Social media marketing is growing at a rapid pace and Instagram is among the most popular social networking applications in today's time and date.
You can find more than 1 billion people using Instagram monthly. From influencers showcasing their talent and skills to individuals marketing businesses on different scales, Instagram has turned into a virtual world in itself. In fact, Instagram is a platform that has found itself to be indispensable when it comes to the list of social media do's and don'ts.
Gone are the days when leisure and social connections were the only purposes Instagram was known for.
For those using Instagram for business, one thing that has been a topic of discussion, year after year, is the Instagram algorithm. Due to its ever-evolving characteristic, many find it difficult to make the algorithm happy.
From eliminating reverse-chronological order in 2016 and termination of the automatic refresh button in 2018 to giving relevance and recency more importance in 2021, the Instagram algorithm keeps marketers on their toes.
As a result, it makes it tricky to work on rigid strategies to reach the target group, enjoy organic reach, and leverage the platform to the fullest.
We know the Instagram algorithm is subject to change. Big time. However, after analyzing and observing the performance, there were three factors that were brought into the light as the key factors that can help direct marketing strategies, irrespective of the additions or omissions in the algorithm.
Common factors to keep a check on
Here are the three factors (signals) that should be aligned, irrespective of the updates or changes in the Instagram algorithm guidelines.
- User Interest
User interest is basically the interest that the user has shown while exploring Instagram. Your content will be shown to those users that interact with posts and accounts similar to yours. Instagram prioritizes user experience and makes sure to show them the kind of content they are looking at on their feed.
- User Relationship
User relationship is your user's engagement with your posts. If a user has engaged with your content, for instance by commenting on it, they are more likely to see all your posts on their homepage. This feature allows businesses to build a loyal audience as they repeatedly engage with your posts in the current and future times as well.
- Post Recency
It's true that the reverse-chronological order was taken away from the users. However, a somewhat similar signal has been placed in its position. Users now see the most recent/newest posts that are published from your account. All your new posts will be pushed to the top of the feed, while older ones will be found a little further down.
There is a reason why 'consistent posting' is preached by marketers. The more you show up; the more will be your recall value.
Here are a few tips you can use to outsmart the Instagram algorithm and make sure your content is performing the way you want it to.
Best strategies to keep the algorithm happy
Keep in mind, when it comes to strategies, everything doesn't work for everyone. It's best to attempt a trial and error method to identify what's working for your brand or profile.
- Focus on building relationships
If you are just focused on reach, you're playing the wrong game.
We are in a time when building relationships with the audience should be given more importance. Their loyalty and engagement are what will help you achieve success on this social platform. It will also help your posts reach on top of their feed.
Find opportunities to start a conversation or maybe post something that prompts your users to share their insights.
You should also be using as many user-generated posts as possible. This means posting photos that your users have clicked and shared on their profile. This encourages more customers to do the same and helps expand your reach to those in your audience's social network.
You can even leverage interactive and community-building posts like Tag-a-friend or share on stories contests. You need to focus outside of your posts.
- Work on the quality of your content
Great content wins. Always.
The better content you curate and share, the more visibility you will gain.
Now, what exactly is 'good' or 'better' content? You must understand that Instagram is a platform that's famous for visuals. Thus, it's crucial to keep the visual appeal of your profile and content at a high priority when strategizing.
Your posts should be visually striking. Use bold colors, thumb-stopping photos of great quality (pixel and shot-wise both). Make sure you're adding professional-looking visuals and photographs to your profiles every now and then. If possible, do it for every post.
Keep this in mind, great visual design and content help you get more engagement and, consequently, generate quality leads.
- Stay consistent with your stories
Stories are probably the best feature of Instagram.
In fact, the algorithms for posts and stories are different, and your stories get more attention. Using Instagram Stories helps you build a loyal audience and personalize your page to an extent. And personalization is where success is hidden.
You should add a branded hashtag sticker. Make sure to add your brand's name to it. By doing this, you will take your audience to static posts that have used the same hashtag.
If you see someone mention your name in their story, reshare it. It can be done with just one click. Also, encourage your customers to share your posts as their stories. It will help in discoverability.
Lastly, make your stories more interactive. Use question stickers, poll stickers, and even emoji stickers.
Make sure to share your own posts as stories to get more traction on your feed.
- Engage with content from other relevant users
We discussed in the first point how you should be going outside of your posts. That is possible by engaging with users on their posts. Comment, like, and engage with the posts that are relevant to you and your brand. Don't just keep waiting for them to come to you.
These users could be your potential customers, related businesses, or influencers from your industry.
If you don't know where to start, try commenting on profiles with a larger following. This way, your comment and, consequently, your account will get more visibility.
Although, be careful. Don't just start engaging with any account with a larger audience. Think of those profiles that your target audience is most likely to follow. Engage with their content and leave well-thought, valuable insights on the posts.
Also, avoid public sales pitches and generic responses. Be you. Be insightful.
- Leverage carousel feature
The carousel feature by Instagram has proven to be fruitful for many brands.
Those posts that get more engagement are favored by the Instagram algorithm and are rewarded by expanded organic reach. Carousel posts bring 3 times the engagement and 1.4 times the reach as compared to other forms of content.
You can use this feature to share more details and multiple angles on one theme.
- Add videos
While Instagram hasn't really promoted videos themselves or talked about any difference between the static and video post, videos definitely get more attention.
The best thing about videos is that it auto-play when someone scrolls past them or around them.
Moreover, videos require your audience to spend more time on your profile. This helps work in your favor as, according to the algorithm, you want your audience to linger on your profiles for as long as possible.
Suppose you are an SEO marketing agency. You could use behind-the-scenes, motion marketing updates, and client testimonials. Or, if you are selling a product, you can add time-lapse and maybe reviews/unboxing videos of your product. You have plenty of video production styles to choose from.
- Post when followers are most active
Time on Instagram matters a bit too much.
Make peak hours your best friend. Recency is a factor to be visible in front of the audience, as we have already discussed. Make use of this feature.
It's best to post when your audience is most active. It will give you a good surge of engagement and make it more visible to other followers.
The best way to do this is by a trial and error method. You can use Instagram analytics reports to measure the time your audience is the most active.
Go to Insights > Audience Tab. Here, you will be able to see the required information according to the days, hours, or even specific days.
- Try and go live more often
Instagram gives you an option to engage with your audience in real-time. This is possible due to a feature called 'Live Video.'
While live videos don't really have any impact on the algorithm, it is still a great feature to generate notifications to your followers. Your followers will also be able to see your profile first in the Stories tab.
This spontaneity can make your page look more authentic and simple. The kind that customers prefer in today's time. You can go live anytime you want. Feeling comfortable and confident comes with practice. Don't wait for the right moment to kick in.
- Stay consistent in posting
Post consistently is something that everyone has heard of.
This is one of the most basic and most preached practices. Yet, it's not followed by a lot. Posting consistently helps outsmart the algorithm. It can help to expand your reach, get engagement, and improve follower count.
You don't have to post every day to remain consistent. Posting 2 posts per week and 2 stories per day should suffice. To make it easier, you should work on a social media calendar way ahead. This makes it easy for you to remain consistent with your efforts.
- Leverage the power of relevant hashtags
Hashtags are what drives reach. These are simply the perfect way to attract plenty of eyes to your post.
Adding these hashtags help make your content more discoverable and easily searchable. In order for your hashtags to work for you, you need to plan your strategy well.
Add a mix of branded, industry-based, product-based hashtags, and special event/seasonal hashtags. Instagram allows you to add 30 hashtags maximum. Don't shy away from using all the vacancies. However, just be careful that you are using relevant hashtags and not spammy ones.
- Respond to comments immediately
If you think you will 'respond to the comment later,' you can, but without, it won't leave any impact.
Several businesses respond to as many comments as possible and as quickly as possible. This helps to build social proof. This practice encourages other users to engage with your content.
You might get follow-up comments, and it could be a chance to build relationships and a loyal audience. This entire thread of conversation further increases your engagement and helps expand the reach.
- Work on your captions
It's a notion that no one reads your captions. That is a misconception.
You should be working on making your captions gripping. Try to make them more interactive and magnetic for more engagement. You can try asking questions in the comment section. This is a great way to start healthy, insightful conversations with your audience.
Although, make sure you are not adding questions to every post you publish. This will be seen as a punishable offense in the eyes of the platform. Try to add engagement-based captions wherever it's fitting naturally. Don't go overboard.
- Steer clear of shady methods
If you believe that buying likes and followers will help you amp up your game, you're wrong.
Such practices do not work. In fact, it is looked down upon. Instagram is a smart app. Its algorithm can easily tell when your account is showcasing some shady work and might kill your reach.
Instead of spending time planning these scammy methods, why don't you work on building relationships, sharing stories, and maintaining authenticity?
- Make use of hashtags that are community-driven
We have already discussed how hashtags could help you work on your reach. But, if you want your strategy to be more effective, add hashtags that you know your audience searches on Instagram.
One of the niches that you should surely add to your posts is community hashtags. They aren't that popular, yes. Yet, these are the kind of hashtags that help build connections and are used by those who are genuinely interested in the community or topic.
These are the hashtags that can bring engagement and, potentially, new followers as well.
Such hashtags vary from one industry to another. You can still spot them as they describe your ideal customer to an extent. You should also engage with other posts that are using this hashtag. It can help to get more profile views.
- Use contests and giveaways
Who doesn't like free goodies?
Contests and giveaways are among the popular strategies to expand the reach and get the desired traction. Of course, it needs to be well-planned to actually work out for you and your brand.
These help build a community and also generate plenty of UGC. And we all know how well user-generated content performs.
- Keep up with the updates and use new features to the fullest
Instagram is a platform that believes in giving more to the users (in terms of features).
It might have started off with just a platform to share photos. But today, we have plenty of features, including feed posts, stories, live videos, reels, IGTV, highlights, and more. These last three features are the latest addition and should be leveraged to the core.
Reels, in fact, have proven to be the most favored piece of content. The views and boost that reels get are simply impressive. However, many are using reels as a tool that could maybe help them improve their reach. No, posting 5-7 reels a week is not a guaranteed method.
However, posting a show-stopping, really amazing reel will definitely earn your more traction and engagement.
One thing to keep in mind is to stay clear of TikTok's watermark. Also, make sure you are always framing your videos vertically and using filters or camera effects and some really good music in the background.
Your focus should be on quality and not quantity.
- Repurpose old content
It's understandable that thinking of new content to post every day can get daunting. Or, sometimes you spend a lot of effort in creating content, but it doesn't get the desired traction. This is the time you repurpose your old content.
If you think there was a post that performed well in the past, you can start showing that up on people's feeds by reposting that. It reaches your new followers and even those who missed out on it the first time around.
You don't have to delete your old post for this. Just repurpose it. You can rearrange your carousel images, add a new design element and caption, use a throwback hashtag, and more.
- Use direct messages
Direct messages or 'DMs' have proven to be a great instrument for many. It is now slowly gaining popularity.
Leverage this feature to engage with the customer directly, solve their queries, and get in touch with them. You can have long conversations and build and nurture your consumer relationship using this tool.
When you connect with your audience privately, they will build a connection with you and return the favor by engaging with your content.
To wrap it up, we can say that wooing Instagram's algorithm takes quite an effort. But it also helps you understand your audience more and offer them what they want.
Building a relationship with your users goes a long way. You don't want to just think of Instagram as a way to reach your audience, and that's what the algorithm helps in avoiding. It is a medium to build a loyal audience, solve customer queries, and showcase authenticity.
Boost your business Instagram account keeping in mind everything that you read in this blog. You should make sure you are leveraging all forms of content and newly added features of Instagram to stay ahead of the curve. Embrace diversity for the win.