About a year ago Instagram shocked its users by changing how people see their feed. No longer could they see Instagram posts on a chronological basis. Instagram now showcases posts in an order that it feels best meets a user’s browsing patterns. Like its parent company Facebook, Instagram now has a new special algorithm where it favors some posts over others.
In many ways, the change of Instagram is a result of its own popularity. With 700 million people now using Instagram, most people are fed considerably more posts than they have time to look at. In fact, the average user misses about 70% of the posts in their Instagram feed. It should be no surprise, therefore, that the Instagram boffins have tried to ensure that 30% of the posts you actually see is the 30% you most want to see.
While the Instagram algorithm is quite complicated, it bases the order of your feed on seven important factors:
- Engagement – if people like or comment on your photos they will jump to the top of peoples’ feeds. This can sometimes annoy people as it means they have to see the same posts many times.
- Relevancy – this can be challenging. Who is to say how relevant a particular post is. If you get sick of seeing tons of cute kittens’ pictures, you must wonder why Instagram considers them related to you.
- Relationships – Instagram tries to predict the top eight people you follow and place their posts near the top of your feed. This puts a brand in direct competition with friends and family. However, it is one reason why influencers can still succeed on Instagram.
- Timeliness – it has changed from how it was. Now Instagram’s definition of timeliness is “the photos and videos that are shown on your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the people posting and the timeliness of the post”. In other words, they will give you the most relevant posts by the people you care about in approximately the order that they post them.
- Profile searches – Instagram recognizes that if people regularly search your profile then they probably find that you’re interesting. So they show your posts on those people’s feeds accordingly.
- Direct shares – Instagram views that if you directly share somebody’s content then you probably have an interest in it. So they bump it up to your feed
- Time spent – if you spend more time looking at a user’s photos or images then Instagram assumes you want to see more of them and places that user’s content higher in your feed.
Instagram hasn’t stood still with its changes either. It continues to make improvements to its features and algorithm nearly every month.
The feed has changed but it is not random. We know the important things that Instagram is looking for as they decide which posts rank well. Therefore it is possible to adapt your content and Instagram practices to give yourself a better opportunity of boosting your posts to the more visible parts of peoples’ feeds.
Create Unique and High-Quality Content
The most important technique for your followers to easily see your content is to ensure that you only post content of the highest possible quality. High-quality content encourages people to react to it. It will also be considered relevant more often by those who look for it.
Use relevant (and make certain they are only relevant) hashtags in the captions to your posts. Don’t try and join in the latest fad with your hashtags unless they truly describe your content, otherwise, it looks like you’re cheating the system.
If you are already considered an influencer, you will already be providing this type of content all the time. That’s how you will have improved your reputation – with authenticity, trust, and quality content.
In the past, people thought that you could gain greater exposure by increasing the number of postings you make. That can backfire now. If you post too often, people are less likely to take notice of all of them, and that will diminish your overall engagement rate. That will, in turn, put posts even further down the queue.
People will react far better to a few great posts, than tons of mediocre images with irrelevant captions.
Be prepared to experiment with Instagram’s wide range of filters to help you create that perfect image. Research shows that posts with a filter on are more likely to be viewed and commented on than others without filters.
If you are showing photos of products, you will often get better engagement if you show images of these in use, rather than generic product images – even if you are using them in unusual situations. Starbucks, for instance, gained more than 300,000 likes for a post they made depicting Starbucks drinks as Christmas decorations.
It’s also helpful if you become a “good Instagram citizen”. This means that you post quality content, targeted to your correct followers. You quickly answer any questions people leave on your posts, and you say thanks to anybody who comments. Moreover, you also don’t want people to see you as simply being a broadcaster. You need to engage with, share, and comment on other peoples’ posts too.
Post on Trending Topics
With Relevancy and Timeliness being important factors in the current Instagram algorithm, it makes sense for you to make posts on trending topics.
Of course, these still have to be authentic. In the past, businesses have used trending hashtags in totally not related posts. For instance, businesses made posts advertising gold rings for sale that include the #worldcup tag. But there was no other mention of the current World Football Cup. This sort of gaming system is unlikely to work now.
However, if you can authentically weave in references to trending topics into your posts, then you have a good opportunity of boosting these posts to a higher place in your followers’ Instagram feeds. They will also be visible to anybody who searches for those particular hashtags, potentially gaining you a new audience.
Consider adapting your posts to the seasons. This could be as simple as modifying the predominant colors of your images for certain times of the year.