If your brand suffers from decreased social reach, traffic, and engagement, the culprit could be the Instagram algorithm’s latest changes. Understanding how the Instagram algorithm works will help you develop a strategy to improve your visibility and grow your following on the platform.
So how exactly does the Instagram algorithm work, and how do you find a way for your brand to increase reach and engagement? Let’s find out!
How does the Instagram algorithm work?
There are six core ranking signals that Instagram uses to determine the posts displayed on any user’s feed.
Interest: Do you typically engage with this type of post and content? That determines what kind of posts will show up in the feed.
- Relationship: What accounts have you interacted with recently? Content from accounts that you often interact with are prioritized.
- Frequency of Instagram use: How often do you use Instagram? That affects what the top posts in your Instagram feed will be.
- Session: How long do you spend on Instagram per day? The longer you spend using the app, the more data the app will gather. More data and insights usually mean the content will get more relevant and accurate over time.
- Following: How many accounts do you follow? You may see less content from specific accounts if you follow a lot of accounts. It all comes back to how often you engage with the accounts you follow.
- Timeliness: Was the post published recently? Newer posts are prioritized over older ones.
As Instagram has continued to update and refine how the algorithm works, they have recently added three new factors. The Instagram team revealed some details in their latest blog post titled “Shedding More Light on How Instagram Works“:
- Post information: The number of likes, shares, saves, as well as post timing and location (if any).
- Information about the user: The number of people who have interacted with this person in the past few weeks
- Your interaction history with the user: If you have interacted with this account, you will likely be more interested in what they share.
How to outsmart the new Instagram algorithm?
Now, you might be wondering how to ensure your branded content shows up in users’ feeds and reaches more of your customers.
The answer is quite simple: create content that drives a ton of likes, shares, comments, and saves – and encourage your audience to create content for your brand. We’ve gathered 6 tips on how to drive organic traffic and engagement on Instagram:
Post consistently and optimally
If you want to increase your reach and boost engagement, you need to post consistently. So, the question is, what is consistent? Adam Mosseri, CEO of Instagram, shared in Instagram’s Creator Week that posting two feed posts per week and two Stories per day is ideal for building an Instagram following.
And to maximize the potential of every post, the most straightforward way is to have your content go up during your peak posting times. As everyone’s audience will be most engaged at different times, you’ll need to test to figure out the best time to post.
Step up your post quality
Uploading an image that's the wrong size to Instagram could:
- Cut off part of something important, for example, in a product image.
- Result in a blurry or out-of-focus image because Instagram stretched your image to fit the feed.
Wrong-size images draw attention away from your content and make your brand look unprofessional or, worse, spammy. So, to drive higher engagement, you should pay great attention to the correct Instagram sizes and dimensions for your content.
Also, keeping up with the latest Instagram trends is a great way to keep your content fresh and engaging. In 2021, we saw Carousel posts, Interactive Stories, and Monochromatic palettes on Instagram. This year, we are seeing Vintage theme, #nofilter, and authentic customer-generated content trends leading the way.
Use Instagram’s latest features right away
Did you know that Instagram always makes extra effort to popularize its newly added features? Thus, businesses and creators who are among the first to jump on the bandwagon will gain an extra advantage in the eyes of the Instagram algorithm.
One of the most recent examples is Instagram Reels. Reels can be added to the Instagram Explore page, where they’re available to the entire Instagram community (while Stories cannot) – making them an effective tactic for discovery and growth. At the start, everyone who used Reels gained an extra advantage from this boost while the platform was making a move to promote it.
Publish more Reels & Stories
As Instagram Reels and Instagram Stories are being heavily promoted across the entire app experience, you can leverage them to gain more visibility on the platform. Also, research by Socialpilot suggests that video-form posts receive 21.2% more engagement than image-only posts.
To further increase the reach of your video content, you should gather and display Instagram Stories & Reels on your website. LG FR's homepage is a perfect example – showing a curated Instagram wall of branded images, videos, Stories, and Reels. By embedding Instagram feeds on websites, brands grow followers and increase post engagement for their branded Instagram content.
Harness the power of hashtag challenges
If you want to grow your Instagram audience, a hashtag campaign featuring happy customers will help you reach the friends of your fans that might not know your brand yet. The first step is to create and promote a memorable hashtag that your customers identify with.
To further boost your hashtag campaign, you can embed hashtag feeds on your website and encourage more people to join the contest. For example, Tampa Bay Lightning encourages fans to share photos and videos with the hashtag #BeTheDistantThunder - and embeds hashtag entries on their website to boost fan engagement and drive traffic to their Instagram account.
Are you looking to create a hashtag campaign to increase brand awareness? Check 8 examples of successful hashtag campaigns.
Share user-generated content
92% of customers trust user-generated content more than they trust traditional advertising, according to Nielsen. Thus, by creating a user-generated content campaign and encouraging your customers to mention your brand or branded hashtag, you can create social proof and draw more attention to your content.
To help your campaign grow, embed user-generated content on your website. We all love to be recognised – and displaying the best entries on your website will encourage other customers to join the campaign with their entries.
GoPro Awards engages fans and influencers to capture their best moments with GoPro products and submit compelling images and videos via a submission form. The best entries are shared on GoPro’s Instagram account. These authentic, UGC-powered posts open up conversations between GoPro and customers, increase social interactions, and grow an engaged social community. All that helps outsmart the Instagram algorithm.
For more inspiration, check 7 user-generated content campaign examples.