram, you can see the number of views that it has.


Instagram has also moved time stamps, introduced greater support for Windows 10 mobile and changed their logo (see below), but the big changes for marketing and communication professionals have to do with the reliability to post to Instagram and get a desired result. Algorithmic sorting means that timing has little bearing on reach, and business profiles may add additional obstacles to accomplishing desired reach without promotion.

Instagram intends to be a pay-to-play platform just as its parent Facebook is. If you’re planning to communicate or to promote on Instagram, its important to understand the new dynamics of the platform.

Tags : social media

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About Jim Dougherty

Jim Dougherty is a featured contributor to the Cision Blog and his own blog, leaderswest. His areas of interest include statistics, technology, and content marketing. When not writing, he is likely reading, running, playing guitar or being a dad. PRSA member. Find him on Twitter @jimdougherty.