If you’ve noticed that your Instagram posts aren’t getting the level of exposure that they used to, you’re not alone. In 2018 a series of updates to the Instagram algorithm has been implemented, forcing businesses and influencers to work ever harder to get eyeballs on their content.
Gone are the days of the latest posts reigning supreme. The chronological structure was replaced in 2016 with the new algorithmic one that values engagement above all else. So how exactly does the Instagram algorithm work and what’s the best way to increase engagement under the current rules?
You might think that all this tinkering with the Instagram algorithm is good for users and bad for business, but that’s not entirely true. Yes, you’ll need to start doing things differently. But that’s a small price to pay to get access to Instagram’s 1 billion users.
Instagram users want to connect with businesses. In fact, 8 out of 10 users actively follow at least one company.
Getting users to engage with your content on Instagram, however, is getting seriously competitive. Over 70% of US businesses are now marketing on Instagram and the platform has over a million monthly advertisers.
This rise in competition means that Instagram is fast becoming, as Neil Patel puts it, a “pay to play” arena.
Exactly how the Instagram algorithm works is obviously a closely guarded secret. However, the nice folks at Instagram have revealed some important factors that influence visibility on the platform.
Let’s take a look at these in a bit more detail.
The new Instagram algorithm rewards the posts with the most engagement. The more people interact with your post through likes, shares, comments, and views, the more your posts will be seen.
Not all forms of engagement are treated equally. Likes aren’t as important as comments and shares. The algorithm recognizes that it takes more effort for a user to leave a comment or to share a post than it does to click the like button.
The 2018 algorithm therefore actively spreads posts that generate more comments and shares so that the most engaging posts will rank highest on individual feeds.
Timing also plays a key role. Get a whole lot of comments and shares quickly and you’ll soar to the top in no time. It’s, therefore, best to do some detective work to find out when your audience is most active and time your posts accordingly.
The longer you can keep the users eyeballs on your content, the better your rank. This is one of the major reasons why videos are doing so well on Instagram in 2018.
The length of time spent viewing a post is an important factor in determining whether or not your content gets a boost. To take advantage of this, you need to figure out a way to get people to click on the “more” button.
One way to do this is to write a killer caption that captures your audience’s interest. Check out this one from @lostintheforest:
I bet you thought of a good name for him, didn’t you!
Get creative with your captions, think of them like headlines and use them to grab people’s attention and leave them wanting to know more. When you’ve written them, ask yourself, would I click on this?
The algorithm is designed to put the user’s friends, families, and favorites first. The more frequently a user engages with your account, the higher you will appear on their feed. Posting engaging content such as polls or asking questions regularly can, therefore, improve your success on Instagram greatly.
300 million people a day view and interact with Instagram stories. This is nearly double the number of Snapchat users.
Using Instagram stories to increase brand engagement is an essential part of any Instagram marketing campaign.
The algorithm takes into account Instagram story replies and shares. And with users spending more time on Instagram stories and less time on their feeds, this is great news for anyone looking to market themselves.
Why not take advantage of the engagement opportunities with Instagram stories by posting a poll.
Or add some links if you have more than 10,000 followers.
Engagement works both ways, which is why the algorithm favors those who respond to comments and engage regularly with their audience. You don’t have to write a lengthy response to each comment, simply sending a heart or similar to show some love to your followers will do.
It’s best to respond within the first hour of posting to avoid losing visibility.
If you want to do well on Instagram, you need to enter into a dialogue with your customers. Treat your comments like conversations and you’re onto a winner!
It’s not all about engagement. The genre or category of content that you post matters too. The algorithm is designed to figure out and offer more of what users like.
So if you’ve got a thing for sports, you’ll see more and more sports content, same goes if you’re into fashion, food or whatever. This is Instagram’s attempt to be more relevant to users.
The same applies to which format of content users interact with most. People that watch a lot of videos will find that more videos are prioritized on their feeds. The same goes for Instagram stories.
Video posts have the highest levels of engagement in 2018. 38% higher than images.
If you’re looking to attract followers and increase your engagement, a well-crafted hashtag is a great place to start. Especially since it’s now possible to follow hashtags on Instagram.
Relevant tags can now show up automatically on users feeds. Which is great for getting your posts in front of potential followers. It’s is also a double edge sword.
Users can easily choose to “blacklist” your hashtagged content If they don’t find it interesting. If too many people select the “don’t show for this hashtag”, this could have a negative impact on your overall Instagram marketing.
Authentic conversation is the key to increase visibility and engagement. You can easily create a conversation by posting polls, questions, and requests. Treat your followers in the same way you treat your friends and family. Respond to their questions, show them some love (#love is the most used quote on Instagram).
The bottom line? Strive for authenticity in your captions, comments, and conversations and you will see results.
Let’s not forget that Instagram is a highly visual medium. Image is everything so your Instagram image needs to be carefully crafted and considered with your target audience in mind.
Posts with a location or photos with faces get more engagement.
As well as a great image you also need a great story. People want to hear about your journey and if you share your highs and lows, they will respond by becoming devoted followers of your brand.
If you want to increase engagement on Instagram and win more followers then having a hashtag strategy is essential.
Do some research to find out which hashtags your audience are using the most, then seek out posts with those hashtags. Hit like, leave a comment and watch those figures rise.
The algorithm rewards user’s that utilize new features.
The smart folks at Instagram are constantly thinking of new fun ways to engage their users.
New features get released every couple of months, so keeping on top of new additions like polls, gifs, and swipe ups is a great way to stay in Instagrams good books.
If you haven’t already, try incorporating features like Instagram live, Instagram stories and Carousel posts into your marketing strategy.
This final tip is a practical yet necessary one that is often overlooked.
There’s a setting that is designed to alert followers each time you post something new.
Gently encouraging your audience to switch on this setting for your account allows them to keep informed on all the latest trends and be the first to see your fresh content.
You don’t want to harass your audience or plead with them to turn on this setting. But, a friendly and casual mention of it every now and then could pay dividends.