Hacking the Instagram Algorithm

The 2nd June 2016 is a date firmly burned into the minds of Insta-addicts. It’s the day that Instagram changed their algorithm. No longer would your feed be in chronological order, it was now based on what you have previously engaged with - what Instagram believed you wanted to see first. 

These changes not only made a disappointing viewing experience, but it scared the poop out of businesses and smaller Instagram accounts who were trying to grow. There is no doubt that there has been a negative impact BUT there are ways to still achieve engagement and growth, it’s just not as easy as it once was. 

Here are my top tips for getting your small business or personal Instagram account to the top of your follower's newsfeed. 

Quality over Quantity

I cannot express this enough. Do not throw any old photo on Instagram just because you want to post something. If you don’t have a decent image to share, then don’t share at all!  When deciding what photo to post, consider two things:

Is it on brand? By that I mean, does it fit with your business and what you’re trying to convey? If you’re all about healthy eating, is it a good idea to put a photo up of your fast food lunch? Probably not. However, this could be fun to put on Stories to show that you’re human and succumb to the occasional Vanilla milkshake and fries combo,  especially as that guilty indulgence will have disappeared after 24 hours.

Does it fit with my gallery?  How does it look up against the photos I’ve already posted? Your gallery aesthetics are incredibly important when it comes to growing your Instagram audience. If you get good engagement on each of your posts but don’t see growth - the likely culprit is that your overall gallery is not aesthetically pleasing. If your photo is on brand, but won't sit in your gallery right now, then save it for later. Tools such as Planoly, UNUM, Mosaico and Later allow you to plan out the aesthetics of your gallery so you can see what your gallery will look like when the image is posted. Remember, you're only as good as your last 9 posts - keep that in mind, every time you consider a new post, that is what a potential new follower will look at before they hit that all important blue button.

Focus on your optimal time to post

Even though posts are no longer shown in chronological order in a user's newsfeed, it’s still imperative that you try to time your post when your audience is browsing their newsfeed.  Check your insights within Instagram to see when your audience are online. Currently, this is only available to Instagram business accounts but tools such as IconosquareUNUM  and free app When to Post will tell you your best times based on the engagement of previous posts.  If you have a brand new account, or even if you don’t, it’s worth thinking about the lifestyle of your audience. When are they most likely to be online? Are they early birds scrolling through Instagram over breakfast or perhaps they’re in such a rush in the morning they are most likely going to be scrolling whilst on their morning commute? Perhaps they’ll check again during their lunch break or after dinner in the evening? Try to draw up a mental image of your follower to better understand when they are most likely going to be viewing your content. 

Don’t overlook your caption

Even though Instagram is all about the photo, don’t overlook your caption. Captions are a valuable tool for fostering engagement and are more likely to encourage a comment than just a double tap like, providing you give people a reason to write a comment. With this in mind, what is your CTA (call to action) - give people a reason to comment by asking a question. The more engagement you get on your post, the higher your post will rank in the Instagram algorithm and the more people will see your content. 

It's story time

A couple of months after the algorithm changed Instagram launched a competitor to Snapchat which they named Stories. These are disappearing videos or photos that you can share (with all or some of your audience) that will be visible for only 24 hours. Currently, Stories is not affected by the algorithm and show up on a users newsfeed along the top in an almost chronological order - so every time you post, you jump nearer the beginning of that user's Stories feed. However, Stories is learning whose content you like and whose you tend to skip over and will start to show you users content based on your previous actions. This is an algorithm of its own and does not appear to be connected to the same algorithm dominating your newsfeed, however, this could change in the future.

If you haven't already, I would urge you to get involved with Stories. As the content is only temporary is doesn't have to be as perfect as it would be if it was going to join your gallery. Clients have told me that they have seen a noticeable spike in engagement on their gallery after posting to Stories as it has initiated gallery engagement by users who were already following them but hadn't been seeing their posts due to the algorithm.

I'd love to hear how you get on applying these tips to your account and what impact it has on your engagement and growth. Do remember, though, Rome wasn't built in a day and neither was your Instagram audience. 

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© 2017 Social Mouth Ltd