What’s your biggest fear? Spiders? Sharks? Clowns with red hair that hide in storm drains? All totally terrifying, but want to know what social media managers’ nightmares are made of? Easy. The Instagram Algorithm. It seems that every time we figure out a way to work around the ever-changing rules of Instagram, their pesky algorithm implements a new tactic that messes with our reach. And if Facebook’s dramatic decline in organic reach is anything to go by (RIP) I’m pretty sure that Mark Zuckerberg and co have some nasty surprises for us in the Instagram department too. It’s scary stuff, yes, but the good news is that for the time being we can still reach a large portion of our Insta tribe without relying on paid ads. So instead of huddling in the corner in a foetal position (my go-to tactic when a big hairy spider is on the loose) let’s overcome the fear of the Instagram algorithm once and for all. And what better way to overcome a fear than to face it head on?

What is the Instagram Algorithm and how does it work?

The algorithm is what Instagram uses to figure out what posts show up on your feed, or rather, what it thinks you want to see on your feed. Although we don’t know exactly how it works, here are 4 things we do know the algorithm takes into consideration when deciding which posts rank on your feed:

Recency

Earlier in 2018, Instagram confirmed that newer posts are more likely to appear on your feed first. This one is kind of obvious, but as we all know, the posts we see on our feed don’t necessarily appear in chronological order. That’s why, when it comes to hacking the Instagram algorithm, we need to take the other 3 factors into consideration too.

Engagement

The more likes and comments a post receives, the more likely it is to appear on people’s feeds. Engagement is SO important – not only because it boosts the post that is being liked and commented on, but also because it lets Instagram know that the liker/commenter is interested in your content.

Relationship

Which leads us to relationship. Instagram is more likely to show you content from profiles whose content you have interacted with in the past.

Interests

However, the Instagram algorithm doesn’t only do this with particular profiles, but also with the TYPE of content you interact with too. So, for example, if you keep double tapping photos of puppies, the algorithm will work its magic and make sure you see even more photos of puppies in the future.

20 Ways To Hack The Instagram Algorithm

So now that we know how the Instagram algorithm works, we can work with it to ensure our followers see our content on a daily basis.   Here are 20 tricks you can use in your biz to hack the Instagram algorithm and grow a community of engaged followers.

1. Know when your audience is online

We know that Instagram favours recent posts, so even though the feed is not chronological it’s important to post when your followers are online. To do this, head on over to your Instagram Insights click on Audience > Followers > Hours. This will show you when, on average, your followers are online on any given day. Here you can also see the days on which most of your followers are active.
The image above shows that on Mondays our best time to post at The Support Room is between 3pm & 9pm because THIS is when our audience is online. 

2. Post frequently and consistently

That being said, while you may know that most of your followers are online between 3pm-6pm on a Thursday, that’s not to say that ALL your followers will be online then. That’s why it’s important to post frequently and consistently. We want to maximise the chance that your content will be shown to as many followers as possible, so cover all your bases and ensure you post at least once daily (twice at most).

3. Post Intuitively

However, while consistency is important, content is still king. Product designer at Instagram, Christina d’Avignon confirmed, “The only way to get your content ranked higher is to produce great content.” Of course, Instagram uses a number of different ways to gauge what is and isn’t great content and one of those, as I mentioned earlier, is how much engagement a post receives. I am a firm believer that high quality, engaging content comes from a place of deep connectedness and creativity. I don’t believe in posting for the sake of posting, but posting intuitively and with intention. Learn how to post intuitively here.

4. Post when you have time to reply

So we know that we need to be posting when our followers are online and ready to engage, but make sure you’re ready to engage too! Set aside an hour after each post, make sure your notifications are set to push and be ready to reply to any comments that come through. This will boost your post engagement because the algorithm takes every comment on your post into account – even your own!

5. Write long captions

Yes, Instagram is a visual platform and high quality images are important, but don’t forget that they only make up half of the content you’re putting out! Your captions are where you tell your unique story. Writing long, engaging captions not only gives you the space to share your message, but also encourages your followers to click “…more” in order to expand the caption – another form of engagement!

6. Make the most out of the first 125 characters of your caption

However, people aren’t going to be interested in expanding your caption if what they see at first doesn’t intrigue them. Instagram only shows the first 125 characters of your caption until the user needs to click on “…more”. Use them wisely. Leave them wanting more.
In the example above, Kelly leaves us wondering: WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON SHE’S LEARNT? You bet I clicked on “more”!

7. Tell a story

Your captions should tell a story. That means having a beginning, middle and end. Why? It keeps people engaged because people want to know how the story ends, and we know how the Instagram algorithm feels about engagement!

8. Make it personal

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: YOU are your greatest brand asset! People want to know about more than your product or service, they want to know about the woman behind it all too. And guess what? When you start sharing about your life in a way that is RELATABLE, people are going to start commenting on your posts. People love to know that they are not alone, so when building an engaged community on Instagram it’s important to connect with your followers on a personal level. Seriously, this stuff works!

9. Post photos of yourself

Speaking of getting personal, did you know that photos that show a human face get 38% more likes than photos without faces? Remember when I said YOU are your brand’s biggest asset? I wasn’t kidding! Jenna Kutcher did an amazing podcast episode where she explains how she doubled her Instagram growth in only one month just by posting photos of herself. I highly recommend listening to it – especially if the thought of posting photos of yourself on Instagram is even scarier than those spiders and sharks we spoke about earlier!
The image above speaks for itself. When we posted an image of my face alone, it received 85% more interaction than any of our previous posts. SO worth the initial awkwardness!

10. Join an Instagram pod

Even though you are your brand’s biggest asset, you don’t need to go at it alone! An Instagram pod is a great way to beat the Instagram algorithm. Simply put, an Instagram pod is a group of Instagrammers who commit to actively engaging with each other’s content every day. However, while this method is not technically banned by Instagram, it is frowned upon. Use Instagram pods to get your initial boost in engagement, but don’t rely on them in the long term.

11. Use hashtags correctly

Hashtags are another way to boost your engagement as they help you reach people who have shown an active interest in the type of content you post. However, this only works if you use hashtags correctly! Using irrelevant or banned hashtags will do more harm than good, so do your research before posting!

12. Know the type of content your audience is after

Always keep your dream client in mind. What does she want to see on Instagram? What gets her excited? What can she relate to? What does she need help with? How can you SERVE her? Before you hit that “post” button, always ask yourself: is this post providing real VALUE to my ideal client? If not it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

13. Establish 5 content pillars

Once you know your ideal customer better than your bestie, it’s time to decide on 5 clear themes for your posts. Every single thing you post should fall under one of your content pillars. Why? Because you know, without fail, that THIS is the content your ideal customer wants to see. And when you consistently put out content they want to see, they’re going to keep coming back for more, establishing a relationship that won’t go unnoticed by the Instagram algorithm. Winning!

14. Make use of analytics

Now that you’ve clearly defined your dream client and content pillars, it’s time to narrow it down even more. Be sure to make use of Instagram Insights to monitor which of your posts is performing the best. Go to Insights > Content > Feed posts (see all) and make sure the posts are sorted by ENGAGEMENT. Other things you can discover using Instagram Insight is the hashtags that worked for you, which posts got the most reach and how many website clicks came from each post. Once you have this data on hand, you will know the kind of content that works with the algorithm instead of against it. Use this information to create similar posts in the future.

15. Don’t neglect Facebook

Ever since Instagram was bought out by Facebook for $1 billion in 2012, the image sharing platform has been intricately linked to the original social media giant. So it’s no surprise that there are rumours going around suggesting that the algorithm also shows you more Instagram content from profiles you tend to interact with on Facebook. When I heard this rumour I wasn’t shocked at all. In fact, when I first started using Instagram my closest friends were always at the top of my feed, before I’d even had a chance to interact with them on Instagram! And while the only evidence I can provide on this point is anecdotal, it doesn’t hurt to give your Facebook profile a little love regardless.

16. Cross post to other platforms.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget your other social platforms too. Posting your Instagram content to other social media profiles is a great way to drive traffic to your Instagram account – traffic you already know is interested in your content. And people who are interested in your content are more likely to engage… see where I’m going with this?
My favourite platform to cross-post to is Pinterest. Pinterest is an AMAZING tool for driving traffic – and not only to your blog, but Instagram too. Pin directly from Instagram and watch as your number of engaged followers grows.

17. Engage with posts from other accounts

By now you know how important it is to encourage engagement on your own posts, but to foster real relationships with your followers it’s important to interact with their posts too. Another tip is to engage with posts from other accounts that are similar to yours. Not only are you supporting your fellow boss babes (can I get a HELL YES??) but you’re also making yourself visible to their followers – followers you already know are interested in content similar to yours.

18. Be active on Instagram Stories

How many times have you caught yourself scrolling through people’s Instagram stories? If you’re anything like me, the answer is more times than you care to admit! While Instagram has confirmed that the algorithm doesn’t favour accounts that use different parts of the app more than others, using the stories feature increases your chances of being seen. Better reach = better chance of engagement. Better engagement = better ranking.

19. ALWAYS have a call to action in your posts

Whether it be asking your followers to tag a friend, leave a comment or click on your link in bio, ALWAYS encourage them to engage with your post (that includes Instagram stories, too!). Bonus tip: don’t use the hashtag #linkinbio. You only get 30 hashtags per post, don’t waste it on a hashtag that serves no purpose.

20. Add your username at the end of captions.

And now for my final Instatip of the day! One thing that REALLY grates my cheese about Instagram is the fact that you cannot put clickable links into your captions. You’re allowed one link in your bio, and one link only. But while using Linktree solves this problem, once you’ve set up your call to action there’s still the issue of getting your followers to click to your profile in the first place. The fact is that people aren’t likely to scroll all the way back up to your profile link after reading your (long) caption, click on it, and then click on the link. The solution? At the end of the caption, simply tag yourself. That way, people are quickly and easily redirected to your profile and Linktree link.

That’s it!

You are now fully equipped with 20 ways to tackle the Instagram algorithm head on.

But listen up.

NOBODY is expecting you to be able to stuff all 20 tips into your Instagram strategy. This stuff can be time consuming, believe me.

You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.

My advice is to choose a 5-10, implement them CONSISTENTLY, and see how they affect your reach. And if you’re an all or nothing kind of girl like me with basically no time to spare? Let’s chat! We have 3 social media packages at The Support Room in which we implement all these strategies and more. Find one that suits your brand and budget HERE. Until then, see you on the gram!

GET CLEAR ON YOUR BRAND
& COMMIT TO YOUR BIG VISION

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