For all social media platforms, it has been a battle to offer advertisers as much advertising space as possible. If we look at YouTube, we see ads at the start of the video, to the side of the video, and even as pop-ups throughout the video. Now, Instagram seems to be taking from this lead with the introduction of new ad space: Suggested Posts.
Back in 2018, Instagram introduced a feature that displayed a ‘You’re All Caught Up’ message once users had gone through the newest content on their feed. At the time, the aim was to help those with addictive tendencies who would spend hours each day endlessly scrolling through the platform.
For both of its platforms, Facebook also released screen time statistics and other measures to help with this issue. For example, it’s possible to silence notifications and get reminders when daily activity times are met. If you don’t want to spend more than 30 minutes on the app, choose this in the settings and reminders will come. Of course, Facebook wasn’t alone, and Apple also brought screen time statistics and other features.
In 2020, we’ve had an interesting year, one that has brought concerns to industry experts. We’ve experienced the rise of TikTok just as the whole country went into lockdown during the pandemic. Suddenly, social media users had lots of free time and were canceling any previous screen time limits that were previously set. Facebook and others have been forced into a competition and this means that features like screen time management have taken a backseat.
In truth, TikTok has forced the whole industry to think about how it operates. According to one study, the average user opens the app no fewer than EIGHT times per day. With this, Instagram needed to react. When previously it was trying to get people to close the app after catching up on all the latest posts, it will now offer more suggested posts to keep them engaged.
After updating the app, users will no longer get the message that they’ve caught up on all the latest posts. Instead, Instagram will display posts in which they may have an interest. Since they don’t follow these accounts, the idea is to engage each user further with tailored content. Suggested posts are based on two things:
The next question is how this differs from the Explore tab because this is a question that we have seen many times already. In our experience, there were some differences because the Explore tab considers posts we interact with and the searches we make. On the other hand, Suggested Posts seems to have an emphasis on the accounts we already follow. Essentially, it’s an ‘if you like this, you might also like this’ as the suggested account posts similar content.
While Explore tends to offer related content on a broader topic, Suggested Posts are closer to what you enjoy already. For Julian Gutman, Head of Product at Instagram, the aim of this new feature is to help people enjoy more content to what they already like. With relevant content, it’s a continuation of the experience.
From a marketing perspective, the good news is that these suggestions will contain ad space. For the moment, Suggested Posts are made up of videos and photos as opposed to IGTV clips or Reels.
Two years ago, the whole industry came together to offer users a solution to the addictive nature of social media. As noted, new features were brought to the market by Facebook, Apple, Instagram, YouTube, and others. For Instagram, the focus was on Your Activity, a hub where users could see how much time they were spending on the app. If the number was too high, they could set a limit to receive a notification once this limit was passed.
Now, the endless stream of content returns, and we’re sure figureheads pushing for user control will question Suggested Posts. Despite how the feature works, Gutman has already stated that the goal isn’t to make the platform more addictive.
When questioned, we’re sure Instagram will point to the option to reject Suggested Posts as a defense mechanism. If you see a suggested post that doesn’t match your interests, click on the Menu and then Not Interested. In the future, new suggestions should reflect your decision. Unfortunately, users cannot disable the feature entirely. Although there is an option to see older posts to continue through the feed, there’s no option to remove Suggested Posts from the bottom of a feed.
Overall, the addition seems to be a win-win for Instagram because the platform keeps users engaged with more content while also generating income from extra advertising space. As the feature becomes more prominent, we’re sure discussions will continue as to whether or not the brand is going back on its word just to compete with TikTok.
The moral aspect of Suggested Posts is a debate we’re sure will draw lots of attention, but there’s obviously positive news for marketers considering that some posts in this section will be sponsored. We’ll learn more about how it works as time goes on, but we assume that businesses will create ads and choose interests/demographics to appear for the right people. Since the Suggested Posts are already interest-based anyway, it allows brands to reach the right areas.
For example, let’s say that you’re a skate shop and you sell all sorts of skateboarding equipment and clothing. If a user is already consuming lots of skateboard content, your own content will naturally be the perfect fit for this user. By paying to have your ad appear, you already know that the user has an interest in the topic which means that the chances of them tapping through to your profile and website are higher than normal. It’s like a targeted Facebook ad but without having to do all the targeting yourself.
If you’re to send posts to your audience in this way, you need to ensure the foundations are laid to take advantage of the interest. Here’s our advice:
You may appear alongside other sponsored posts, but either way, your posts will stand against content of the same topic because Instagram wants to encourage users to stay. If your content isn’t high quality, the user will choose to go in another direction, or perhaps even worse, they’ll tap on your profile and decide that it’s not worth their time again.
With a great first post, users will tap through to your profile and likely spend some time on it. Hopefully, they’ll choose to follow and engage with the content. Best case scenario, they will even recommend the page to others.
As we’ve just noted, we want people to click through to your profile from the ad. If your profile isn’t optimized with high-quality content and a good bio, it won’t be long before the user taps away.
If you’re a business and want consumers to take the service seriously, lose the personal account, and start building a following on a business account instead. If you already have an account, go into the settings and you should see an option to switch to a Business account. There are plenty of benefits of choosing this route, and one of the biggest is the ‘contact’ button that customers can use to reach out with questions or even orders.
In addition, over time, you can learn more about posts thanks to Instagram Insights, the advanced analytics tool. It’s possible to track metrics, learn about your audience, and discover the most effective posts in your niche.
Remember, the Instagram users you target are probably just scrolling through their feed after a long day at work…don’t just come in with the hard sell. Instead, the user wants to carry on their content consumption. The better strategy is to present really interesting content likely to get their attention (and their tap!).
We’re sure the new ad space on the Instagram feed will go down well with businesses, but will a backlash follow from those who want to prevent addictive behaviors? We’ll learn with time!