InstagramAs social media networks continue to evolve, Instagram recently announced it will be adding an algorithm that will determine what content appears in your feed.

The free ride is over.

So should businesses worry that marketing content will not reach their audience?

If the changes to Instagram are anything like its big brother, Facebook, then yes, online business owners should have cause for concern. But the changes could also benefit marketers.

In its current chronological format, Instagram calculate that users miss around 70% of content that appears in their feed.

The proposed change to filter content will help users free up the clutter and manage their accounts more easily.

But for marketers algorithmic feeds are a concern. There is the danger your content will bypass your audience altogether.

And since the algorithms are based on user-behaviour, marketing on social media becomes redundant for many small businesses that simply don’t sell products or services people want to read about.

Paid advertising

The real reason behind the change is to encourage business owners to purchase ad space – of course.

And because algorithm feeds limit the amount of content on the page, there is more space to slip in promotional ads. Instagram has gradually ramped up its ad options over the past year.

On its blog page, Instagram for Business, the social network explained the intent to focus on three key areas:

“Expanding ad offerings to include action-oriented formats, enabling more targeting capabilities, and making it easier for businesses large and small to buy ads on Instagram.”

With the introduction of advertising units – like Facebook did – online businesses have few options other than to invest in paid ads in order to gain visibility.

This is particularly true for businesses that are new to Instagram. Publishers that are already using the platform have an advantage – users are already engaging with content so they have more opportunities to appear in news feeds.

High-quality content

The key however is to produce content followers want to engage with. Yes, we know, quality content has become the standard answer for all digital marketers. But that’s because quality is what end-users demand.

Failing to engage your community of followers is marketing suicide. Firms are rewarded by producing high-quality content that entertains readers or provides something else of value such as valid information.

Social media accounts require nurturing. You have to build and maintain a following. This means commenting, sharing, liking and responding to other users in your network.

To leverage your position in Instagram, try piggy-backing on the accounts of established users or even approaching influencers to host and promote your content.

With over 400 million users, Instagram is a marketing platform that is difficult to ignore. The difficulty for small businesses on a thrifty budget is not having the funds to post engaging images.

Gaining visibility and accruing a following will be even harder once the algorithm is launched. Content will be judged on user-behaviour.

If you have plans to market your online business on Instagram, you should jump on board and accrue a following before the algorithm hides your work.