With all the unexpected changes these past years, is your business prepared to take on more?

Instagram has changed its algorithm yet again, rallying up chaos and complaints from small business profiles all over the world. The new Instagram algorithm has been decreasing follower activity and pushing small business profiles into the Instagram graveyard of forgotten users. Is your small business profile the next victim? 

The good news is, the Instagram algorithm does have a key and that is… engagement!

And no, don’t worry… that does not mean you’ve got to find a soulmate to marry. Instead, you’ve got to engage with users and encourage their interaction with your profile.

Here are some tips and tricks on how you can beat Instagram’s algorithm by encouraging user engagement.

Why is there An Algorithm? 

Before we begin with the mission to beat the Instagram algorithm, you must fully understand the basics of Instagram and its algorithmic ways.

Historically, as you may know, Instagram was a chronological stream of posts. It displayed content in order of the time posted. Although this seems reasonable and a lot of small businesses preferred this method, it was very flawed. As the number of Instagram users grew, the more content people got on their Instagram feed. Due to the chronological organization, not everyone saw all posts, including those they preferred to see.

These issues influenced the need for a change to Instagram’s chronological ways. To solve this problem, Instagram created its infamous algorithm in 2016. The algorithm is a strategy that analyzes Instagram users’ patterns and engagement to organize a perfectly structured feed to cater to their specific preferences.

As some (mostly small business pages) mourn the loss of chronological feed, other users celebrate their finally purposeful and enjoyable feed.

Now, before we move on to the Instagram algorithm, you should know one more secret: there is not just one algorithm… There are multiple!

Before you freak out, there’s no need to worry; they are all somewhat similar, easy to understand and very purposeful.

Instagram’s Reels, Explore, Stories, and feed have unique algorithms tailored to serve their own purpose. Since users’ preferences shift based on what section they are looking at (whether Explore, Stories, etc.), each algorithm’s design caters to its interests.  

What Do the Algorithms Look For?

The algorithm looks for what Instagram refers to as signalsused to formulate each user’s individual Instagram feed. Those signals being:

  • How many people have liked a particular post
  • How many people have reacted to a certain story
  • Information on the famous post owner (like how many followers they have, how many likes and other interactions they’ve gotten in the past week)
  • History of interaction with specific user profiles
  • What type of posts the user comments on or likes the most 

Instagram then uses these signals to formulate a user’s feed strategically. The Instagram algorithm better filters through and analyzes which posts are trending and should promote more based on user data.

They also collect and analyze users activity patterns such as

  • How long users spend on a post
  • What percentage of viewers liked or commented on the post
  • How many saves a post has 
  • How many people visited the user’s page after viewing their initial post

All these signals, data and statistics are used to determine which pages Instagram is more likely to promote. In other words, Instagram looks at how much interaction a page has gotten to determine the likelihood that it will pop up on other users’ pages as well. 

If you couldn’t already tell, the common theme over what the Instagram algorithm(s) look for is… user engagement (see, I told you that was the key 😉). 

How to Engage Your Audience  

As mentioned above, the key to beating the algorithm is promoting your followers engaged with your profile to save you from falling victim to Instagram’s algorithm.

Here are 8 ways in which you can increase engagement. 

Tip #1: Use Engaging Captions

Using engaging captions on most of your posts will encourage your followers and potential followers to engage and interact with your posts. You can do this by writing a caption directly asking for your followers’ opinions, asking them a question or promoting giveaway entries via the comments section. 

Tip #2: Be Consistent

It is very important that you stay consistent with your posting schedule. The more consistently you post, the more likely you will pop up on users’ feeds (and more likely that your page or post will have more interaction).

If you are not consistent with your posts, the less likely it is that Instagram will promote or prioritize your posts. Additionally, inconsistently posting (like posting too much, then suddenly too little or vice versa) will result in losing followers and engagement. 

One way to be consistent with your posts is by using a post planning platform like Planoly, Loomly or Buffer. These websites are digital planners that allow you to plan posts up to a week or even months ahead of time. These posts then will automatically publish on the set date and time you’ve selected. 

Tip #3: Reply to Your Comments

We highly recommend that you reply to your comments within a few hours of your initial post. Doing so promotes activity, engagement and demonstrates to your followers that you care and are responsive. It also adds a human voice to your page, which makes it more relatable and interactive. 

An active profile also means more engagement.

Tip #4: Use Stories to Your Advantage 

Since stories still use a little bit of chronology, users will likely see your posts if you post at your user’s most active times. Use stories to your advantage and promote engagement by using polls, stickers and emoji sliders.

Polls and stickers are a feature found at the top right-hand side of the stories page. They allow followers to interact with the post by voting, sharing their opinions or even giving feedback. For example, the poll or sticker can engage the user by giving yes or no options, letter options or even an emoji slider. 

Tip #5: Create Savable and Shareable Content

It is important to post with purpose, don’t just post for the sake of posting. This will not effectively promote engagement; useless posts don’t have much value to your small business page or followers. Instead, make sure your posts are enjoyable and relatable or even interactive and humorous; that way, it encourages users to save and share the post with their friends.

Tip #6: Listen to Your Audience

Catering to the most interested people in your small business or product is key to maintaining them engaged. The way to go about this is by listening to your followers!

Try and take notes on what works and doesn’t work when encouraging engagement. Look at the statistics behind what kind of posts your audience interacts most with. Is it a post featuring models and products? Or is it an unboxing post? Figure out what works best to get your audience engaged and go for it; it will be worth it in the long run.

(Reference tip# 4 if you want to look for ways to ask your audience for feedback directly)

Tip #7: Timing Matters

Timing, specifically when you make a post, matters. There is a specific time when your followers are most active and most likely to see and engage with your posts. That time is the best time to post to increase your engagement.

How do you know what time that is, you ask?

Much to your advantage, there are apps you can use, like Flick, that tell you the best time to post based on when your specific audience is most active. Social media posting apps will help advise you to plan the best time to post, which increases your chances of getting more interaction.

Tip # 8: Use Relevant Hashtags

Using relevant hashtags to your small business will increase your chances of being exposed to users with interest in businesses like yours. We highly encourage you to use the algorithm to your advantage by utilizing hashtags. Carefully craft your hashtags to cater and relate to your business type, the products you offer or use any trending hashtags relevant to your small business.

It is also encouraged to use around 30 hashtags on each of your posts. The strategy behind this is to use…

  • 10 hashtags directly related to the current post you are making 
  • 10 hashtags related to your type of business or products 
  • 10 hashtags relevant to your business location or general area

When it comes to your own small business, it is essential to use relevant hashtags and content that is specific to who you are and what you sell. This makes it easier for the Instagram algorithm to filter through your content. It also makes it easier for your feed to reach the ideal customer for your convenience (since it will increase your followers and user engagement).

All these tips are extremely useful to engage your audience if used correctly. Successfully utilizing these tips will reduce your chances of falling victim to Instagram’s algorithm. 

Avoid Being Demoted 

Just as Instagram promotes specific posts, they also have rules and guidelines to demote posts. Avoiding demotion and following their policies are also considered additional ways to beat the Instagram algorithm. 

It is important that you avoid “rookie” mistakes or mistakes that will result in your post being demoted or taken down.

Here are some points of advice…

Advice #1: Avoid Smoking or Vaping in Your Posts 

Instagram does not try not to promote posts containing or promoting any kind of smoking, including vaping. Therefore, if your small business has no relation to smoking, it is best to avoid including it in any form of posts on your business page.

Advice #2: Avoid Low-Quality Reels

Instagram can get picky with which reels to promote. One way they filter through that is by demoting reels with low-resolution or watermarks. These are things to keep in mind to avoid unnecessary disqualifications when you post reels.

Advice #3: Avoid Inappropriate and Violent Posts

Instagram takes restrictive plans and measures very seriously. If you do not follow through with them, you will be reported and demoted.
The most commonly reported posts are those that include inappropriate content such as sexual, violent or offensive content. As a business page, it is unlikely that you incorporate such things on your page. Although, it is important to remember to be mindful of what you share or like on social media, as it can affect your small business’ reputation.

Engagement is the New “Like” 

On a brighter note, there is one last takeaway: engagement is the new “like.” Likes are no longer trending or of high value when it comes to the latest Instagram algorithm. 

So what is replacing likes, you may ask? The answer is comments, shares and saves!

The number of comments on a post and how long they are (comments over four or more words are highly valued) are extremely important for the new Instagram algorithm. Shares and saves are now highly valued; a higher number of shares or saves notifies the Instagram algorithm that people want to engage and see your posts.

Engagement is the most reliable way to cope with Instagram’s algorithm, so the best way to prep your small business is to maintain an engaged audience.

Additionally, remember to stay on trending, always be engaging and most importantly, be adaptive. This will help you move along with the bumps and changes within Instagram’s algorithm.

Stuck on engagement and ready to hand it over to the pros? Book a mini consult to discover your options!