A Guide to Hacking the 2018 Instagram Algorithm

Get a better understanding of the Instagram algorithm behavior, and you will be better prepared to take your engagement to the next level.

Written by ianam

9 months ago

Is boosting your brand’s awareness on Instagram one of your marketing goals for 2018? Without knowing about the platform’s algorithm, you might find it hard to reach the audience you’re aiming for. In fact, the current estimation is that only around 10% of your audience ever sees your posts. The Instagram algorithm decides which posts you see, and how, and it’s far more complex than chronologically picking out stuff from your buddies’ feeds.

Get a better understanding of the Instagram algorithm’s behavior, and you’ll be better prepared to take your engagement to the next level.

Understanding the Nuances of an Algorithm
By knowing about the more subtle factors used by the Instagram algorithm to measure engagement, you can improve your audience reach with every post.

Did you know? #1
When users respond quickly to your posts, they’re ranked higher? Posts that slowly gain engagement aren’t considered as interesting as those that garner immediate responses.

Did you know? #2
The amount of time spent viewing your posts is also a factor used by the algorithm to gauge the quality of your content. The more time spent on a single post, the better. Here are three things you can do to increase time spent on your posts:

  • Invest in your captions. Having a caption that adds value to the post, and one that users will find interesting to read and respond to, will lead to more time spent, giving you points.
  • Include video.
  • Use the carousel feature. Instagram’s carousel lets you bunch content together into a single post which leads to longer engagement times.

Focus on Engagement
This seems to be the core principle – audience engagement. Instagram will reward you with more exposure if your posts prove to have high engagement based on the following factors:

  • Likes
  • Comments
  • Video views
  • Shares
  • Saves
  • Direct messages
  • Other engagement benchmarks, including new features.

When a post receives a high number of any of the above, Instagram marks it as quality content and rewards the account it belongs to.

 

Become a Storyteller
Stories on Instagram has become far more than a side feature and promises to be a major arena of activity on the platform through 2018. Instagram Stories enjoys a huge number of active users at 300 million daily! That should be enough to convince you that this is a channel well worth exploring as part of your marketing efforts.
To leverage your stories, don’t forget to do the following:

  • Reply to comments and keep the conversation going
  • Make use of the polling feature
  • Use the Swipe Up option

Be Responsive to Comments
As mentioned in the above tip regarding stories, in general, you’ll want to be responsive to your audience’s engagement through replies to comments or likes. After all, isn’t that the point of social media? This isn’t about a one-way bragging fest for your brand, but an opportunity to learn about your audience, and for them to learn about you.

Use the Right Tools
Gain control of your Instagram activity by making use of some of the great apps created specifically for use with the platform. Some are feature-specific such as Hashtagify.me which will give you data on tags, while others take a more general approach to managing your account from helping you schedule posts to deciding what time of day is best for you to post.
Some popular tools to help you get ahead on Instagram include:

Don’t be Sloppy with your #’s
Hashtags are an extremely important part of how Instagram organizes content. Make sure your hashtags are accurate, and don’t repeat yourself. Take into account the core interests linked to your post and add the appropriate tags. Feel free to try tags you haven’t used before. This will let you compare the performance of different tag sets.

#FlowerParty

Experiment with New Features
Another way to get on Instagram’s good side is to be proactive when it comes to adopting new features. The algorithm likes it when a user chooses to make use of a new feature and rewards posts or new feature actions with additional exposure as a way to get the word out. This doesn’t mean you should be trigger happy with every new option, but being the first to use new features can set you apart from the crowd and gain you points in the eyes of the algorithm.

Leverage the Data
Make sure to regularly assess your account’s performance by checking the stats. Don’t just look for posts that did well. Dig deeper. Try to find patterns that link your successful posts together. Analyze the behavior of your audience – what do they find interesting? What creates the highest level of engagement with your target audience?

Keep it Real
This last point might be the most important. If you’re truly interested in connecting with your audience, let that come through in your posts. Ask questions, and respond to comments. Be open, show your passion, and express yourself. The Instagram algorithm is smart, and it’s looking for ways to differentiate between spammy behavior and content that people really want to engage with. Be authentic.

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