A couple of weeks ago, Instagram announced a new post sharing policy – it was changing from chronological to an algorithm that chose for you “the best posts.” Needless to say, small businesses everywhere were in an uproar. Once again, they claimed, the little guy was being shunned in the name of money making, and what could they do about it?
Opinions seemed divided in this. There was a petition created to plead with Instagram to keep things as they were, and the hashtag KeepInstagramChronological was born. I started to see many angry posts in my feed, and requests for people to sign said petition.
Then, there was the other side of the coin: those who saw these changes as inevitable used powerful arguments. Instagram, they said, was a free platform, and it made sense that those behind it wanted to make money (it’s owned by Facebook, after all, and they weren’t shy about lowering pages engagements a while back, to force you to pay for more exposure). Fair enough. They also claimed that, instead of starting petitions that would lead nowhere, they should take the proactive course and just ask people to turn on notifications in order to know when these businesses posted something new. I started seeing those requests a lot in my feed, too.
Now, in the sake of honesty, I’ll have to admit I more or less relate to the first group of people. I felt angry when I found out about the impending changes, and did share and sign the petition. I didn’t know whether it would do any good, but it doesn’t hurt to try, does it? Like a Spartan, I chose to go down fighting.
As for the advise to ask followers to turn on notifications, exactly how proactive was that? Let’s say you follow 100 people – do you want to hear at least that same amount of pings on your phone every day? I’m already assuming some won’t post daily, and others will, more than once. Wouldn’t it drive you mad in no time and, maybe, even make you angry enough to stop following certain people/businesses? This to me didn’t sound like good advise, so I refrained from asking (not to mention some operating systems not allowing for this function). I don’t know about you, but I’d start having second thoughts every time I posted something, “Is it interesting enough? Will my followers appreciate the notification?”
A couple of days after the initial reaction, I did a little soul-searching to find out the reason behind my anger at this whole thing. Was I being selfish and thinking only about my own personal/business gain? Instagram is a free platform, after all, so who am I to feel bad about them wanting to make more money? Was this change really a bad thing?
To answer honestly, I have to admit I was indeed wary of losing an audience, but not because I have a huge one on IG – in fact, I haven’t gotten around yet to using it as a proper business platform; I do share my work, but I seldom mention the item is for sale, or do pitches. This isn’t to say I’m not thinking about business when I post, but I guess I was so sad after Facebook started capping page engagement that I felt this was just “Facebook 2.0” and there was no point in staying. I like IG, more so than Facebook, I like it that I can ask people what they’re doing now (#widn, or “what I’m doing now”) and get to see their response in real time, I like it that it’s all image-oriented and so much friendlier than Facebook. I would miss seeing all the pretty fibres and knitting that my feed is full of.
Also, I don’t like it when someone else chooses for me, and for the wrong reasons – having an algorithm is just an excuse to push paid engagement forward and make me miss out on what I really want to see. They’re not trying to help me see what’s “more relevant,” they’re just trying to get people to pay to play. I’d rather have them ask small businesses for a small monthly fee than change post chronology, and if they also tried to show me more relevant adverts (less Marks & Spencer, more yarn shops) I might engage with those, and with gusto.
The change was supposed to happen today. Instagram released a statement on Twitter saying they listened to users’ pleas and were postponing the change, and would warn us in advance about what they planned to do in the future.
Does this mean IG is to stay chronological forever? Probably not, but it did show us that speaking out can produce results, and maybe they’ll listen to our reasons and come up with a better way to make money. Like Neo in one of the Matrix films, I am confronted by an Agent Smith saying, “Do you hear that, Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of inevitability.” I’m just holding my breath and waiting for that inevitable ice bucket down my head… but for now, a respite.
I know not everyone is going to agree with me on this, so what are your thoughts?