Instagram Algorithms; the topic everyone has been pouring over and researching especially the last few years. And of course, just when you think you have it figured out, it changes yet again. Achieving real growth and exposure on Instagram is harder than ever given all of the algorithm changes. Ever since Instagram took away chronological feeds, it has been a constant game of cat-and-mouse between the users and the algorithm. In this article we’re going to walk you through 5 useful hacks to help you not only keep up with, but also beat the ever-changing Instagram algorithm.
Despite all of the changes, a few definite aspects of how the algorithm functions have been nailed down. We’re going to highlight them below. Knowing these constant factors is super important for figuring out the best ways to “beat” the algorithm. It’s also great information to keep in mind when engaging on your own. The algorithm not only determines the amount of engagement you get on your posts, but it also determines who and what you will see on your own feed and explore pages.
You Are Who You Like
Instagram builds “peer groups” behind the scenes. It looks at whose photos you’re liking, whose photos you’re commenting on, and who you’re interacting with. Those “groups” determine who and what shows up on your main Instagram feed and also determines the type of content you’ll see on your Explore page.
Are You Staring?
It’s widely rumored that Instagram also monitors how long you look at people’s photos. Yes, that’s right. Word on the block is that Instagram is keeping track of whether you’re looking at someone’s photo for 1 second, as you’re scrolling through, or whether you stop to actually stare at the photo. This factors into whose photos are placed at the top of your feed. Obviously, the longer you look, the more interested Instagram thinks you are in the content.
The Faster The Better
Instagram actually rewards you if the engagement you’re receiving on your content is quick. If you get tons of likes and comments within the first fifteen minutes of it being posted, then your chances of being put onto the explore page and being placed higher up on your follower’s feeds greatly increases. Basically, if you’re getting quick engagement on your photo, it tells Instagram on the back end of its algorithm that you posted quality content that people like. This, in turn, signals the algorithm to share your photo even more.
It’s All About Being Real
Instagram is fighting back hard against fake engagement and fake bots. Their core values center around authenticity and real engagement between real, active users. The algorithm has indicators built into it that flag your account if, for example, you have twenty comments from users with fake-looking names, no profile picture, and they all comment the same, generic “cool shot.” If the algorithm sees that, then you can say goodbye to any chance of getting on the explore page or being shown on your follower’s feeds.
Okay, so now that we have those basics of how the algorithm works laid out for you, let’s get into the nitty gritty of how to take those constant factors into consideration and use that knowledge to, essentially, beat it. There are many ways of tricking the algorithm, or better yet, beating it. We picked what we consider to be the top 5 hacks out of those to highlight below. These methods have been extremely effective, for us at least. It’s important to note, however, that content is always key. Driving tons of people to your page or to your content won’t have nearly as many benefits if your content isn’t engaging enough or high enough quality to hook them once they do get exposed to you.
Do More, Always
Plain and simple. Do more on Instagram, always. Instagram rewards it’s most active users with more exposure. The more you interact and engage on the platform, the more others get the change to interact and engage with you. Instagram was built on the concept of engagement, so the more you do on the platform, the more you’ll get from it. Use Instagram stories, follow hashtags, try your best to utilize everything that Instagram has to offer. It’ll show the algorithm that you are engaging across the entire platform, and in turn, the algorithm will reward you with more exposure.
Don’t believe that it’s that easy? Try spending 30 minutes doing nothing but engaging on the platform. Go onto the Explore page and like some new content, go follow some new people, go comment on tons of photos. Very quickly you’ll notice an uptick in your own engagement rates, we promise.
Stories Are Key
Instagram stories and their new poll features are some of the easiest ways to get people to engage with your profile. Most of the time, people are just scrolling through the stories and partake in polls because it takes two seconds. To the algorithm, though, this counts as engagement. Through polls, you’re able to get people who might not even see your photos on their feeds to engage with your content. The more they engage with your content, the more likely your photos will end up on their feeds, higher up on their feeds, or will be shown to them, in general. Instagram stories has over 300 million daily active users. That’s a lot of opportunity to reach people, and the engagement coming through stories is continuing to dominate the algorithm.
A quick note about stories: be sure to use hashtags and location tags in your stories. Using location tags gets your story put onto larger, location-based stories, only further increasing your exposure. To give you an example, we posted an instagram story and used the location tag feature to tag Central Park, and reached an additional 1,500 people through the Central Park Story. Brands also get notifications in their Direct Messages whenever someone tags them in their stories. This is a great way to get brands to notice you and your posts. We’ve personally gotten our photos recognized and reposted by major brands using this method in our Instagram stories.
Remember how we said that the Instagram algorithm keeps track of how long people spend looking at your photo? If people spend longer than the 1 second scroll, looking at your photo, then the algorithm will start prioritizing your content on their feeds because it assumes that they are more interested in your content. A good way to hook people into looking at your post for longer is to write a good, but longer caption. Gone are the days of simple one word captions. Naturally, if you write a longer caption, then the people seeing your post will spend more time reading it. It’s a super simple way to, essentially, outsmart this feature of the algorithm.
There’s also a trend towards making real connections on the platform. Totally aside from beating the algorithm, captions are a really good way to connect with your followers on a deeper level. Let them get to know you and your personality through your captions. I promise you that it will make your followers more interested in you because they’ll feel like they actually know you, instead of you just being another influencer on their feeds.
If you’re reading this blog, then chances are, you’ve already figured out that engagement groups are some of the most effective ways to work around Instagram’s pesky algorithm. The best part about engagement groups is that the comments and likes are from real people. It’s the most authentic form of engagement besides people discovering you on their own on Instagram, which as we all know, is nearly impossible these days. Another great benefit to engagement groups is that it can provide your new posts with quick engagement. As we mentioned earlier, quick engagement on new photos gives your post more exposure through the algorithm. After posting a photo, we always turn straight to our Wolf Groups to get a quick engagement boost to strategically ensure that our posts end up shown on our follower’s feeds and increase our chances of getting onto the Explore/Discover pages.
Another perk to engagement groups is that it allows people to discover your profile that might have never come across you on Instagram on their own. Even though people are liking or commenting on your photo because you posted it in the engagement group, there’s a serious chance of people seeing your content, loving it, and choosing to follow you on their own. Engagement groups expose both you and your content to other, like minded people on Instagram, so the chances of them becoming new, engaged followers is very likely.
Conversations & Comments
This seems like common sense, but you truly do need to be having conversations both in and outside of your follower community to boost your engagement. Try your best to build real relationships on the platform. Have conversations with people. Respond to your DM’s. Comment back to people who comment on your photos. Comment on other peoples photos. Do the most that you can when it comes to having conversations on the platform, whether there’s actually any substance to the conversation, or not. There’s a particularly successful influencer, who we won’t mention by name, that personally direct messages people who don’t follow her to compliment them and start a conversation. This method has nearly catapulted her to success (in addition to her absolutely stunning content, of course). Why? Because we’re all human and everyone is going to react to a compliment in a positive manner. We did, at least, and that simple message led us to follow her, and to this day, we’re loyal followers of her Instagram and still remember that kind gesture she made.
Also, just another bit of common sense: people are more likely to comment and engage on your photos if they feel they know you, even if it’s just a little bit. Having conversations on a platform that has become increasingly more about show and less about talk adds serious value to your personal brand and to your growth. Take the time to respond to people and actually talk to people. You’ll stick out in people’s minds when your photo is sitting next to hundreds of others on someone’s feed if you’ve had a conversation with them.
Instagram algorithms can seem complicated, and unbeatable but what it really comes down to is taking the time to understand them and keeping up with the inevitable changes and you’re sure to be able to get it working to your advantage!