Hey, Tea Timers!
It’s October 1st, which (witch?!), in my book means it's officially Halloween Season! So, in the spirit of all things spooky, I thought I'd tackle a subject that can feel SUPER SCARY...
THE ALLLLGORITHM!!!!! OOOOOOooooooo!!!!!
I feel like the word “algorithm” is whispered in the small business world like “Voldemort” is whispered in the Harry Potter series…like it’s this mysterious, evil force that we know exists but feel like we can’t define because it’s too scary to think about it being real.
Prepare to be de-mystified and learn small, manageable ways that you can USE Instagram’s algorithm so that more people see and engage with your content…
ONCE UPON A TIME
Instagram used to show users a reverse chronological feed of what the folks they followed were posting. Meaning, you always saw the most recent posts first; it didn’t matter if it was your favorite brand or your post-happy Great Aunt from Omaha. So, what you saw depended entirely on what time of day you went on the app. It was like that for 6 years.
Then, the Instagram Wizards decided that there was a better way to customize the user experience so that they would only see the posts they were most likely to enjoy.
Enter: THE ALGORITHM
In short, the IG Algorithm collects data from every user- what kinds of pictures they “like”, accounts they follow, whose stories they watch, what hashtags they engage with, what kinds of posts they save in their archive, etc - to continuously curate that user’s feed so that they see posts they are most likely to engage with.
For example, if you follow a lot of fashion bloggers, you’re going to see those posts pop up in your feed more often and get targeted ads to buy new outfits. If you follow a lot of musicians, you’ll see ads for concert tickets or apps like Spotify. If you follow health bloggers, you’re gonna see a lot of flatlay pictures of salads and cakes and get ads for grocery delivery services. See where I’m going with this?
MYTHBUSTERS: INSTAGRAM EDITION
The most important thing to know about the algorithm is that it’s designed for ONE PURPOSE:
TO KEEP PEOPLE ON THE APP LONGER
The longer they’re on the app, the more ads they’ll engage with, the more $$ IG makes from companies buying targeted ads.
I know, that sounds kinda depressing. BUT HERE’S HOW IT’S ACTUALLY GREAT NEWS FOR YOUR BUSINESS…
Once you know how the algorithm works, YOU CAN MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU!
With the algorithm you can be sure that if you are consistently creating engaging content that is strategically targeted at a certain audience, your posts WILL get seen.
How? Glad you asked…
THE ALGORITHM's RECIPE
Here are the 3 Main Ingredients the IG Algorithm pays attention to when deciding what to put in front of users:
If a user has engaged with similar posts in the past - meaning if they “liked”, clicked through to your profile, DM’ed or commented- they are WAY more likely to see posts like that in the future.
When users engage with your content, it sends a signal to the IG algorithm that the user wants to see more of your posts. Every time someone engages, your ranking in the feed goes up.
It also takes note of engagement with accounts that are similar to yours- so if you’re a vegan food blogger and a user follows a bunch of other vegan food bloggers, that user is much more likely to discover and follow you.
Proof of this can really be seen in the “discover people” section where IG suggests “people you may know” or “accounts that follow you”.
MORAL OF THE STORY: GET SPECIFIC with your content so that people know exactly who you are and what you’re about. If your posts are all over the place, it’s WAY harder to find you.
While it may not be exactly chronological anymore, IG does take into account how recently something was posted. So, if a post from 2 days ago is getting a lot of engagement it will probably still be popping up in a lot of people’s feeds. But if it’s from a week ago, not so much. *A recent app update made this even more prevalent, really making sure users are seeing the most recent posts.
MORAL OF THE STORY: Post CONSISTENTLY. It doesn’t have to be every day, but if you want to use IG to its fullest potential, you should probably be posting every 3-7 days to keep your feed fresh and engaging.
SIDE NOTE: If you have an IG business profile, you can go into your “Insights” (looks like a bar graph logo) and see what days/times users who follow you are most likely to be on the app. This can help you target when you post so that it’s more likely to be seen.
Beyond if someone “likes” or saves or comments on a post, IG recognizes how OFTEN that happens; i.e. what is a person’s ongoing relationship with another user or account.
Example; you follow a celebrity account with millions of followers AND you follow your best friend who maybe has a thousand or two. But because you like every one of your BFF’s posts, get tagged in each other’s pictures, watch each other’s stories, etc., you’re going to see your BFF’s posts MORE than you see pics from that celebrity with millions of followers. That’s because the algorithm recognizes that you have a RELATIONSHIP with your BFF.
MORAL OF THE STORY: When users engage with your content, engage BACK! Like and reply to their comments, give them a follow if you feel so inclined, comment on their posts, etc. In other words, establish a relationship!
ANOTHER TIP? Be proactive in creating relationships. One way to do this is to tag other accounts you like in your own posts so IG starts to associate you with them (I do this all the time and it REALLY works! I’ve made some really great IG friends from accounts that have over 100K followers and are way “ahead” of me!).
Now that you know and understand what the algorithm is and what its purpose is, you can start to post with purpose to make it work for you.
Come back next week where I'll be talking about how to use Instagram Stories to increase your engagement in a totally non-icky way and get more eyes on your beeeeautiful profile, and ultimately, your business!
Tea Time w/ Kelsey Formost
These bite-sized tips are very helpful Kelsey, thank you. Your way of not making me feel stupid and sending them with love makes all the difference. Thank you - keep them coming!