digital marketing

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?? #2

This is the second post in a series about Instagram’s algorithm. You can read the first one, here.

As I wrote in the previous post, 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 solicites 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.

Image by Teemu Paananen via Unsplash

Image by Teemu Paananen via Unsplash

As for Alex Tooby, who’s content I present here, everything she teaches is based on her personal experience, and she’s built accounts to almost 1/3 million followers. Everything she shares are approaches she’s personally tried that also work. I’m not being paid to write these posts, I simply find her content useful and relevant. So enjoy!


3 Mistakes You’re Making That Are Costing You Followers and Engagement

Session 2

One

Maybe you’re posting too much or not enough.

If you post too much it’s not only too stressful, you may be overwhelming your followers and the quality of your content may be weak.

If you’re not posting enough, you followers may forget who you are. PLUS, posts can compete with one another. The newest post will outshine the earlier post, according to the Instagram algorithm. Because the ‘older’ post is considered no longer relevant:/ Read more about this here.

Find a frequency that works for you and is consistent. Post multiple times a day - fine - but STICK with it every day. If not, then find a schedule that really works for you. Consistency is more important that quantity. Every other day or every day is perfectly fine. Erratic posting throws off Instagram’s understanding of your behavior.


Two

Not using hashtags correctly.

One, if you’re not using them at all, start (you can use up to 30). And if you are using them, you may not be using them right. Here’s some guidelines:

  • Use 30. Each hashtag offers exposure so may as well get the exposure. More hashtags = more exposure.

  • Use hashtags between 1000 and 5000 posts.

  • Use hashtags that describe your account as a whole. This is hard. (If you’re a painter and paint and post a canvas of say, the ocean, but your other work contains mostly portraits, the hashtags may throw off visitors who follow the hashtag #water and who then arrive at your profile and see mostly portraits. They want images of water. I know. Human behavior can be so fickle.)

  • Not switching your hashtags regularly can trigger a spam alert for instagram. (So, I recommend that you can collect several groups of hashtags, up to 30 in each group and store those in Notes on your phone and rotate these regularly). A tool like an Instagram hashtag generator will help you find hashtags that are relevant to what you offer.

Three

Posting content that is irrelevant to your following and target audience.

I.e you’re posting content unrelated to what you do or offer. (You design interiors and you love wildlife and post sporadically about wildlife. Your followers want your interior design expertise. They do not necessarily share your love of whale pics.)

So you must must decide on your niche. You can then branch a little by choosing 1-3 potential subjects within this niche that give you some flexibility.

(For example, Alex mentions a feed about fitness. Part of this regime is related to food, some some food photos and content isn’t too far fetched. But sticking within your theme and providing context is important.)

Image by David Cohen via Unsplash

Image by David Cohen via Unsplash


That’s the end of Session 2! You can watch Alex’s youtube session of this content, here. Approx watch time: 19 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.



































The Solution You Can't Find in a Google Search

Last week, via Instagram, I mentioned having lunch with an old friend and colleague from my days in New York. He’s an incredibly talented designer and painter.

And he works in marketing.

And not just any marketing. He’s the creative director for the digital campaigns of a global fashion company that sees over $100 million in annual revenue from digital sales alone (I so so so wish I could say the name of the co. but the company is extremely private and he asked I keep the name to myself when sharing stats).

But wait, what does ‘creative director for digital campaigns’ mean exactly? It means he signs off on all digital content that goes public representing this company. And his job is not just about making the work look visually appealing or just aligning with brand guidelines. It’s a lot more.

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And that “more” is the kind of solution we all need to improve online campaigns, a solution you can’t find via a quick Google Search.

So first, a few numbers:

  • Digital ad-effectiveness of this co. ranges from a 2x - 10+ x return on investment. This means for every dollar the co. spends on say, a Facebook ad, they’re seeing 2 - 10+ dollars back.

  • Next: they earn about $100 million dollars annually from just digital campaigns. How does the co. know this to be true? They track where the customer comes from and what the customer purchased on the company’s site. This isn’t big brother spying, this is simply a way of seeing what source or channel sent the customer to this company’s site and if the customer bought anything, and if so, what. If the company is running Facebook ads, the marketing team wants to know if people are clicking on those Facebook ads, going to the site and buying something. This is called a ‘customer journey’ and it’s trackable without being creepy. Plus, learning what’s working by means of your marketing tools and what’s not, is critically important. Say you run 4 ads simultaneously - by tracking how many people click on each ad and observing where people go on your site via each ad, then documenting what the customer buys will teach you a lot about which ad ‘performs’ best.

And there’s another piece:

What happens when the Facebook ad(s) works - ie is enticing enough that people click on it and land on the company’s web page? The web page has to have enough relevant information, but not too much to get the customer to take the next step. That step is buying something and this is called a conversion. A conversion in marketing terms is act of transitioning a potential customer to a buying customer.

My friend participates in making sure the text on the company’s page, the buttons, the images - all the content - is approachable and actionable and speaks to the customer such that the customer’s decision to make a purchase is as easy and as attractive as possible. The UX (user interface) on the site must allow the customer to buy easily and quickly. Remember, you have about 30 seconds to grab the customer’s attention and about 2 minutes to keep it.

So yes, there’s a formula to getting the customer on your page and keeping their attention and then ‘converting’ the customer to buying. And this process does not have to be sneaky, slimy, or manipulative in any way.

If you’re still not convinced:

Think about this experience like a brick and mortar store: you want an eye catching window-shopping display so the customers want to come into the store (a captivating window display is in effect the equivalent to your online Facebook ad). After the customer enters the store, you want them to easily scan your merchandise to see what you offer. Stores spend a lot of time on attractive, accessible display. Your website needs to do this, too. The cash register is also very visible in a brick and mortar store. You want people to be able to pay easily in a physical store and online. And pricing - the most important part - the PRICING is visible and easy to read. This piece must be presented and presented immediately - especially online. People, my friend reminded me, shop by price (the amount of data he must have access to is mind boggling).

So your Facebook ad is your window display and your website as we may have all heard, is your online store front.

Biggest point:

How do you get the people to respond to the window display and come in and then buy something?

Test. You test and you test and test again.

Just as you would likely play with various arrangements in your store’s window display to see what people respond to most, you do this with your Facebook ad. Then just as you would inside a store, you move your merchandise around a bit to see what people buy most and put those items up front, so customers can see this opportunity right away and buy more of those items.

But you must test. The variables you can play with online:

  • photos in your facebook ads (think: if you sell textiles and your customer is used to seeing a lot of patterns, maybe use solid, bold colors in your ads so the images stand out).

  • copy in your facebook ads.

  • the text and position of the call to action (button) on the page where customers land from the Facebook ad.

  • placement of pricing on your website.

  • display of items for sale on your website.

  • quality of photos.

  • how many times must the customer have to click to reach the pricing after they landed on your site? Get these clicks down to as few clicks as possible. 1 is ideal. 3 should be the max.

  • scrolling - eliminate scrolling as much as possible.

  • desktop vs mobile. Remember, many of us are on our phones. Esp. Facebook users looking at your Facebook ad. Test the legibility of your information on both desktop and mobile.

And really, have fun with this. Take your time. Some ‘tests’ can last an entire month. Maybe the first month fails, but by month 6 you could be winning.