Demystifying the Instagram Algorithm
July 31st, 2017
As social media experts, one of our main job responsibilities is keeping up with algorithm changes. To us, social algorithms are like invisible little pests that constantly change form. And you have to work with them, not against or your number will start to plummet. In the last year, there’s been a lot of conversation regarding the Instagram algorithm in particular. With every “minor improvement,” as Instagram spokespeople like to call them, social media marketers, influencers and big brands alike scramble to develop a strategy to overcome the algorithm. So how do you make the Instagram algorithm work for you? The main way to stay ahead of the curve is to know exactly what the algorithm factors into its equation. And no, Instagram doesn’t publish this information, that’d be too easy. These factors have been unearthed through good ol’ fashioned trial and effort.
Here are the top 7 factors that Instagram algorithm tracks:
1. The amount of engagement your post receives
Creating engaging content is vital to overcoming any algorithm challenges. If you don’t have that, you have nothing to build on. Instagram takes note of when people like, comment, save and even share your photo with friends via direct messages. Moreso, they put a higher rating on comments, saves and shares in comparison to likes, because they take more effort. Asking questions or including a call to action will help facilitate this engagement.
Takeaway: Post shareable content and use call-to-actions to generate comments.
2. How quickly your post receives engagement
The Instagram algorithm is not only factoring in how much engagement your content receives, but how quickly it receives it. So if you get a lot of engagement right after posting, that will lead to higher visibility all day. It is a cyclical system – the more engagement you get leads to more visibility which leads to more engagement. To take advantage of this, post at optimal times according to your account. If you have a business Instagram account, your insights will be able to tell you when your audience is most likely to be online. You can also use tools like Iconosquare or Later to find the best time for your account.
Just a side note: Never EVER use bots. Using bots to try and boost your initial engagement will only hurt you in the long run. Instagram knows when engagement isn’t sincere and will actually “ping” you for doing it. They may also label your account as a spam account or disable your account altogether. You’ve been warned!
Takeaway: Post at optimal times to boost your engagement cycle.
3. How much time people spend viewing your post
The algorithm is also keeping track of how much time people are spending on your post. Notice how videos or Boomerangs tend to do well? That is because people have to stop scrolling to be able to see it. You can also create the same effect by writing captivating captions. When someone presses that “more” button to read the rest of your caption, they are putting in more effort and spending more time on your post.
Takeaway: Use engaging captions and videos to keep users on your post.
4. Who interacts with you
It’s no secret that social platforms want to tailor the experience to the user, meaning that the user sees the content that the platform thinks they will like. A major factor in this is tracking who they interact with. If that person interacts with a brand regularly, they are more likely to see their content. So how do you get them to interact with you? Be the first to initiate the interaction! Though tedious and unscalable, seeding is an imperative task to grow your Instagram presence. Like, comment and share your audiences content to cultivate an online community.
Takeaway: Interact with your audience so that they will interact with you.
5. Genre of your content
Instagram also has a feel of what kind of content users enjoy. For example, someone may follow a wide variety of accounts, but be more prone to engage with skincare and make up related posts than sports video clips and foodie related content. Because of this, their feed is tailored to show more skincare posts. This is important to note because if you post many different types of content, Instagram has a harder time fitting you into one of those genres. If you only ever post skincare related content, you are more likely to show up for those users who are interested in that type of post – both on your follower’s feed and on the explore page.
Takeaway: Stick to a consistent genre to optimize your chances of being seen for that content category.
6. If your account has been searched
If someone has recently used the search option to find your account, your posts will show up in their feed, because Instagram takes that action to mean they enjoy your content. So what can you do to increase searches for your account? Simply by posting content that keeps people coming back! This may mean leveraging yourself as an expert in your genre or telling a story photo by photo.
Takeaway: Post hyper-engaging content that people will want to seek you out!
7. Timeliness of your post
The Instagram algorithm still factors in the chronological aspects of posts to a degree. Once you post a new photo, your previous photo will typically get less engagement. If a photo is a few days old, it won’t appear in the feed anymore. Just like the pre-algorithm days, posting consistently is the best practice.
Takeaway: Post consistently to appear in your audience’s feed.
Are you struggling to build engagement on Instagram? We can help! Drop us a line or check out our social media page to see how we can help.
Written by Madison Kiernan, Social Media Specialist at Immotion Studios