Yes, Instagram has gone the way of Facebook — and even Twitter — to put an emphasis on quality content by recently changing the way posts appear in your stream. Abandoning a pure chronological timeline, Instagram will now work its magic to determine what content it thinks you’ll care about most via its proprietary algorithms.

In fact, according to the company, three primary factors will drive what it chooses to display:

  1. The likelihood you’ll be interested in the content (AKA magic)
  2. Your relationship with the person posting
  3. The timeliness of the post

So what does this mean for the top social network by engagement? If Instagram’s parent company Facebook is any indicator, it means you’re going to have to try harder on each post to reach less people – unless you’re willing to put up $$$.

That said, the Instagram community is very organically driven, so expect Instagram to continue to make tweaks to this service as they get feedback from consumers. Remember, Instagram was very slow with its initial ad roll-out in 2013, so I think they’ll be careful and I don’t think this will be an instant engagement killer.

Nonetheless, if Instagram is going to be choosing one person or brand’s content to feature over another’s, that means there’s inevitably going to be more competition for your eye balls. “Bad” images just won’t get as many viewers and pages that don’t know their audiences will flounder.

So what can you do to maximize engagement? Because we know that Instagram is now putting a premium on your history of interaction (see bullets 1 & 2), this change places an incentive for you to like more content if you want to get likes back. Recognize your core group of followers and show them some love. Tag them in photos and comment on their pages. If you have followers that share common interests, use the same hashtags that they do. If you want to grow your audience, make an effort to create content that appeals to those particular groups.

This may all seem natural, and that’s because Instagram wants it to be. The goal of the algorithm is to prioritize good content and declutter your feed, not dismantle it.

In short, Content has always been king on Instagram, this just makes it clear that Interaction is its queen.

-Chris