How to Work With Instagram's Algorithm

Recently, I talked to my girl and friend of the pod, Christina of the Social Butterfly Gal, about the changes to Instagram (you can listen below).

If you haven’t noticed (and let’s be honest, you probably have if you’re here), the algorithm changes have shifted in a way that has really impacted what we see. If you had 100-200 likes on a post, you may have 75, 50, or 25. It sucks because if you’re a micro-influencer like myself, that is a huge drop.

“Is my content not good anymore? What am I doing wrong?” 

You’re not posting consistently enough.

Instagram hates when you take a break. I don’t know why, but its algorithm is funky when you take a week-long break. Heaven forbid you to want to focus on anything else in life.

Use an Instagram scheduler like Planoly, Later Media, or PlannThat, to schedule your content. I don’t like using the auto-post (I find my engagement is low...low...low…when I do), but it helps to have everything prepared and time.

You’re not engaging with your audience.

You get what you give. If you’re not commenting on your feed, no one is interested in commenting on yours. Let me tell you a secret: you’re not that special. Does that sound mean? I’m sorry. Here’s what we all do: We create the right captions. We post, we use hashtags, we like mindlessly while eating a bowl of cereal, then go on about our business. Here’s why that’s bad: You’re not actively working your feed and catering to the audience you have, so why do you deserve a bigger one? I’ve done this because of time, but I had to change my mindset. If I want people to engage with me, I need to engage first.

Leave a question at the end of your content, then answer the replies. Does this mean respond to bots? Eh, not really. You can say a quick, “Thank you,” but also make sure you do more on other people’s responses so Instagram knows you are human and it shows you are engaging.

Are you responding to DMs? Maybe you should

You don’t need to accept inquiries in your DMs, but if you’re posting in stories and people are interacting, interact back! More than a heart response, think of a simple, “Thank you,” response, even if it’s, “Thank you so much for watching!” A simple sentence, a simple interaction.

Hashtag but with caution

Not gonna lie, I’m still kind of on the fence about this, but one thing I’m sure of: you do need to use hashtags. You aren’t Beyonce (Oprah, President Obama, First Lady Michelle…), so you can’t get away with not using hashtags. Here’s the deal: you want to make sure you’re using hashtags relevant to your post and you want to mix it up.

I use PlannThat and create a list of hashtags according to the topic. Sometimes I’ll use the list straight into the post. Other times I mix two lists to give it a little shakeup. Note: You can use up to 30 hashtags. Make your important ones be at the top of the list. Also, avoid using general hashtags like #love #girl #boy #awesome #beach...you get my point. Use PlannThat suggestion for hashtags that have good 10,000-800,000 users. This will prevent Instagram from marking your account as spam (I don’t make the rules y’all).

You gotta study your analytics.

Instagram for business and Plann (I know, but y’all I love it) have tools to measure your content. What posts are getting the higher engagements? Which posts get the most likes? Impressions? That’s a good way to study and plan more.

I’ve noticed being visible gets me more engagement, so I started posting more photos of ME on Instagram along with asking a question and engage below. Of those posts, if I’m being more vulnerable or “human,” those perform better than anything service-based. It’s almost as if Instagram wants us to be people...huh. Graphics getting lower engagement, so I post those seldomly, if at all. Pick and choose your battles with this, and really think about what you want to use Instagram for. If you don’t care, that’s fine. Do you, boo.

You’re focusing too much on numbers.

Wait, wait, wait. So you told us all of this but I’m not supposed to focus on numbers? Exactly. Here’s the deal: The number of “likes” and followers should be the least of your concerns. With so many bots, you can have all the likes in the world, but if you don’t engage and build relationships, you’ll never have people follow your journey with you.

  • Here’s also something you should know: only 20 percent of your Instagram followers will interact with you--that’s IT. So think about it: if you have 500 followers, about 100 followers will interact with your content. So your goal should be to cater to at least 20%. You’ll notice those that keep showing up in your feed and keep commenting or liking your posts. 

  • This is also a good time to study who they are and what they post. There’s something you have in common with them. In the end, your content is working, you’re just focused on the wrong things.

Story time: An influencer by the name of Arii has 2.6 million followers on Instagram. She was working with a company for a capsule collection that failed. In order for the campaign to go through, she had to sell 36 items during preorder. She had 2.6 million followers and couldn’t sell 36 items during pre-launch. When I studied her Instagram I noticed one major thing: she rarely interacts with her audience. Also: I’m curious to know: What was the game plan? What was the strategy? How did she fail to get 36 orders from 2.6 million followers? A case study for the ages.

Here’s the thing

You can’t and won’t combat the algorithms. They’re going to get more tricky in time and we’ll just have to deal. Instead of learning how to master Instagram, learn how to work with it. Figuring out your goals and studying what content is working and what’s not will help you succeed at Instagram. Not because you’ll get a million followers, but because you’ll produce content that connects with your audience.

  • Tools I use:

How do you feel about the new Instagram changes? Let me know in the comments.

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