What Instagram’s New Timeline Means
You’re not going to stop using Instagram.
They always come back. Actually, they never leave.
This time the proposed change is a non-chronological timeline. The same idea has been discussed on Twitter. Social networks have to monetize. Otherwise they would have to start hitting people up for money like a PBS pledge drive or the window that pops up on Wikipedia. Or worse, they would stop existing. Or even worse, they would be in a medically-induced coma like Myspace.
This is the inevitable and necessary push and pull that will occur for both social networks and content creators. In order to generate revenue as a social network, you have to make content more appealing for advertisers.
In August 2015, there were 50 million ad impressions on Instagram. By December 2015, there were 670 million ad impressions (MediaPost). Visual storytelling and organic content are predicted to be the two fastest growing ways to reach an audience in 2016. Instagram, along with Snapchat, is growing rapidly. It’s going to be a big 2016 for Instagram.
Though for a lot of organic content creators, you can understand an outcry against a non-chronological timeline. There is a chance, maybe even a good chance, that people won’t find their content as much.
Creators have been asking people to turn on push notifications to ensure that their content is seen. But the odds aren’t good that people will turn on a bunch of notifications no matter how much they like the content. That creates too much friction.
As always, creators will adapt. Instagram has the leverage. But they are in an awkward position. It’s hard to keep the shareholders and the audience happy at the same time. So you make the changes gradual. You slowly introduce new timelines, add branded content and hope people won’t migrate away.
For years, social networks built an economy of scale. Google+ couldn’t crack it. It’s almost impossible to build new social networks. So the time for social networks to push back and monetize is now.
Yes, you run the risk of people moving over to Snapchat more. Snapchat is in a younger stage where they are still focused on user acquisition and app use rather than full monetization. But the same thing will start happening on Snapchat as well. Eventually, they’ll have to start making money.
The best physical example of this phenomenon may be SXSW. Austin fights hard to keep Austin weird, but more brands come every year. It gets bigger and bigger. Brands will always migrate to what you think is cool. You can’t outrun branded content. The key to marketing and public relations is knowing where and when to reach an audience.
I’ll reserve judgement until I see the non-chronological timeline in use. In theory it should help brands and large influencers be seen more. The mid-level influencers may be hurt most but this will open up opportunity.
If mid-level influencers are having trouble being seen they will want to partner with brands to be seen more again. If you’re a big brand, reach out your hand and pull up some influencers with you. Because organic content on a social network will still create a better response rate than branded content. And the audience trusts influencers more than brands.
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