This morning I opened Instagram and found several stories in my feed with the same theme:
Ahhh! Instagram algorithm changes!
Although there seems to be no announcement from Instagram, enough creators on the site are worried that it seems reasonable to conclude that something’s going on. Since Instagram switched from displaying chronological posts to algorithm-based ones on your news feed, small creators and businesses have struggled to get their content seen. After adjusting to the algorithm, many users saw a noticeable dip in post views, likes, and engagement again last year.
Now the general belief seems to be that the algorithm has changed dramatically once again. Instagram, not unlike Facebook, is moving toward engagement. This isn’t exactly new, but to keep your favorite creators’ posts in your feed, you can:
- Save to Collections
To get your account on the algorithm’s good side, there are a few things you can try, other than putting out excellent content of course.
1. Engagement is Key
Engagement, usually defined on social media as comments and shares, is becoming more and more valued by platforms like Instagram and Facebook. The difference is in the way algorithms define engagement. Since Instagram doesn’t offer a share or repost function, engagement so far is limited to:
- Saved posts
Comments are more valuable than likes. They require more effort than a double tap and usually indicate that someone is genuinely interested in your post. But you know the comments you always get from businesses? The ones like “Looks great!”, “Good job!”, or even just some smiley emojis? It turns out Instagram might start filtering those out. Instead of engagement, they’ll be considered spam, especially if those are the only types of comments you’re leaving. In general, aim to leave comments that are at least four words long.
It’s unclear how much saved posts count toward engagement, but they’re one of very few ways Instagram users can interact with each other. You can choose to just save a post or organize your saved posts into collections.
2. Hashtag with a Strategy
With Instagram’s algorithm updates, it looks like you should use hashtags more carefully. Up until now social media marketers recommended using as many hashtags as possible. Instagram allows you to use 30 hashtags per post, so why not take advantage of them all?
Except that now hashtag stuffing might be considered spam. Copying and pasting the same hashtags in particular can get your account shadowbanned, meaning your posts won’t show up in a hashtag search.
Using Hashtags in Comments
Some people use the comments to post even more hashtags. Or they keep all their hashtags in a comment to keep their posts looking clean. But hashtags in comments may soon no longer show up in searches, so don’t bother with them.
The best strategy now is to choose your hashtags carefully. Aim to use hashtags that are:
- In active use
- Have a large following
- Isn’t so large that your posts will be drowned out
3. Use New Features
When Instagram rolls out a new feature, like Stories or Highlights, they want it to be successful. They’ve put a lot of effort and research into developing it (hopefully, right?) so accounts that stay on top of these changes and use them right away may see a boost.
You should already be using Stories, after all, they’re an excellent way to get your audience’s attention. Stories have become saturated, but remember when there were only three or four stories at the top of your feed? Yeah, you should have taken advantage of that. You and me both.
Stories Highlights and Archives
Just last December, Instagram rolled out a Highlights feature for your Stories. Stories only last for 24 hours, but now you can archive old stories, so they remain in Instagram’s cloud storage. It’s like Snapchat Memories, but with the option for permanence. Or Twitter’s pinned tweets, but with unlimited pins.
Highlights are expired stories that you can place on your profile page. Instead of creating a story and never seeing it again, leave it on your profile for as long as you want. I’ve already seen several small businesses taking advantage of highlights in a seamless, completely natural way. You might choose to highlight your best content so new visitors see it right away, announce a new product in your store, or host a giveaway.
While you can post up to 100 highlights (before one gets bumped out and into your archives), one to three highlights on a profile seems to be the most popular approach. Selecting only a few Stories ensures that they stand out on your profile and your visitors actually view them.
Another update from December is the ability to follow hashtags. Initially, I thought this sounded annoying. I’m already seeing tons of sponsored posts on my feed; why would I want to add more strangers to it? But remember, using new features puts you in Instagram’s good graces. So let’s look at why you might actually like this feature.
Think of your fandoms. Or favorite food. Or weird hobbies that none of your friends are into. Following hashtags lets you find like-minded users or just enjoy their content. Because let’s be honest, haven’t we all had days when you scroll and scroll but only see the same photos? And then wish your friends would post more? Hashtags solve that and on Instagram’s side, are a way to keep you using their app longer. More enjoyable procrastination, here we come!
For business accounts, the ability to follow hashtags could be a real boost. Now you’ll want to start convincing people to follow your unique hashtags. And people may actually want to. Think about it. Following a business account lets users see all your branded content. That’s fine, but only loyal fans will be excited to engage with your posts. Following a hashtag though will turn up not only your posts but user-generated content. People excited about your brand can easily find your other fans without making the effort to do a manual search. It creates a sense of community around a brand, which is what everyone wants these days.
So on the business end of things, I’ll follow hashtags like #digitalmarketer and #womeninbusiness. But on my personal account, I’ve been quite happy with #plantsarefriends.
Encourage Engagement the Old Fashioned Way
Think like a copywriter or content marketer. And not in a sleazy way. Just as questions at the end of blog posts encourage readers to comment, use your captions to encourage interaction. Work on coming up with witty lines, smart copy, and good questions. Learn what your audience likes and lives for, then create your content plan around that. It’s the only strategy that an Instagram algorithm can never touch.
If you need help crafting effective social media copy and blog posts, let’s get in touch!