For consumers and businesses, Instagram is the place to be. However, it’s a challenging landscape to navigate especially with the dubious Instagram algorithm.
You see, Instagram stopped showing posts in reverse-chronological order. The new Instagram algorithm switches the order of the posts.
Due to these changes, a lot of brands have experienced a decline in engagement. However, others experienced Instagram growth. This has resulted in rumors, debates, and a lot of confusion. Not only for businesses but for users as well.
In this guide, we’ll demystify the new Instagram algorithm. Additionally, we’ve listed a few strategies so you can use it to your advantage.
Has Instagram Algorithm Changed For 2019?
Here’s a quick flashback:
Last 2016, the new Instagram update nixed the reverse-chronological feed. They said that the users’ feeds will prioritize the moments you care about. Plus giving priority to fresh, timely posts.
Fast forward to 2019, there’s a growing concern over the Instagram algorithm update. Rumor has it that the algorithm only shows content to about 7% of any profile’s followers.
It’s alarming not only for brands but for influencers too.
In January 2019, Instagram addressed this in their twitter account. According to them, the algorithm has not changed.
They clarified that the content you see in your feed is based on your own activity. Additionally, they assured its users that they’ll never hide posts.
Most importantly, they confirmed some of the main factors that affect the Instagram algorithm:
However, brands and influencers still have questions on how to take advantage of this Instagram algorithm update.
Users are still somewhat confused.
So How Does Instagram Algorithm Work?
Whether it’s for SEO or social media platforms, algorithms play a huge role in determining who sees your content. When algorithms change, strategies must also be updated. For this reason, understanding how algorithms work is essential.
The Instagram algorithm, in particular, needs to be demystified. Especially if you want to grow your account. Learn how to work with the updated algorithm to create an effective marketing strategy.
Remember, the new algorithm can still change. However, here are the main ranking factors that Instagram takes into account:
Relationship Between Users or Accounts
The new Instagram algorithm prioritizes content from “family and friends”. However, these terms are subjective. So think of it as those accounts – users or brands – you interact with a lot.
For instance, a user often likes or comments on your content. This continual interaction sends a signal to the Instagram algorithm that you have a “close” relationship.
Those who most probably fall in this category include:
- Those accounts you like or Stories you frequently watch
- Users whom you direct message
- Profiles you search for
- People you know in real life
If a user falls under these criteria, they’ll see your post more often.
Remember, this isn’t an exact science. It only gives us a hint on how to navigate this social media landscape. With that said, engagement is now crucial in growing your account.
How Interested Are You In A Particular Post?
According to Instagram, the new algorithm will prioritize content that users will be interested in. This is based on a user’s past behavior.
For example, you keep liking interior design content. Instagram will place similar content at the top of your feed.
In a nutshell, posts that fall within your interest will rank higher in your feed.
Note: The Explore feature also uses this algorithm. It’ll show content based on a user’s interest and past activities. Brands can use it to reach a wider audience.
But what about viral posts?
Viral posts are content that received a lot of engagement. This signals the Instagram algorithm that a post is of high quality and more people will want to see it.
Does this mean you need to go viral to rank high? Not necessarily.
Even if a certain post has low engagement, if it is more relevant to a user, it’ll still appear at the top of their feed.
When Was The Content Posted?
Despite its non-chronological feed, timeliness is still crucial. Aside from engagement. Instagram also looks into how long ago the content was posted.
Instagram says newer posts are more likely to appear first. The platform will show recent posts that are more relevant. According to their press release, this change was a response to user feedback.
With that said, determining audience behavior and knowing when they are online is essential. As a brand, take advantage of Instagram insights:
- Determine when your audience are online
- Find out what your best posting times are
- Which content resonated with your audience
With this information, you can hack the new Instagram algorithm. If you frequently post relevant content at the right time, you’ll boost your engagement quickly.
Other relevant feed ranking factors include:
Following: The more accounts you follow, the fewer posts you’ll see from any specific account. This means you’ll see a wide variety of content. If you follow only a few accounts, you’ll see more of each account’s post.
Frequency: How often do you open the app? The Instagram algorithm shows you the newest and best posts since your last visit. So what happens if you open the app hourly? The platform will show you relevant content you haven’t seen yet.
Usage: This refers to the amount of time spent on the app. If you spend only a few minutes on Instagram, you’ll see only the high-performing content. However, longer sessions mean you’ll see posts that ranked lower.
Benefits of the New Instagram Algorithm Update For Marketers
As you well know, Instagram continues to grow. With the previous algorithm, you’ll need to post a few times a day to catch your audience attention. If this continued, the users will be bombarded with content. This will dramatically decrease the organic reach of each post.
Based on the study conducted by Instagram, users missed 70% of the content on their feed before the Instagram algorithm update. Now, users see 90% of their friends’ posts.
But will marketers find this new algorithm useful?
Marketers should take note of the signal factors listed above. Additionally, they should create engaging, relevant, and timely content. In doing so, they can leverage the new Instagram algorithm to grow their account.
The new algorithm will place your high-quality content at the top of your followers’ feed. High-quality content will get more reach. This means you’ll need to post content strategically.
Strategies To Outsmart The New Instagram Algorithm
Build A Relationship With Your Audience
Continual engagement is now crucial. The new Instagram algorithm monitors likes, comments, shares, and views to rank content. Therefore, high engagement earns you a top spot in the feed.
It’s actually a cycle. High engagement lands you at the top spot. When your content ranks high on the feed, you’ll boost engagement and reach even more.
With that said, you need to focus on building relationships with your audience. Don’t just think of reach and impressions. Here are a few tips:
- Add call to actions to encourage users to do something. For instance, ask them a question. Or maybe start a conversation.
- Take advantage of user-generated content. This inspires users to post more brand-related content. When users tag your account, it’ll further expand your reach and digital footprint on the platform.
- Create posts that encourage engagement. Giveaway posts for example. These posts ask users to tag a friend or comment or send DMs to your account.
Tip: Instagram places more weight on comments than likes. Why? Because commenting requires more from users. If people are willing to do more with your content, it means it’s more engaging.
Be More Social
Instagram is a social media platform after all. This means you need to be active within your industry. Think of accounts that your target market are following. Follow them as well and start a genuine conversation.
Another option is to leave a comment on posts from users and brands. Posting comments will help your profile gain visibility. However, make sure that your comments are valuable and interesting.
- Avoid leaving a sales pitch or generic responses.
- Showcase your brand’s identity and personality
Most importantly, respond to as many comments as you can on your own posts. In doing so, your engagement rate increases. This will then encourage more replies.
Take the example below. Glow Recipe took the time to answer a user’s question regarding one of their products. In doing so, it encouraged a follow-up comment. Even if it’s just a simple “Thank you”.
Replying to comments can also jumpstart a conversation. This builds a relevant engagement that helps rank your posts.
Post When Your Audience Are Active
This strategy differs from when the Instagram feed was in reverse-chronological order. Before, businesses and influencers need to post frequently. With the new Instagram algorithm update, they need to be strategic with their posting time.
Since recency is one of the ranking factors, you need to determine when your audience is most active. Publishing during these hours can boost your engagement.
With that said, use the Instagram Insights feature. Go to the Audience tab and scroll down to find the Followers section. Remember, this feature is only available for business profiles.
For a more detailed analysis, use an Instagram scheduler. Some of these apps automatically detect when your followers are most likely online. Once you have the data, schedule your posts in advance.
Another way to bump your post up the feed is through a surge of engagement a few minutes after it goes live. This shows Instagram that it is of high quality. Therefore, it’ll show your post to more of your followers.
How to achieve this engagement surge? Have your team or employees like or leave a comment on your post as soon as it’s published. The Instagram algorithm could rank your post higher. This results in more engagement.
Take Advantage of Stories
According to Instagram, Stories doesn’t have any influence over the algorithm. Does this mean ditching Stories altogether?
Well, you need to take into account the popularity of Instagram Stories. These ephemeral posts get a lot of attention. In fact, it has more than 500 million daily users.
Additionally, Stories allow you to be more candid with your followers. Authentic and casual Stories, build loyalty which boosts engagement. As a result, you’ll reach more audience.
So instead of choosing between feed or Stories. Why not use both?
Here are a few tips to leverage Instagram Stories
Add Branded Hashtags
If users want to see more of similar content, they’ll simply tap the branded hashtag. This will lead them to static regular posts with that tag. In doing so, your posts and profile become more discoverable.
Share Other Users’ Stories
Think of it like a User-Generated Content – except in Stories. Instagram notifies users when someone shared their Story. In doing so, you’re bringing attention to your account, allowing more audience to see, like, or comment on your posts.
Use Interactive Stickers
The poll or question sticker are among the most popular stickers on Stories. And no wonder! These stickers are fun and interactive. It allows you to have a casual and friendly conversation with your audience. As a result, it boosts engagement.
Share Your Latest Post On Stories
This puts your content front and center on your followers’ feed. It’s like giving them a soft nudge to go and check out your latest updates.
Here’s how to do it:
Simply tap the airplane icon – the direct message button, on your post.
Tap “Add post to your story”.
Don’t Be Afraid To Use Direct Messages
The platform’s private messaging feature is gaining popularity. More and more users are sending DMs for a variety of reasons:
- Simply getting in touch
- Product inquiries
- Connecting with other brands or influencers
- Customer service
Direct messages are perfect for longer conversations. Therefore, the new Instagram algorithm considers DMs as a higher form of engagement.
For instance, if a follower sends someone a private message and they respond, Instagram takes it as a sign that both accounts are “close”. As a result, the follower will see more of their content.
When using this strategy, here are a few things to note:
- Don’t send private messages randomly.
- Reach out to brand advocates or potential influencer partners.
- Lastly, use it to respond to customer concerns
Are You Ready To Take Advantage Of The New Instagram Algorithm?
As the platform evolves, the Instagram algorithm will also continue to change. But there’s no need to fret!
It’s possible to outsmart the algorithm by understanding how it works. Take the new Instagram algorithm update as an opportunity to forge connections. Follow the tips we’ve curated above. And lastly, always produce high-quality content.