Insta-slowdown? 5 ways to beat the algorithm

Getting frustrated with the Instagram algorithm? What's the latest best practice on hashtags, Instagram Stories and new ways to engage with people? Our Digital Strategist Deepa Mistry shares her tips on helping the community find your content. 

Haven’t there been a lot of mood swings on Instagram lately? If you use it a lot you’ll have seen the backlash against the new algorithmic feed, and whether you use a personal or brand account, you’re probably feeling a bit downbeat about it yourself.

Users are reporting that likes and comments are down and their follower growth is slowing. Suddenly it feels like hard work and what made the network great is lost. Many people are saying they don’t see as much of what they love in their newsfeed, and it is becoming samey.

Ironically, Instagram have said the reason behind moving away from chronological feeds is so you can see more of the posts that are important to you. Handily for them, it’s also a great way to sell advertising to businesses that are seeing their reach diminish.

The algorithm is still in its infancy, although Facebook have a lot of data from their own Edgerank to guide it, it will still evolve based on user feedback. It is definitely here to stay though so the best thing to do is adapt!

There are still question marks around how it will work long term, but there are some things you can do to make it a more rewarding experience. 

1.     Use Instagram Stories

Are your existing followers seeing less of you? Launched shortly after the algorithm, the new Instagram stories feature puts you right at the top of their feed, chronologically!

Use Stories throughout the day to share snapshots of your day and keep you in front of your most loyal followers. 5-10 posts per day are perfectly acceptable as long as you keep it varied and avoid too many long pieces to camera or selfies. Many news outlets use it to tell a story through a series of images, like PBS Newshour below.

You can also see who viewed each of your stories, so do make an effort to visit the profiles of those who do. Like and comment on their photos or stories to keep that community feel alive! 

2.     Go hashtag mad (long chain ones)

Hashtags are still important, especially if you need your posts to appear in places other than someone’s newsfeed. Using popular hashtags means you’ll show up in searches and if your photos do really well then you’re more likely to appear in someone’s Explore feed too.

Read my guide to refreshing your Instagram strategy for tips on the kind of hashtags to use.

And please follow our client Aabelard Aprons, who have just launched on Instagram - and Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter!

3.     Engage: be part of the community

No man is an island! Don’t forget to get yourself out there and be part of the community.

Make an effort to like and comment on what does appear in your newsfeed, especially the photos that you really like, as well as comments on your own photos (great example from Me and Orla here).

This will (hopefully) mean that more of the content that you truly like will show in your feed, as algorithms love to know how you interact with the network.  

4.     Cross-post on other networks

Take advantage of success you have on other networks by cross-promoting your Instagram feed. The easiest way to do this is using IFTTT; for example you could set up a recipe to post with a native photo to Twitter and your posts will be tweeted instantly with a link back to the original Instagram post.

Because Instagram is owned by Facebook it’s also easy to set up your page to auto-post to your personal or brand page in Instagram’s settings.

Don’t forget your website too; an embedded section on your homepage or blog will give visitors a chance to find you on Instagram.

5.     Promote your posts

These algorithm changes have facilitated greater uptake of advertising on Instagram, so maybe it’s time to embrace it and use ads? You can quickly set up Instagram ads from your existing Facebook ad account or in Instagram itself.

Do take the time to set up a separate Instagram campaign with tailored captions that fit best with the platform. Too many brands automatically run their Facebook ads on Instagram which often doesn’t fit very well.

Treat your adverts just like you'd treat any other Instagram photo too, think about whether the caption is the right length or whether the photo fits within the network and the rest of your feed. 

Think about your landing page too, how can you customise it so it is tailored to a visitor coming from Instagram? With adverts you get that sough after clickable link that you don't get on normal photos, so use it well!

There’s more to come

There are a lot of unknowns as we get used to the algorithm, and as I said before Instagram will probably change it after user feedback. Keep up to date on what they do (we’ll be sure to blog about them!) and think creatively of how you can continue to make Instagram work for you.

We always advise our clients that not every social network will work for them, and sometimes when things change it can mean it’s not right for your brand anymore. Think about the other channels you use (not just social) and consider where you can get the best leads from.

Your next steps

Want help with your content or Instagram strategy? Get in touch, we provide tailored strategy for B2C and B2B brands looking to make the most of their online presence.