This week we have Facebook flexing its muscles with the Instagram algorithm and the whats up with WhatsApp.
Instagram introduces the algorithm
Remember the old days of social media? You logged onto Facebook and saw posts as they appeared? Probably not, as they introduced the first algorithm in 2009. Even if you were on Facebook then, unless you are in your mid-20s, 2009 doesn’t seem that long ago.
Now, like Facebook, Instagram has introduced the algorithm. Instagram users will make a big commotion but it won’t matter. In fact, Instagram users have been pretty lucky. They have had organic content, that appeared just as it happened – and they like it. Too bad. Instagram, as you may remember, is owned by Facebook.
Facebook has seemed to make constant changes, irritating users every, single, time. The most recent was a tweak to the newsfeed which prioritized “friends” posts over pages and promotional posts. Reportedly, this was in response to user complaints – and it was…sort of but the winner was Facebook.
It made business pages a bit less relevant and made ads a lot more important, generating profit for Facebook of course. Twitter didn’t go big on the algorithm until last year but even though use on the platform is down, they just announced that their algorithm is here to stay.
Until the last year or so, Facebook has treated Instagram with kid gloves. They didn’t push advertising, didn’t seem to be trying to make a lot of money off of the site, and let the site just “happen” without a lot of control. That changed last year with a new advertising push. It changed again this week. Instagram users will now be subject to Facebook’s business goals – making money. Nothing is free, at least not for long and Facebook sells advertising.
Instagram’s new algorithm affects what users see on their regular feed. Posts are seen, based on the likelihood that a user will be interested in your content. The math comes from whether a user interacts with your account, what percentage of your posts get engagement, and what percentage of your users ever engage.
As a business, having uninteresting content will penalize you, too much posting will penalize you, having inactive followers will penalize you. Naturally, they say that all this is done to “enhance” the user experience but really it was done to “encourage” you to buy advertising – rather than rely on your free posts to generate interest.
To make a pun, Instagram users are already all atwitter. Instagram users like the organic feel, the simplicity of the site, seeing things as they happen. Too bad.
The changes will roll out slowly, and Instagram users will complain, but like Facebook users, they will be ignored. Facebook has the Instagram user hooked now, and Facebook is a business – all about Facebook. The Instagram algorithm is here to stay.
Check out the Instagram algorithm at AdWeek.
Whats the point?
Frankly, Instagram isn’t the best platform for every business. Its largest demographic is still the “under 29” market, but it is growing fast. Instagram is the second most popular social media platform with over 400 million users and has passed both Twitter and LinkedIn in popularity. Part of that growth is fueled by other age groups – and those youngsters won’t always be “young”. Even if Instagram isn’t “you” yet, it is something you need to pay attention to.
The “typical” Instagram user has a lot going on, with tons of distractions, no time to read, and they see things from a different perspective than older counterparts. Since those youngsters were first on, they set the tone. As new users come on, they post content which is similar to what is already being posted. As the saying goes, “When in Rome…”
What does that mean?
It means when you decide you need Instagram; you need to pay a lot of attention to the “quality” of your image but maybe not in the way you think.
It isn’t about having a professional looking, high-resolution image – that’s not quality from the Instagram user’s perspective. Drama is important, faces get more engagement, photo effects get more engagement, colors and fonts are important, and it helps to tell a back story. Just Google “best Instagram photos” and see what you get.
With the new algorithm, you get penalized for posts that don’t engage your followers. More so than ever, you are competing with “friends”. This means selfies, cute kittens and street art.
If Instagram is anywhere near your marketing plans, some study is in order. Even if you decide to go with advertising, on Instagram, the imagery is still critical.
Whats up with WhatsApp?
This isn’t really breaking news but it is something you might have wondered about. WhatsApp – what is it?
WhatsApp is a messaging system for smartphones. Kind of like SMS (text) messaging but rather than using a mobile carrier, it uses the internet. WhatsApp has about 1 billion users, making it the most used messaging application around.
It was founded by two former Yahoo employees in 2009. Brian Acton and Jan Koum left Yahoo, went on vacation, got rejected after applying for jobs at Facebook, and invented WhatsApp just in time for the App Store boom. Actually, it was a little more complicated but that’s pretty much what happened – along with a couple of $billion in venture funding.
From 2009 to 2013 WhatsApp gathered 200 million users, by 2014, 400 million – at which time Facebook bought the platform. We find it amusing that Facebook didn’t want to pay a salary to the WhatsApp developers but was later willing to pay $19 billion for what they created.
Along the way, WhatsApp has been free, charged a fee, gotten blocked by Iran, become free again, expanded from Apple to Android, Blackberry, Google, Windows devices, expanded to desktop, discontinued Blackberry….
WhatsApp has continuously said the platform won’t be invaded by ads. That’s what they said, and so far they haven’t. In fact, right up until 2015, they pretty much banned any promotions at all.
Remember though, they were bought by Facebook. Just keep that in mind.
Last year, WhatsApp announced they were dropping the $1/per year fee and were exploring business accounts. Earlier this year, they announced further development on that front but still haven’t said much more about it.
They pretty much only said that they were testing ways that companies like Bank of America and American Airlines could use it to communicate with customers. Though they haven’t said exactly, it seems likely that for a fee, it could be used as a customer relationship management tool – like Slack is doing and Twitter is trying to do. They still say “no ads” but haven’t said anything about pricing for business.
WhatsApp has also said that they want to offer end-to-end encryption soon. This became a bigger issue, good or bad, with the recent FBI issue and the jailing (and release) of the WhatsApp exec in Brazil (see our take on that in the last Vende Buzz).
For what it’s worth, find WhatsApp here.
What’s the point?
If you haven’t used it, you may not know. WhatsApp is a messenger application – like text messaging over the internet. In the not-to-distant future, businesses are going to be using it for something – but apparently not for ads, free or otherwise. That’s it.