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Five Tips to Stay Ahead of Instagram's Algorithm


As soon as Instagram announced their plans for an algorithm last year, there was angst in the community before the changes even took place. And now that it seems the algorithm is in full bloom, many brands have seen their engagement plummet, including my own. My business, Cambio Market, used to average 130 likes per photo and now we’re lucky if we hit 70. The drop in engagement seems to be the same across the board, impacting brands large and small, with some users claiming they’ve even been shadow banned by Instagram. Needless to say, the Instagram algorithm has everyone a little freaked out!

So what can you do? How do you ensure your posts are being seen? To be clear, no one really knows how the algorithm works and most advice is speculation at this point. However, the steps we’ve outlined are based on extensive research we’ve conducted online, through talking with our fellow Instagrammers and through our own experimentation and experience.

It’s also important to note that Instagram is still tweaking their algorithm so there are sure to be more changes in the future. You can count on us to keep you all posted as soon as we learn anything new!

So, let’s get to it. What are the best tips and tricks to stay on the good side of the new Instagram algorithm?

1. Ditch the automation tools and hacks

If the shadow ban is a real thing, then relying on automated tools like the already-banned Instagress and Instagress copycats is a sure way to get you on Instagram’s naughty list. Even before the algorithm changes took place, Instagram began cracking down on automated tools since last year and several users have had their accounts banned. So if you’re using any of these tools, stop immediately.

Related to that point, if part of your strategy is spamming people’s posts with comments like “visit my page!” or “follow for follow”, then also stop right away. Those comments are at greater risk of being reported as spam by other Instagram users, and you’ll definitely see your engagement drop as a result.

2. Re-evaluate your hashtag strategy

Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags, and Instagram in the good ol’ days was pretty straightforward. If you wanted users to discover you, then you just needed to use as many hashtags as possible that hit the right people. In principle, hashtags still work the same way, except rumour has it that using too many hashtags on your posts may trigger Instagram’s spam filters. There are also a few hashtags that have made it onto Instagram’s purported shadow banned list (here’s a list of them), many of them seeming nonsensical like #tgif or even #beautyblogger.

So what should you do? Focus on quality instead of quantity when it comes to hashtags. If your hashtag strategy involves any on the supposed banned list, then stop using them right away. Review the hashtags you use on a regular basis, and make sure you use only the best hashtags for your target audience. It’s hard to say what the ideal number of hashtags is for the new algorithm, but I’d aim for 15-20 hashtags and evaluate from there.

3. Consider that it will take longer for your audience to see your posts

Before, Instagram posts appeared in users’ feeds chronologically, with the most recent posts appearing at the top. Now, it may be three or four days (or more) before your audience sees your posts. And that’s a big deal.

That means if you’re running a giveaway or promoting a special deal or event for your brand, you need to consider that most people won’t see your posts right away. For example, we recently partnered with our friends at the Impact Tote to run a giveaway on Work It Social’s Instagram. The giveaway ran from Monday to Thursday and we announced the winner on Friday. After four days, we received comments from some of our followers that they had JUST found out about the giveaway since it took THAT long for our post to appear. Crazy, right? The takeaway from this is that you need to begin promoting your events much earlier. And if running giveaways is part of your Instagram strategy, then consider making them run for five or even seven days. Don’t be afraid to experiment and see where that takes you.

4. Use Instagram Stories!

I’m a huge fan of Instagram stories. Not only are they a fun way to show a more personal and behind-the-scenes side to your brand, but they’re also more likely to be seen by your audience. Now we can’t confirm anything just yet, but there are rumours going on in the Instagrammer circles that the algorithm will give priority to accounts who use the Instagram story function. How true is that? It’s too early to say. But what we DO know for sure is that stories are a great way to be seen by your audience.

When you post a new story, you show up as a little coloured bubble at the top of the app which users will see right away, and it works. Work It Social, for example, gets an average of 60 likes per Instagram post. However, we get far more than 60 views per Instagram story.

5. Quality, Quality, Quality

Despite all the crazy changes Instagram has been making, one thing hasn’t changed: quality, beautiful imagery is an absolute must. Always ensure the content on your feed is engaging and visually appealing. With the huge number of free photo-editing apps, it’s easier than ever to post beautiful photos. And always compliment your photos with engaging captions that share a story or unique perspective your followers will love. If you follow these basic principles, Instagram’s algorithm has nothing on you!

How have you been impacted by all the Instagram changes? Let us know in the comments and be sure to follow us on Instagram at @workitsocial!