How to Outsmart Instagram’s New Algorithm

A lot of brands may have seen a noticeable change in the engagement that their content has been getting. When we say change, in some instances, their organic reach has taken something of a nosedive. This has rightfully left brands wondering: what is happening with the Instagram's new algorithm?

How Has the Instagram Algorithm Changed?

In order to understand Instagram's new algorithm, we need to turn back the clock to 2016, when Instagram announced that users’ feeds would prioritise “the moments you care about”, signalling the end of the reverse-chronological feed. This was also echoed in 2018 by Facebook’s pledge to put friends and family first, favouring personal content over marketing.

The specifics of this update were vague, with the only real tangible evidence of a change being the “You’re All Caught Up” notification, letting you know that your feed is up-to-date. Now, back in 2019, Instagram broke their silence in a series of tweets, acknowledging the growing concern over their algorithm:

They went on to explain that what is showing up first in your feed is mostly based on your own activity and what you engage with the most.

Understandably, this has left brands feeling a little perplexed and with questions surrounding how they can maximise their engagement. We’ve compiled 9 strategies and tips that you can use to come up with a content strategy for your brand that provides the Instagram algorithm with exactly what it wants, based on what we’ve seen first hand at Ascensor and what we know about the Instagram algorithm.

1. More Video Content

Instagram has never categorically said that video is prioritised over photo content. This may lead us to conclude that they’re treated the same, however; given that video content autoplays in a user’s feed, you might argue that video is the best way to grab someone’s attention when they’re scrolling.

And, if we’re using the logic behind Facebook’s algorithm, then you want your followers to spend as long as possible engaging with your profile. Even short-form videos require a user to stop and look at the content. Your video content doesn’t even need to be an expertly produced, cinematic masterpiece. Even simple boomerang videos have the capability to draw in viewers. All that matters is that you’re producing video content.

2. Keep Your Captions Compelling

Since we already understand that the Instagram algorithm prioritises engagement, this means that likes and shares are like currency. Although it’s widely understood that these are simply vanity metrics, encouraging interactions should be the order of the day if your goal is to increase your engagement.

We often see a lot of brands asking questions and these are a great way to get people talking. Conversations encourage interactions and this is a positive signal for Instagram.

However; if we are basing our knowledge on the Facebook algorithm, then it’s definitely worth bearing in mind that not every post should follow this formula. Facebook punished engagement bait and brands that tried to manipulate the algorithm.

3. Publish Stories. and Do It Consistently

This might not seem all that important, but there is some method to the madness. It’s widely believed that stories do not have an influence on the Instagram algorithm. They are however, easily the most popular form of content on Instagram. In fact, stories recently passed the 500 million daily user mark. And let’s face it, that is no small chunk of change.

Stories are an authentic, quick way of engaging your audience that is obviously catching on with people. They also push your content to the front of your followers’ stories updates, putting you right at the top of their feed as a result.

Stories will keep your profile popping up in front of your followers and this will do good things for your engagement as your followers are being continually encouraged to check out your content.

4. Give Your Photo Quality a Boost

As is with the case for organic reach all over the internet, ranking higher among your followers goes hand in hand with creating great content. While this may sound like a no-brainer, “good content” is in the eye of the beholder and doesn’t give us the specifics.

Regardless of what constitutes as “great content”, it’s difficult to deny that the most-liked and shared content throughout Instagram is more often that not, visually striking. Big bold colours, beautiful landscapes and the like are the kinds of things that get users to stop and hit that like button.

If you’re already creating aesthetically eye-popping content, then you’re already one step ahead. If not, you might want to think about producing some professional photos every so often. Even if you’re in what might be considered a “boring industry”, high-quality photos are still expected.

5. Go Live Often

Like Instagram Stories, going live doesn’t have any specific effect on the Instagram algorithm. It does however generate notifications to your followers by putting it at the top of your followers’ stories feeds.

The best thing about a live video is that there’s less pressure to produce content that is professional and polished. It’s meant to be simple and off-the-cuff. Just as brands should be experimenting with video, live video is also a great avenue to explore.

6. Contests and Giveaways

Businesses that have run contents or giveaways will already know that those posts are among their most popular. Contest can help drive a wave of engagement to your profile, whether you’re encouraging users to share a hashtag or create some user-generated content.

While popular belief says otherwise, contests are very much alive and well. Just be sure that you’re able to handle social media contests and understand the legalities before running one. You should also consider that less-is-more. Give yourself ample time to build up the buzz between them.

7. Push Your Posts During Peak Times

Probably the most straightforward way of conquering the Instagram algorithm is to post during peak hours of the day. Based on research from Sprout Social, the general peak times for Instagram engagement are between the 11am-4pm mark.

While posting during peak times doesn’t necessarily guarantee huge influxes of engagement, but doing so is certainly better than posting while your audience is either asleep or less likely to be using the app. Each audience is different so your peak times may differ, but this is certainly a great place to start.

8. Get the Most out of Your Hashtags

The more people looking at your posts, the better. Hashtags can help attract those visitors in seconds. Including them as part of the strategy for your brands content will help to ensure that your posts are easily searchable.

By using a combination of branded, product and global hashtags, you can create the perfect recipe for encouraging user engagement.

Don’t be afraid of going a little heavy on the hashtags either. Most research has shown nine hashtags is the magic number, although some brands publish posts with 15 or more and still manage to score some serious engagement.

But rather than looking like a spammer, we’d suggest using only the top performing, most relevant hashtags in your arsenal rather than needlessly bloating your captions.

9. If in Doubt, Post More!

Finally, don’t shy away from posting more frequently!

Instagram even specified in 2018 that posting more often is within their best practices:

“We don’t down-rank people for posting [frequently]. We do make sure your feed feels diverse so we may break up posts.”

Posting more often also gives you space to experiment and find out what type of content works with your audience and what doesn’t.

Are you now Ready to Take on Instagram's new algorithm?

There’re still many ways for brands to encourage engagement in the evolving world of Instagram. Doing so means taking advantage of all of Instagram’s features as well as making sure you’re constantly putting out fresh content that encourages engagement. Rather than running away from the new rules of the algorithm, don’t be afraid to tackle them head-on.

Have you seen a fall in your engagement since the introduction of the new Instagram algorithm? Ascensor can support clients with strategy development and proactive social media support to help you gain business through your social media channels in the most efficient way, using the right channels where your customers are hanging out.

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