What is Instagram's Algorithm

What's Instagram’s Algorithm? #3

This is the third post in a series about Instagram’s algorithm. You can read session 1, here and session 2, here.

As I wrote in the previous posts, I’m not a social media strategist. I’m a marketing strategist who, among other things, can help professionals determine which social media platform is best for their needs - Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Then I can help curate content that speaks both on my client’s behalf but also solicits authentic engagement from a target audience.

Lot of marketing jargon in that last sentence. But it’s important to differentiate that a social media strategist is more likely, for example, to help you accumulate that audience of 10k within 3 months on Instagram. And to even do that you’ll likely need to engage in a paid advertising campaign to push your ads - on any platform (I may also add that your presence online needs to be sharp before you bring 10k followers to your content - that’s also where I typically come in :))

So I continue to do the research so we can use a platform like Instagram without all the paid (or too much of it) advertising and still benefit. And I find the insight from Alex Tooby is both relevant and useful. I did, for example get an out-of state client using my Instagram account. As I write this, we’re currently working together on a monthly basis. Not to mention a number of old colleagues have contacted me via Instagram for work. A return on your Instagram investment is certainly a positive.

Image by Earvin Huang via Unsplash.

Image by Earvin Huang via Unsplash.

Alex’s backstory:

She studied digital graphics and design in college and when she started her own business in social media consulting out of Vancouver she worked hard to “figure out” the Instagram algorithm. Insta with Alex, one of her verified accounts has over 40k followers. Men and Coffee has over 400k followers, also verified by Instagram. Plus…she’s reached a $1 million in revenue via her online work. She’s Canadian so we believe her.

4 Ways to Increase Your Following Engagement in 5 Minutes

Session 3

Not all followers are created equal. Get followers who are actually going to support your goals and visit your website to buy what you’re offering. Attract the right follower, not just any follower (This goes back to defining your target market. Who is your ideal customer? Know this. Learn it. Take time to develop it).

Optimize your headline

This means toying with the first bolded line of your instagram bio. The Headline of your profile is searchable. Added keywords are needed to make your bio become searchable. And you must select keywords that will attract your target market to your feed. This Headline will show up in grey when your account appears in search results within Instagram’s search bar.

Right now? Your head line likely has your name or your company’s within it. But you should dedicate this Headline bio space to keyword placement. Add searchable terms to your Headline. For example: Architect Firm. This specificity to industry gives the account a chance to show up in keyword search for architecture. (Go to your profile and edit this bio, stat! Takes 1 minute to change)

 
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Engage with specific content and people

Go to ‘search’ within Instagram and toggle over to ‘tags’: (you must first know your target market) and type in a keyword that describes this target person: “independent business owner,” “interior designer.” The results will have ‘top’ and ‘recent’. Click on recent.

Here’s where you get to have fun. What catches your eye? Which image grabs you? Go in and like those images. Aim to find a few images within each account that you can like and maybe even write a comment.

Be genuine and just wander through images that are within this keyword search. This should be enjoyable!

You’re giving engagement and encouraging these people to visit your page.

(Alex does not mention this, but you can follow that tag. And that tag, which is relevant to you, will begin showing up in your feed. You won’t have to follow all the people within the tag, you can just follow the tag and use the same advice above - engage.)


Use Instagram Poll Features

To get more engagement, you need some to start with. You must encourage it.

Try taking advantage of Instagram Story features like polls, questions and quizzes. Ask people things that are relevant to what you offer and when people start participating in it, Instagram signals that people are interested in what you’re sharing and will share your content to those people again next time you share.

Only takes a minute or two to set up a poll or quiz! Additionally, this will give you some insight into what your audience likes. You could ask: do you prefer to see images of houses in the woods or do you prefer city scapes?

Be relatable and honest

Typically, people will read a caption to the end and may comment on something in which you’re being honest and raw. This is hard with a business profile - but if you present yourself as an individual, this is a major opportunity to be open. You may have experienced this before in pervious posts. Use that as encouragement to keep going. If you’re a business, you can tell a personal story related to your industry but doesn’t have to be embarrassing or revealing of your businesses weaknesses or shortcomings.

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You can watch Alex’s session 3, here. Approximate view time: 35 minutes.







































What's Instagram’s Algorithm? #1

Precursor: I’m not a social media strategist. I’m a marketing strategist who, among other things, can help professionals determine which social media platform is best for their needs - Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Then I can help curate content that speaks both on my client’s behalf but also solicits authentic engagement from a target audience.

Lot of marketing jargon in that last sentence. But it’s important to differentiate that a social media strategist is more likely, for example, to help you accumulate that audience of 10k within 3 months on Instagram. And to even do that you’ll likely need to engage in a paid advertising campaign to push your ads - on any platform.

Organic Growth. Image by Francis Cheung via Unsplash.

Organic Growth. Image by Francis Cheung via Unsplash.

So keep in mind, that while these social platforms were in fact built on the premise of free access for sharing personal and business content, the promise to investors and shareholders was and remains revenue growth. Enter business platforms and added features that come with a price - like access to the audience you’ve either organically grown already, or now need but must pay to get and grow. Hence paid advertising. And valuable paid advertising.

So I do the research to make sure that while the algorithms are consistently evolving, shifting and morphing to help shape and build the advertising and paid platform, you can keep up without having to pay.

The results are not the same as paid, but the basics are a must.

Image by Mark Adams via Unsplash

Image by Mark Adams via Unsplash

At this point, if you have a basic business profile, you’re probably interested in not losing more followers, or you’d like to get another hundred or two in the next few months and perhaps hit 1000+.

But how do you do that.

Instagram has a few guidelines.

Enter Alex Tooby. Her light hearted but strategic Instagram verified account like Men + Coffee has over 400k followers and she’s taught social media management for 3 years. Via her job as a social media strategist who generates income from selling tools like workshops, she claims to have reached $1 million in revenue. And she’s Canadian so we believe her.

The content below has been transcribed by me while listening to her work via Youtube. The transcription is not exactly word for word, but pretty close. Please keep in mind this is her advice, not mine. Though I do endorse her work as I’ve found it relevant and valuable. I’m not getting paid to write this :)


Understanding the Insta Algorithm and 3 Ways to Get it on Your Side

Session 1

First of all, lower engagement is being experienced across the board for everyone. It’s not just you. The kind of engagement that one could get a year or two ago is just no longer.

So what’s the secret: the longer you or any user are on the app, the more money Instagram makes. Longer use = more opportunity for Instagram to show advertisements. And Instagram rewards more engaging content by showing that content to more people, more frequently.

So - how can you create content that keeps people on the app longer? This is really the way of the platform. Really.

Also, if you haven’t gathered this so far, Instagram first shows you the content that it thinks you’ll like the most. This is based on what you like, who you DM, where you comment, etc. This is likely obvious. But you can use this feature to increase your own engagement.

Action Tip #1

Discover what content your ideal audience already likes.

(This means you need to be following the people who you’ve defined as your ideal audience).

Do some market research.

Go to your notifications tab and hit the “Following” tab in the upper left hand corner. See screenshot.

 
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This space in the Instagram app will tell you what the people you’re following like (which may also introduce you to cool, interesting and new content).

What do you see pop up the most? Paintings? Graphics? Loud colors? Black and whites? Posts with text? Faces or selfies?

Look for recurring themes. These themes can tell you a lot about what your ideal audience engages with most and inform your decision next time you post.

Action Tip #2

Use more video.

A video keeps people on the app longer. And longer engagement means Instagram will show your work more.


Action Tip #3

Write longer captions.

Again, longer time to read = longer time spent on app.


Timeliness

Instagram prioritizes information relevancy not by the content itself, but by when that content is posted.

The newness of a post is not based on the last time you posted, but the last time the user was active on the app.

If you post at 8 am and your audience comes online at 11am Instagram will show posts to users that were most recently made at say 10:45 am or 10:50 am. Yours post from 8 am will get pushed further back.

That means posting multiple times a day is not the answer. Determining when your audience is online, is.

If you have a business profile, you can go to your profile and hit the three stacked lines in the upper right and corner.

Click on “Insights”.

Hit “Audience” and you’ll see the times your audience is online most frequently.

 
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Alternatively, you can use a third party app called WhenToPost. (I’ve downloaded this and it’s Instagram approved. And Alex reminds us that whenever you use a third party app you should see the Instagram logo front and center. This format will indicate you’re not giving your login info to a spammer.)

 

This WhentoPost tool can give you up to the minute indicators of when to post or not. You’ll also see 3 best times to post per day and other days of the week. (I’ve been using this but haven’t found any major difference, but will give it a few more weeks for testing). If you don’t have instagram insights on a business profile this tool can be helpful, Alex says. If you do have a business profile with insights, this tool can help you cross reference.

Correct format when logging into a 3rd party Instagram app.

Correct format when logging into a 3rd party Instagram app.

Relationship

No matter how many accounts you follow, you should see your ‘best friends’ posts, first. This is based on again, your previous actions and the actions between another account with mutual engagement back and forth.

If you like images a lot on an particular account and that person is not liking back, the relationship is not considered strong.

The strength of an Instagram relationship can be built when you engage more with your ideal target market and encourage them to engage back. One way to do this is by ‘giving a little Instagram love.’ Go into your following list and begin participating in the various accounts of the people who are following you.

You’re basically opening up the lines of communication. Also, it tells Instagram the relationship exists. A CTA (call to action) can also help encourage relationship building by asking your followers to respond to something.

Image by Annie Spratt via Unsplash

Image by Annie Spratt via Unsplash


That content above is from Alex’s first session of her Insta Education series.

That said, I will allow that some of the above tactics are time consuming. This process takes work and commitment and consistency. You must know you ideal target market and you must have content that resonates with this group. I’ve made money off Instagram simply by attracting a client from out of state with whom I now work on a monthly basis. But I do have a strategy, I do use it consistently and I know who my target audience is. And I engage with them. And yeah, it’s a lot of work.