First things first, technically you can’t beat the Instagram algorithm. It’s constantly changing and it’s based on user interactions aka your followers. However, I think it’s safe to say most of us do notice a difference in post-performance after an algorithm change.
What exactly is happening?
I’ve been on Instagram as a business/creator account for many years now so algorithm changes aren’t anything new to me. Instagram is kind of known to work against its users, basically anyone with a business or creator account who relies on outside exposure.
In August 2020 the Reels feature was released and with that came a new algorithm. I think it’s safe to say this is the worst our engagement has been in a while. As soon as the feature was released people’s posts stopped showing up on their followers feeds, hashtags barely worked and engagement rates plummeted.
Is the algorithm change to blame?
Some of you might be asking, but Zara how do you know this is happening because of the algorithm change? Is there any proof? and actually yes there is! I know everyone’s been affected on different levels, some more than others but chances are if you’re reading this blog post you have noticed a major change.
So, I’ve been studying my analytics from posts before August and posts in September and October. For reference, this is my Instagram and I have roughly 5,700 followers. On my old posts around 2k-3k people would see my posts on their feed. After the algorithm change, only 400-500 people see my posts on their feed. What the heck!! For hashtags, I literally would get 5k-10k people seeing my posts from hashtags and now barely even 500.
Okay, so enough background you guys are probably wondering how to go about this algorithm chance and increase our engagement rate again. Just to clarify there’s no secret formula to “fix” or beat the algorithm. However, there are ways to get more people to see your posts again and in return increase your engagement rate. So here are 10 ways to kick this algorithm change in the butt!
1. Encourage followers to save+share your posts
The days of relying only on likes and comments to show Instagram that your followers like your content is over. Instagram actually favors posts that have more shares and saves! So encourage your followers to share your posts through DM’s or to their story and also click the save button. Start to focus on creating posts that offer answers to questions your followers might be asking. For example, if you look at most of my captions they contain social media or college tips. Those posts are the ones that people find the most useful so they have the highest # of saves. In return, this also increases my engagement rate and followers.
2. Create a new content strategy
With algorithm changes come strategies that no longer work so it’s time to try something new. This can include posting at a different time, creating different content such as more sharable content, spending more time on the app and engaging with others, and a new hashtag strategy. If you guys want to read about how to come up with a hashtag strategy you can read that blog post here.
After this update, I realized that I need to focus on creating content that people want to share and save. So, I’ve started making little infographics that people can repost to their stories. This way it shows Instagram that people like my content but also other potential followers are able to find me.
3. Utilize new features
I’ve been guilty of not doing this in the past but whenever Instagram releases new features it’s best to utilize them. In the recent algorithm change, the Reels feature was released and many people believe that Instagram is prioritizing them. This of course hasn’t been confirmed with the Instagram team, it’s just one of the many theories going around but it’s one that I’m starting to believe.
I’m in a few Instagram and blogging Facebook groups where people share their findings and thousands of people have reported a huge difference in their engagement after posting Reels. It seems that Instagram is pushing video content out more than photos. As a result, Reels have been showing up on explore pages (and the new Reel tab). This leads to more people discovering new content and following new creators.
I started utilizing the Reels feature and have noticed a higher reach and more followers as a result. I recommend creating 2-3 Reels a week for a few weeks to see if it’s worth it for your account. Also, keep in mind Reels sometimes take off days or weeks after you post them so give this trial period enough time! There’s really no harm in giving this method a try and it gives you more content to post.
4. Turn on post notifications
If your content isn’t showing up on your followers feeds simply encourage them to turn post notifications on! This way they never miss a post and they get notified right away. Some people believe how well your post performs in the first hour or two indicates it’s success. So if this theory has some truth to it, it’s important to make sure people are interacting with your post right away.
5. Share new posts to your story
I know this can be kind of annoying to some people but recently I’ve been sharing my new posts to my stories and so have other influencers that I follow. I do think right now when engagement is low and our content isn’t being shown to our audience it’s important to share your posts. Whenever I see other people do this and realize I didn’t see their post on my feed I always engage with it. I’ve noticed when I post to my story a handful of people who view my story will go like it!
I recommend sharing your post a day or two after you publish it so enough people have time to see it on their feed first. Also, make sure to put a sticker on top of the majority of your picture. I always use the “new post” ones so it’s obvious and only make enough of the picture visible so people will be intrigued to click through. If you don’t use a sticker chances are people will see the post on your story but not go to check it out on your profile and engage with it.
6. Engage back with your audience
If people take the time to comment on your pictures you should take the time to reply or at least like the comment! I have a few influencer friends whose posts I always comment on and they comment on mine. This is a great way to build engagement and a real connection. Also, whenever someone comments on my posts I usually will comment on theirs too as a thank you.
This is a method lots of people will use where they go to hashtags in their niche and comment on people’s posts but if you do this make sure the comments are genuine. No one likes to make a post about a loved one passing away and then someone doesn’t read the caption and comments “you look great!” or “I love this post” so don’t be that person.
7. Post during peak hours
Make sure to study your analytics and post when most of your followers are active. Last week I even put a poll up on my Instagram story and asked my audience what time they are on Instagram the most. I definitely recommend doing this! Also, keep in mind your analytics are in PST so make sure to convert if you’re on the east coast like me! Many people make the mistake of not realizing that. So if you’re from NY and your followers are active at 12pm that really means 3pm NY time or eastern time.
8. Quality over quantity
The quality of your photos and what you have to offer is more important than how often you post. If you’re someone who posts “filler posts” I would advise to stay away from that. Usually, filler posts aren’t yours or they don’t have to do with your niche so people are less likely to engage and this will eventually harm your engagement rate. I rather see 3 authentic, niched down posts a week from my favorite bloggers than 5 random ones. With that being said you still want to make sure you’re posting consistently and not just once a month. I try posting at least 3 times a week but recently with the Reels feature I’ve been posting more since I have the content for it.
9. Create a connection through stories
The story feature on Instagram is a great way to connect with your audience and show them your day to day life. One of my most-watched and interacted with stories are my “day in my life” mini vlogs! The algorithm takes into account not only how many people watch your story but also if they interact with it. So this can include replies, swipe-ups, profile visits, etc. It’s also recommended that you post 10 slides a day so it’s not too long but also not super short. I’m definitely guilty of not posting enough on my stories but it’s something I’m working on. You should try to have the first slide include your face like talking to the camera or posting a selfie. This way people are more likely to watch it versus if you start off with an object.
10. Start microblogging on Instagram
Want to provide your audience with shareable, save-able, and informative content? Microblogging is your new best friend! Microblogging is like traditional blogging but shorter in length and it’s used on other platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I started providing tips like this under my Instagram posts and have noticed amazing results! If you already have a blog this is even easier because you can simply take 3-5 points from one blog post and use it for your Instagram captions because chances are not everyone has seen that blog post so it still adds value for your audience.
These are some of my tips on how to beat the recent algorithm change of 2020! Have any other tips to increase your engagement rate? Make sure to comments them down below and help others out!
If you guys want to read more social media related blog posts check these out:
I also created a shareable Instagram post about this topic that you can check out here!