Instagram is changing: What does this mean for your eCommerce business?

April 19, 2016 - PaulaPhone displaying Instagram's login screen

Instagram recently announced its plans to introduce an algorithm which will affect what users see on their feeds. There’s been a lot of talk about how small businesses, eCommerce store owners included, will have to start paying for ads to get noticed.

That’s not entirely true! In this post, I’m going to tell you a bit about how Instagram is changing (if you haven’t heard already), what this means for your business, as well as give you my top tips on how to make the most of the Instagram algorithm for your eCommerce store.

How is Instagram changing?

Currently, your Instagram feed is made up of posts from users you follow in chronological order. Switching to an algorithm that some Instagram posts will be favoured over others. It’s unclear as to how exactly the posts will be prioritised — all we know is that it’ll be based on popularity, the interests of users, and the relationships users have with each other.

Why the change? Instagram claims that people miss around 70% of their feeds, and that as the platform has grown, it’s become increasingly difficult to keep up with all the content people share. For this reason, users aren’t seeing the posts they might be the most interested in.

What does Instagram’s algorithm mean for your business?

If you own an eCommerce store and use Instagram as a cost-effective marketing tool, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that it won’t be as easy to use Instagram as a way of driving traffic to your online and increasing your sales.

The good news is that an algorithmic feed will actually force you to create amazing content and really engage with your followers. You have to remember that in the end, Instagram is only trying to improve the experience for its users. Though a lot of brands will be incentivised to pay for ads, you should really focus on how you can organically place yourself in a user’s feed.

How to make the most of the Instagram algorithm

1. Create high quality and engaging content

Humans are visual creatures who’re hungry for information. We process visual information 60,000 times faster than we do text, which is exactly why Instagram is so popular — it makes absorbing information fast and easy. That being said, you need to create amazing content that makes people stop scrolling, and engage with the post.

Start by figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and focus on posting the type of content that performs best. Iconosquare, SimplyMeasured, and Union Metrics are just three of the awesome Instagram analytics tools out there that’ll help you determine which posts get the most engagement, as well as the top locations and filters, optimum posting times, and the most effective hashtags.

2. Brand your content

It’s important to create templates for your Instagram posts. Consistency will make it easier for users to recognise your content, as well as associate posts with your brand based on their ‘look’ and ‘feel’ upon first glance.

Color is especially important, as it can increase brand recognition by up to 80%. This means that for any text, you should pick one or two colour swatches that you use across all your posts. Choose your colours wisely, as your choice will influence how people perceive your brand. Glossier uses variations of light pink and grey, with some cartoony letters. Note how the font, colours, and style are consistent.


When it comes to photos, try and stick to a certain colour palette, and ensure your photos have the same ‘vibe’. If you look at Hope & May’s Instagram, you’ll see that there’s a lot of white, blue, green, beige, and brown.


3. Include a CTA in every Instagram post

It’s now more important than ever to have a high number of followers, as it’s very likely that follower count will be a factor in the new algorithm. Adding call-to-actions to your Instagram posts is a great place to start.

Don’t straight up ask people to follow your account, like your posts, and tag other users — you need to be smart and subtle about it. Why not playfully ask your followers to tag their bestie? Their workout buddy? Their shopping buddy? Their drinking buddy? Have fun with it, just make sure it’s relevant to the post.



You can even ask your followers to tag you if they post photos of your product. Frank Body does this really well — their Instagram is filled with customer photos that blend perfectly with their own beautiful in-context shots, all tagged with #thefrankeffect and #letsbefrank.


4. Start interacting with your followers

I’ve touched on this a little already, but improving the relationship you have with your followers is critical for your eCommerce store’s success on Instagram. Asking your customers to follow and tag YOU is one thing, but actually engaging with users is another.

In other words, Instagram shouldn’t be seen as a one-way communication channel where you share content with users, but rather a platform for building a community around your brand, where your customers can interact with you and each other. You can do this by answering questions, responding to comments, and even regramming photo from customers that fit your brand’s design.

Daniel Wellington is excellent at doing this — they run a #dwpickoftheday and #dwpickofthemonth competition where they choose an awesome photo of their product that’s been posted by a user and feature it on their own Instagram. It works wonders because both the brand and user get exposure, and it allows Daniel Wellington to build better relationships with its customers.


You should also take some time to look into your follower base. Crowdfire and InstaFollow are two great analytics tools that can help you learn more about the type of people you should be following and engaging with — tailor your content to what works best for these users in particular.

5. Ask your followers to turn on notifications

Instagram allows you to turn on push notifications. Don’t feel bad about asking your followers to turn on notifications for your posts — Instagram’s algorithm is a trending topic and a lot of people are doing it. Just make sure you don’t force it or overdo it.


6. Start making these changes now

Although Instagram has announced that the change will take places within the next few months, my best piece of advice is to start doing the things mentioned above now. Whether the algorithm really does happen or not, these changes will all return positive results and really help you make the most of the platform.


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