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Delivering on a promise made before a Senate subcommittee in December, Instagram has announced it is going to unveil new ways for users to organize their feeds, including a return to the popular chronological feed. Company head Adam Mosseri announced the changes on Jan. 5 and said the changes will go into effect during the first half of the year, although he stopped short of providing a specific timeframe.

The new format will offer three options for how feeds are displayed, and users will get to decide which one is best for them:

  • Favorites will give priority to accounts that the user has favorited.
  • Following will be a chronological feed, which will show posts from accounts the user is following and will show them in the order in which they were posted.
  • Home will be similar to the feed that users see today. The posts will be ordered by how interested the Instagram algorithms indicate the user would be in seeing the post. In addition, it will recommend posts from accounts that users aren’t currently following but might be interested in based upon their recent behavior.

Improving the Instagram experience

In a video announcing the changes, Mosseri said the new approach would give users more control over their individual Instagram experience.

“It’s important to me that people feel good about the time that they spend in the app,” he said. “And I think giving people ways to shape Instagram into what’s best for them is one of the best ways to pursue that goal.”

The announcement is a welcome change for many users — particularly for influencers who need to have their posts seen in a timely manner. The current format, which was introduced in 2016 and updated in 2017, uses an algorithmic method to sort feeds. Using machine learning, Instagram created what it called a “more personalized feed” based on a user’s past activity. Although the company has continued to insist that this approach has been popular, users were largely underwhelmed — and engagement numbers told a different story.

By rolling out these changes, Instagram strikes a better balance by still delivering suggestions on content but allowing users to leverage the chronological feed. While there are still many unknowns about how the feature will work and how it will be accessed, it is expected that it will provide an easy way to toggle back and forth between the different feed formats to give users the exact experience they’re looking for.  

What this means for influencers

The shift to a new feed comes at a time when TikTok is winning the battle for eyeballs and impressions — and Instagram realizes it needs to close that gap. Although it hit 2 billion users in August, a November survey by Forrester found that 63% of Gen Z users were turning to TikTok weekly, while that number dropped to just 57% for Instagram. For influencers who are trying to grow their numbers, TikTok has become a better environment for doing that. Even Mosseri himself has noted that TikTok does a better job at introducing new talent and influencers, while Instagram has become a space where creators who have already made a name for themselves can stay connected with their followers.

However, in that same interview, Mosseri made the case for creators using Instagram, saying that it provides more options in terms of formats, whereas TikTok is exclusively video.

With the introduction of new feed options, creators and influencers could have a better chance at growing their reach. Returning to the format in which posts are seen chronologically could not only help Instagram recapture what made it appealing to begin with but is great news for the brands that influencers are partnering with. The chronological feed will help make the content more visible and give users a more authentic experience; one based on their actual interests, not algorithms. And, by doing so, creators will have a better opportunity to build engagement and promote both themselves and brand partners.