According to Merriam-Webster,
“the current term of choice for a problem-solving procedure, algorithm, is commonly used for the set of rules a machine (and especially a computer) follows to achieve a particular goal. Algorithm is often paired with words specifying the activity for which a set of rules have been designed. A search algorithm, for example, is a procedure that determines what kind of information is retrieved from a large mass of data. An encryption algorithm is a set of rules by which information or messages are encoded so that unauthorized persons cannot read them.” *source linked here*
So What About The Instagram Algorithm?
Instagram claims that it was made to improve user experience, prioritizing moments we care about the most. When these changes FIRST started being implemented in late 2016, Instagram released a statement and commented: “The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post.”
Remember that Instagram is owned by Facebook. For those of us who have connected the two accounts, the algorithm is especially powerful because Instagram knows who your “family” is, who your co-workers are and which of your peers/acquaintances you likely interact with on a regular basis OUTSIDE of the social platforms (in real life). The algorithm will prioritize posts from the people that it believes you want to see. When a post receives a great amount of likes and comments (a.k.a. engagement) , this signals to the algorithm that your post is good quality, with engaging content that more people should want to see, so it will start showing up sooner/higher in more people’s feeds, thus expanding the reach of your post.
The 8 Factors That Make Up The Algorithm:
Engagement: How popular the post is. This comes in the form of shares, saves, comments and likes
Relevancy: The genres of content you are interested in and have interacted with (food, travel, fashion, memes, etc.)
Relationships: The accounts you regularly interact with
Timeliness: How often you refresh = your activity AND how recently the people you follow have posted
Profile Searches: The accounts you check out often
Direct Shares: Whose posts you are sharing
Time Spent: The duration spent viewing a post (90% of users are passive non-engagers)
Filtering Spammy Behavior: Triggers of bad content that can lead to "shadowbanning"
5 Ways To Make The Algorithm Work In Your Favor:
Spend time regularly posting to Instagram stories.
This feature was Instagram’s response to the rise of SnapChat, which is why it has so many similar features. Users were spending more time (in short bursts) throughout their day swiping through people’s SnapChat stories than scrolling through Instagram feeds.
The 2018 algorithm recognizes all of the interactions you receive and participate in on the stories function. The more a user interacts with your stories, the more likely your posts will show up in their feed.
The Hack: take advantage of the polling function or the “swipe up” feature, if you have this option. Micro-influencers and brands: use a call-to-action such as “DM me for a direct link to this product”, this is a great way to drive people to your inbox, and build relationships with your followers.
Keep tabs on your comments.
Starting in 2018, Instagram will only recognize comments with 4 words or more as “quality engagement”. Start a conversation with your post and your caption and encourage your followers to drop comments below your post that would need to be well thought-out and written as a phrase (not just a few emojis).
The algorithm also cares about how quickly audiences engage with your content. If your post gets a lot of likes and comments, it signals that your post is quality so the post will get shown to more of your followers. The ultimate goal is for your post to be shown on non-followers’ feeds (through the explore page and through proper hashtag use).
Find out what time your audience is most active. Use the built-in analytics of your business account, or go through a third-party posting program. The Hack: by finding the best time every day to post on Instagram, you can work around the algorithm to increase your reach and get more likes and comments.
Don’t forget to reply to all of your comments! People like to think they’re talking to an actual person so try to respond in a timely manner.
The algorithm calculates how long people spend viewing your post and interacting with your content.
...so how do you stop your followers from just scrolling past your post?
Create captions that have a question or request or a response from the viewer. Another strategy is to write out a longer-than-usual Instagram caption, that way people are more likely to stop and read the post and that makes them spend more time looking. The Hack: By drafting the captions ahead of time and then scheduling the posts, you can save yourself the daily pressure to be creative and dedicate your time and energy to other important strategies.
The swipe action: uploading multiple photos to a singular post can keep users looking for a longer amount of time.
Upload VIDEO content. Videos on Instagram now auto-play when you’re scrolling through the feed. Statistics show that video content is generally more engaging than a still photo.
Ideally, the goal is to capture someone’s attention for more than 7 seconds.
The algorithm favors posts with specific, relevant hashtags.
Instagram recently rolled out the ability to follow hashtags, allowing users to have new “relevant” posts automatically show up in their feeds from profiles that they don’t already follow.
This point has a lot to do with Instagram’s efforts to prevent “spammy” behavior (a.k.a. Shadowbanning ...more on this in an upcoming post).
Try the Instagram Live feature; even if only 2 people show up! Your icon will be bumped to the very beginning of a follower’s stories queue and your followers will receive a push notification that you’re live.
Create polls in your Instagram stories for quick, no-brainer engagement.
Save some of your stories to a highlight reel so people can still see the content after the 24-hour window.
Run a contest! Decide what your goals are first, and then create “contest entry submission requirements” that align with these goals (more specifics on this coming up in a later post, stay tuned!)
Test out some Instagram Ads and Boosted Posts (Need some one-on-one help with this? Contact us here.)
Consider the route of influencer marketing… Broken down into its simplest form, this means piggy-backing from someone who has a loyal following and a wide-reaching audience to promote your brand/product (think similarly to product placement on a TV show or movie like Mercedes-Benz in Justice League).
While Instagram was originally a game of frequent quantity (like Twitter) for best exposure NOW the best practice is to post good quality for optimal engagement. Brands are encouraged to post only their best content, and the quality of their content will determine their reach. Brands with the best content overall will stand out more easily now than without the algorithm.
What do you think about this algorithm? Are you ready to jump ship? Do you have any more questions or need more clarification on the points above? Let's talk about it. Shoot us a DM over on Instagram or drop a comment on our posts! We'd love to know what you think! --Katherine Pereda
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