This is a special guest post from our friends at Planoly, the visual-planning tool that helps you manage, plan, and schedule your Instagram posts. Here, they share tricks to beat the Instagram algorithm to get your content in front of your target audience.
These days, Instagram can feel more like a game than a social media network, especially for those of us trying to grow our brand digitally. With each new update and algorithm change, it can be hard to keep your social media strategy relevant, even when it’s your full-time job—trust me.
But not all hope is lost—while it is true that updating your Instagram strategy will take some extra time, it’s actually a great opportunity for you to get closer to your followers and potential clients. Here, we’ll give you five tips to help you grow your Instagram engagement and truly activate your Instagram strategy to attract new clients.
First things first: let’s take a look at the components of Instagram’s algorithm.
Components of the Instagram Algorithm
Instagram uses an algorithm to determine what kind of content each user sees in their feed. This has always posed a challenge for marketers as they try to figure out the best way to get their content in front of their desired audience. On average, only 10% of your audience will see your content. So how does the algorithm work exactly? Here’s a breakdown of the criteria that impacts Instagram’s most recent algorithm, according to Instagram product lead Julian Gutman.
Instagram pays very close attention to your behavior on the platform to figure out what kind of content you’re most likely to care about. And it’s not just based on the hashtags that you’re using or following. Instagram uses machine learning and human curation to recognize patterns in the images that you interact with (like, comment, save, share) and uses this information to recommend similar content to you via your “Discover” feed.
And the same goes for your “Following” feed.
The algorithm ranks content higher in your feed based on posts you’ve previously interacted with, along with the accounts that you interact with the most.
In response to complaints that users were seeing outdated content in their feed, Instagram updated their algorithm to value post recency more highly. This is the timeliness of the post, where the feed prioritizes more recent posts over posts that have been shared days or weeks before.
This is the relationship that you have with other accounts. If you’ve interacted frequently with an account, such as commenting, liking, or tagging, then the algorithm will rank their content as important and it will show up at the top of your feed.
How often you open Instagram also plays into what content is shown in your feed. Instagram will show you the best posts since your last visit or the last time you refreshed your feed.
The more accounts that you follow, the harder it is for Instagram to show you all of the content posted from all the people that you follow each day. Meanwhile the algorithm is still considering all of the other components as it generates your feed. All of this to say that it’s possible you’re not seeing all of the new content from all of the people that you’re following every time you open the app.
Similar to visit recency, Instagram pays attention to how long you spend in the app to give you the best content for long or short sessions.
Tips to Beat the Instagram Algorithm
Now that we know how the algorithm works, here are our top tips that will help get your content the attention of your audience to rank higher.
Create conversation with your audience & use calls-to-action
The whole point of ranking higher within the algorithm is to increase the visibility of your content and use your posts to spark conversation with your audience. Once you’ve got their attention, end your caption with a compelling call-to-action to seal the deal. It’s about more than just posting visually stunning photos. Ask yourself this: what is it that’s going to make your audience want to comment? Creating conversation not only allows you to start a dialogue with your audience, but it also helps build brand loyalty, which can later translate to new clients and customers. These conversations can also teach you, as a creator, what your audience does and does not respond to, and you can use this to inform your future content strategy.
Take the Los Angeles Dodgers for example. Their audience knows that they can expect a response to their comments, and as a result, the Dodgers have seen an incredible increase in engagement from fans, which encourages their fans to continue commenting on all of their posts. This has led the Dodgers to achieve a 3% average engagement rate, and for a profile with 1.8MM followers, that says a lot—the industry average engagement rate for profiles of 500K to 1MM followers is 1.71%.
Analyze your best and worst performing content
If you have a business account on Instagram, your Insights tab will be your best friend when it comes to understanding what kind of content is working for your audience and what is not. Additionally, Planoly has tools that allow you to see your best performing content, track key numbers and view results in the Analyze tab.
Our favorite way to keep track of key performance indicators (KPI) is through a KPI tracking sheet available here. Aside from celebrating your successes, it’s important to pinpoint the missed marks within your content strategy and highlight them so that you know what not to include in your content strategy moving forward.
Use Instagram Ads
Word of mouth and organic marketing will only get you so far when growing your profile and getting new followers. With Instagram ads, you are able to strategically target your desired audience, expand the reach of your content and increase your engagement. A/B testing is a great tool to see which of two ads are the best performing so that you can boost the winner to help you generate new leads and follows that may have not been aware of your business. And while ads guarantee that your content is seen, it’s up to you to ensure that you include a call to action.
PRO TIP: Create an ad that fits in perfectly with the organic non-paid content in your audience’s feed. Don’t make it too salesy!
Use Multi-Image Posts
Instagram has released a new feature that resurfaces content that has been scrolled over in a multi-image post. This allows users to see the other images in the post, which may not have been seen, without having to swipe left to view more. Not only does using multi-image posts (also known as carousels) allow you to share 10 videos and/or photos at a time, but you’re also maximizing the number of times your followers see your content in their feed, giving you another chance to engage with them and catch their interest.
Ensure you’re always posting quality content
When posting content on your feed, more isn’t better. The content you post should always meet the standards that you’ve set for your brand and give your audience a compelling reason to engage with it. Always look back at how your content performed and try to recreate successes and avoid past content mistakes. Then, when you’ve planned out all your content and captions (tip: the Planoly grid can make planning a snap), ask yourself:
- Is this the highest quality photo that I can post? If it’s grainy, maybe you shouldn’t post it.
- Is the editing of the photo one that matches my grid and brand guidelines?
- What is the call-to-action? How am I engaging my audience to perform an action that’s going to help my brand grow?
- How am I inviting my audience into the brand conversation?
- Is my caption proofed and free from errors?
- Am I linking to the right place? Do my links work?
These are just a few of the questions you should ask yourself, but with the Instagram and Planoly checklists below, you should be good to go as well.
With these few tips, you should see a great improvement in your content once you start planning and posting with intention. Social media should be social—and so should your relationship with your followers and potential clients. Good luck ‘gramming!
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As an Official Instagram Business Partner, PLANOLY is the very first and premier all-in-one platform and tool for brands, creatives, creators and marketers to visually and efficiently plan out content in advance, schedule, post, and engage on Instagram.
With a roster of over 2MM users, including the likes of Garance Doré, Gal Meets Glam, and Marianna Hewitt to name a few, PLANOLY has set the standard for effective and strategic content planning. Not only have countless brands and influencers been able to curate beautiful feeds, but they have also been able to practice effective social content strategies that helps them maintain and grow an engaged audience.