Are you overcome with frustration because you’re losing more followers than gaining? Have your comments and likes decreased significantly? We’ve all been there! But don’t worry, we’ve gotchu 😉😉
Before we delve into the secrets of beating the algorithm, I’m going to break down exactly how it works. Let’s begin.
Firstly, Instagram wants to show you content that delights you, grabs your attention, induces you to stay longer and increases the likelihood of you coming back to the app more often 😢 Your attention is what they sell to advertisers to make money, so the app is essentially designed to maximize the attention they get from you, and their algorithm is no different.
The Instagram algorithm evaluates each new post based on an Engagement Metrics that they consider indicative of how delightful a piece of content is. The picture below details a step-by-step process of its workings:
So now that you’ve understood how the algorithm works, what can you do about it? Here are a few preliminary rules to make your posts more visible on your feed to get your engagement and followers back to where they should be:
The headings may sound cliché, but I guarantee the description will help open your eyes 😳😳
RULE #1: Post at times your audience is active
Astonishingly, an Instagram study shows people miss an average 70% of their feeds 😫 If you post at random times during the day when fewer of your followers are on Instagram, your content is less likely to be engaged-with early on and the algorithm is more likely to downgrade you. Although your Instagram feed is not in chronological order, posting at the right time still matters 🙃 To avoid getting lost in the flux of Instagram shots, you need to find the optimal posting time that best caters to your followers. In UK apparently, the best time to post are these, Monday: 7pm and 10pm Tuesday: 3am and 10pm Wednesday: 5pm Thursday: 7am and 11pm Friday: 1am and 8pm Saturday: 12am and 2am Sunday: 5pm ⏰⏰
RULE #2: Use Insta stories and be a story-teller
In the past, Instagram rewarded the users that had the best and most unique images. Now, they also reward those who tell the best stories (hint, hint — this why the Stories feature is so important!) 🏆 Undoubtedly, Instagram Stories is a powerful and effective growth tool for users right now. Additionally, don’t underestimate the power of words. Try different long and short captions to see which type of content resonates better with your audience, and pick a winner 🏆🏆
Update: Post stories every couple of hours if you can. You probably know by now that tInstagramram algorithm rewards you when people spend more time on your content, by making it pop up more on their feed. An excellent way to take advantage of this is by putting in more work on your stories. Since its launch, instagram stories have gained so much popularity that it now has almost double the users of snapchat! The more effort you put into your stories, the better it will look. The better it looks, the more people will spend time viewing it. The more time people spend viewing it, the more chance you have of your posts showing up on their feed! One great hack is to make use of the “swipe up” or “poll” feature, since that also counts in your engagement. Some influencers also tell followers to DM them for a direct link to a certain product, which will further boost their engagement and increase the chances of their posts being seen! Also, use hashtags in your Insta Stories. Just like how the location tag works, when you use hashtags in your Insta Story, it could show up on that specific hashtag’s story. You can use up to 10 hashtags per story; the more hashtags you use, the more chance you could have of someone new seeing it.
RULE #3: Develop a personal connection with your followers
Like we said above, Instagram doesn’t care if you have an amazing photo unless you are also telling amazing stories. Try focusing on how to connect with your followers to attract meaningful and consistent engagement. Bored followers don’t engage — and they even unfollow. Try different engagement tactics to see what works best for you 👨👩👧👦 All in all, it comes down to the age-old trial and error tactic. Additionally, when a follower does engage, rewarding that engagement with a response will go a long way. People tend to favor accounts that feel like an online community. For more insights on building an authentic connection with your followers click here. 👨👩👧👦
Create human content, not branded content 💻
When was the last time you got super excited about a post from a business page? Brands and businesses rank in the lower 25% of engagement on Instagram. Does that surprise you? What has been traditionally thought of as good “marketing” content doesn’t work on Instagram. Buzzwords, glossy editorial photos, expensive marketing campaigns and posts about how good your brand or business is make you sound like a salesy robot, and very few of us enjoy interacting with a salesy robot 🤖🤖 Create content that gives your audience value, instead of content that tries to get value from them. Additionally, if you have this super awesome/themed profile, it does come off as branded. Which is why I aim at doing a mix of both on my Instagram @naomi_dsouza.
RULE #4: Stay relevant and continually test new content
Testing helps to evaluate what content your audience loves and considers valuable in order to stay relevant. Test new types of content over time and measure the engagement (likes, comments, shares, saves) each new type of post gets. Keep the content that does well and aim to improve it; whereas drop the content that doesn’t receive good engagement and continue testing. Through plain-old trial and error, you’ll eventually find the type of content that your audience loves and be able to grow your account 🕐
In addition, each individual and account is unique so what’s valuable will be different for everyone, but an objective way to measure this is through your Instagram Insights engagement page. Here’s how you do it:
- Go to your Instagram Insights page, tap into the Posts section and tap in the Filter section at the top, within that page.
- Then, filter All posts by Engagement within the last 6 months and Apply.
At the top of this feed, you’ll see the posts which get the highest engagement. These are the types of posts that your audience gets the most visual and content value from, and it’s the type of posts you should improve upon and do more of in the future. If you scroll all the way down the feed to see the content your audience engages with the least. This is the type of content you should most likely stop or do less of in the future because your audience doesn’t respond to it as highly 🙍🏻 The better you get at executing content your audience finds valuable, the higher your engagement will be and the more highly your posts will be ranked by the algorithm ✅✅✅
E.g. if you’re a makeup artist who only posts pictures, try posting a video. If that does well in terms of engagement (the number of likes, shares, saves, and comments), keep up with that content. Otherwise, stick to posting pictures. This would help determine what increases engagement. Maybe it could be posting frequently on Instagram stories. Keep doing whatever works for you in terms of getting high engagement and discard the rest. You can’t make everyone happy so finding the type of content that most people who follow you, love, is what will help your Instagram account grow.
RULE #5: Leverage relevant hashtags
A few months ago, using plentiful hashtags was a great strategy to increase chances of being featured on the Popular Page to increase the visibility of your account. However, times have changed, the Popular Page is now the Discover Page. You may ask, what difference does it make? Now the images you see are based on your unique interests and the types of images you engage with the most ♻ Hence, a better strategy would be to leverage fewer and highly targeted hashtags. Do use targeted hashtags that fit into a niche or narrow audience that are more likely to see your posts and engage with them. However, don’t use hashtags like #beauty or #bbloggers that have millions of users is too broad or generic. Click here for tools that can help generate hashtags to drive engagement. ❌ Don’t use only wildly popular tags such as #success or #business ❌ Use tags such as #successmindset or #businesssuccess. This is your best chance to be seen by as many people as possible. Yes, popular tags are searched more often, but there are also more posts, which decreases your chances of being seen.
Do not copy and paste the same tags to each post. This will only lead Instagram to classify your page as spam. Feel free to use the same and/or similar tags, but switch the order of each one.
At the end of the day, you should be reaching people who truly want to follow you. Those who are just looking for a “follow back” won’t do ❎
RULE #6: Know that the algorithm will change, but Instagram won’t
Instagram exists to do one thing: Maximize the time you spend using Instagram 🤑 The algorithm will change whenever they consider they have new/better metrics to measure people’s delight from a piece of content, because the more delightful content you find on the app, the more likely you’ll be to use it for longer and keep coming back more often 😭 Whenever it changes, keep measuring your metrics and pay close attention to the differences between the posts that the algorithm favors (get more Reach) and the ones it doesn’t (get less Reach).
Remember that consistency is key. For increased engagement, you should post approximately four times a day.
RULE #7: Engage/comment or receive the same within the first 60 minutes of posting
Not only will your followers appreciate it, but Instagram will boost your post and show it to more of your followers! Thank people, have a conversation with them or just show them some love with a few hearts! Interestingly, you’re not supposed to edit your post’s caption or location tag for 24 hours! The mechanics of why this is unclear. But we do know that doing so will significantly lower your chances for your post to appear at the top of the feed.
RULE #8: Do not use the same #hashtags repeatedly!
Hashtags are crucial, choose them wisely. Before the algorithm changed, using as many hashtags as possible was the way to get noticed on Instagram. However, on the discover page, the pictures that you see are based on your interests as Instagram believes those are the images you will relate to and therefore engage with the most. To beat the algorithm, using a smaller number of highly targeted hashtags is the best strategy. Using the same hashtags over and over again will result in shadow banning aka being marked as spam on insta. The key is to use more specific hashtags to target a smaller segment which would lead to a higher chance of getting noticed. For example, #fashion would have millions of posts but using #DubaiFashion is more specific and would give your post a higher chance to get noticed.
RULE #9: Go Live on Instagram
Instagram Live can bring in a lot of engagement and new followers, especially if you provide value and share it across your social channels. If you promote it before-hand using hashtags in your story and posts, you’ll most likely gather a few new interested followers wanting to see what you have to offer. Instagram Livestreams are great for driving traffic too if your Instagram Live has racked up a lot of viewers, considering dropping in a few call-to-actions such as telling them to click the link in your bio for exclusive content. Your Instagram Live should be interesting to your audience and that can be achieved by sharing what happens behind-the-scenes. You could also do weekly or monthly question and answer streams, these are great for your audience to get to know you more and for you to find out what your audience likes to know about you, giving you more ideas for content.
RULE #10: Current events can make you a fortune
Sometimes, breaking news becomes a trending topic on social media. When that happens, think about how you can use it to your advantage. Usually, a trending topic will have its own hashtag. Post content relevant to that topic and use that hashtag in the caption. As a rule of thumb, it’s a great idea to find something humorous that you can post related to a trending topic.
RULE #11: Strategize your posts AKA create great captions!
Another great way to make your followers spend more time on your posts is by coming up with more creative captions. If you’ve managed to grasp their attention in the first few sentences, chances are they’ll click on the ‘more’ option and spend a few more seconds reading it! You can even make use of the gallery/carousel feature, so that followers will spend some time in swiping through all the pics, thereby increasing your post visibility. This is also the reason why videos do so well on instagram now, since people spend more time viewing it than on just a picture.
Asking your followers questions in your captions is a great way to drive engagement. Ending captions with a question about their opinion, or asking them to tag a friend who would like the picture you posted, increases how people interact with your post. This, in turn, increases your post visibility. Also when people tag their friends, the said friends also view your post; almost doubling your reach!
It’s all about how many seconds each person stares (aka engages) on one image/video.
At the same time, ensure the first line of your caption is the most important, since a caption too long or a question at the end may most likely not be visible as it’s hidden under the ‘see more’ option, that people most likely don’t click
RULE #12: Instagram is rewarding smaller, but highly engaged accounts.
Instagram realized that people were obsessed with increasing their follower count rather than using the platform for what it was made for; to tell stories. Now accounts with high followers can possibly be shunned to the side. People would make the perfect account signing up for bots to like and comment, buying followers and trying to compete with others. Instagram now tries to put smaller accounts on the discover page with followers that are loyal and would engage with the posts that are passionate and truly bring the purpose of Instagram to life. What to do? Build on your existing account and make sure you’re giving your followers content you’re happy with and they would love to engage with as well.
Last but not least, the algorithm will change/alter whenever Instagram believes they have newer or better metrics to measure people’s delight from a piece of content. To learn more about Instagram’s engagement metrics click here. Crazy complicated algorithms aside, it’s important to understand who you’re trying to reach. Once you have a grasp of that, then you’ll be in the clear to focus on how to better serve your content.
All in all, its super important to be creative and have fun with your Instagram feed. It’s not always a numbers game. As with any social network, the most successful strategy overall is being authentic and social. Happy gramming! 💋👩🏻🏫