The psychology associated with change and our reactions to shifts in social networks

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A couple of months ago the logo of Instagram was changed. Some liked it. Others hated it. But the memes began to flow.

The company owned by Facebook moved ahead from its outdated camera icon and adopted a new, low key design right through its collection of products – Instagram, Boomerang, Layout, and Hyperlapse. The changes in design swept all through the Instagram app as well. The company explained in a blog post that the simpler design will put more focus on the users’ photos and videos without changing the way they navigate the app.


The psychology associated with change and our reactions to shifts in social networks


Over the last 5 years, the community of Instagram has evolved from a place for sharing filtered photos to a place with so much extra things. It is an international community of interests to share over 80 million photos and videos daily. Their reorganized look reveals how lively and varied the storytelling has become.

This renovation could indicate the commencement of an era of quick change as Instagram keeps on shifting towards its algorithmic timeline. Besides, it seems this will not be the last time for Instagram to send the Internet into meltdown in 2016.

But what are the reasons for which social networks get the feeling to make a change in their design and functionality? And what are the ways in which users react?

Let us dig up.


Why social networks make changes (and why we go on rushing back)

When a certain social network changes considerably – by the use of an algorithm to determine what content we are going to see, or totally shifting the design, for instance – it is basically taking a control element away from the users and shifting the product they fell in love with. This kind of changes is likely to meet with some pushback.

Nevertheless, time and again, these huge, far-reaching changes are made with keeping the interest of the user in mind. For instance, when Facebook released the timeline for the first time, it was not welcomed kindly by certain users, but today the timeline chooses content from friends rather than brands, and it makes our Facebook feeds palatable. Lacking the algorithm, possibly we would be shown 1,500 pieces of content a day on Facebook, which means we would probably fail to see vital updates from family and close friends.


Why social networks have to change

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology made a study in which they explored the factors that can destroy a social network. They discovered that though networks such as Friendster and MySpace had tens, or even, hundreds of millions of registered users, the bonds between users were not very strong. In fact, users had the feeling of a looser affiliation with the networks.

When networks get bigger, they become increasingly cluttered and we start missing out on a number of very important content from our close friends. Social networks find this to be a problem.

As Instagram declared they started to trial an algorithmic timeline, they stated that the majority of users overlook approximately 70 percent of their feeds. Then Instagram co-founder explained that this is about ensuring that the 30 percent you notice is the best possible 30 percent.

By making sure we notice content from the 30 percent of accounts of our closest affiliation, Instagram can go on growing, simultaneously keeping the community feeling close-knit.


What this signifies for brands

Brands are frequently most affected by major changes to social networks. Essential updates habitually boost user experience and incline towards showing content that are from family and friends, rather than ads or branded content.

Important changes signify that brands are required to modify their strategies. When a network attains maturity, brands normally will not get the same exposure as they do at the time of developing towards the mainstream. At Buffer, this is called the Law of the Double-Peak.

This is to say that when a social network is rising and expanding towards mainstream popularity, the vital opportunity for brands are likely to be organic reach. But as the network attains critical mass, organic reach falls and the vital marketing opportunities have a tendency to be through paid channels.

The transition of networks from organic reach to paid channels happens for a couple of reasons. One is Contend overload. As networks expand our feeds become more and more cluttered, and this makes it hard for us to locate the content that is most important to us. If advertisers wish that their content should appear beside the vital updates from our closest ones, they will have to pay making their advert relevant.

The other reason is maturing of the business. When start-ups develop, they have to start bringing in revenue, and on the whole, their most important resource is user eyeballs. For marketers and brands, it is imperative to keep an eye on how networks are evolving and changing as they develop.


Why users continue to come back to social networks in spite of changes

In the year 2014, Penn State and UC Irvine researchers published a study on the ways users react to significant changes on social networks. Their chosen subject was one of the major controversial social media updates: the Facebook timeline.

Applying ‘coping theory’ to measure users’ reaction to the change, the researchers showed that 78% of the initial reactions of users were concentrated on how they saw the change to affect them personally.

64 percent of the initial reactions showed some stress signs, and just 20 percent considered the change to be a positive one. The first cause of stress was due to loss of familiarity, and the next was due to loss of control. The study found that Facebook users by and large were against the change and conveyed a sense of loss simply because the new interface was not the old one they were used to.

The study discovered that we look at ourselves as more than simple users with social networks. The Facebook users strongly felt that they were the Facebook user community, not the products. So, Facebook would not succeed without their constant use and customer loyalty.

Most of the people the study surveyed (64%) concentrated on attempting to change the environment by asking Facebook to go back to the way it used to be, as against trying to find out their way around the new Facebook timeline.

Certain users made threats to stop their association with the social network, but the study found that eventually, when there were only two coping strategies available – to accept or to leave – the huge majority accepted the change and went on to use Facebook.

As the Timeline rollout, Facebook has gone from strength to strength. In all probability, Instagram will meet with the same fate when its algorithm based feed launches later in 2016. Some users will cuddle it, others will be against it; but only few will abandon it.

Social networks, our favourite apps and products – all are going to change, as change generally signifies improvement. It is a necessity for innovation and this leads to the survival. At times the change fits well with us and at times it does not. However, the most important point is that we have to adapt to these changes if we wish to carry on maximizing the potential of social networks.

Ready to Take the Next Step?


Manpreet Kaur

Content Writer

Manpreet, Sr. Technical Content Writer at Promatics, has an experience of around 5 years in the IT industry. She enjoys writing informative articles, blogs, related to technology topics to help the readers understand better. Her articles focus on balancing informative with SEO needs. She has worked majorily in the education, IT, mobile, and telecommunication domains. In her free time, she loves to listen to music and to dance.

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