Debunking the Latest Instagram Algorithm Rumours

Viral blog posts; a blessing and a curse! 

Some are super useful and others, not so much.

This blog post has been sent to me 17 times this week, and I've been tagged in it no less than six times on Facebook Groups asking for comment; so I thought I would respond publically. 

Full disclosure, I have absolutely nothing against the original poster, I didn't know her and hadn't heard of her or her blog before I was sent this article; I simply want to respond to and add my thoughts, to the statements made within the blog post.

Statement One

"When you post something on Instagram, it may only be exposed to 10% of your audience."

Fact/Fiction? Inconclusive evidence.

Yes, it is true that your entire audience doesn't see your post straight away; however, it's not a flat 10% for everyone. It is likely to differ from user to user. I have friends who have accounts for their dogs, who repeatedly achieve close to 100% reach. The more engagement you obtain within the first 15 minutes, the more likely the algorithm is to show it to more of your audience. This, however, is hearsay and never has, and will probably never, be confirmed nor denied by Instagram. We can only take a guess based on research conducted into how Facebook shares Page content across newsfeeds. 

Statement Two

"These {comment} pods are groups of people who have agreed to boost engagement for the group by liking and commenting when a member of the group announces that they have a new post. Well guess what? This might not be a loophole. This could actually be one of the reasons so many people were getting shadow banned."

Fact/Fiction? Somewhere in between.

It is likely that comment pods (groups of users in a direct message group) all deliberately commenting and liking each other's posts could be seen to be gaming the algorithm. In the Instagram Community Guidelines, it states "Help us stay spam-free by not artificially collecting likes, followers, or shares, posting repetitive comments or content, or repeatedly contacting people for commercial purposes without their consent." Therefore by participating in a comment pod for the sole purpose of artificially inflating your engagement you are breaking the terms of use and community guidelines and you could risk a shadowban or worse, termination of your account.

Statement Three

"Business Accounts: If you're promoting your business in any way and represent yourself as such, rumour has it that the best thing you can do now to ensure your work is seen is to switch over to a business account if you're not already on one...".

Fact/Fiction? Neither. 

This intrigued me because this is the first time I have seen anyone other than myself be PRO the switch. 99% of "Instagram Experts" advise you not to make the switch stating that by doing so you reduce your reach because Instagram wants you to pay for advertising. I have done extensive testing on this theory and have not seen enough of a difference in engagement to agree with it either way. I support the switch to a business account if you are a business so that you have access to Insights. PLUS I believe the algorithm is sophisticated enough to know if you are a business masquerading as a personal account, and if there were any "reach penalties" applied for business accounts - you're probably getting it anyway so you may as well get the Insights.

Statement Four

"Instagram is now thought to be restricting exposure based off of YOUR engagement. Now, you might want to respond to comments left on your posts within 60 minutes. Otherwise, your post's visibility might gradually decrease."

Fact or Fiction: Zero evidence to support, so would have to say fiction.

No evidence to support this, have never heard this rumour before. I recommend to all my clients that they hang around after they post for 15-30 minutes but not everyone has an hour? I certainly don't! I tested this today and stayed in the app for an hour - I had not seen any difference to when I posted the other day and hung around for 10 minutes. What is worth remembering is that Instagram is all about Community - so if you just post and don't reply to your comments or engage with others, then you're not part of the "community" and you may see lower engagement. 

I'd like to add, that unless your post hits the Explore feed; a general rule of thumb with engagement is that what you have gained within the first 30-minutes, doubled - is approximately the total engagement you will receive during the 24-hour lifespan of the post. 

Statement Five

"In order to count as engagement, comment with 4 words or more." 

Fact or Fiction: Zero evidence to support, so would have to say fiction.

Someone told me the other day it was seven words, no six or perhaps it has to be two sentences with one emoji?! What a load of baloney! If you are copying and pasting a standard two or three words generic comment then yes, this is spam like behaviour and could (not saying it will - again no evidence) get you in trouble. Comments should be thought out and genuine and relate in some way to the photo or caption - not just "nice pic" or "love this!".

Statement Six

"Although you can use up to 30 hashtags in a post, this can now be picked up as spam. Spam = shadow banning."

Fact or Fiction: Zero evidence to support, so would have to say fiction.

Right... so why can we add thirty then?! Think about it - I mean REALLY think about it! Why would using a feature to its fullest, be seen as Spam!? If you use the same tags on every post or try to play the algorithm by adding thirty to your comments and then adding another thirty to your caption - then this is spammy. I don't think it "shadowbans" you; I think it just takes you out the hashtags because you've confused the algorithm. Don't do it. 

It's the quality of the hashtags that matter; if you cant find thirty hashtags relevant to your post, business or niche, then don't use thirty. Simple really. 

Statement Seven

"Hashtags that you post in the comments of your post will no longer display under search results. You must now include hashtags in the body of your caption."

Fact or Fiction: Fiction!!!

I have checked this out with numerous users, and this has been heavily discussed in facebook groups, and it is NOT TRUE! IF you have noticed this on your account, then this is unique to you; but this is not a general thing.  I met an Instagram Community Manager at an event and asked this question, and she said it makes no difference; it's just that you can't put a hashtag in the comments on another users post to add that post to a hashtag. 

Statement Eight

"Do NOT edit your caption for 24 hours after posting. This significantly lower your chances for it to be seen..."

Fact or Fiction: Fiction.

I make typos; my line breaks didn't work. I change them pretty much every day... never seen any impact on engagement. Much like statement seven, if you have noticed an effect on your account - this could just be you.

Statement Nine

"Following on from above. Do NOT delete your post and then repost it."

Fact or Fiction: Fiction.

Same as above?! I would question why you're deleting it and reposting it anyway? I've removed posts when the square crop hasn't worked out quite right, and I've needed to readjust it and repost; again, never seen an impact. 

Statement Ten

"Rumor has it; your profile might be favoured if you're following hashtags."

Fact or Fiction: Inconclusive evidence but potentially fact.

Instagram loves those that adopt their new tools and features, such as those using Stories, Live etc. So, in theory, this could be true, but there is no evidence to support this and it is, just rumour.

In Conclusion

NOBODY apart from Instagram (not even those claiming they have a hotline to Instagram HQ) know how the algorithm works. Instagram never has and will be more than likely, never disclose the ins and outs. What they have shared is some basic details around why they changed the algorithm, but it's unlikely they will ever comment on shadowbans etc. 

As with everything, be careful where you obtain advice and what you believe. What works for one, may not work for another. I am in a fortunate position where I speak to hundreds of users daily whether that be on forums and groups or because they are my clients; so I can see patterns and trends emerging, and I do my best to advise on this. I never have and will never guarantee the validity of my information as coming from Instagram themselves  (unless it does) and anyone who does - should be quizzed! I am also very careful as to where I share information from as a lot of it is just rumours and scaremongering.

Peggy has done her best in this blog post to pull together some rumours (some popular and some I've never heard of) and advise others with best intentions. But just like my blog post - take it all with a pinch of salt, carry on what you're doing and change it up if it doesn't work. 

As I always say, "eyes on your own paper". 



Everyone wants to know the secret to more followers and hire engagement on Instagram - I debunk the latest rumours for 2018! socialmouth.co.uk/blog/2018/1/19/instagram-rumours