There have recently been reports of yet more algorithm changes to Instagram. It’s important to realise that algorithms are constantly changing and shifting, they don’t have ‘reinventions’ and are continuously updating and evolving. This is because algorithms learn through data and online consumer behaviours, which are ever-changing too. Algorithms never stay the same for long – they are always adjusting. However, every so often, the shifts become noticeable, which results in mass panic!
For businesses on Instagram, this means that older ways of generating awareness will no longer be as successful or effective – such as encouraging comments – your usual reach could decline, and your engagement rates could drop off too. There will be new ways and fresh tricks, which businesses and institutions themselves need to discover, for generating reach and presence across the app.
As of January 2021, there were 30.36 million Instagram users in the United Kingdom. When you put this into the context of our UK population being 67.61 million, that’s a colossal cut of the pie, and demonstrates why and how social media marketing has changed now that social media usage is such a big part of daily life.
90% of people on Instagram follow brands. Yet with a perpetually shifting, unpredictable and somewhat unfathomable algorithm, and a very saturated market, it’s getting harder for businesses on Instagram to build an authentic, organic following – so getting your business noticed is more challenging than ever.
What is the Instagram algorithm?
An algorithm is a machine that learns what to show online users within an app through the collection of data. Based on the data it collects on every user, it will prioritise the content it thinks you most want to see from looking at your interaction rates, pushing the most relevant ones to the top of your feed and giving them the most visibility, while other content ends up being placed further down and you’re less likely to see it.
For businesses and brands, this means that if your content isn’t being interacted and engaged with, your reach will continue to decline. Spouting low-value content too frequently won’t help you either, as people won’t react to anything that doesn’t interest them on their feeds.
However, contrary to popular belief, the Instagram algorithm is not out to get you! Here is how you can work with it to achieve maximum awareness for your brand. The secret ingredient? Engagement.
How To Boost Your Instagram Engagement
The generic benchmark for “good” engagement on Instagram is somewhere between 1-5%. However, the average engagement rate on Instagram for business accounts was only 0.85% through 2020!
Here is how you can increase your engagement on Instagram and beat the Instagram algorithm.
Use Instagram Reels
Insta are competing with the TikTok giants now, meaning that online Instagram users will receive more engagement if they post reels rather than photos/videos. The algorithm is currently “boosting” Reels in feeds, so that more people see and use this new feature. Whilst reels isn’t the total solution, using this new feature will help put your brand in front of new eyeballs.
Do not buy followers and avoid vanity metrics
We really mean this! Buying followers is purely for vanity metrics, and this should have been left behind in 2018. The ‘followers’ you are buying are not interested in your business, they are not going to increase your Instagram engagement, nor are they going to buy from you. Furthermore, the algorithm doesn’t like it and you risk getting your account suspended. Save your well-earned pennies, please.
Utilise Instagram marketing tools & Instagram Ads
Running a paid, targeted ad campaign across Instagram to drive people to your profile through the promotion of your products will help increase your following. Instagram’s business tools provide insights into your audience demographics and engagement, plus, Instagram businesses and creators now have a ‘Professional Dashboard’ available to them.
It sounds simple – if you’re looking to beat the Instagram algorithm, it’s best to know when and how the platform reacts to the different content you push out. Use your insights to uncover when your followers are interacting with your page and posts the most.
You can read our short guide to Instagram ads to learn more.
Increase your conversations
Don’t waste energy focusing on your follower count and vanity metrics.
If you engage effectively and regularly on Instagram, the followers will follow! When you get to know your audience, your engagement rates and follower numbers will increase – maybe not overnight, but slow growth is good growth and better in the long-run for converting sales.
Increase your engagement by regularly posting and encouraging comments, shares and saves, and use hashtags to expand your reach. Comment, interact, and start conversations with other brands. Message them privately to build online relationships. Like posts, react to stories and reels. The more you engage on Instagram, the more the algorithm will favour your account. Social media is meant to be social!
One last thing – direct messages. Always, always, always, reply to your DMs. Insta will notice if you are giving people the cold shoulder, and this will negatively impact your engagement. Never have ‘no DM’s’ in your bio, either. You’ll miss out on opportunities to grow and expand your brand.
Collab over competition
By collaborating with other businesses on social media and running joint or group campaigns, live events, shared reels/video content and combined giveaways, you are organically expanding your reach without paying a penny. You are also increasing and improving your engagement metrics whilst networking and forming online business relationships. When you partner with similar brands in your industry, you’re also being seen by their followers, as well as your own.
Recognising the value of collaboration, Instagram has recently released a new feature, ‘Rooms.’ Instagram Rooms allows you to go live with three other people/brands. Furthermore, the network is currently developing new features for Instagram ‘creators’ which will give them opportunities for affiliate marketing. Instagram is becoming less like a social media app and more like a business tool by the day.
Keep up with algorithm changes
Algorithms change all of the time and they don’t come with handbooks and guides. It is tipped for 2021 that high levels of ‘saves’ and ‘shares,’ on your posts is the best way to appear across more feeds, so brainstorm ways of encouraging them. Quality content – particularly content that motivates or inspires – gets a high level of saves, and humorous content is often popularly shared. To support this shift, Instagram have recently revealed that they have been testing hiding the ‘likes’ feature, making like counts private.
Additionally, keywords within captions are now under the spotlight, shifting the focus from hashtags – although using varied, relevant, frequently used hashtags is still a great way of expanding your online reach. Embed monthly algorithm change research within your social media strategy to have pointers on what you need to focus on, as the algorithm regularly shifts.
Tactical Instagram stories
There are sneaky tactics you can implement with Instagram stories – firstly, make sure your story is ongoing, so you always have a presence at the top of user feeds. Try not to let that coloured ring around your profile image disappear, but obviously do avoid spamming, as people skimming past your content will not do you any favours. Secondly, you can encourage your followers to ‘tap and hold’ your Instagram stories by sharing longer-form content, as this tells Instagram that your content is worth viewing and taking more time over. Offer Instagram takeovers, live Q&A’s and sneak product peeks on your stories to entice people to watch them more often.
Furthermore, make sure you use Instagram’s wealth of story features – GIFs, music, geo-tagging, polls, questions. This tells Instagram that you like using the app, and your followers like you using it too.
Create an Instagram bank
Have a bank of go-to filler content you can use (ensure it adds value and isn’t pointless or you will lose followers) when you are pushed for time to create anything new. Repurpose old content. There are no rules on how often you should be posting on your feed, but you can use insights to uncover the times and days which yield the highest engagement with your audience.
You could aim for once a day or once every 2-3 days – there is no need to overdo it – quality over quantity will grow your profile. Remember – there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to the best times to post (even if marketeers tell you otherwise.)
According to Ipsos, most Instagram users most want to see brand content that is fun (55%) real (53%), and creative (53%), so bare that in mind. Instagram has really upped its content capabilities recently, with the introduction of Instagram guides – where users can create guides for users to read on a theme or topic of their choosing – and Instagram reels which also allow you to tag products within them.
Use strong hashtags only
Instagram gives you the opportunity to use 30 hashtags at a time – and you should use these, as long as they are all relevant to what you are posting about. What we do know is that Instagram promotes relevance – so if you own a kitchen company, don’t start adding #harrystyles to pictures of your limestone worktops. Unless Harry Styles has visited your store to buy some, in which case – keep promoting it!
If you have on brand yet varied content, you will be able to use a variety of different hashtags on each of your posts, meaning you’re going to reach more people rather than the same repetitive audience.
So, now what?
A lot of people treat Instagram like a business – because it is. The more time you keep your followers on the app, the more the Instagram algorithm will favour you, so offer quality content and keep instigating conversations and interactions. Perhaps you are unsure which other social media apps you should be using?