Have you noticed a major drop in your Instagram engagement recently? If so then you aren’t alone. Keep reading for my tips on how you can beat the Instagram algorithm in 2019.
So you’ve spent precious time taking an amazing photo/video, edited it, filtered it, agonised over a caption to match your branding and key messages only for it to completely tank. What the?!?!
I’ve had numerous people contact me to see if I can look at their profiles and offer any suggestions, or ask when they should be posting, or even just to rant about how their engagement has dropped considerably over the past few months. I’ve definitely noticed my posts are extremely hit or miss on my personal page. I’m also sick of seeing posts from my friends’ 2-3 days later, if at all.
When Facebook adjusted it’s algorithm in 2018, many businesses (understandably) had a meltdown. Without going into too much detail, the whole concept revolves around forcing businesses to utilise Facebook’s paid advertising features. Basically, any organic post from a Facebook business page will be buried deep in the feed unless you pay for a higher ranking.
Ever since Instagram introduced the algorithm back in 2016 it’s been a bit of a riddle as to how anyone, particularly businesses, can be seen organically. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Instagram’s feed was originally chronologically ordered. However, in 2016 IG switched to an algorithm-driven feed, “ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most,” according to their media release (LOL). Since then there’s been many calls from users, including high-profile celebrities, for Instagram to revert back to a chronological feed. Despite the public’s repeated attempts, Instagram has informed us the algorithm is here to stay. Again, this move is centered around businesses paying for advertising.
Since 2016 the algorithm has tightened up more and more every year, with some sources suggesting less than 10% of your followers will even see your posts! Particularly for small businesses, this change is increasingly frustrating. When you’re already competing with bigger businesses, being unable to even reach your small following makes posting incredibly confusing.
Keep reading to learn some tips for how you can beat the Instagram algorithm in 2019.
In January 2019, Instagram acknowledged its angry users who were complaining about the decreased engagement on their posts.
Instagram informed us that what we see in our feed is based on how we use the app. Basically, the algorithm is based on what we appear to enjoy interacting with the most. Furthermore:
Understandably, this explanation has left brands confused as to how they can maximize their engagement.
The short answer? Come up with a content strategy that gives the Instagram algorithm exactly what it wants…..
Tips to Beat the Algorithm
Instagram maintains that posting great content will always ensure you feature higher in the feed. This info does seem kind of obvious, yet isn’t “great content” kind of subjective? This is all the more reason you need to research and figure out what your audience really wants to see and stick to it. Regardless, there’s no denying that the most-liked and shared content on Instagram is oftentimes visually striking, which is why a lot of professional photographers have a huge following in the first place.
If you have the room in your budget it’s a good idea to hire a professional photographer to take your social posts. If not, learn how to take amazing iPhone photos in this blog.
Posting stories doesn’t have a direct effect on your presence in the algorithm, however, they are listed as the most popular feature on the app. I find this result weird since I’m not a major fan of watching stories personally. Anyway, clearly I’m the minority as stories just surpassed 500 million daily users!!
In short, stories provide an authentic, speedy way to engage your audience which people obviously love.
Instagram has been pushing video hard lately through stories and IGTV. It was actually just announced that IGTV content will begin appearing in your followers’ feeds too! This is huge news and signals that Instagram wants to see us publishing as much video content as possible.
I’ve never been a huge fan of going live on social media, but for certain brands it really works. If you’re at an event, or if you’re interviewing someone famous, launching a product or just doing something slightly out of the ordinary, then “going live” is really worthwhile. It also notifies your followers and places your profile at the front of the feed making you more visible to your audience and reminding them of your presence.
I find captions the most stressful part about posting on social media. Well, aside from picking the most flattering filter (haha). Instagram has said it takes note of how long someone views your post. So if someone doesn’t like or comment or your post but still takes the time to look at it, that still counts as a signal to IG that person is engaging with your content. For this reason, writing enticing captions can go a long way in boosting your presence in the feed. Also, apparently editing your caption or location after posting is frowned upon. For whatever reason, it results in an engagement drop.
Compelling captions encourage people to interact with you more, so try to find ways to get your followers to engage with your posts through interesting captions.
Run a Contest
What better way to drive a surge in engagement than offer a giveaway or run a contest? Sharing hashtags and user-generated content are a quick way to boost your brand’s engagement and increase visibility.
Last year, Evian ran a competition offering a holiday to the most creative entry featuring a bottle of Evian water with the hashtag #evianpurityau. This competition was great for increasing brand visibility, which Evian had struggled to maintain in recent years.
Hashtags make your content searchable. Mix it up to find the right combination, but including popular hashtags along with branded hashtags and local community hashtags is a good start. It might take some trial and error and research to find the right combination. Also, it’s been suggested the magic number of hashtags is around 9. I also personally feel that using more than 9 kind of looks a little spammy (purely from an aesthetics point of view). There’s also been some suggestion that posting hashtags in the comment section is more effective.
Post During Peak Hour
I’ve been trying different posting times for my personal account (not on business accounts) and let me tell you, there’s a HUGE difference in engagement. I even tested it once. I posted the exact same photo twice. Once during the day and once during peak hour (between 8pm – 10pm) and the difference was insane. When I posted during the day it was cool for about 6 likes. When I posted it at night a few weeks later it went crazy. According to Sprout Social, the best times to post based on research are below:
However, since everyone’s audience is different and location dependent, it’s wise to do your own research by analysing your business insights.
Finally, don’t be afraid to increase your posting frequency. According to Recode, you won’t be punished for posting more often. Christina d’Avignon, a product designer for Instagram said, “We don’t down-rank people for posting [frequently]. We do make sure your feed feels diverse so we may break up posts.”
I wouldn’t recommend going HAM on the posts just for fun, but posting often will give you more room to experiment with what does and doesn’t work.
This concludes my tips for beating the algorithm in 2019. Hopefully you find some of this information useful and can now test these tips for yourself and your business.