In July 2021 it was recorded that Instagram as a social media platform had a whopping 28.81 million users. This presents an interesting marketing opportunity for businesses of all sizes to capture their own share of this audience. Generally thought of as the go-to place for creative and visually focussed sectors, Instagram can in fact be utilized by any type of business when given the right tools and technical understanding for social media success! Read on to uncover the secrets of how this social media giant handles your posts...
In 2016 Instagram shifted from a chronologically ordered feed to a 'Curated Content Feed'. This basically meant that Instagram designed an algorithm that prioritised 'the moments you care about' by collecting data on what you engage with and showing you more of it. This way people will see posts that relate to their interests. To do this, Instagram use what's known as a ranking algorithm to define and assess how relevant a social post is to an individual. The algorithm uses signals to define and rank against a set of criteria whether or not it will show you more of that type of content or more from that profile. In roughly order of importance, and sourced from Instagram itself, and it looks a little like this:
· Information about the post This can include a range of small details like where and when it was posted, how many people interacted with it and when etc.
· Information about the person who posted The algorithm looks for signals like how many other people are interacting with this person to work out whether they are someone you would be interested in.
· Your own activity This type of data is around how many posts you've liked, how regularly and when.
· Your history of interacting with certain accounts This collects a huge range of data about your patterns of behaviour across the platform, how often you comment on posts and contribute towards how easy it will be to predict what you might like to see next in your feed.
From this technological understanding the marketing nerds from Team Ouma have compiled a few ways that you can work with the algorithm to optimise the way you're using Instagram to market your business.
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So, once we have ascertained that the more someone interacts with your posts the more likely the algorithm is to show them future posts, we can start to understand how valuable likes, shares comments and impressions are! Let's start thinking practically about how we encourage our audience to engage with content. Here's a few ways to stop that thumb swiping up the screen...
· High Quality Visuals
· Interesting and conversational copy
Location, Location, Location
As we saw above, the algorithm defines 'moments you care about' by five different criteria, one of these includes geo location. Adding location tags to your feed and story posts is another small way you can work with the Instagram system to gain more impressions. It also helps to reach new audiences as locations are searchable on the Instagram Discover tab.
Some say that as TikTok reigned supreme through 2020 Instagram had to up their game...and up it they did! Instagram Reels was introduced in the summer of 2020 and ever since the algorithm has shown somewhat of a penchant for them. They allow a far greater creative expression than just using a video and, in our professional marketing experience, tend to gain reach and impressions at an alarming rate! This is largely down to the fact the Reels are ranked slightly differently and your creations are shown to people that don't follow you.
Post with consistency! As we've learnt, the ranking algorithm is picking up signals all the time about your patterns of behaviour on the platform so give it something to work with! Plus, the more great content you are sharing the more likely you are to gain more engagement. Communicate with your audience regularly!
A key indicator that the algorithm looks out for is when you are posting your content and when you are interacting with other people's content. Keep a keen eye on your insights to check when the best times to post are for you and when you are achieving the best engagement.
Hashtags are essentially search terms in your post that will allow others to find it more easily. Not only this, but people can also follow hashtags, so this is one other way to get your organic content in front of those that don't follow your account. The maximum number of hashtags per post is 30 and a top tip from Team Ouma is to use a variety of different types and sizes of hashtag.
Stories Story post are not officially controlled by the ranking algorithm according to Instagram. However, Stories feature at the very top of a user's feed and the fresher you keep them the more you are 'front of mind' for your audience. Story posts and grid posts go hand in hand to encourage audience engagement and general daily awareness of your brand.
Once again, this doesn't technically have any relevance to the algorithm. But... when you go live it notifies a selection of your followers and you jump the queue at the top of a users feed ahead of stories!
As you can see, organic Instagram success is not about beating the algorithm, it's about working with it to make the most of your social media marketing. Optimise every feed post by making it eye-catching, stuffed with hashtags, reflected in your story posts and posted at the best time for your audience.