Instagram’s algorithm

How to Beat Instagram’s Algorithm

Instagram is the mecca for all things visual. With over 800 million users who are active daily, 4.2 billion posts are double-tapped or ‘liked’. 80% of users follow a brand and out of 10 hashtags, 7 are branded. So, brands today are at the mercy of instagram’s algorithm.

What with such active engagement and a user-base that is increasing daily, why is your local business, brand or personal business account not growing?

You are doing all the right things: posting consistently, using the relevant hashtags and actively engaging on the platform. So why  aren’t users flooding your page  and following your account?

The answer lies with Instagram itself. In 2016, Instagram changed its algorithm from ‘chronological feed’ to a mysterious algorithm that is now non-chronological. You can blame Instagram, or you can keep reading and find out how to beat the algorithm.

First off, there are 25 million business profiles on Instagram. On  average, a user follows 822 accounts. So, your profile is competing with 821 other accounts. Another fun fact: Every day 95 million posts are shared, of which 70% do not get seen. Desperate times, indeed!

But there is still hope for you yet. Let’s go over 17 things you can do to grow your business organically:

  1. Instagram is not the enemy:

Do not fall for the like-for-like app, follow exchange apps or purchase followers. Treat it like a Siren who is luring you to your death. If you get stuck trying to wade the cesspool of malicious bots claiming to get you thousands of followers, you will not have any active engagement. They will merely be ghost followers. Additionally, Instagram is cracking down hard on bot accounts and shady activities. In all probability, this will hurt your chances of getting verified or may even lead to account suspension.

  1. Ain’t no party like a Hashtag party:

A single post can have up to 30 hashtags. Simply Measured’s study concluded that using one hashtag can get you 12.6% more engagement compared to if you do not use them at all.  Instagram lets you use 30 hashtags, but the optimum number has been found to be 11. 11 or more relevant hashtags is bound to get you maximum engagement. The previous statement  raises the question, “What are relevant hashtags and how do you find them?”.

The hashtags you use need to have some connection with your content. You also want to look for hashtags that are trending, but not oversaturated. GoPro has over 8.9 million followers on Instagram and utilises numerous hashtags,  gaining 221k followers per month. The aim is to land in the ‘Top 9′ search results when a user searches a particular hashtag.

So, how do you find these hashtags? Use apps like Flume that can generate hashtags for you based on the theme of the post.

Bonus Tip: Remember not to post the hashtags along with the caption, as this can look quite messy. After you upload your post, paste your hashtags in the first comment.

  1. Clean up on Aisle 5…I mean…your Instagram profile:

Albert Einstein said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”. Unfortunately, you cannot apply the same logic to your Instagram profile.

Users are not known to follow an account based on one single post.  Their perception of your brand image comes as a result of scrolling through your feed as a whole.

If your feed resembles a teenage boy’s bedroom, it might be time to rethink your content strategy. As a rule, your brand should have a cohesive theme.

You can learn a lot from Quest Nutrition, a brand that creates nutritional food that looks good. They have a goal-driven strategy that is increasing their followers by roughly 15,000 every month. They always post quality pictures of food, and their feed blends well together.

The post-processing of your posts needs to be invariable. Try using the same filter on Instagram. 60% of the top brands on Instagram use the same filter for all their posts.

The colours on your feed need to integrate seamlessly. Users are known to have a preference for images with a little blue in them.  You can also add blue highlight or shadow to your image using Instagram’s editing tools.

Instagram’s algorithm

The bottom line here is to find your brand’s unique voice and stick to it.

  1. You have to give to receive:

While statistics can help to improve user engagement on your account,  you cannot expect much if you do not engage with your followers. Actively engaging with the followers you already have has a domino effect. Comments do not affect ranking, but Google takes them into account if your post has at least 50 comments. This also increases your chances  of being found on the ‘explore’ page.

Instagram’s algorithm

Follow niche accounts and leave comments that do not sound bot- generated. This has a two-fold effect. Whenever users follow the niche accounts you follow, your profile will come up as one of the suggested profiles. Interacting with niche accounts, and leaving personalised comments with a call-to-action, can solidify your presence on Instagram as a legitimate brand.

A big no-no: Do not leave one-word comments or emojis as people are less likely to respond.

  1. Location is key

Most users usually ignore the option to tag their location. For a brand, it is vital for survival. Geo-tagging can increase engagement by 79%. Feature accounts are also very likely to repost your image and expose you to their millions of followers.

Pro-tip: Make sure to follow and tag feature accounts when geo-tagging your images.

       6. Go public or go home:

While the option of  having a private account is available, it is detrimental to a brand.

Users are less likely to follow you if they cannot see your content. It is very off-putting, and you can kiss the ‘explore’ page goodbye, making it hard for new users to find and follow you.

  1. Post frequently and get the timing right:

The analytics suggest that posting every single day, up to 3 times a day, is an excellent way to garner attention. Get into the habit of posting every day if you are not doing that currently.

A brilliant example of a success story is MAC Cosmetics. They post 4.5 times a day and get thousands of likes instantly because they always publish high-quality content.

Posting content regularly is an excellent marketing tactic, but have you given any thought to the time that you publish your post?

A pro-business account will show the analytics and help you determine when is the best time to post, in order to get maximum interest. Maximise your engagement by posting precisely at these times.

Secret tip: You do not have to go pro. Third-party apps like Preview can obtain the same information.

  1. Soft-launch for your content:

What you like posting may not always be in accordance with  what users like seeing.

It is vital to make sure your new post is in keeping with the rest of your feed. Apps like Preview let you see a preview of your feed before you hit ‘share’ on Instagram.

You may also want a test-group of sorts to weigh-in on your content before you subject your post to the criticism of millions.

Cynic is one such app where you can share two similar photos and let  users vote. People swipe left if they like it and right if they do not.

  1. Work the algorithm:

Instagram has features galore. Photos generate 36% more engagement than videos, but 25% of Instagram’s posts are single video ads. Nike motivates their followers by putting up pictures and videos.

50% of businesses on Instagram create Instagram stories. These stories make up 1/3rd of the most viewed stories.

Therefore, it is wise to use all the gimmicks that Instagram has to offer. Instagram live, highlights, stories, filters  —the whole nine yards. The algorithm favours accounts that use all of Instagram’s features.

FYI: Using all the features also ensures that your story is the first one users will view.

  • Incentivise your posts:

Give and take. It is as simple as that. If you want users to engage with you, then you have to give them something for it.

Hold a free giveaway like Filson, or personally DM everyone who comments and tags their friends on your post. Nasty Gal asks their followers questions  via posts.

Go on Instagram Live and do a Q & A with your followers. Announce a prize contest for your followers to enter and make them tag their friends. There are a zillion ways in which you can gain traction.

  1. Cash in on the essential days:

There is a whole ocean of international days around which you can create trending posts. Trending posts are always seen first by users.

Hop on the bandwagon and make relevant posts about days like International Women’s Day or Human Rights Day. By supporting social causes or voicing your opinion on such important days,  you will appear more human and relatable. Users also tend to favour brands that show a little corporate social responsibility (CSR).

There are plenty of hilarious days as well like International Towel Day, for the not-so-serious brands.

To get a better insight, take a look at Kate Spade. They do an excellent job of creating timely posts.

  1. Rope in your followers:

You can send your followers your product for free and ask them to share their reviews. User-generated content has a 4.5% higher  conversion rate.

Airbnb understands this and reposts their followers’ content frequently. Getting in touch with ‘influencers’ is also an ingenious idea.

80% of influencers collaborate with brands on Instagram. Jimmy Choo often teams up with influencers and has witnessed a meteoric rise with regards to engagement and number of followers.

  1. Make your posts snazzy:

It is easy to get lost in the noise of Instagram. Almost everyone puts up stunning images, and it is hard to stand out in the crowd.

Hire a photographer or a graphic designer and create your signature style.

Take Warby Parker, prescription eyewear and sunglasses brand based in the US.  They get more than 2000 likes per post whenever they  share creative photos. This engagement often leads to sales and guarantees them more than a few loyal Instagram followers.

  1. Put a face on it:

People like seeing other people. Instagram is no stranger to this.

Photos with faces get 38% more likes than other posts. Unless you are not that kind of brand, consider including yourself in the post.

Kim Kardashian uses this tactic in abundance to promote her makeup line, books, and other brands.

  1. Optimise your bio:

Your bio is the first thing people read. Make sure it reflects the style of your brand. If you fail to utilise these 150 characters, your page will suffer.

The first step to marketing on Instagram is not quality photos; it is adding a link that will send users directly to your site.

The link in Birchbox’s bio, that sends users to an appreciation day promo on their website,  is a good example.

  1. Cross-promotion:

The 2016 Pew survey indicates that 95% of all Instagram users are also active on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Growing your Instagram involves sheer hard work.

Use other social media sites to redirect users to Instagram and vice versa. A new feature in Instagram stories lets  users swipe up to follow links.

  1. Crew uses this feature to direct users to their website. Link your website, Facebook or blog and grow your overall user base.

Nordstrom gets users to click on their link in bio  to drive traffic.

  1. Give them what they want:

Understanding your demographic is key to gaining followers on Instagram. In the US alone, 38% of women use Instagram, compared to 29% of men.

Instagram is hugely popular among teenagers. 59% of 18 to 29-year-olds make up the vast chunk of users that use Instagram daily.

This kind of information is crucial as it dictates what sort of posts you should be creating. The captions also need to be ‘on fleek’ and ‘on point’.

ASOS, for example, posts practical content all the time and gets excellent results.

Social media marketing, as part of digital marketing, is just beginning to be recognised as an effective tactic. Facebook-owned Instagram is the fastest-growing app and has the highest ROI. Unless you want to be at the bottom of the food chain, you should definitely implement these tactics. It is a slow climb to the top, but it’s worth every bit.