Instagram is a great platform for marketing your products. It offers unparalleled reach and an easy-to-use interface. It has taken visual marketing to a whole new level, providing a space for beautiful images of your products.
But for your Instagram marketing to be effective, you need to reach the right people on the platform. If you know how Instagram chooses the images that will appear on a user’s feed, you can craft an effective plan for promoting your products.
In other words, you need to know the answers to these questions: What is the Instagram algorithm? How does the Instagram algorithm work?
We’ll discuss those in this article. We’ll also look at ways you can use the Instagram algorithm change to your advantage and create content that gets people to take action.
Let’s dive in!
How Does the Instagram Algorithm Work?
According to Data Reportal, the average Instagram user posts at least once a day. Instagram users touch the billion mark. That means the number of posts on the platform in a day can reach a billion. That is a staggering amount of content!
Of these posts, only a fraction appears on a user’s feed. The Instagram algorithm sifts through these posts to get the most relevant content in front of a user. In this section, we will look at the key factors the algorithm uses to decide the posts they see.
The goal is to help you craft an Instagram marketing strategy that will help you get the most out of the platform for your business.
1. User’s Interest and Relationships
The posts that appear on a user’s feed are not exclusive posts from the accounts they follow. Some of the posts are from users that might have interacted with in the past.
So the more a user comments, likes, shares, or follows, the more the algorithm understands what they like. If the Instagram algorithm thinks they will enjoy a post more, based on previous activity, it will show it farther up their Instagram feed.
Instagram also has an Explore page, where users can see content from accounts that they don’t follow. On this page, it will show posts users will potentially like.
The Instagram algorithm bases its ranking of posts on the user's relationships. The algorithm places greater importance on posts from friends and family. It looks at a user’s interactions to determine the accounts they care about.
So the posts of people they message and search for on the app will likely appear at the top of your feed. It also looks at their Instagram Stories and live videos to see whom they know in real life.
2. Recency of Post
Instagram also pushes the more recent posts to the top of a user’s feed. But the Instagram algorithm doesn’t show all the recent posts. It only shows recent posts created between the last time they logged into their Instagram account, and the current time they checked in.
3. Number of Accounts User Follows
If a user follows multiple accounts, they’re not likely to see all the posts from each of those accounts. That’s because all those accounts are competing for a spot on the user’s Instagram feed. The Instagram feed can’t accommodate them all.
The more Instagram accounts a user follows, the more difficult it is to get a spot on their Instagram feed.
4. Frequency and Usage of the App
The number of times a user opens the Instagram app will determine the types of posts they will see, too. If users log in less often, the algorithm shows them posts that it thinks they will like. If they log in more often, it will show them posts based on recency.
The amount of time users spend on the app also determines what they will see. The algorithm starts by showing posts based on recency. If they spend enough time on the app, a “You’re all caught up message” may appear on their screen. After that, the Instagram algorithm will show “suggested posts” based on their interests.
How Can You Make the Instagram Algorithm Work for You?
Now that we know how the Instagram algorithm works, let’s see how you can use it to successfully promote your products. Here are tips you should follow to hack that Instagram algorithm:
1. Focus on Building a Relationship
You can’t just post content on your Instagram account and hope it gets in front of your target audience. Build a following, engage with your target audience, and focus on building long-term relationships with them instead.
To build a following, you need to encourage your target audience to follow your account. If they like one of your posts, take the opportunity to ask them to follow you. You can also create a generic “Follow us” message like this one from Amway, a company that sells health and beauty products. This one is from the company branch in Germany:
To get people to take the desired action, the company offers something of value to them, too: the opportunity to win a MyBodyID starter set.
Remember to post not only on Instagram, but also on your other social media accounts.
Create content that people love, too, so they will leave comments, mention you, and share your post. User-Generated Content (UGC) is great for driving engagement, which UGC is any content that is created by people, rather than brands.
UGC content doesn’t just drive engagement. It also helps build trust in your brand. When other people see they’re not the only ones happy with your products, they’ll feel they made the right choice. It’s social proof.
Launch contests or campaigns, too. For example, you can ask your audience to tag a friend in your post or like your post to get a chance to win freebies.
Check out this example from Lush Cosmetics. The brand encouraged its audience to snap a picture of themselves with their Lush beauty mask on for National Face Mask Day.
Anyone who joined the campaign had the chance to win a $500 Lush gift card and get a one-on-one private virtual consultation with their product expert.
You can even notify your email subscribers about those engaging posts. Create a new Gmail account specifically for your business and connect it to your Instagram account. That way, every time you post on Instagram, your email subscribers will get a notification about the new content.
2. Use Hashtags Well
To show up on searches, consider using community-driven hashtags. There are a few things to consider when choosing hashtags.
Check how popular they are and the kinds of interactions they drive. Look at the users of those hashtags, too. You want to make sure that the users align with your target audience.
Instagram Stories - Hashtag stickers are an excellent way to make your content more discoverable in Instagram Stories. There are many Instagram story tools that can help you create those. You can use Stories to generate mystery and build up hype.
Instagram Guides - Use hashtags in Instagram guides to gain more visibility. Instead of exclusively posting pictures of your products, you can add commentary to expand on each post within the Guide. Check out how brands use Instagram Guides and get inspired!
You can create your own company hashtags, too. These are great for gaining traction Remember the iconic #ShareACoke campaign by Coca Cola? The campaign led to a surge in social media popularity. According to Investopedia, the beverage brand earned about 25 million new followers that year!
3. Post at the Right Time
Posting at the right time helps you get better visibility for your post.
Figure out when your followers are most active and post during that window. Doing this increases your chances of getting more likes and engagement. It is not an exact science, and you may have to run more than one test, but it will help you.
So, where do you start?
Check out the best times to post on Instagram.
Look at your Instagram Analytics report > click on the Audience tab in Insights.
Scroll down to the section that shows when your followers are online.
The right posting time will depend on your industry. Once you have a posting schedule, make sure you stick to it. Don’t just aim for frequency of posts — aim for consistency. Tools for Instagram management can help you schedule and auto-publish your posts properly.
4. Respond to Comments in Time
Competition on Instagram is intense; you compete with other brands and the user’s network for their attention. When a consumer comments on your post, you should seize the opportunity to drive more interaction.
Replying to the comments helps you build relationships with your customers.
Look at ocean preservation group Take3forthesea. It answers comments on its Instagram account to engage with its followers.
Your responses can range from simple thank yous to replies to queries.
5. Use High-Quality Images and Compelling Captions
Create high-quality visuals to get to the top of your consumer’s feed. Good content on a platform like Instagram is synonymous with eye-catching images and video content.
That’s because great visuals compel the audience to hit the Like and Share button. They also allow for excellent recall.
Take NatGeo as an example. NatGeo uses excellent images that are eye-catching. It has a bit of everything on its Instagram account, from serene outdoors to action-backed stills.
However, this does not mean you should spend a fortune on professional images. There are dozens of photo-editing apps you can use. You can start by discovering the latest content trends with AI image recognition.
Creating compelling Instagram captions can also help you attract attention and engage with your followers. Here are three tips to remember:
Keep your captions short
Put your most important information at the top
Use Emojis and hashtags
Use Call-to-Actions in every post to interact with your followers.
Diversify your content. Don’t just post pictures on your Instagram account. Create a range of Instagram videos, IGTV, and Reels, too. A great video marketing strategy can go a long way in increasing engagement.
For instance, you can easily market your brand or product with Instagram Reels. Reels allows you to create short quick content with 15-30 second videos. There are many ways brands use Instagram Reels.
Understanding the Instagram algorithm is critical to your marketing strategy. The algorithm looks at several factors to determine the content on a user’s feed. It looks at their previous activity, including the accounts they follow and the content they interact with. The Instagram algorithm also looks at the user’s frequency of log-ins and the amount of time they spend on the app.
By and large, Instagram values engagement. All posts with a high-level of engagement are pushed up the Instagram feed.
So, focus on building a relationship with your target audience, rather than increasing your following. Use user-generated content, and leverage the comments section and hashtags to drive interaction. Create high-quality content and eye-catching captions to capture their attention, too. To make the most out of your post, make sure you post at the best time when your followers are online.
Follow these tips and you’ll hack that Instagram algorithm and increase your visibility. What are you waiting for? Make your next post count!
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on socialbakers.com. Any statistics or statements included in this article were current at the time of original publication.