Instagram started as a simple app. A place to show your photos to your family and friends. Back in 2010, the app had one chronological feed that users would scroll through. Now there are three options for viewing your home feed, as well as Reels, Shop, and Explore sections. This means in the past 11 (almost 12) years, Instagram has changed how users see images and videos in their home feed drastically.
It is now 2022 and Instagram has made some major changes since we last wrote about the Instagram algorithm. It is time to dig deep again and see how to make the algorithm work for you and your brand.
Instagram Algorithm: How Does It Work?
In 2016, Instagram realized that users were missing 70% of posts in their feed so they created an algorithm that ranked posts based on what users cared about most. Since 2016, there have been more additions to the application and more changes to how the algorithm works.
Adam Mosseri, the current CEO of Instagram explains that “The Algorithm” is not a singular function, but several.
Each part of the app – Feed, Explore, Reels – uses its own algorithm tailored to how people use it. People tend to look for their closest friends in Stories, but they want to discover something entirely new in Explore. We rank things differently in different parts of the app, based on how people use them.
Read that last sentence again: We rank things differently in different parts of the app, based on how people use them. In other words, the way users interact with each part of the app determines what will display for them in that respective section.
Instagram looks at the following information to help determine rank:
- Information about the post – General popularity of the post and time it was posted.
- Information about the person who posted – How often has a user interacted with the person who posted.
- User activity – How interesting a person’s post might be to a user based on previous likes of other posts.
- History of interacting with someone – How a user interacts with posts such as comments, likes, and shares.
For each area of Instagram, these areas can be ranked in different orders of importance, but in general, these are all important when looking at the how, what, and when of posting to Instagram.
11 Tips to Beat the Algorithm
Now that you understand how the Instagram newsfeed really works, it is time to see how to deal with it and distinguish your content from the crowd of similar posts. It’s a complex strategy that requires a lot of time and planning, so we decided to split it into 11 segments. Let’s check them out one by one here:
1. Post more often
The first solution may seem too simple and easy, but it really works. Experience taught us that organizations and people who publish a lot of posts drastically improve Instagram visibility. Of course, there is a catch here – you don’t want to be too aggressive and pushy and you have to be able to create lots of great posts. This is by no means an easy task, but it’s worth trying if you are struggling to win back the audience.
2. Create high-quality content
This tip goes hand in hand with the previous one. Namely, content quantity can never replace the quality of Instagram posts. Jake Gardner, a social media marketer at My Assignment, claims that the secret lies in finding the right kind of balance between the two elements: “It takes a large team of creative individuals to keep publishing amazing posts several times a day. But if you can’t keep the same level of consistency long-term, then I strongly recommend you to concentrate on the quality.”
3. Post videos frequently
Now that video content is surging on social media, videos are getting more screen time on Instagram than they used to. Don’t miss the opportunity to join this video bandwagon!
Here’s a great example – MTV has 80% of its posts in video format.
4. Keep the Stories coming
Most marketers believe that Stories do not affect their positions in Instagram newsfeeds, but you should never underestimate the power of this format. According to Social Insider, posting up to five stories per day ensures a retention rate of over 70%. Besides that, Stories make an excellent way to distinguish the brand and engage followers on a daily basis.
5. Mind the peak hours
Successful marketers know that timing plays a critical role in Instagram marketing. The way your audience behaves online makes a strong impact on the overall discoverability of the content, which means you should focus on peak times.
These are the periods when your followers spend most of their time on Instagram.
Some studies claim that the best times to post on Instagram are Wednesday at 11 AM and Friday between 10–11 AM, but there is no general rule of thumb to help you with that. Instead, you need to analyze the behavior of your target group and identify their peak hours separately.
6. Don’t hesitate on going live
Live videos are yet another feature that doesn’t directly influence Instagram algorithms, but they do come with a very distinct advantage. Namely, users get to receive a notification from your account whenever you go live.
What does it mean to you?
Well, it means that you are going to evoke users’ curiosity with each live video. It is exactly why we recommend Instagram marketers go live as often as possible and enjoy the benefits of this content format.
7. Write compelling captions
A great photo can earn you a lot of engagement, but it will be even more effective if you pair it with a compelling caption. Interesting or provocative captions inspire users to like, share, or comment on Instagram posts, thus making your account look good in the eyes of Instagram algorithms.
There are all sorts of tricks and techniques that you can use to create attractive Instagram captions. You can rely on humor, questions, success stories, quotes, statistics, etc. Everything is worth trying as long as it works with your target audience.
Clever caption from Kate Spade New York
8. Use hashtags cleverly
You don’t have to be a social media marketing guru to know that hashtags are basically Instagram-focused keywords. In other words, hashtags are critical elements that can maximize the discoverability of your posts.
Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags per post, but it’s more than enough to add up to 10 hashtags and make your content easily searchable. Of course, the goal is to find and use the right hashtag options relevant to your audience, your niche, and the brand itself.
Read more about hashtags from our Ultimate Guide to Hashtag Contests.
9. Organize Instagram contests
This marketing strategy is almost as old as Instagram alone. They perform extremely well because users love to compete and enjoy winning free stuff. All it takes is a simple call to action and a small prize to encourage your fans to engage. Instagram will immediately recognize and acknowledge this kind of activity and give your account a brand new timeline boost.
ShortStack can help with your next Instagram Contest! Find out more here.
10. Don’t forget to engage yourself
Instagram engagement is a two-fold process and you must not forget to take part in this game. If you want the audience to react to your posts, you need to evoke curiosity and motivate them by asking questions, answering their comments, and replying to direct messages.
This proves that you and your company are willing to learn more about followers. It shows that much-needed notion of appreciation and acknowledgment, so you can expect the same kind of feedback from your fans.
Also, don’t forget to have your brand’s Instagram account interact with posts from other brands that align with your mission statement. Perhaps you could consider a cross-brand contest. And make sure you are interacting with your followers’ posts when they @mention you or post you in their hashtags. This type of genuine influence can be a powerful piece of social proof for your business so show your gratitude.
11. Invite visitors to turn on notifications
The last advice on our list is simple but very efficient. You should invite your audience to turn on notifications for your posts so they can learn about the new content as soon as you publish it. It will help you to reach more fans and improve the value of your account in Instagram algorithms.
Instagram – with its billion users – makes an epicenter of social marketing strategies for businesses all over the globe. However, recent algorithm changes turned what used to be the most engaging social platform into a low-performing communication channel.
It forces numerous brands to reconsider their Instagram marketing strategies and find a way out of the trouble. In this article, you could learn two things:
- What makes Instagram timeline preferences different in 2019
- How to overcome the problem using 11 practical tactics
The tips we discussed above won’t make an instant impact on your Instagram visibility, but they will help you grow the account steadily and reach the highest level of user engagement once again.
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Updated June 16th, 2022 by Rina Bottom