Instagram’s algorithm changes are a bummer. That much we can agree on. Before we get into how to combat it, we first need to understand what is really going on.
There are rumors circulating that another change is imminent, but at the time of this writing, this is how Instagram’s algorithm works:
- When you post, Instagram will show that post to 10% of your audience.
- If within the first 10 minutes, your post gets a strong level of engagement (likes, comments, direct shares), Instagram will then show it to the remaining 90% of your following.
- If it continues to perform well, or rather, if it exceeds expectations, your post could end up in the Explore section.
While, it is annoying TO EVERYONE, Instagram didn’t do this to torture us, they did it because they’re cracking down on users gaming the system and actually punishing those who employ bots, bought likes or comments, etc. After all, Instagram has shut down companies like Archie, Instagress, etc. This is the next step in that process.
That said, if you’re an influencer or a brand and want to continue growing your following, here are some helpful tips:
- LESS IS MORE AND GOOD CONTENT IS STILL KEY: Maybe once upon a time posting often and in bulk meant more eyes on your posts, but it doesn’t seem like that tactic works anymore. In fact, it seems like the algorithm rewards consistency, too. So stick to the good stuff and keep it lean.
- POST WHEN YOUR AUDIENCE IS ACTIVE This varies from person to person. We can’t give you a specific time to post because we don’t know where your audience is based or when they’re spending time on Instagram. But—from our experience, and assuming what we’re told about the algorithm is true, you absolutely don’t want to post when your audience is, say, asleep. No interaction within the first ten minutes means your post will be buried.
- HAVE A HASHTAG STRATEGY: Placing hashtags in your caption makes the picture searchable. Having a strategy means you have an assortment that pertain to your theme, which you rotate through. You don’t want to use the same ones over and over again, otherwise Instagram will register it as spam.
- WHERE TO PUT THEM: If you don’t like seeing hashtags in the caption, you can write your collection of hashtags in the first comment immediately after posting. If you preface them with 5 periods (meaning: with a hard return after each), it’ll obscure it even more and won’t show up as a preview—you’ll have to tap the comments to actually see it.
- HOW MANY SHOULD YOU USE: This is ever-changing. Honestly, a month ago we were told 30 was the right amount, then it was 15, then 10. Now we use 5. The reason being: Instagram started to register 30 hashtags as spam. Registering as spam, whether you’re actually spamming or not, gets you blacklisted and that’s not cute. So, stick to 5 and have alternates, so you’re not employing the same 5 every time you post. You want them to be related to your niche/category, of course—as that’ll help you attract people who might be interested in your posts…
- WHAT MAKES FOR A GOOD HASHTAG: Look at the pics below. You’ll notice each hashtag has a number assigned to it. That’s the amount of times its been used. You want the hashtag to be popular enough that people are actively searching under it, but not SO popular that your post will get buried in the hashtag feed. Here are some tips, look at the images below for context:
- Stick to hashtags in the 10k-500k range. Flirt with ones higher than that if you’d like, but if it’s already in the millions, stay away …you’ll get lost in the feed and will have little to no chance of ending up in the TOP POST section.
- In the case below, you’ll see that #creativelifehappylife and #influencer are way too popular. #personalbrand or #gritandvirtue, on the other hand, might bring you better visibility. NOTE: All of these are in the same niche; they all pertain to influencers.
- More: Click on a hashtag you used right after you posted the pic and you’ll find your pic under the MOST RECENT section (see image on the right below).
- If it has good engagement, your post will be featured in the TOP POSTS. This is what you want. Yes, people do comb through the MOST RECENT section, but it’s the prominent spot up above in the TOP POSTS section that you really want, as the more visibility your post gets, the more engagement it’s likely to yield!
- HOW TO COME UP WITH HASHTAGS: This one is tricky, admittedly. Comb through other user’s profiles in your niche to see what they’re using. You can also search for a hashtag, and then see what other ones pop up under the “Related” field (see the post on the right.)
- DON’T BUY FOLLOWERS: A long explanation isn’t necessary…
- DON’T USE BOTS: Same goes here. It won’t lead to anywhere good, unless you want to be shadowbanned. In which case, go for it!
- ENGAGEMENT PODS: AKA Boost Groups. These are mini clubs usually comprised of friends or like-mined Instagram users who come help one another with engagement. It works like this: Someone posts, alerts the group—then everyone runs to the post to like, comment, and possibly share. That’s the short of it. You can find people looking to form engagement pods on Facebook, you can also message other users directly and see if they’re up for starting one. What we can tell you is:
- It might be wise to limit the group to 10-15 people. Rumor has it, any more will register as SPAM if you’re running the group via DM’s in Instagram.
- What people have started doing is hosting the group on messenger apps like Telegram to avoid popping up on Instagram’s radar.
- CTA’s: This one is tried and true, but putting a specific CALL TO ACTION in your caption helps with engagement. Sometimes a pun or an emoji makes for the perfect caption, and if you’ve stumbled upon one—go for it, but if you can ask of something from your audience, put them to task! Especially if you’re hosting a giveaway or promoting a discount code, etc. Make them engage! (It’s easier to do so when there’s a reward!)
- GO HAM ON STORIES!: People do use stories to drive attention and engagement to a recent post. Nothing wrong with that. But feel free to post lots of stories. Keep ’em short; keep ’em sweet; and be sure to stick to the same, number one rule: Make sure it’s GOOD content. After all, Instagram Stories are also arranged according to an algorithm. Yep, those aren’t loaded alphabetically, or even chronologically. Evidently, the ones that appear closer to the front are from accounts that you engage with the most. So give your followers a reason to look forward to them and you’ll be rewarded. Same goes for your posts.
See …the algorithm ain’t so scary after all