The Instagram Algorithm – Is the Free Ride Over?
What the Facebook Algorithm Can Teach Us About the Instagram Algorithm
It was only a matter of time, especially since Facebook bought Instagram. Reports have come out that there will be an Instagram algorithm that determines which posts make it to people’s timelines.
Newer business owners and Facebook users may not remember this, but back in the day, all you had to worry about was to get people to follow your company’s page. Your updates would show in their news feed, and as long as they were relevant to your customers, there they would stay.
Then Facebook started implementing an algorithm to manage the flood of posts people saw in their timeline. This change meant that Facebook would show your post to a few of your followers and how they reacted to the content would determine if Facebook would show it to more people. So businesses had to get much more strategic about their posts.
Now, it looks like Instagram is going to get the same treatment. Instagram says they will roll the Instagram algorithm out slowly so it won’t be jarring for users. And as with Facebook and Twitter, there are outraged users. Facebook seems to have moved past the outrage and continues to be popular. Twitter is still struggling to be profitable and keep users happy.
Why is Instagram doing this? They say it’s the same reason Facebook did – for a better user experience. According to co-founder Kevin Systrom “On average, people miss about 70 percent of the posts in their Instagram feed.” So they want to make sure that the 30 percent people do see is the best 30 percent.
For marketers and businesses, this means it’s time to step up your game.
How to Optimize Your Instagram Posts For Your Business
Get Better Photos
One of the best ways to get engagement on Instagram is to post better photos. Seems obvious, right? But so many business owners are rushed and just snap a shot, throw it up there, and go on with their day. Here are a few tips that will help you up your photo quality and beat the Instagram algorithm:
- Take multiple pictures – Professional photographers don’t show up to a photo shoot, take three perfect shots and then leave. They shoot hundreds of images, or more, to get the handful of excellent shots they need. I’m not saying you need to shoot hundreds of photos at a time, but don’t be afraid to take at least a dozen. Remember; this isn’t film – it doesn’t cost any extra to experiment.
- Try different angles – If you’re going to take a dozen photos, play with it! Try straight on, squat down and shoot up, get off to the side a bit, change the lighting by moving the subject or light, if possible, add different props, and so on.
- Natural light is your friend – Not everyone has fancy lighting equipment. But you probably know of a place that has lots of windows and gets tons of natural light. Have a plan and stock up on photos when you have access to this location.
- What catches YOUR eye? Emulate it! – In the Instagram app, click on the magnifying glass. You’ll see “trending” first, then “explore posts.” Scroll through the “explore posts” section. And keep it on this screen with three photos across. Which photos catch your eye even at that small size? Notice what it is that makes them stand out. Then keep those ideas in your mind for your photos.
Here are a couple of posts with great ideas for taking better Instagram photos:
- 5 Best Types of Instagram Posts to Drive Engagement
- 29 Instagram Hacks From People Who Take Really Good Photos
- 8 Killer Photography Tips From Instagram Superstars
Tips to Increase Instagram Engagement
Your best bet at beating the Instagram algorithm is to make sure people engage with your posts. More engagement means more people will see your posts.
- Hashtags – Use as many popular and relevant hashtags as you can for each photo. Using hashtags helps you reach people that aren’t following you yet. Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags and unlike Twitter where you should max out at two, the more, the better on Instagram. I like to use Hashtagify to find related hashtags. Remember to use hashtags related to your brand, particular product, and location.
- Filters – Instagram posts that use no filter or Mayfair drive the most engagement according to a study. But you should test out to see which work best for your business.
- Post at the right times – Sadly, Instagram doesn’t offer you any analytics for your account. If you already have a following built up, it is entirely worth it to invest in Iconosquare to see your stats. One of the best things it shows you is when your posts get the most reactions from your community. In the new Instagram feed, it’ll be more important than ever to hit these ideal times. If you’re just starting out, try a bunch of different times to see what works for your audience. Try between 6 AM and noon. There seem to be fewer posts during that period and less competition.
- Ask questions or take polls – Just flat out ask questions. One way you can do this is by doing a visual survey. For example, you could post a collage of all the colors one of your product comes in and ask which color is their favorite.
- Engage with your competitors followers – This is like targeting your competitors customers with Facebook ads but free, if a bit more time consuming. The more effort you put into it, the more success you will have. You can follow your competitors followers, follow and like one of their posts, or go all out and follow, like a post, and comment on a post. You have the greatest success with the last one, but the first method still yields significant results if that’s all you can manage.
- Have a contest – There are many ways you can run an Instagram contest. But if you want to maximize engagement, try a comment contest. Have people leave a comment to get an entry and then give them one more entry for each friend they tag. This method will up your engagement and spread your reach. Just don’t forget to follow Instagram’s rules for contests.
- Engage back! – Now that you have followed these tips, and you’re getting engagement don’t squander it! On high volume accounts, it might not be possible to interact with everyone that comments, but interact with some of them and answer every direct question.
These tips should set you on your way to a more engaging Instagram account. You’ll want to get started right away so you will know what works best for your business before the Instagram algorithm is in full effect.