7 Important Instagram Algorithm Changes You Need to Know
You’ve all heard the rumblings. They said it was coming. Now, it’s here.
The Instagram news feed is now algorithmic — just like Facebook.
This means that Instagram will not show you content chronologically, but instead based on what Instagram thinks you want to see.
But I never want Instagram to change! What does this mean?!
No need to panic. It just means that Instagram will now show you content that it thinks you’ll enjoy most based on the things you’ve interacted with in the past. Likes, shares, and comments being the determining factor.
Just like the Facebook algorithm change in the past, users do not have the option to opt-out.
Why have they done this to us?!
Simply put, there are just too many users and too much content on Instagram now — so Instagram is doing its best to help us out.
If you’re a brand that advertises on Instagram, you can expect the organic reach of your posts to shrink. Instagram has always been a for-profit company and now with a user base surpassing 400 million people, Instagram will require you to pay for ads if you wish to reach the amount of people you once did.
The ethical nature of this move is a discussion for another time; this article’s goal is to help you prepare for these changes and continue to use Instagram as a tool to grow your business.
If Instagram is an important part of your business strategy, here are 7 strategies your business needs to employ right now.
Instagram Algorithm Change #1: Post longer comments for more emotional investment and engagement
Longer and more thoughtful comments can go a long way when combined with great visual content. Now that Instagram is using an algorithm, posts will be displayed according to what a user has engaged with most in the past.
Comments written to engage your user will increase the likelihood of them liking, sharing, or commenting on your future content.
Remember to include direct calls to action for your followers to interact with your content if they enjoy it. This way your content will be shown more often in their news feed.
National Geographic boasts 52.1 million followers on Instagram and consistently puts out spectacular content that the world enjoys. NatGeo staffs some of the best photographers in the world and part of their posting strategy includes explaining the stories behind the photographs.
NatGeo followers receive behind-the-camera access to some of the most beautiful photographs on earth. They get a peek into the adventure, set up, and everything else that went into getting the shot. Judging by the thousands of comments that pour in with every post I think NatGeo knows what they’re doing:
Photograph by @paulnicklen // @HaaKeaulana, daughter of Brian Keaulana and grand daughter of legendary Buffalo Keaulana carries a 50 pound boulder while running across the sea floor to train for surfing. Her father teaches surfers that they should train for a four wave hold down in case of a wipeout in big surf. At 13 second intervals between waves, that means about a minute of being held down. It is one thing to hold your breath in a swimming pool for a minute and it something completely different to swim down 30 feet, pick up a huge rock and then run as hard as you can for a minute. Thanks to her lineage, community and training, Ha’a is a true water woman from #Makaha. Hawaiians have saltwater running through their veins and epitomize what it means to be connected to the sea. Please #followme on @paulnicklen to see Ha’a towing three large guys while carrying the rock and running across the bottom. As I shot these moments, I was completely in awe and full of gratitude for being exposed to this beautiful part of the world and the people who live it everyday. How does the ocean inspire you? With @cristinamittermeier #natgeooceansday #worldoceansday #everydayisoceansday #gratitude #thejourney #ocean #sea #ohana #mahalo #beauty #naturelovers #nature #tbt
Instagram Algorithm Change #2: Use more hashtags
Hashtags help organize content under relevant categories, so users are able to easily find things they’re searching for.
Instagram allows users to attach a maximum of 30 hashtags to their posts. Are you maximizing your hashtag usage?
Some marketers may tell you to avoid stuffing in too many hashtags but I’m of the strong belief that the more you use the further your post will go.
The more hashtags your content can be found under, the higher chance of users being able to find you.
The key is to only use hashtags relevant to your business. Avoid generic popular hashtags (like #love, #photooftheday, #red, #friends) that are popular but not relevant to what your business does. This is typically a waste of valuable space and will only attract untargeted engagement.
A bit of research into accounts popular in your niche will allow you to see what hashtags are being searched for most. Collect buckets of 30 hashtags according to the content you’re posting and save them in your notes for easy copy and pasting.
If you own an ice cream shop, for example, take a look at what hashtags big companies like Ben & Jerry’s use as well as local competitors. Then write down buckets of 30 hashtags according to what the subject of your content is: sundaes, cones, smoothies, chocolate, etc.
Quick tip: Post all the hashtags into a separate comment so that they stay hidden in the news feed unless all the comments are viewed.
Vancouver ice cream startup, 720 Sweets, illustrates this strategy perfectly by using a combination of popular hashtags as well as localized ones to reach ice cream lovers in Vancouver.
Thank you to all those who showed their support towards Fort McMurray by purchasing our pints! From our pint sales of the month of May, we have raised a total of $250. Your efforts have inspired us to match your contributions and we have donated a grand total of $500 to the Canadian Red Cross! We hope that others will join us in supporting those affected by the McMurray fire #720sweets #FortMcMurray
Instagram Algorithm Change #3: Run hashtag contests more often
Running regular hashtag contests can do a lot to improve the engagement rates of your Instagram account. Receiving more engagement on the content you post will increase the organic reach of your posts.
Preparing for and running a hashtag contest is simple. Follow these steps for maximum impact:
- Choose contest’s prize and entry rules.
- Pick a unique hashtag for your followers to enter their posts under.
- Promote and share your contest.
- Monitor the entries.
- Pick a winner and promote them.
An Instagram hashtag contest tool like Wishpond’s allows you to easily set up, run, and pick a winner as often as you need.
Instagram Algorithm Change #4: Ask your followers to turn on post notifications
If you’ve managed to develop a strong relationship with your followers thus far you might be able to appeal to their emotional side. By clicking on the options on your Instagram profile they’ll be able to turn on post notifications so that they’ll get an alert every time you post new content.
For example, create a post requesting that your followers turn on post notifications if they wish to see when you’re offering a sale. Think of a compelling reason for your followers to do so and they’ll be more likely to oblige.
Instagram Algorithm Change #5: Post less but with higher quality
If you’ve been focused on posting several times per day you may want to rethink your strategy. Instagram’s new algorithm takes into account the amount of engagement your posts receive. This means that posting more without any increase in engagement will have your posts devalued.
By posting less frequently with a focus on better content you’ll receive higher engagement rates and have your posts will reach more of your followers.
Everything that Equinox does across their social platforms is premeditated to drive maximum impact. Equinox serves a large demographic of fitness enthusiasts and curates each of their posts to provide the most engagement from their followers. They post a mix of beautiful imagery, helpful tips, and motivational content that their followers can’t wait to see on their news feed.
Instagram Algorithm Change #6: Experiment with Instagram video
Over the past six months video engagement has increased by 40%, says Instagram. Instagram has also revamped the Explore tab, featuring curated videos from around the world. The increased length and the expanded functionality of Instagram videos have boosted the amount of time users spend on the app. This has made Instagram an ever more valuable search tool and a reliable app for current events.
If you’re trying to improve your engagement rates, experiment with Instagram video. Instagram video can be a much more exciting piece of content compared to a still photo — plus it has the added bonus of showing you how many people have viewed your content.
Nike, the definitive tastemaker in athletic wear, is always pushing the boundaries of creative marketing. They use Instagram video as a way to give their followers access to their creative process and new brand initiatives.
Instagram Algorithm Change #7: Consider buying ad space, because they allow direct links to your website
The only other way to extend the reach of your posts in Instagram is through buying space on their ad network. After selecting your industry and audience, Instagram will display your ads in your choice of format: carousel, video, live photo, etc.
Although you’ll have to shell out some clams, Instagram ads have the advantage of having direct links to your product pages. This way viewers can watch your video ad, consider your offer, and head directly to checkout.
Instagram ads also have all the targeting capabilities of Facebook's advertising platform - which is incredibly extensive (and kinda creepy). Check out The Comprehensive Guide to Facebook Advertising for a complete breakdown of Facebook Ads (and Instagram Ads).
I’ve said it once but I’ll say it again — the times are changing. It’s been exciting to see a platform like Instagram grow into network it is today. Once a small platform meant to share photos, Instagram has fundamentally changed the way we share our lives with one another.
You’ve probably seen the posts and petitions calling for Instagram to keep things the same but let’s be real — nothing stays the same. The only way to embrace change is to adapt.
If your business relies on Instagram to generate leads and sales you’ll need to change your behaviour. You can start by experimenting with these 7 strategies:
- Post longer comments for more emotional investment and engagement
- Use more hashtags
- Run hashtag contests more often
- Ask people to turn on post notifications if they enjoy your content
- Post less but with higher quality
- Experiment with Instagram video
- Consider buying ad space, because they can have direct links to your website
Expect the competition for attention to increase on Instagram but realize at the end of the day the cream will always rise to the top. The most engaging and creative businesses will have their content shown while others will have to pay.
Hopefully these 7 strategies have started you on your way to Instagram success in this new algorithmic era.
What strategies will you employ? Do you have any to add to the list? Comment below and let us know what you think!
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