By now everyone has surely seen a decrease in engagement on Instagram and are likely in full despair. Don’t. It’s ok. Everything will be ok! Personally, we preferred seeing posts in chronological order and we know we’re not alone. But there’s no point in crying or complaining, it’s only a change–one to which we’ll all acclimate, sooner or later. So how do we do that?
We’ve received A TON of messages asking for insight both on WTF is going on, and on how to improve. Now without further ado, we bring you this blog:
HOW DOES THE ALGORITHM WORK ANYWAY?:
While we’ve heard rumors that Instagram is gearing up to change the algorithm, yet again, here’s how it currently works—or how our trusted sources said it does, anyway.:
- When you post, Instagram will show that post to 10% of your audience.
- If within the first 10 minutes, your post gets a strong level of engagement (likes, comments, direct shares), Instagram will then show it to the remaining 90% of your following.
- If it continues to perform well, or rather, if it exceeds expectations, your post could end up in the Explore section.
That said, according to this article published in Business Insider, a post with little engagement can still show up on your feed, too—if Instagram thinks it’s of relevance to you.
WHY DID INSTAGRAM DO THIS?
Answer: Just to f* with us.
Just kidding, that’s obviously not the case. The real answer is to reward authentic engagement. Essentially, they’re cracking down on users gaming the system and actually punishing those who employ bots, bought likes or comments, etc.
Surely you’ve all heard that Instagram has shut down companies like Archie, Instagress, etc. For more, read this post on the Small Business Blog.
At any rate, this brings us to the next topic:
WHAT DO WE DO NOW?
If Archie and Instagress and the bulk of like-minded platforms have been put out of business, what are people supposed to do now, if they’d like to continue growing their profiles?
- LESS IS MORE AND GOOD CONTENT IS STILL KEY: We’re tired of hearing this, too. But if your content doesn’t have what it takes to resonate with your audience, why bother post it? It’s not like the more you post the better it is—not anymore, anyway. Maybe once upon a time posting often and in bulk meant more eyes on your posts, but it doesn’t seem like that tactic works anymore. In fact, it seems like the algorithm rewards consistency, too. So stick to the good stuff and keep it lean.
- POST WHEN YOUR AUDIENCE IS ACTIVE This obviously varies from person to person. We can’t give you a specific time to post because we don’t know where your audience is based or when they’re spending time on Instagram. But—from our experience, and assuming what we’re told about the algorithm is true, you absolutely don’t want to post when your audience is, say, asleep. No interaction within the first ten minutes means your post will be buried. Sayonara! Bon voyage to nowhere land! Sorry, ya’ll.
- HAVE A HASHTAG STRATEGY: This could honestly take up a whole post on its own, but we’ll give you the quick version. Before we do here’s a quick intro just in case this is new to you: Hashtags help your posts be found. After you tag your post with a hashtag, it will show up on a page that shows all photos and videos people have uploaded with that hashtag—that is, if you’re not a private account.
- WHERE TO PUT THEM: We don’t like seeing hashtags in the caption. It makes for a clunky read and comes off as a little desperate. That’s just us—feel free to disagree. If you do agree, though, and would like to obscure them a bit. Write your collection of hashtags in the first comment. If you preface them with 5 periods (meaning: with a hard return after each), it’ll obscure it even more and won’t show up as a preview—you’ll have to tap the comments to actually see it. Confused? Don’t be. Here’s what it should look like:
#whatever #you #decide #for #hashtags
- WHEN TO PUT THEM: A good thing to do is to have the hashtags (complete with the 5 periods) preloaded on a note, that way you can have it at the ready, and copy and paste IMMEDIATELY after the post goes live. Delay and it won’t register. TIP: We love and use Planoly for scheduling and arranging our posts. They also have a hashtag tool, which we work with instead of keeping a note. It’s neater. Check ’em out, if you’d like!
- HOW MANY SHOULD YOU USE: This is ever-changing. Honestly, a month ago we were told 30 was the right amount, then it was 15, then 10. Now we use 5. The reason being: Instagram started to register 30 hashtags as spam. Registering as spam, whether you’re actually spamming or not, gets you blacklisted and that’s not cute. So, stick to 5 and have alternates, so you’re not employing the same 5 every time you post. You want them to be related to your niche/category, of course—as that’ll help you attract people who might be interested in your posts…
- WHAT MAKES FOR A GOOD HASHTAG: Look at the pics below. You’ll notice each hashtag has a number assigned to it. That’s the amount of times its been used. You want the hashtag to be popular enough that people are actively searching under it, but not SO popular that your post will get buried in the hashtag feed. Here are some tips, look at the images below for context:
- Stick to hashtags in the 10k-500k range. Flirt with ones higher than that if you’d like, but if it’s already in the millions, stay away …you’ll get lost in the feed and will have little to no chance of ending up in the TOP POST section.
- In the case below, you’ll see that #creativelifehappylife and #influencer are way too popular. #personalbrand or #gritandvirtue, on the other hand, might bring you better visibility. NOTE: All of these are in the same niche; they all pertain to influencers.
- More: Click on a hashtag you used right after you posted the pic and you’ll find your pic under the MOST RECENT section (see image on the right below).
- If it has good engagement, your post will be featured in the TOP POSTS. This is what you want. Yes, people do comb through the MOST RECENT section, but it’s the prominent spot up above in the TOP POSTS section that you really want, as the more visibility your post gets, the more engagement it’s likely to yield!
- HOW TO COME UP WITH HASHTAGS: This one is tricky, admittedly. Comb through other user’s profiles in your niche to see what they’re using. You can also search for a hashtag, and then see what other ones pop up under the “Related” field (see the post on the right.)
- DON’T BUY FOLLOWERS: You guys know better by now—we hope. If you don’t, or think you could somehow game the system, Instagram will know and they will punish you. “How will they know,” you ask? It’s simple: The high number of followers might have duped people once upon a time, but now that the algorithm is predominantly based on engagement, these dead, dormant, or otherwise inactive accounts won’t be interacting with your posts—not even a little; and that’s bad. Do you really want to buy followers AND buy likes forever just to LOOK like you’re killing it? Woof, if that’s the case maybe it’s time to get a different hobby…
- DON’T USE BOTS: See above. It’s the same premise. It won’t lead to anywhere good, unless you want to be shadowbanned. In which case, go for it!
- ENGAGEMENT PODS: AKA Boost Groups. These are mini clubs usually comprised of friends or like-mined Instagram users who come help one another with engagement. It works like this: Someone posts, alerts the group—then everyone runs to the post to like, comment, and possibly share. That’s the short of it. You can find people looking to form engagement pods on Facebook, you can also message other users directly and see if they’re up for starting one. What we can tell you is:
- It might be wise to limit the group to 10-15 people. Rumor has it, any more will register as SPAM if you’re running the group via DM’s in Instagram.
- What people have started doing is hosting the group on messenger apps like Telegram to avoid popping up on Instagram’s radar.
- CTA’s: This one is tried and true, but putting a specific CALL TO ACTION in your caption helps with engagement. Sometimes a pun or an emoji makes for the perfect caption, and if you’ve stumbled upon one—go for it, but if you can ask of something from your audience, put them to task! Especially if you’re hosting a giveaway or promoting a discount code, etc. Make them engage! (It’s easier to do so when there’s a reward!)
- GO HAM ON STORIES!: People do use stories to drive attention and engagement to a recent post. Nothing wrong with that. But feel free to post lots of stories. Keep ’em short; keep ’em sweet; and be sure to stick to the same, number one rule: Make sure it’s GOOD content. After all, Instagram Stories are also arranged according to an algorithm. Yep, those aren’t loaded alphabetically, or even chronologically. Evidently, the ones that appear closer to the front are from accounts that you engage with the most. So give your followers a reason to look forward to them and you’ll be rewarded. Same goes for your posts.
See …the algorithm ain’t so scary after all.