Instagram Debuts New Algorithm, Bumps Video to 60 Seconds

Facebook-owned Instagram is testing a new algorithm, which will choose which posts users see in their feed and in what order. Brands are worried, afraid that means their posts won’t be seen. That’s essentially what happened when Facebook changed its algorithm, and the Pages that businesses and brands built to reach fans for free, slowly but surely disappeared from their followers’ feeds. Instagram also announced that it is rolling out a new cap for videos, bumping the limit from 15 seconds to 60 seconds.

By 2012, organic posts reached only 16 percent of a Page’s fans, and Facebook encouraged brands to pay to sponsor posts.

Re/code reports that numerous brands with large numbers of Instagram followers are just waiting to see what happens next. “Nobody knows yet how it will impact them,” said Dolls Kill chief executive Bobby Farahi, whose online fashion brand has more than 900,000 Instagram followers. “So everyone is basing it on what happened with Facebook and running around scared.”

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Instagram says the new algorithm isn’t meant to force businesses to pay, but its bland statement does not reassure: “We are doing this to show people more of the content they want to see, including content from businesses,” explained a spokesperson. “Content from brands is more likely to appear higher in the feed for the people who find it most interesting.”

“It all equals ‘spend money in order to get exposure,’” said fashion site Keep executive Courtney Harwood, whose brand has 50,000 Instagram followers.

Instagram is also building “business profiles, special accounts specifically for brands,” which has Re/code thinking that, “once that happens, it will be easier for Instagram to identify (and possibly rank) which accounts belong to a business and which belong to an individual.” The likely result is that some brands at least will learn how to “appease the algorithm.”

Spoon University, for example, has been posting more video on Facebook to take advantage of the new algorithm’s preference. “If you play the game and create video like they want you to do, they prioritize your post,” said Spoon University chief executive Mackenzie Barth. “But you see this happening with all publishers that are creating videos. So as the entire tide rises, it’ll be interesting to see what the value of a ‘Like’ is in the future.”

Video is also getting a makeover at Instagram, as the company increases length from 15 to 60 seconds. Variety says that longer clips are now available “to some users” and will roll out for everyone “in the coming months.” Video viewing has increased more than 40 percent over the last six months, according to the company. Its parent company Facebook has rolled out numerous video initiatives recently including live streaming and 360-degree videos.

“Sixty-second videos should help Instagram to eventually monetize videos with ads, which viewers likely tolerate more on longer rather than shorter clips,” adds Variety, which notes that, “hundreds of thousands of Instagram users signed a petition to stop the company from moving toward a curated feed of photos and videos within its apps.”