Instagram Algorithm Hacks
(and how to use it to your advantage)
How many times as a marketer or a business on Instagram, have you heard the phrase "The algorithm is messing with my engagement"?
I hear this all the time. I have found myself silently cursing at the sky as if that's where the Instagram product designers live. In actual fact, they are in San Francisco. One time I went to San Francisco. It's nice there. That's unrelated to this blog post but is a funny story I may tell you at a later date. It involves an Airbnb with no bathroom and an incident with a bicycle.
Back to Instagram and the elusive yet often maligned algorithm.
What even is the algorithm?
The Instagram algorithm was introduced to help users see content that relates to them. The removal of the chronological feed (RIP) was a bid to help users always see their best friend's latest posts.
In a recent closed door meeting, Instagram invited a few journalists to their office to dispel some of the algorithm rumours. They finally let us see how the algorithm really works.
According to the blog post by my dear friends over at Buffer “The three main factors that determine what you see in your feed are: Interest, timeliness and relationship”.
Essentially what we see is determined by what we like, who we like and when we spend time on Instagram.
Let’s breakdown each of these factors:
Instagram strives to show you content that you’re interested in. Sounds pretty straightforward right? So how do they know what you’re interested in? They look at hashtags, genres and categories of profiles that you follow and engage with. Anything you interact or engage with, forms part of what you see in your feed.
You know those moments when someone starts telling a story and you immediately want to be anywhere else? You know the ones - it’s always the weird colleague who corners you at the coffee machine at the office. Well, Instagram is not that guy. They only tell you a story if they know you’re going to find it interesting. See what I mean?
Instagram is essentially your personalised curator of content. Kind of cool, but also kind of creepy. Anyway, moving on.
Similarly to Facebook, Instagram became aware that people weren’t actually seeing posts from their friends. The feed was populated by brands and businesses. Both Instagram and Facebook value relationship and prioritise this in their respective algorithms. Instagram have publicly stated “No matter how many accounts you follow, you should see your best friend’s latest posts”
The algorithm takes into account how close you are to the person sharing the content, and how much you’ve interacted with them in the past. So, if you like a lot of posts by Betoota Advocate, Instagram not only knows that you’ve got a pretty brilliant sense of humour, they also know that you engage with content posted by Betoota Advocate, and in turn show you more content from that profile. Make sense?
For instance, I see a whole lot of videos of my nieces and nephew because I comment on EVERY SINGLE POST. Because they are cute.
You see what you engage with.
The algorithm takes into account how recently the post was shared and will prioritise new content over posts from a week ago. “Instagram wants to show you posts that are recent and, consequently, more relevant...This implies that recent posts likely rank higher in your feed and that the timing of your post is still relevant” - Buffer
So just because the chronological feed is gone, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be considering best times to post.
Other factors to consider when thinking about the Instagram algorithm are:
Frequency & Usage
Each time you open Instagram, the algorithm sorts the best content to show you first. So if you’re opening Instagram every 5 minutes, you may see content from days before. Or if you only check Instagram once a day, you’ll likely see the best and most relevant content first. In the same way, if you spend hours scrolling through Instagram, you’ll have a deeper catalog of content to browse (or lurk, depending on which way you want to look at it). Alternatively, if you use Instagram in short bursts you’ll see most relevant posts first.
If you follow thousands of accounts on Instagram, then you aren’t going to see all content from each individual profile. Instagram again, sorts content and posts based on your interests and relationship to said accounts.
Some myths dispelled by Instagram themselves:
Is video preferable to photo?
Short answer: no. If users engage with videos, then they will see video content. But if they scroll straight past videos, then that specific user may see less video content in their feed in the future.
This is a super interesting response from Instagram. I was under the impression that video content was king. But, again, it all comes back to the individual user experience.
Can you post too often?
According to Instagram, no. According to society, probably, definitely, 100% yes. That’s another blog post for another day.
Is there any preference between personal and business accounts?
Nope! This one fascinated me because I certainly felt a dip in engagement once I switched to a business account and I know that others have felt this too.
Will Stories and Live videos affect ranking in the algorithm?
Short answer, no. But! Stories and Live videos increase engagement which in turn increases chances of your followers seeing your content within the algorithm. So I would argue that it needs to be part of your social media strategy.
So what does all this mean?
3 key takeaways for you…
Engagement dictates the algorithm. Content isn’t worth investing in unless it’s engaging. More engagement from current followers means more people will see your content. Encourage conversation within your posts. Comments, likes, shares - all of these interactions put you higher and higher in the algorithm for your followers to see.
Regular posting on Instagram is still necessary. The algorithm will be your friend if you create and post content that is engaging and relevant.
Post only your best content!
At the end of the day, it all comes down to posting really great and engaging content.
As always, I’m here to help. Send me a message or comment below if you have any questions! I’d love to hear from you.
Also...please tag me in all Betoota Advocate posts in the future. I never want to miss a post ok?