The dust has just settled on two more major algorithm shifts in the social media world. First, Twitter announced that it would re-order tweets on users’ timelines based on relevance. Then organic darling Instagram followed suit with a similar announcement that its updated algorithm will reorder posts based on users’ interests rather than displaying them chronologically as posted. As social giant Facebook has already made significant moves into the algorithm-managed arena as well, it seems that the age of “free-ride” organic social media for businesses may be waning. Is it all bad news for marketers?

Many user experience advocates would say no. While the idea of anyone else’s algorithm deciding what you do or do not want to see may be off-putting, the fact of the matter is that the sheer volume of players and content in the social arena constitutes a double-edged sword for providers. These social platforms depend on the engagement of their users and if users are inundated with useless, irrelevant or unwelcome content, they’re likely to walk. So what’s a social media giant to do but implement measures, like an algorithm say, based on things like interactions and activity to control the display of content and help cut down the clutter?

For businesses and brands, that means the “pay to play” model of paid social advertising and post boosting is poised to become even more central in building that opt-in audience to gain value visibility. Even Instagram, the long-time organic content holdout and still the reigning champ in terms of user engagement, is actively working to fully build out its advertising platform. Industry-watchers do expect Instagram’s feed changes to be less intensive than some other outlets thanks to a core community that demands a higher level of organic authenticity. Even so – the feeds, they are a-changin’.

As it has been, content is king. Brands and businesses will have to continue to work hard and be smart to cultivate engagement and interest for that valuable social media visibility. And for brands that are successful, these algorithm changes could actually make their target audience more accessible rather than less thanks to the reduced noise level. Smart engaging content and a balanced social media promotion strategy can still win the day.