We understand Instagram can be a complicated platform to use, while the Instagram algorithm is very sophisticated.
A lot of users are frustrated with how the platform works, and the majority think Instagram “hates” them.
We’ve decided to share with you our knowledge of what exactly happens “behind the scenes.”
It may seem complicated, but we simplified all you need to know down to the basics. Regardless of your Instagram knowledge level, these tips will help you grow your account and build a community.
There is no magic formula for the organic growth of the relevant audience.
Plenty of tutorials, blog posts, and videos online explain what you can do to grow your account. We won’t go against it to say the advice they share is not effective and can’t help you amass a huge following in a very short period of time.
However, we recommend focusing on two things:
- organic growth
- relevant audience
If you want to focus on growing your business, your audience needs to be a potential or actual customer; while if you are growing as an influencer, your audience needs to be relevant to your brand collaborations.
Merely growing your fanbase regardless of who your audience is, places focus on vanity metrics (engagements, reach, fanbase).
An example: you own a bakery in Brussels. Reaching an audience in Taiwan has little to no relevance to you as you want to get people to visit your shop.
Your entire strategy needs to lead to the growth of an audience that will have a positive impact on your business.
To do this, there is no magical formula or overnight success. You will need to dedicate time and focus on developing and establishing a good Instagram strategy.
Instagram business model
To begin, we need to highlight one key component that plays a deciding role in how the algorithm works: the Instagram business model.
Instagram is a free app, whose revenue comes through ads. This means that Instagram will reward behavior that keeps users longer on the app and consequently longer exposed to ads.
Create content with this in mind. The longer the audience spends on Instagram thanks to you, the algorithm will reward you in return and show your content to even more users. This is how you can grow your audience and reach.
If you want Instagram to make you happy, you have to make Instagram happy.
What is the Instagram algorithm?
The algorithm dictates which content users see when they log on to the app. It is machined powered, at looks at more than 100.000 factors before deciding which content to show you. How much time you’ve spent looking at a certain content piece, how often you interact with a certain profile, whose stories you reply to, etc.
As the algorithm constantly changes and updates based on user behavior, it is difficult to write tips & tricks that you can apply that will still be relevant a year from now.
So we’ve decided to highlight 3 key components of the algorithm, which you can take into account when further developing your Instagram strategy.
As we mentioned before, Instagram wants users to spend a lot of time on the app. There are certain things you can do to ensure your audience spends more time engaged with your content.
Video is a great way of ensuring a longer exposure of your audience to your content. Instagram also rewards users who post video, since video gets 4 times more real-estate on the explore page compared to image content.
If you post a video in post or IGTV, be mindful of the sound. The majority of videos are watched with the sound off, so make sure your video content is not dependent on sound, or include closed captioning.
Posting vertical posts also helps, since you take over the entire feed while scrolling, and keep suers longer engaged. Include engaging captions, to invite users to stay longer on your post and read, or even do a call-to-action and get your audience to leave a comment or send a DM.
A crucial piece of information about time: post when your audience is online! Check the insights tab to learn more about your audience’s behavior, and post when they are on the app.
You have access to this data if you have a Business or Creator account. In case you haven’t made a switch to one of these types of accounts, now is the time to do so!
Engagement plays a role in signaling the algorithm which content is interesting to other users. Logically, content that gets more engagement will be shown to more users across the app.
Engagements that the algorithm takes into account when ranking the relevance of your content are likes, comments, shares, and views.
One metric that is even stronger and signals to the algorithm your content is relevant and engaging are saves.
When a user saves your content, it tells the algorithm that that user will come back to the app to engage again with your content. The algorithm will reward this, as it means users will come back to the app.
By posting content such as tutorials, how-to videos, inspirational posts, recommendations, or relevant stats and data, you can increase the chances your content gets saved.
It is important you respond to your comments and DMs as soon as possible since this tells the algorithm your account is active and has relevant engagements.
Hashtags can help boost engagements, so here are two things to keep in mind about hashtags:
- Use relevant hashtags – vague hashtags such as #beauty will put you in a group of more than 370 million other content items. If you want to stand out, use a hashtag that is specific to you, your business, or content.
- Don’t use too many hashtags – there is no magic number on how many hashtags to use, but you do not need 50 of them. Users might be less interested in your content if it may seem you are only fishing for engagements.
Finally, there is the less technical and more theoretical part of the algorithm: the philosophy of treating your audience as a community.
You must look beyond vanity metrics of likes and followers, and understand behind each number is a real person. Each one of those can become a valuable ambassador, member of your community, or a customer.
Respond to DMs and comments, engage in your audience’s content, and talk to them as often as possible. Ask them what they want to see on your feed and create content with them in mind.
Since Instagram is beginning to hide likes, it is obvious that the community is becoming the most relevant metric of success on Instagram.
As you build a community, they will become more engaged with your content; while they are more engaged with your content, the algorithm will show your content to more users across the platform; this in return creates new potential members of your community. And so on, in a circle.
Do not post for the sake of posting. Create content while always asking yourself “is this something my audience wants to see” and “what is the added value of this content”.
Be an active participant on the platform!
Growing on Instagram takes time, as we said your goal shouldn’t be overnight growth, but organic growth. We suggest you start with the following steps
- Plan the next 30 days – build a clear strategy and plan what you will psot on which days.
- Experiment – try different things and see how your community reacts.
- Learn and apply – learn what works best and build further on that.
After 30 days, you should have a clearer strategy in mind. You can now use it to plan the next steps in your Instagram strategy.