Welcome to the first installation of our Business Tips series! I’ve learned so much over the years, from running my own business as well as working in the start-up and corporate world as a finance professional, I’m excited to start sharing my advice & experiences, tips & tricks, etc with you!
For the first time ever (!!!) Instagram has opened up about the latest algorithm update in order to better explain relevancy sorting and how the algorithm chooses what you actually get to see. Past algorithm updates have left so many people annoyed, flustered, perplexed. I’ll give them credit, it seems like they’re actually trying better to explain to it’s users how the algorithm works and why it’s supposedly better than our beloved chronological feed (RIP).
Sadly the app is no longer chronological, despite almost everyone kicking and screaming about it. Facebook has better visions of how they want to control what we see, and instead of fighting it or complaining about it or blaming Facebook (which, let’s be honest, is what most of us business owners who use the app for our businesses actually WANT to do) I decided earlier this year to shift my mindset and figure out how to work WITH the algorithm.
Everyone is talking about the same problems: “no one sees my posts”, and “my following isn’t growing”. Here are my 5 tricks to hack the Instagram algorithm in your favor, and in turn boost engagement and increase your following:
1) ENGAGE YOUR FOLLOWERS
Do you ever get the feeling the big-dog Instagram accounts you religiously follow and engage with don’t give you the time of day? Yeah, this behavior is no longer being rewarded by Instagram. The purpose of using IG isn’t to operate on a one way street. Instagram is encouraging REAL relationships, think family and close friends, so it’s on each individual user to work and cultivate these types of relationships with the people they follow and the people who follow them. Relationship building certainly gets more challenging if you use Instagram for your business or as an influencer. Businesses have to spend/invest more time mirroring real relationships with your followers in order to achieve higher visibility and follower growth. Businesses have to work harder than ever to attract and grow their followings, and I hate to say it but there’s no shortcut to authentic engagement.
Try this: comment back on every comment someone leaves on your post; make your comments count by using the commenter’s first name!; extra points if you go into your follower’s feed and like and comment photos they’ve posted. In summary, make them feel special as if you gave them your undivided attention. This is a great start to cultivating real relationships with your followers!
2) FLEX YOUR FEED
Raise your hand if you’re unhappy with your Instagram feed? Are you blaming Instagram for ruining your feed? You shouldn’t! You should actually be kicking yourself! Believe it or not, YOU actually have control over your feed. Not full control, sadly, but you have major influence in what shows up in your feed, you just need to improve your usage behavior and consistently work at making it better.
By nature, I am not Instagram’s ideal user. I prefer to scroll and scroll and only double-tap (ie. “like”) photos that make me stop in my tracks. I don’t mean anything by not liking every photo, it takes precious time and isn’t efficient in terms of catching up on everyone I follow. Before I made changes to my Instagram usage behavior, while scrolling my feed in the morning I would only see 10-15 new photos from where I left off the night before. That was ridiculous to me! I realized Instagram thought, that because I wasn’t liking any of the photos it was showing me in my feed, it learned not to show me those accounts, and inadvertently I wasn’t seeing ANY new content! Crazy! In order to change this I had to do something out of the ordinary. I went into my follower list and one by one opened up feeds, starting with my favorite accounts, and started liking and commenting on photos I had missed because IG had learned form my behavior not to show them to me. It took a long time, but my feed is full again and I’m pretty much seeing all the accounts I want to see.
Try This: Scroll through the accounts you follow, go to their feed, and like/comment on any photos that didn’t show up in your feed. You will start to see these accounts show up in your feed where you didn’t before!
3) USE ALL INSTAGRAM TOOLS (ie. STORIES/POSTS/HASHTAGS/DISCOVERY)
While Instagram is denying that it favors the usage of newer tools in the platform to boost user visibility, like Instagram Stories, I do think it’s obvious that the more avenues you use within the app to reach your followers, the more visible you will be. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard lately that a lot of folks only look at Stories, and skip scrolling their feed, and some never ever look at the discovery page! I hope with this latest algorithm update people will be drawn back to their feeds and re-balance the time spent in each aspect of the platform.
Try This: try circulating your engagement throughout the various Instagram tools, for example when posting to stories, make one of your screens a snapshot of your IG feed, pointing to your followers that you just posted a photo! Maybe request your followers to answer an important question in the comments. Doing this too much may become annoying, but doing it strategically and authentically will increase engagement and show Instagram how real your relationships are with your followers.
4) KEEP A ROUTINE
A tried and true tip that is still relevant in today’s algorithm: post consistently and routinely. Instagram recognizes when you are using Instagram and tracks your behavior down to the nano seconds you spend looking at a photo before you double-tap. The point here is, post your posts during your sessions that you are usually ON and USING Instagram. My observance and theory here is, Instagram actually wants to HELP you engage more with the people and followers you routinely engage with, it’s almost rewarding you with views of your posts if you spend time on the platform, so posting a photo at 2pm when you’re normally on Instagram at 8am and 5pm doesn’t seem to have as positive as a response as if you posted a photo at 8am and 5pm when you are normally using the app. My theory is, if you want positive response to that mid-day photo, you will have to start using Instagram during that time.
Try This: if it’s tough on you to create a schedule of posts, create some draft posts in Instagram, then when it comes time in the day to post but you’re feeling somewhat uninspired, pull from your drafts to keep the routine momentum going!
5) #HASHTAG #HASHTAG #HASHTAG
Hashtagging can be such a drag, it takes time to add hashtags and I used to forget all the good ones when actually creating the post, thus defeating the purpose of tagging your photo to a well used/followed hashtag. The goal with using hashtags is to get your photo seen by a non-follower, in hopes to convert them to a new follower. Instagram used to think it was spammy to use the same hashtags on every post. With the latest update, they’re now saying that doesn’t matter, hashtag away! Hashtags will only benefit you in being found organically, through hashtag searches or Discovery. I still think it’s a good rule of thumb to diversify your hashtags, as it will diversify where your photo is seen. My trick is – I have a couple note pages in my phone dedicated to certain types of posts, with a list of hashtags already drafted. One page of notes for rug posts, another for interiors, etc etc. That way I can quickly copy-paste the hashtags then add or delete the ones I don’t need for that specific post. If I find a new relevant hashtag while scrolling my feed I pop on over to my notes and add it to my list.
Try This: use your Notes app in your phone to make a list of your favorite, most relevant, hashtags, which you can copy-paste as you post on IG
Other things I’ve noticed:
6) CURATED FEEDS
I used to carry my own specifically curated feed, I would alternate landscape and portrait photos every other photo, to get a cool grid effect. Despite this being a huge burden to make sure I took equal landscape and portrait photos specifically for my Instagram feed, I noticed over time my photos received less engagement. On January 1 2018 (yes, literally 1/1/18, I’m such an A-type nerd) I changed back to exclusively ALL portrait, full width photos, and my engagement has quadrupled! Based on experience, if your photo stands out for the WRONG reasons, it deters your followers from liking your content. For me, the white borders in each of my photos, which I was applying to get that perfect grid in my feed, was preventing engagement because it, intentionally or not, was a visual “turn-off”. The minute I started posting full width photos I saw an immediate positive response – more likes, more comments, more engagement, more relationships, more followers. My tip here is, don’t spend so much time curating your feed, invest all that time in engagement and posting a beautiful, well composed, brightly lit photo.
So tell me! Was this post helpful to you? Should I keep sharing biz tips & tricks, experiences and the like??