In the wake of the now infamous Facebook privacy scandal (Insta’s parent company), Instagram has come forward in a bid for transparency and revealed the algorithm they use to analyze and organize user content. This new Instagram algorithm bought about the end of the old reverse-chronological feed style, adopting a chronological, algorithmic feed more like Facebook.
Filling your captions with the right hashtags is no longer the most effective way to ensure your content will reach your target audience. The platform now uses image recognition software to analyze the content of a post, assessing each one for your preferences. It then prioritizes certain posts, placing the most relevant content at the top of users’ feeds and providing less visibility to anything else.
Three main factors are considered by Instagram algorithm in determining what content appears in your feed: interest, recency/timeliness, and relationships.
How Does Instagram Algorithm Work?
Interest: Similar in principle to the function of hashtags, this factor streamlines the process for advertisers as they can now rely on the content itself to target consumers. The algorithm tracks the interests conveyed by a user to show them similar content when they are exploring Instagram. You can use this to your advantage by posting content which is similar in nature to other content your target audience engages with.
Recency/Timeliness: This element is pretty self-explanatory – Instagram algorithm takes account of the date and time at which a post was made, showing you only the most recent content and filtering out anything more than a few days old.
Relationships: The algorithm tracks your interactions on the platform, whether through direct message, comments and likes, or tags – so the more often you interact with another user, the more often you will see each other’s content. This is extremely helpful in building a loyal audience, as it guarantees repeat engagement between users and your posts.
Further, there are other, more general criteria Instagram’s algorithms use that you should still be aware of: frequency, usage, and following.
Frequency: This ranking factor depends on how frequently you use Instagram; the categorization of what it considers the best new content differs in relation to how long you were away from your feed. For example, if users don’t spend much time on Instagram or simply don’t visit the app very often, the likelihood of your content being seen by them is much lower. In these cases, you have to rely on the algorithm’s more important criteria to ensure you remain at the top of your target audience’s feeds.
Usage: During any given session spent on Instagram, the longer you remain on the app exploring content, the harder Instagram’s algorithms have to work to continue producing relevant content. Consequently, the algorithm is forced to extend its boundaries outside of the usual parameters to keep serving you fresh content, producing lower and lower quality posts the longer you stay on the app.
Following: This is another factor that needs very little explanation: the more accounts you follow on Instagram, the less content you will see on your feed from each individual account. This means that – in order to reach users who follow a huge amount of accounts – the competition is fierce.
These new developments in the effectiveness of Instagram algorithms mean users are seeing considerably more of their friends’ posts and actually spending more time on the app per visit that before.
How To Have More Feed Visibility On Instagram
Well, there are a few simple ways to go about tailoring your posts to take advantage of Instagram algorithm. You no longer have to fill your captions with endless, spammy hashtags and can instead focus on ensuring the content itself is relevant and high-quality.
That being said, it is still important to optimize your caption space by writing engaging descriptions, encouraging interaction (e.g. tag-a-friend), asking questions, or tagging relevant accounts and friends.
Make use of the relationships factor by designing your posts to actively encourage likes, comments, shares, and views to reinforce your presence in users’ activity and ensure you continue to be featured in their feeds. This may be through contests, giveaways, quizzes, surveys, or any other posts that inspire users to share their opinions.
You can prompt users to create UGC (user-generated content) to further extend the reach of your brand or personal presence on Instagram. You can also target your audience by engaging with their content, commenting and liking their posts to further put your account on the map.
Focusing on the recency/timeliness factor, try to post when you know your followers and target audience are historically most active. All Business profiles have access to an Instagram Analytics report on the app, which can be extremely useful in finding your peak posting times to maximize the potential of everything you post. This may be somewhat of a trial-and-error process, but once you’ve worked out a posting schedule it can be a game-changer.
Just because you no longer have to rely on hashtags for all your account out-reach, doesn’t mean they don’t still serve an important function. Make sure you choose the best hashtags to properly reach your audience – use the ones your target audience actually searches with when they want to discover new content and accounts. Employ a combination tactic of product, community, and branded hashtags to make your posts searchable.
Posting on Insta Stories or using IGTV is another unique way to reach your audience. Stories popularity has skyrocketed in recent years and very quickly spread to other platforms. While using this format of content promotion has become fairly commonplace among users, it’s still a highly distinctive way to keep your audience engaged and interested consistently. Using IGTV and/or Stories won’t affect how many people see your account posts, but it will increase your following organically by appealing to users on other channels.