In some ways, Instagram’s algorithm change is pretty old news. It was announced in March 2016 and rolled out to all users by the following June. (We even covered it in a September 2016 blog post.) The algorithm was designed to make sure Instagram users didn’t miss out on important posts, basing the new feed order “on the likelihood [they’ll] be interested in the content, [their] relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post.” This means that instead of showing posts in chronological order, the algorithm prioritizes posts that garner the most attention or that fit with the post type or profiles that the user typically likes.
So now, posting is kind of a shot in the dark. If less and less of your followers see your posts, the more that your content will get buried by accounts with frequent, regular posting and higher engagement. It can easily turn into a downward spiral of reduced impressions—if nobody sees your posts, nobody will like them, and then less people will see your posts.
To stand out, you’ll need a healthy mix of Instagram capabilities both new and old that increase engagement in organic ways. Let’s go chronologically (I know, so passé.)
- Stories and Live Video – Everyone following you has a banner at the tippy top of their news feed, so make sure you’re up there and have great content to share! With stories, you have a semi-permanent block of time (24-hour period) that gives you a lot of flexibility in being topical or current. Both live video and stories let you be more unpolished than what you would post on your regular timeline, so you can focus more on what you’re sharing rather than how. Live video is especially great for engagement because followers who tap into your video can directly comment, so you can ask questions, stir discussion, and become a real living figure for your brand. Live video is great for showing processes—and people will stick around to watch if you can promise a final product at the end of it.
- Hashtags – Hashtags have been on Instagram since pretty much its inception, but they’re more important now than ever. If your current followers aren’t seeing your content, it probably wouldn’t hurt to be visible to a broader range of Instagram users. Adding relevant hashtags to your posts makes them search-friendly on Instagram. Being search-friendly brings your content to people who don’t follow you but are interested in what you post—being in front of these fresh eyes can yield new followers and potentially new leads who turn into sales.
- Collaborations – We’ve stressed the importance of being visible to Instagram users beyond your followers, and collaborations on Instagram with influencers and other brands are a great and measurable way of connecting with those outside your typical reach, while developing and sharing content that you would be unable to create on your own.
It’s definitely not the end of Instagram as we know it, but it is the end of snapping a picture, slapping some filters on it and calling it a day. Like we stressed in our previous post about the changing algorithm, engagement needs to be at the forefront of your Instagram strategy.