You’ve heard the rumors: only 10% of your Instagram audience actually sees your Instagram posts in their feeds. Some say this is due to reach caps, while others swear that you can push the number up with Instagram hacks.
Whatever the case may be, in this article, we’re going to clear the air of the myths, and give you a look at how the Instagram feed algorithm actually works. Then, we’ll dive deep and show you a few ways to outsmart the Instagram algorithm for more impressions.
Use this article to level-up your Instagram marketing knowledge and provide better results to your brand or clients. Let’s get started!
Here’s a look at how the Instagram algorithm works
Before we look at the Instagram algorithm, we need to come clean: Instagram has never formally announced how its algorithm works.
However, Instagram has dropped hints on Twitter, and even invited journalist into its San Francisco office for a brief explainer on how its algorithm chooses what types of content to list first.
We’ve noticed an uptick in posts about Instagram limiting the reach of your photos to 7% of your followers, and would love to clear this up.— Instagram (@instagram) January 22, 2019
In the embedded Twitter post above, Instagram bluntly told the public that it does not cap reach at 7% (phew!). Further, it discussed that your reach depends on a few different factors, like how often you post, the timeliness of your posts, and how many people your audience members follow.
This is in line with what Instagram told a group of journalists in 2018. However, Instagram also told this group that the Instagram algorithm puts most emphasis on the following three factors over everything else:
- Recency: simply put, this is how recently you published a post. Recent posts get top priority, but the algorithm isn’t chronological (and by the looks of it, it never will be)
- Interest: Instagram predicts what types of content Instagram users like based on past activity. So if you like a lot of cat pictures, chances are you’ll see a lot of cat pictures in your feed.
- Relationship: posts with people you frequently interact with will frequently show higher in your feed. Interactions—according to this press conference—include likes and comments on past posts.
So in short, the Instagram algorithm works by taking the timeliness of your posts, and combining that with your audience’s relation to you and their interests. So, the more people like your past content, the more likely they’ll be to see your post first in their feed.
Do note that there may be more to the algorithm that Instagram isn’t telling you. However, with this information, you can make a better educated guess on how it works, and optimize your content and Instagram profile accordingly.
Here’s how to make the Instagram algorithm work for you
So, now that you have a basic overview of how the Instagram algorithm works, you need to find a way to make it work for you.
Here at Social Report HQ, we’ve spent some time experimenting, brainstorming, and researching effective ways that you can outsmart the Instagram feed algorithm and make it work for you.
In the end, we came up with the following four ideas and tweaks—let’s take a look!
Make sure you’re posting on a consistent basis
In order to hit the timeliness factor, you need to make sure that you’re posting to Instagram on a consistent basis. This will keep your content fresh, and gives Instagram more content to serve to your audience.
As noted in our article on Instagram hacks, Union Metrics pulled data from 55 Instagram top accounts and found that they post 1.5 times per day on average. So with that in mind, we recommend posting 1-2 times per day in order to stay at the top of your audience’s feed.
Post when your audience is active and online
Here’s a simple one: make sure you’re posting when your audience members are actually online. One way of doing this is to find where your audience is based, and then schedule your posts outside of normal business hours and before or after meals.
For example, if the majority of your audience is largely based in Chicago, you’ll want to post outside of 9am to 5pm central time when the majority of people are working. Instead, consider posting during lunch breaks, commute times, and after dinner.
If you want to get just a little more scientific, you can use Social Report’s optimal time scheduling tool to schedule your content to the best time automatically. The tool looks at your last three months of Instagram engagement data, and then finds the most engaging time for you to post.
Embrace video content
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Our Canadian friends up north just released a new video on a deep dive of Goose IPA and their new brewhouse exclusive Toronto inspired brew, available to watch at their YouTube page. You might even see an appearance from our brewmaster Keith tasting through different beers 🍻
Between 2017 and 2018, Instagram video views nearly quadrupled. This signals that Instagram users are not only uploading more video, but they really like watching and engaging with them too.
So with that in mind, we highly recommend that you start uploading more short-form video content to Instagram. There’s a hard limit of 1 minute per video, but we’ve actually found that the shorter the video, the more engaging it is.
This helps you outsmart the algorithm because—simply put—more engagement equals a better relationship. And when Instagram sees that your posts are getting more engagements, it’s more likely to prioritize your content on your audience’s feed.
Build real relationships with other Instagram users
Speaking of relationships, work on cultivating real relationships with your audience. For example, make sure you reply to their comments, follow relevant users back, and interact with their photos too.
Doing this will encourage these audience members to come back and interact with your content, giving you a better shot at ending up at the top of their feeds. Further, this is a generally good way of growing your Instagram following.
Since Instagram serves content based on interests, you’ll want to keep your Instagram account centered around one niche. This will help get you to the top spot on the feeds of audience members that are legitimately interested in a topic.
Further, you should also see a higher conversion rate when you stick to one topic. This is because your content will be served to people actually interested in what you post, not just random people that accidentally followed you (and have no intention of checking out your products).
In this article, you learned how the Instagram algorithm works and what you can do to outsmart it. Use this knowledge to up your Instagram marketing game and provide better results to your Instagram clients.
Now it’s your turn. What do you do to beat the Instagram algorithm? Let us know in the comments below.
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