Instagram Introduces “Suggested Posts” & New Ads
Two years after launching its "time well spent" features, Instagram appears to be rolling over an element of its mental health policy, chasing expanding usage.
Amidst concern related to over-usage, back in 2018, Instagram introduced a feature alerting users when they'd scrolled through all the new content in their Instagram feed; with a notice reading "You're All Caught Up" that appears on screen.
In effect, letting them know to call it a day.
The update followed an acknowledgement from Facebook in December 2017, citing internal and academic research that passive consumption of the News Feed could make people feel bad
The usage monitoring feature formed part of a suite of updates and coincided with similar screen time moves across the industry, from Apple, Google and others.
At the time of launch Instagram magnanimously claimed that the feature might well negatively impact some business KPIs, but it was all for the greater good.
Ameet Ranadive, Instagram Wellbeing Product Manager, via The Verge
"We want to empower people to make intentional decisions about how much time they spend and how they want to engage with the app.
There may be some trade-off with other metrics for the company. That's a trade-off that we're willing to live with. In the long run this is something that's important for the community, and something we want to invest in."
However, fast forward to 2020, and now, Instagram says it will use this space to suggest new, organic posts for users to view as well as ads.
One More, For The Road?
As per the image above, the new suggested feed flows on from the "You're All Caught Up" notification.
Robby Stein, Instagram Director of Product, via Techcrunch
"Our goal is to make it clear when you're all caught up so you can decide how you want to best use your time.
We see people continuing to seek out more posts they're interested in after catching up with their feeds, so we wanted to learn from that and make it easier to go a little deeper for those who choose to do so."
With a host of new Instagram features released since Easter across Shopping, IGTV, Reels, and Live, there is plenty to keep users engaged. To go a little deeper, if you will.
Despite suggestions that usage was beginning to flatten, Instagram has been a significant beneficiary of COVID-19, in terms of increasing daily time spent, which now sits around 30 minutes.
Oscar Orozco, eMarketer senior forecasting analyst, April 2020
"Instagram was pretty flat growth.
We projected a 1.5% growth in 2020, but because of COVID-19, it's actually going to see the biggest, strongest growth out of all of the socials that we cover.
Nearly 14% growth. That's about 3.2 minutes when you add that up.
And we do expect that there will be a slight decline in 2021, but a lot of this will be sticky behaviour. It will be sustained into the future."
Overall daily social media usage now sits around hour-and-twenty-minutes-plus on average globally, according to eMarketer.
Up seven minutes per person daily, from 2019, primarily due to the global health crisis.
Mo Scrolling = Mo Ads
The new "Suggested Posts" surface is akin to the Explore tab, with suggested content from accounts you don't follow, but that Instagram thinks you might like.
It might also prove a handy spot to shoe-horn Instagram Reels or IGTV into, to boost popularity and uptake.
Whether or not "Suggested Posts" formally becomes a distinct ad placement, or merely an extension of Feed or Explore, only time will tell. According to Techcrunch, the feature is rolling out globally now.
If the latest feature can work even a fraction as well as the Explore tab for driving passive discovery and boosting time on site, then Instagram could experience quite a bounce in usage.
Explore is a critical element of Instagram, responsible for driving around 20% of total app usage.
Hence, it often incubates new or struggling Instagram features. Of which there are several.
In defence of marginalising one of its original "time well spent" features; Instagram claims that people who follow a high volume of accounts may never reach the end of their feed anyway, so don't see the "You're All Caught Up" message.
Therefore, it's only the not heavily addicted users who will be drawn in to "go a little deeper".
Cue, evil laugh.