Still Boggled by Instagram's Algorithm? Here's a User-Friendly Guide

Still Boggled by Instagram's Algorithm? Here's a User-Friendly Guide

Published on 4th of July 2019

Since the algorithm update from 2018, several Instagram accounts have been left wondering why their following and engagement has gone down. If you happen to be a business owner, marketer, or influencer who is still struggling to understand what’s going on and how you can outsmart this algorithm, this article is for you.

The Top 3 Ranking Signals on Instagram

Before we begin going into the details of what you can do to gain more followers and be seen more often by your target audience on Instagram, let us first look at what signals the new algorithm to prioritize your content so that more users are able to view it.

#1: Relationship

The latest algorithm places importance on relationship between accounts, so that users who engage with each other often see each other’s posts and Stories more. For brands, this means that the more you interact with your followers, the more likely that your posts will reach their feeds. For example, when a follower leaves a comment on your post, tags your brand on theirs, or if you DM each other, then Instagram will recognize that the two of you are “close” and so they would be more likely to see your content on their feeds versus other brands that they follow but do not interact with as much as they do with you.

#2 Interest

Another factor that the algorithm favors is user interest. Based on the users’ past behavior, Instagram is able to predict which posts are relevant to users, and these are what they see on their feeds. This is similar to the way Facebook and YouTube filter and recommend content to their users. In effect, if a user has been liking, commenting, sharing, or sending direct messages to accounts that are related to sports, for example, they are likely to see sports related content at the top of their feed.

#3: Timeliness

Based on the image sharing app’s announcement from March 2018, newer content are bumped up at the top of users’ feeds, so that these feeds “feel more fresh”. This change is Instagram’s response to user feedback that they see the same posts for several days from the same people whose posts they double tapped. So, while relationship is one of the factors that are being considered for ranking content, the app is now also making sure that more recent posts are placed at the top of the feed.

7 Ways You Can Outsmart the Instagram Algorithm

Now that you know what influences Instagram to rank content, here are a few things you can do to make sure that your following and engagement keep growing despite the algorithm change.

Create eye-catching content

While this has always been the top rule for posting on Instagram, it is not a bad idea to say this again (and again) in case you need to be reminded. As an image sharing app, the primary driver for followers is having visually appealing photos and videos. So, if you want more users to double tap on your post and follow your account, you need to make sure that you post high quality content. You may want to hire a professional to take photos and record videos for you or you can do it yourself. And you don’t need to buy expensive gadgets amazing images and videos. In fact, your smartphone and a good app can make this happen for you.

Write compelling captions

A wonderful image is not enough to drive engagement. People respond to well-written captions, those that they can relate to. So, once you have mastered the tips and tricks to taking amazing photos, the next thing you will need to learn is how to compose captions that users and your current followers would want to like, comment on, share on their Stories, and forward to their circle. One way to encourage your audience to engage with you on your post is to ask a question or add a call to action.

Post more videos

Although the algorithm would only prioritize videos if a user is actually fond of watching video content, it is safe to assume that majority of Instagram users love to watch video clips. In fact, statistics show that videos receive 38% more engagement than image posts and 2.1x the amount of comments. In addition, more than 100 million Instagrammers watch or record Live videos every day, so you should not limit your videos to posts alone but also consider creating Live videos as well. This is another great way to interact with users, since Live videos allow them to post their questions and comments in real time and you can react to these as they watch.

Add the right hashtags

The main purpose of hashtags is to extend your reach to users who are not following you but are interested in the type of product that you sell, your industry, or the subject that you have on your post. Considering this, it is important that you choose your hashtags carefully, making sure that you are not only adding those because they are trending but also because they are relevant to your post and to your brand. The maximum number of hashtags allowed on an Instagram post is thirty and adding as many as you can, even reaching this maximum number, is good for optimizing content as long as you add the right ones.

Post more frequently

If you can post quality content more than once a day, go ahead and do that. The more often you post on Instagram, the better – as long as you post great images and videos. Most major brands post 1.5 times a day on average. Aim to post one to three times a day and watch your engagement rate increase. Also, you will notice that posting several times a day will also increase the number of followers you have.

Post when your target audience is online

As the new algorithm favors recent posts, it is best for you to identify which hours your target audience are online and schedule your content to be posted during those times. From your Instagram business account, you can go to Insights to see which hours on each day of the week your audience is most active. You can use an Instagram post scheduler so that you won’t have to manually post during these hours.

Run a contest

Running a contest on Instagram is a great way to increase engagement, expand your reach, grow your number of followers, and allow potential customers to experience your products for the first time. The most common Instagram contest is a giveaway, and you can list certain criteria for contestants to qualify, such as liking your post, following your Instagram account, tagging a friend, reposting your post, and posting an image with your contest hashtag. Be sure to make all the instructions and prizes clear, and announce the winner on the date that you have announced. You might want to hold contests every month or every quarter, that’s up to you.  

It might be a bit challenging to adjust to the new algorithm, but following these tips should help you thrive despite the recent changes.

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