Are you totally up-to-date on how the Instagram feed works? If you own a small business, chances are you’ve probably got your hands full and aren’t fully in the know. Not to worry! We’ve got the lowdown on the latest Instagram algorithm changes and how you can make it work for you.
Last year, Instagram unveiled the details behind their new and (arguably) improved algorithm. After moving away from a feed that operates chronologically, Instagram wanted to create something that would show the posts people actually want to see.
According to its creators, these Instagram algorithm changes have been a success. What at first seemed confusing, now the app’s 800 million users are seeing 90% of their friends’ and family’s posts, compared to 50% using the old chronological Instagram algorithm.
Plus, with the new format, users are staying on the app longer and using it more. And that’s good news for small business owners who use Instagram for marketing.
To understand these Instagram algorithm changes and what that means for your small business, it’s handy to first learn how the Instagram feed works.
Basically, the Instagram algorithm functions on three main factors – interest, timeliness, and relationship.
It’s actually pretty cool. Instagram uses machine learning to predict what people want to see on their feed. Based on what users have previously viewed, liked, or commented on, Instagram remembers your behavior and decides what posts you’ll probably like best.
Remember how immediately after you went on an Instagram cat video bender, suddenly your feed is full of undeniably cuddly cat videos. Yeah, that’s what we’re talking about here.
While the reverse chronological feed is a thing of the past, more recent posts will still appear higher up on Instagram.
Scrolling through, you shouldn’t see anything more than a few days old meaning part of the old Instagram algorithm is still intact.
The main goal when making changes to how the Instagram feed works was to show people more content from their families and friends — assuming that’s what most people want to see when browsing the app.
The Instagram algorithm operates so that if you always like or comment on a certain users’ post or you’ve been tagged in their content, you’re probably a friend or family member and you’d probably want to see more of what they share on Instagram. The presumed relationship between users creates more activity on their feeds.
Learn what your audience wants to see and post that. Seems pretty simple but it takes a bit of finesse. Once you’ve been at it for a while, you’ll start to notice what posts gain interest and which ones are flops. Maybe patrons of your taco shop love when you post recipes. Or sharing inspirational quotes does really well for your yoga studio.
You’ll soon realize what kind of content gets a reaction from your customers and you’ll want to keep it going! The Instagram algorithm will see that users are engaging with what you share and it’ll show those people more of it.
It’s one thing to seek inspiration from successful Instagrammers, but don’t do exactly what another brand is doing without proper research.
Just because you see Nike posted a video that got 1,000 likes doesn’t mean your audience will be as enthused by video footage. If it makes sense for your brand, sure try a video. But if the last video you posted was barely viewed, maybe there’s another route you should take.
Stick with genuine content that speaks to the voice of your brand and those who will be interacting with your Instagram will be the people you really want there. That’s how the Instagram feed works!
Knowing when to post can be tricky. Do you research using a service like Hootsuite or Tailwind to find out when past posts got the most traffic. This may take a bit of trial and error but once you find the sweet spot, let ‘em rip!
On top of learning when to post, it’s important to post often since Instagram moves more recent posts toward the top. Most studies suggest posting once a day will reap positive results.
Sure, post often… but not too often. Nobody likes an over-sharer! It’s not that you can’t, but it just probably won’t make all that much of a difference. The best strategy is to save all that juicy content to be posted at just the right time. No need to waste it by thinking it’s necessary to post five times a day.
One goal of the Instagram algorithm changes was for users to see more posts from their family and friends. That’s why when you interact with certain accounts, they pop up more often on your feed. Instagram implies that you probably have a relationship with that user.
To form relationships with your customers, try asking questions so that users comment on your post or encourage them to post about their experience with your product (tagging you, of course!). Any engagement, whether it’s likes, comments, or tags, will tell the Instagram algorithm that these users should see more of your content on their feeds.
Struggling to engage with your audience? Grab my free Instagram Captions that Captivate guide!
Always ask permission when using customer images and videos. Most people would love to be featured on your Instagram, but always be sure they’re ok with it. Don’t put yourself in a sticky situation!
And don’t post click-bait! If you’re posting just for likes and comments without offering any legitimate content, it won’t do you much good. The purpose of using social media for your small business is to engage with your audience. Getting 50 likes from users who might actually buy your soap or eat at your food truck is much better than getting 3,000 likes from users who don’t actually have a real relationship with your brand.
The only difference between personal and business Instagram accounts is that business accounts have analytics – something you definitely want to take advantage of as a small business for more strategic Instagramming.
It doesn’t matter the format in which you post content, videos and photos get the same treatment. How well they perform depends on how a user interacts with each format.
Instagram doesn’t boost your reach fo using their latest services. Likewise, you won’t be punished for not posting in these new spaces. But we do recommend learning about how adding them to your social media plan could be beneficial!
It’s been made clear that Instagram won’t hide any of what you share for “spammy” behavior like posting the same hashtag again and again or overloading your followers with useless content. But still, it’s best to just… not do that.
🤗 Create content that excites your audience. The Instagram algorithm relies heavily on interest, so create posts that your followers find interesting. If a post gets a lot of traction with your audience, continue to create similar content.
🍎 Be consistent. Since timeliness is a key factor in the Instagram algorithm make sure that you are posting on a frequent cadence. Posting 3-5 times a week is key.
💑 Form relationships! While it’s important to consider factors like engagement rate, forming genuine connections on Instagram should be your ultimate priority. It will also make the process a lot more fun!
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