Instagram is giving more power to the people. Meta, Instagram’s parent, has announced that the social networking service will now give users two new ways to view their feeds: “Following” and “Favorites” (the standard “Home” experience, based on by the Instagram algorithm, is still an option too). Let’s take a closer look at these alternatives and what the development means for brands.
Following vs. Favorites vs. Home
So, what are these options, exactly? Essentially, Instagram wants to give users more control over what they see. For context, let’s review the experience Instagram users are accustomed to getting: the Home experience. This is an algorithm-based feed by which Instagram presents content that Instagram thinks users will be most interested in, based on their viewing habits. Notably, the Home experience is not purely chronological—it’s grounded first and foremost in user interests.
Instagram’s hunch is that the Home experience will remain the preferred go-to for users, so they’ve made it the default. As an Instagram spokesperson explained to CNET, “people have a better experience on Instagram with a ranked feed, so we won’t be defaulting people into a chronological feed.”
But now, based on a March 23 announcement from Meta, users also have the choice of a chronological experience with the Following and Favorites options:
- The Following option presents a steady feed of posts from all the people one follows.
- Favorites gives users the ability to further curate what they see by allowing them to designate up to 50 accounts they want to view higher in their feeds.
Users can make changes to their Favorites list at any time (people are not notified when they are added or removed).
Both Following and Favorites show posts in chronological order, making it easy to catch up on recent posts.
How Might Brands Adapt?
According to Ad Age, the chronological feed (for both Following and Favorites) may prove advantageous to advertisers and facilitate more real-time marketing opportunities. Amber Gallihar Boyes, director analyst at research firm Gartner, notes, “On the brand and creator side, there is an excitement and optimism about [the new structure]. I’ve seen creators just really feeling beaten down by lack of reach on Instagram and this gives them some element of control because they can make sure they’re connecting with their most loyal fans and followers.”
Live situations already lend themselves to Instagram, but the chronological feed, by creating a sense of immediacy, could prove especially beneficial to marketers during events like the Oscars or the Super Bowl.
“If you play it right [as a brand] you can almost . . . give people the experience that ‘if you’re not there when it happens, you’re missing out,’” Shawn Francis, head of creative at social media marketing company We Are Social, explains. He adds that it behooves brands or creators to ask “what content can you put out that makes people say, ‘I have to follow this brand in real-time.’”
In other words? Brands can lean into that FOMO.
They can also lobby to be on the coveted Favorites list: some creators are even putting out tutorials to teach fans how to add to their Favorites feed, presumably with the hope that their brand name will place high on the list when it’s created.
But achieving Favorites status is no slam dunk. “With 50 spots, people will be selective,” Nicholas Stoeckle, executive director of strategy and innovation at advertising and production company PPK, points out.
Competitive as it is, the Favorites list will certainly give brands a clearer sense of who their most loyal fans are, based on whether the brand makes it into a given Favorites section. Brands and creators will also get the opportunity to experiment with different posting times, to see if there are “sweet spots” for them in the chronological feed.
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