Could Instagram’s Changes Make Things Tougher for Fashion Brands?

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Even tougher than 'gamming and walking.
Even tougher than 'gamming and walking.Photo: YOUNGJUN KOO

“The Instagram apocalypse.” That’s what fashion blogger Ascia AKF dubbed the upcoming changes to the app’s algorithm in a post today. Just as Instagram has irrevocably reshaped the way fashion shows and events are structured and upended model casting, it could now be about to change the way bloggers do what they do. And some of them fear that the coming configuration — which prioritizes posts into a curated Facebook-like feed rather than a chronological one — will make it harder for them to reach their followers. But if anything, the move could just drive up the, well, influence of said influencers, while making things more difficult for the brands themselves.

If you’ve browsed Fashion Instagram today, there’s something of a freakout unfolding. Bloggers including Gabi Fresh’s Gabi Gregg, plus fashion brands from high-end (Net-a-Porter and Rag & Bone) to high street (River Island and Boohoo) are among the many who’ve posted, imploring followers to turn on notifications for their posts so they can be sure users will still see them. (If you follow their advice, get ready for an avalanche of push notifications.)

Though she used the word apocalypse in her post, Ascia AKF isn’t as worried as some. “I don’t think this will negatively affect my Instagram,” she told the Cut. “I think it will just help me narrow down my serious followers. Instagram is a great platform for sharing a visual story, but I’ve never been one to have all my eggs in one basket and I think this recent change will help other influencers realize not to rely on a single platform.”

The brand side of the equation is trickier. Instagram has been by far the most fruitful platform for fashion labels — ahead of Facebook or Pinterest, according to Digiday. In order to continue reaching the buying public, fashion companies may have to rely more heavily on influencers with six- and seven-figure followings rather than their own content streams. (Just when you thought influencers couldn’t be more overemphasized in the fashion realm. Instapit, anyone?) After all, which are you more likely to “like,” or comment on, or @ your friends on — a photo from a brand’s site, or a shot of your favorite Instagirl with a product conveniently in the foreground? It could also mean that brands will have to turn to ads or paid posts in order to gin up their previous levels of engagement.

Given all the furor, we reached out to a spokesperson for Instagram to address what’s going on. “We are testing a more personalized feed ordered to show the moments we believe people care about the most,” he said, citing a stat that the average user misses 70 percent of the posts on their feed. (For what it’s worth: Per the company, the change is only affecting a small percentage of Instagram’s user base for now.)  As for whether the changes are intended to spur brands toward buying ads, the company’s official stance is that that is not a factor. “Our goal is to show people more of the content they want to see, including content from businesses,” he said.

Eva Chen, the company’s head of fashion partnerships, also took to Instagram to express her frustration with the flurry of posts, writing ” ❗️thoughts on the meme of the day❗️: The interwebs is exploding with people urging other people to turn on post notifications … take it from me, unless you are dying for up-to-the-nanosecond posts about my nailpolish whims, you don’t need to turn it on tomorrow.” Naturally, she included an on-brand shot of her newest nail-polish whim, OPI’s Olive in Green.