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October 27, 2020 Last updated on December 3rd, 2020
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So, you want to beat the Instagram algorithm?

The elusive, oh-so-frustrating Instagram algorithm.

Maybe you’ve noticed a drop in engagement.

Maybe you’re wondering why your content hasn’t been performing as well as it used to.

Maybe, after steady growth, you’ve noticed your follower count stagnating.

Well, I’ve got good news for you 🙌

This article will take you through some of the best things you can do right now to improve your engagement on Instagram…

… and get one big step closer to beating the Instagram algorithm.

beat-the-instagram-algorithm-h2

Stop obsessing over it (and what to obsess over instead)

It’s time for a little bit of tough love.

If you’ve been guilty of saying “the Instagram algorithm hates me” a lot over the last few weeks or months, I want you to stop and ask yourself:

Is it the algorithm that’s affecting my Instagram engagement rate OR is there something I could be doing differently to change my results?

All too often, we notice a dip in engagement and immediately blame the Instagram algorithm…

… when first and foremost, we should take a look at our existing strategy with a critical eye to see if there’s any tweaks we could make.

So, once you’ve read this article to see if you’re doing everything you can to work with the Instagram algorithm, I want you to stop obsessing over the algorithm and instead:

Obsess over your community.

That’s right! I want you to stop looking at your Instagram Insights and channel that energy into connecting with people.

Spend time chatting to your followers, interacting with their content and following up with DMs that have gone quiet in recent weeks.

If you focus on relationships with your followers (i.e. potential customers and clients) you will future-proof yourself against inevitable algorithm changes.

Jump to Tip #4 to find out why relationship-building is key to beating the Instagram algorithm.

Create shareable & saveable posts

One of the best ways to work with the Instagram algorithm is to create content that will generate certain metrics.

In this case, we’re talking about posts that encourage saves and shares.

Why?

Because everytime someone hits “save” or “share”, this tells the algorithm that your content is valuable and worth prioritizing in the feeds of your followers and the Explore pages of people that look like them.

Notice how we’re not talking about likes. This is because likes are a passive form of engagement – they don’t fairly indicate whether someone has found your content useful or not.

So, what defines shareable and saveable content?

Well, generally speaking a saveable post educates your followers in some way, encouraging them to hit “save” so they can come back and reference it later.

For example, this carousel post about normalizing anxiety.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Dear My Anxiety (@dearmyanxiety) on

A shareable post is either funny, controversial, relatable or inspirational.

Most shareable posts strike a chord with people, saying what they’re thinking or resonating with them so much so that they have to share the post with their friends, family and followers.

For example, this post from photographer Sophie Lindsay. It’s funny, relatable and very, very shareable.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Sophie | Branding photographer (@sophielindsayphotography) on

Think about how you can incorporate these two kinds of posts into your strategy.

What wisdom and expertise can you distil into helpful, saveable posts?

What thoughts and opinions can you turn into irresistibly shareable posts?

Include Instagram Reels in your strategy

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of months, Reels are Instagram’s latest feature and they are pushing them hard.

Instagram is encouraging mass adoption and engagement of its TikTok rival and that is a HUGE opportunity to get on the algorithm’s good side.

We’ve created lots of articles to help you get up to speed with Reels, including a step-by-step guide to use Instagram Reels and why you should be a Reels early adopter.

There is no better time than right now to jump on the bandwagon and experiment with Reels.

Once you get to grips with how Reels work, they are super simple and quick to make.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Dr Julie Smith | Psychologist (@drjuliesmith) on

You can create, edit and upload Reels directly inside the app – no additional software needed.

There are myriad reasons to include Instagram Reels in your strategy. Here’s just a few:

  1. You can be as creative and playful as you like – that is the name of the game when it comes to Reels
  2. You can turn almost any idea into a Reel, be it an educational, personal, inspirational or promotional post
  3. The algorithm is actively favoring them (just take a look at where they’re positioned in the Explore page), which means you don’t even have to use hashtags right now and you can still benefit from big reach and engagement

So, what are you waiting for?

If you want to try something new and experience a surge in engagement, start making Instagram Reels!

Top tip: If you’re feeling overwhelmed by Reels, try this. Spend 30 minutes watching Reels from different brands, businesses and individuals. Jot down songs you like and the styles of Reels you feel you could recreate. Roughly outline a few Reels ideas that would suit your brand. Then, block out an hour in your diary to get creative and film 1-2 Reels!

Focus on relationships

What if Instagram disappeared tomorrow?

⁠Just like that. You wake up and the app has been deleted forever. No one has access anymore.⁠⁠

Would you care about your last “Reach” count?

How many “Likes” your most recent Reel received?⁠

Or…

… would you wonder how many of your followers would remember your name?⁠

How many of them would know you well enough to miss you?⁠

The only way that happens is by spending time building relationships with people.⁠

Not short and meaningless “love this post!” comments, but knowing their names, their goals – even their pet’s names.⁠

So if you’re feeling frustrated by the algorithm right now, I encourage you to stop checking the metrics and instead:

Focus on chatting to your community.⁠

Get to know them better, beyond surface level chit-chat.⁠

Those relationships will protect you against future algorithm updates…

… and ensure your longevity – even if Instagram disappeared tomorrow.⁠🥳

Be consistent

In 2018, Instagram revealed that one of its algorithm ranking factors was timeliness.

In other words, recent posts will likely rank higher in people’s feed and the timing of posts still matters.

Now what this doesn’t mean is that you need to post to Instagram every single day (and definitely not multiple times a day).

Once upon a time, this strategy worked on Instagram.

However, in 2020 and beyond the key to working in the algorithm’s favour is to be consistent with your posting schedule.

If that means posting on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, that’s great.

Sharing less often, consistently, is better than attempting to post multiple times a week, falling behind and going long stretches of time between posts.

So, set yourself up for success by making a plan and developing an Instagram content calendar.

When you know what days you’re going to share what content, you can start to batch create posts ahead of time.

This takes the overwhelm out of the process and will enable you to post consistently.

Share video content

When we shared our biggest Instagram trends to watch in 2020, we predicted that Instagram Stories and IGTV would continue to grow in popularity.

While Reels has in fact leapt ahead to become the biggest deal on Instagram since they changed the chronological feed (remember the uproar?!), one thing is clear:

Instagram – and therefore the algorithm – is prioritising video.

And the great news is, high quality video content is no longer reserved solely for companies with big budgets.

Anyone can hop onto Instagram Live or create a Reel in less than 15 minutes.

Instagram Lives accelerate the know, like and trust factor with your followers, humanizing your brand, and giving people the opportunity to hear your voice and see your unique quirks.

Reels, on the other hand, are experiencing big levels of reach and engagement right now while Instagram encourages mass adoption.

And then you’ve got IGTV, Stories and main-feed video content.

There’s lots of ways you can share video content that feels good to you and fits within your broader content strategy.

So, work with the algorithm by creating the kind of content it loves – video!

Not only do you stand to increase your engagement rate but you will also create stronger, better relationships with your community.

Go Live

In tip #6, I mentioned the benefits of sharing video content and why going Live is one fantastic way to do this.

One such benefit of Instagram Live is that it sends a push notification to your followers and puts you in position number one in the Story feed, increasing visibility and the likelihood of your audience tuning in to watch.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, during the height of the global lockdown, Instagram live streaming became very popular, increasing by 70% across the US from February to March 2020.

And it shows no signs of slowing down. Not while you can still reap the benefits of push notifications and being prioritized in the Story feed.

However, if the thought of going Live intimidates you, try breaking down the process into steps.

When you do this, it removes fear and overwhelm from the process.

I suggest outlining your Live ahead of time, preparing any slides/visuals in advance and double checking your connection. That way, you’ll have everything you need to create an engaging Instagram Live.

Because going “Live” doesn’t mean switching on the camera with nothing prepared or planned.

It means taking this golden opportunity to share your expertise and personality with your community at a time when they’re stuck at home and craving human connection.

Of course it takes practice to feel confident showing up on Instagram Live, but once you’ve done it once or twice I promise you’ll feel like a pro!

And, you’ll beat the algorithm and overcome any risk of your content not being shown to your followers.

Run a giveaway/contest

One great way to drive a surge of engagement to your profile, get in front of more people and beat the Instagram algorithm is to run a giveaway or contest.

To do this successfully, you’ll need to make sure your giveaway or contest is properly organized (from a legal and logistical perspective) so that it runs without a hitch.

In terms of what to actually give away, many businesses choose a product or experience as the prize.

On the other hand, many service-based businesses partner up with complementary brands to offer a bundle of services or courses as the prize.

Teaming up with others is a great way to have a bigger impact and build brand awareness with new audiences.

Once you’ve chosen the prize, a campaign hashtag and put a time limit on the giveaway, you’ll want to decide the action item people should complete to enter. Here’s some suggestions:

  • Like to win
  • Like and share to win
  • Tag a friend to win
  • Follow to win
  • Caption this
  • Share a photo to win

Now, it’s just time to promote the giveaway and get as many entrants as possible – and lots of traffic to your Instagram account!

Draft compelling captions

One of the best ways to beat the Instagram algorithm is to focus on relationships and building connections with your community…

… and how do you do that?

With Instagram captions!

If you want to increase engagement on your account and signal to the algorithm that your content is valuable and worth prioritizing in your followers’ feeds, you need to give people a reason to engage with you.

Along with high quality imagery and video content, you want to make sure that every caption you write is purposeful and encourages some kind of action.

Is your caption educational, inspirational, motivational, personal or promotional?

Do you want people to comment below, tag a friend, drop an emoji, fill in the blank, share their thoughts, or double tap?

Try to keep the call-to-action (CTA) “check out the link in my bio” to a minimum.

If you’re always sending people away from your content, then you’re giving yourself zero chance of high engagement rates and beating the Instagram algorithm.

To avoid this, make sure you plan your captions in advance, make them as digestible as possible with super short paragraphs and sentences, and always include a clear CTA on the final line that encourages engagement.

That way, you’ll allow conversations to blossom with people in the comments section that will turn into long-term relationships – and hopefully, future collaborators, customers or clients!

Use hashtags wisely

Hashtags can feel super confusing at times, I get it.

How many should you use? Which ones should you use? Should you paste them within your caption or as the first comment below?

In answer to those questions:

1) Use up to 30 (you have the option to, so why not?!)

2) Make sure to focus on niche, less popular hashtags

3) It’s up to you. I recommend testing both to see which works best for you.

The most important thing to remember is linked to point #2 – you want to use hashtags that are super specific and not very popular.

If you’re a smaller Instagram account (<10,000 followers), using big volume hashtags – i.e. hashtags that have more than 500k posts using them – is pointless.

Why?

Because much bigger Instagram accounts will be using those hashtags and ranking for them in the algorithm, drowning out content from smaller Instagrammers.

My advice would be to spend some time researching niche hashtags. Start with hashtags related to your business – the service/product you sell – and what your account is all about.

If you need inspiration, have a look at the hashtags engaging competitors are using and also check out the kinds of hashtags your dream customers/clients use.

Make sure those hashtags are small and medium volume, so look out for #s that have between 1000 and 150k posts attributed to them.

Start a hashtag bank so you can keep all appropriate hashtags in one place. That way, you won’t lose track of them and you’ll be able to mix and match the kinds of hashtags you use.

It’s this kind of experimentation that will give you the best chance of beating the Instagram algorithm and ranking for hashtags…

… which will get more eyes on your content and help more people find you – yay!🥳

Keep a close eye on your Insights

Want to beat the Instagram algorithm?

Keep note of what your audience enjoys and do more of it.

The best way to do that is by keeping a close eye on your Instagram Insights.

Track what types of content generate the most active engagement e.g. comments, saves, shares and website clicks.

Notice trends in formats, ideas, and themes and repurpose these again and again.

For example, turning a high performing carousel post into an Instagram Live or expanding on a well-received caption with a carousel post.

Understanding your Insights tells you exactly what your audience is enjoying (and what they’re not).

They can feel a little intimidating at first, but I promise that the more time you spend nosing around the different areas of Insights, the sooner you’ll feel comfortable analysing them.

And once you do, you can use them to your advantage so that you can continue to give your audience what they want, increase engagement and beat the Instagram algorithm.

Conclusion

Are you ready to go out and beat the Instagram algorithm?

The good news is there are plenty of ways to boost your engagement rate and strengthen relationships with your community without the algorithm getting in your way.

Doing so means taking advantage of Instagram’s latest features (yes we mean Reels!), sharing quality content consistently and perhaps trying something new.

Because the algorithm isn’t a person. It doesn’t hate you.

It’s always learning and updating (without us even realizing most of the time) to ensure that Instagram offers its users the best experience possible.

So next time you find yourself thinking: “The algorithm hates me!” instead I want you to ask yourself:

“What can I do today to educate or inspire my audience?”

That might mean creating an engaging piece of saveable content.

It might mean spending some time chatting to people in the DMs.

Whatever action you take to accomplish that goal will be a positive step towards better, more engaged relationships with your community.

And you won’t give the Instagram algorithm a second thought. 😉

About the author
Bella Foxwell

Bella Foxwell

Bella Foxwell is a door obsessive and Instagram educator, teaching small businesses, solopreneurs and content creators how to build engaged communities on Instagram in less time. Read more from Bella on her website: bellafoxwell.com

More posts by Bella Foxwell

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