Stop Blaming The Instagram Algorithm: How to Work With It (Not Against it)
Have you ever felt like the Instagram Algorithm was out to get you?
I’ve lost track at how many posts I’ve seen from people complaining about the algorithm, as though Instagram is out to personally sabotage them. It doesn’t help that there are crazy posts out their pushing scare tactics and further fueling untrue rumors about what you should and shouldn’t do.
But here’s the thing, Instagram is not out to get you.
Really let that sink in for a moment. It’s not out to get you, so let’s start changing the narrative we’re feeding to ourselves and others.
Yes, there have been a lot of changes to the platform since its inception (does anyone else remember using it just for filters to save and post elsewhere?), but it just means we have to remain adaptable.
As a social media manager, I’m no stranger to logging into a platform one day only to have it look completely different the next day and have to learn 5 new features. The only constant is change.
But let’s get to what you really want to know: How can you start to work WITH the Instagram instead of feeling like it’s working against you?
I’ve broken it down into 5 relevant tips that when done consistently, will absolutely give you a bump in engagement and reach.
1. Be social, but strategically social
It’s called social media for a reason. Posting on Instagram will only get you so far if you don’t spend time being social with other accounts.
The power of Instagram really lies in building community. Community translates to better brand loyalty and conversions for you; whether that’s in more sales or more blog views.
Here’s one practice you can start implementing and see pretty quick results: After you post on Instagram, engage (like and comment) with your followers and the hashtags you used on your latest post for 15 minutes. People often focus on engaging with strangers as their main strategy to get new followers - but if you don’t engage frequently with the people already following you, your posts won’t be showing up as often in your followers feeds (which is kind of the whole point, right?).
If 15 minutes feels like forever, remind yourself how much time you spend mindlessly scrolling through Instagram. Being strategic with your time allows you to spend LESS time and get better results.
BONUS tip: If you’ve developed your ideal customer profile or “brand persona”, ask yourself where they spend their time on Instagram. Do they shop at Anthropologie for example? If so, make sure you’re following Anthropologie and comment on their posts for exposure, but also engage with the people already commenting on their posts. If you spend time engaging with the types of profiles that your ideal clients engage with, you’ll be targeting better accounts to be engaging with!
2. Find your best times to post
I’ve experimented with posting at different times enough to know that it really does matter when you post. This didn’t use to matter quite as much as it does now, but it’s pretty important now.
There are a few ways to approach this:
Experiment with different posting times and measure your progress (try at least 7 posts at different times).
Using Instagram’s native analytics, find your top time zones and see when your followers are online.
The easiest way: Use a scheduling tool like Later (business accounts only) and they’ll automatically populate the best times for you to post!
You can also get a rough estimate by heading to “Insights” under your business account and click “Activity” and “Audience” to get a feel for when your followers are most active and therefore more likely to see your content.
Your best times to post are also great times for you to engage with your followers anyway! So it’s extra important to be aware of these times. In general though, if you think about people’s Instagram habits, it’s typically best to post during “non-business” hours, so after work or during lunch breaks when people are likely to be checking their app.
3. Create value-driven content
Have you taken a step back to ask yourself how your content makes other people feel? Or ask yourself why you’re posting? Quality will always beat quantity, especially on Instagram.
If you provide your audience with value, you’re giving them a reason to stick around. You're also taking the first step in building community. So think about what you can offer your audience: Is it relatability? Are you an expert in your craft? People love to see talent in progress or get tips on how to do what you do. Value is a bit subjective, but try to ask yourself what you can share with people that might benefit THEM. If you show up on Instagram only for yourself, you’re going to struggle to gain meaningful growth .
4. Post more on IG Stories
Video tends to get the most engagement on practically every social media channel, so it’s no surprise that Instagram viewership is increasing every day. Showing up here is no longer a “nice thing to do” but should be a crucial part of your Instagram strategy. The best thing about Instagram Stories is that people come there craving realness. It doesn’t have to be as polished as your grid and frankly, there aren’t as many rules which can be a nice change of pace.
Tip: If you use Later, you can now plan and schedule your stories in advance. It’s a convenient option, but I’d recommend not scheduling 100% of your stories so you can save some real-time moments for your followers.
5. Switch up your hashtags
Instagram doesn’t like when you use the same exact hashtags on every single post. It kinda looks like spam to them, so if you’re doing this, you might find that your photos aren’t showing up when you search for the hashtags you tagged on your latest post.
Quick tip: Using the notes app on your phone (or the hashtag/comments section of your preferred scheduling app), write out at least three different lists of hashtag combinations you can use to alternate on posts. Regularly try new hashtags and don’t rely too much on hashtags with a million or more hashtags used because it’s very competitive. You’ll have better luck showing up on the top of the hashtag page with a more niche hashtag. So for example, if you’re a food account, rather than using “#foodie “ get more specific and try using a “foodie community” hashtag like #missnewfoodie. It’s less competitive but still popular enough to have an impact on gaining new eyes to your post.
6. Use ALL of Instagram’s features, especially when they roll out something new
Instagram wants people to use their features and be active. Be an early adopter and use whatever they roll out! Not only will it be fun for your to experiment, it will keep your profile interesting for followers and encourage different types of views and engagement - which will help your profile rank higher in the algorithm in general.
So the next time you’re tempted to blame the algorithm for something, ask yourself if there’s something you could be doing differently. Strategies need to be adjusted from time to time, don’t be afraid try a new style of posting or be social with new people online. I think sometimes we forget that social media can be FUN!
When you stop blaming Instagram’s algorithm, you can start focusing your time building community and giving value to your followers - those two things will give you a purpose for posting. Plus, there’s real power in changing your perspective, so choose to focus on what you enjoy about Instagram and you’ll naturally attract better results.