The algorithm update doesn’t have to be your enemy

The algorithm changes Instagram introduced mid-2018 has been a topic of much debate in the social media community and although most people are not loving the changes, Instagram is firm on their stance- they want to make the app social again, rewarding real interactions between users and limiting the use of bots and follower buying.

We’re reserving our final opinion on the matter for the moment, but it seems that the new algorithm might be a positive change that ensures the social aspect of social media. Here’s what you need to know about the changes.

How Instagram determines what you see
We discussed this in a previous post where we focused on how user behaviour influenced the feed. In this post, we wanted to show that Instagram is out on a mission to reward interaction, and deter users and businesses from engaging in spammy behaviour like buying likes and followers, or using comment bots to generate fake activity on the app. Following these new guidelines are wise if you want your content to be seen. If you want people to find out about you, you better start showing audiences what they love, and interact with users in a real, conversational way when they do like your content.

How Instagram determines who sees your content
Now we get to the part everyone wants to know. It seems to be unanimous in the Instagram community that your followers only see about 10% of what you post. This seems harsh, especially if you are constantly creating new content and then only a small amount of your followers see your content from the get-go.
Here’s how this works- your post basically auditions for higher ranking. Only 10% of your followers will see your content, and depending on their engagement with the content, more people following you will see it.
The basics we’ve outlined in the first section also apply to how people see your content. The people who actively engage with you will have your content ranking higher on their feed. If your content is recent, relevant and tagged in the right way, more and more of your followers will see it.

How to “crack” the algorithm
There are a few tips that the Instagram community seem to agree on, although some contradict each other. We’re experimenting with these tips to see what works for our Instagram strategy and although these tips are a good starting point, the key is to try and learn what works for you.

Some general tips to deal with the algorithm:

1. Engagement is key.
– Authentic engagement is a non-negotiable and forms the heart of Instagram’s new algorithm. If you want to get noticed and gain followers, you need to engage with people on a human level. No more singe emoji comments or bots, this simply won’t do anymore. One source insists that your comments need to be four words or longer
– Timely engagement is also important so try to respond within less than an hour of the comment to get higher rankings.
– Give people reasons to engage with your content by using a call-to-action like asking a question or getting people to tag their friends in your posts.

2. Hashtags have changed- or have they?
– Don’t use the same hashtags all the time, change them up and switch them around.
– No more hiding 30 hashtags in your comments, most gurus suggest using only a few (5-10) relevant hashtags. (We personally have not seen any difference in adding 30 tags in the comments vs a few tags in the caption, but we’re still experimenting and learning each day).
– Add hashtags to your captions, not to the comments as many users find that their commented tags do not show up in searches
– Use hashtags with micro-influence- those with less than 1 million posts. We recommend using an app like Plann (it shows you how many posts to a hashtag and gives a colour indication of which ones are great to fire up engagement- look for tags in green)

3. Get savvy with new Instagram features
– No one likes their hard work to be ignored, and Instagram is no exception to that rule. If the app brings out a new feature- use it! This is a debatable hint, because there is no real way to track how the use of new features helps with your exposure on the app, but it is still a good idea to try new things and see how they work for your account.
– If you want to stay up to date with the latest form the app, visit the Info Center for news about their updates. You won’t find detailed info from this resource, but rather snippets of the latest from the app itself. Then you can go and research some more to get in depth content about the feature you are interested in.
– Follow hashtags that you love and use appropriate hashtags to get your content exposed to a wider audience

Since the algorithm changes, many rumours have been spreading through the community of users about specific practices and “behind the scenes” information relating to how the app works, what the algorithm is actually doing and how Instagram rewards and punishes users for specific actions. We’ll be taking a closer look at these myths in the next post so be sure to subscribe to our feed and follow us on social media for updates on the blog.

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Sources:Loren, T. (2018). The New Instagram Algorithm Has Arrived – Here’s How it Works. [online] Later Blog. Available at: https://later.com/blog/instagram-algorithm-update/ [Accessed 5 Jul. 2018].Constine, J. (2018). How Instagram’s algorithm works. [online] TechCrunch. Available at: https://techcrunch.com/2018/06/01/how-instagram-feed-works/ [Accessed 5 Jul. 2018].