What You Need to Know About Instagram’s New Algorithm Update

Kylie Carrasco
By Kylie Carrasco

The Instagram algorithm is always changing, and many of the updates can prove to be confusing for those that use the platform daily.

In 2018 the Instagram algorithm made what seemed to be the most upsetting change to date – no more chronological newsfeed. Despite this update causing quite a bit of uproar on social media, Instagram has decided to move forward with it and give users an entirely new set of rules to play by.

Though the effects of this update may seem overwhelming, we’ve outlined everything you need to know about the algorithm to maximize the visibility and engagement of your posts.

Here’s How the New Algorithm Works

It’s no secret that the new algorithm has caused a drastic drop in the visibility of Instagram posts. Before, posts were organized chronologically, and users would automatically see them when scrolling through their feed. Now, the algorithm is engagement based, and it is estimated that only about 10% of your audience will see your posts. Not only is this frustrating for the user, but it’s also disappointing for those who are no longer seeing posts they’d like to engage with – like that of their friends and family.

Aside from regular users, businesses and influencers are also feeling the heat with this algorithm change, because their marketing depends on the visibility and engagement with their posts.

To make sure your content gets shown to your audience it’s important that you understand how Instagram measures engagement and simple things you can do to maximize your marketing efforts.

RelatedInstagram Algorithm Change History

What Does an Engagement Driven Algorithm Mean?

Instagram is arranging the photos in your feed based on how likely you are to engage with them. Meaning that the accounts that you interact with the most, are the ones whose posts are most likely to get shown in your feed. On the contrary, accounts that you don’t often interact with will not appear in your feed as frequently.

With this engagement based algorithm, Instagram will reward posts with a high engagement rate. That being said, if a post if receiving a lot of likes, comments, video views and saves, then Instagram will use this information to determine that the post is resonating with it’s target audience and in return will show it to more people.

If you’re not a fan of this update, you are not alone. While Instagram did this update to prioritize posts and improve the user experience, many feel as though they may have missed the mark.

Whether we like it or not, Instagram has announced that the update is here to stay. Follow these simple tips to beat the Instagram algorithm and make sure your content comes out on top!

Tip #1 – Instagram Stories are More Important now Than Ever

Instagram Stories is a large part of positive user experience and an essential piece of a successful Instagram marketing strategy.

Not only do Instagram stories dominate Snapchat, with over double the amount of users, they’ve also become a personal and effective way for brands to communicate with their target audience.

How do stories impact the Instagram Algorithm?

When we said Instagram measured the amount of engagement you receive we meant ALL engagement – stories included. The more interactions you receive on stories, impressions, swipe ups, screenshots, and replies the more likely your posts will show up in those users feeds.

To make the most out of stories and increase your engagement, make sure you are using engagement driving tactics like the poll feature, “swipe up” (if you have over 10,000 followers), asking users to DM you for a direct code, or ask a question! Not only are these great ways to increase engagement, but they’re also a great way to build a relationship with your followers and increase the chances of your post showing up in their newsfeed.

Related8 Tips and Tricks to Optimize Instagram Stories for Business

Tip #2 – To Get Engagement you Have to Give it

Instagram rewards posts with active conversations! The more you interact with your followers, the more Instagram will view your post as engagement driving and prioritize it.

A best practice is to interact with the comments on your post within an hour of them being posted. This will show Instagram that you are actively engaging with your audience and that they’re engaging back! For comments that don’t warrant a full response, try replying with a smiley or heart emoji. This will show Instagram that you’re listening and responsive to your audience.

When working with business accounts, a great way to monitor Instagram comments is through Facebook. Facebook makes it easy to receive notifications from all social accounts and reply promptly.

Tip #3 – Incorporate Instagram Ads

To instantly increase your engagement and target people who are interested in your content, Instagram ads are a great option!

Instagram ads allow you to choose different goals (Website visits, profile visits, followers, etc.) and target a specific audience in which you create. By targeting an audience that is likely to be interested in your content, you’ll not only increase awareness, but you’ll also increase engagement. Thus causing Instagram to view your brand as a quality account and rank it higher in the algorithm.  

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Tip #4 – Timing Matters

We’ve talked about the importance of engaging with your audience within the first hour of them commenting. However, the timing of their comments also plays a large part in how the Instagram algorithm ranks your content.

While the algorithm monitors the amount of engagement your posts receive, it also tracks how quickly those posts receive it. The more engagement your post receives right after it’s posted, the higher the likelihood that it will be shown to more of your followers. A lot of engagement in a short amount of time, lets Instagram know that the content is of quality and it will rank higher in the algorithm.

The Timing of The Post Matters Too…

Just because the Instagram algorithm is no longer chronological doesn’t mean that the time you post is not important. Both the timing of your content and the amount of time a user spends viewing your content has a massive impact on how the algorithm ranks your post.

The more time people spend viewing and interacting with your posts the better it will rank amongst the algorithm. Like stated earlier, if your post is receiving a lot of engagement, then Instagram will show it to more users, and continue showing it. That’s why it’s crucial to post around times of the day when your audience is most active. The more people who are available to like and engage with your post at the time you post it, the higher probability of your content receiving the engagement it deserves.

So how do you get people to spend time on your posts and not just scroll on by?

There are a few ways you can do this…

  • Craft an incredible Instagram caption that stops people in their tracks.
  • Ask a question that requires a comment, encouraging your follower to engage.
  • Hold a contest/giveaway that requires people to tag their friends.
  • Offer free advice, information & tips that people will find valuable.

Find the time users are most active by …

Using Instagram business insights you can find out a lot of information about your audience, including when they’re most active.

Use this tool to your advantage by seeing when your users are most active and post around those times of the day. By doing this, your engagement will increase, and your posts will be shown to even more people.

Tip # 5 Stay Authentic

Instagram loves authenticity. In fact, this was one of the driving forces behind the algorithm update in the first place. Getting personal on your Instagram, offering a behind the scenes looks, and including honest captions will help build a strong relationship with your audience. If a user resonates with your brand for reasons more than just aesthetics, then they’re much more likely to engage and continue following your content.

Tip #6 – Take Advantage of Trending Hashtags

With Instagram recently rolling out the “follow a hashtag” feature, more and more accounts have begun using hashtags to their advantage. The proper use of hashtags can support your marketing strategy, and drive more users to your account. By keeping up with trending hashtags and including them in your feed, your posts have the opportunity to be shown to a much larger audience, rather than just your followers. Not only will this increase engagement, but who knows, you might get some followers out of it too!

Update: Instagram has recently updated the platform so that you can tag users, add links, and clickable hashtags to your bio as well!

RelatedDeciphering Instagram Analytics: Which Metrics Your Business Should Follow and How to Understand Them

What Else is Affected by the Algorithm?

In short, everything. Instagram takes all the features listed above – the amount of engagement your posts receives, how fast it receives that engagement, and the users who liked it, to determine where in the “explore” feature and hashtag pages your posts will rank. Depending on how well your post is doing engagement wise compared to others in that same genre/niche Instagram will decide who to show it to and where to put it in each person’s feed.

Instagram stories are also affected by the algorithm. Stories that appear at the top of your feed and closest to the begging are the accounts that you interact with the most, and will most likely be interested in.

While the new Instagram algorithm may not be ideal, Using these simple tips and tricks can help ensure that your content remains relevant and is still shown to your audience.

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Kylie is a Social Media Manager at Power Digital. Passionate about providing an integrated and unrivaled approach to marketing, she uses the latest industry trends and data led decision making to help clients grow their social presence and improve brand recognition.