By Chris Paradiso
INSTAGRAM SUCCESS FACTORS
There’s more to your agency having an impact than the number of likes a post receives
Like many social platforms, Instagram—the photo and video sharing social networking service owned by Facebook—uses an algorithm to decide which posts/content to show to its users. For success on Instagram, it’s important to know the main ranking factors and understand how to play within its algorithm for more reach.
By now, we are all familiar with the fact that algorithms help decide what we should see on our social networks. Even though many of us get annoyed by these algorithms controlling what we are shown, they help manage the sheer number of posts that would otherwise flood our very busy and noisy feeds without any prioritization.
[S]pend 45 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes in the afternoon liking and commenting on posts, because that is a key to your Instagram success.
From an agency marketing standpoint, any knowledge about how these feed algorithms work helps us find more agency success. If you know and understand the factors that make your Instagram post show up in your followers’ feed—or not show up—you can optimize your content accordingly and multiply your reach.
We’ll look at Instagram-ranking factors for the Instagram feed, stories, and explore page. These algorithms are absolutely not the same, but they are highly connected and influenced by each other.
What shows up in your Instagram feed depends on a lot more than whom you follow. In their drive to show you the content with which you are interested and want to interact, Instagram looks beyond connections.
You may have an idea that the number of likes a post received also matters. But there is more having an impact, such as hashtags, activity, and your own user behavior. Let’s take a deeper look into the Instagram algorithm for its feed, which uses three main signals to decide which posts to rank in which position of the user’s feed. It’s all about the user experience!
Your interests. Even though we often assume that social networks have their own intentions with their algorithms, they still try to bring you the content/posts you are interested in. But how do they figure out what you actually like?
They use your “activity” to study and learn what type of posts you interact with, which content you are interested in, and who you are following. On several social platforms, you can also follow hashtags that tell a lot about your interests and result in some of the posts and/or content that use these hashtags to show up in your feed.
What this means is that content with fewer likes can appear higher in your feed than others with more likes if Instagram thinks you are more inclined to be interested in them. Content that will show up high in your feed includes:
- Posts and content from accounts with which you have had a lot of interaction in the past. In other words, if you often engage with posts from one account, a new post from that account will likely show up in your feed.
- Posts that use hashtags that you or your agency follow or that use hashtags used on posts you have liked in the past.
- The types of engagement that Instagram values for its algorithm include:
- Reshares of your content
- Views (of your videos)
- Likes of your content
As of the spring of this year, “saves” of posts do not seem to have an impact. However, they may gain importance in the near future, as Instagram is playing around with no longer showing the number of “likes” on a post. By the way, as Instagram continues to grow and change, a great place to keep up on the changes is through Blueprint, an educational tool put out by Facebook.
Recency. “Old” content in social media is as tasty as Friday’s donut on a Monday morning—honestly, I love a freshly baked donut, but I really dislike an old stale one.
Instagram is very similar to Twitter in that it is a fast-living social media network. Successful Instagrammers are people who post often and regularly. The Instagram world loves new posts, which have a much higher chance of showing up in your feed than do much older ones. Both Instagram and we the people who use Instagram like fresh new content, and that is why the algorithm gives more power to more recent content.
Also, the time of day when you or your agency posts is crucial to the success of your content. If you post fresh, new content when most of your agency’s audience is online and active, your content has a much higher chance of reaching them. If you post in the middle of the night, when your audience is at home asleep, your content will not end up in front of them; by the time they are online in the late afternoon, for instance, your post/content has already run cold before it gets any visibility.
Understanding when your audience is active is key to your success.
#Relationships Matter. Like most social platforms, Instagram assumes that users are more likely to be interested in posts from their family, friends, and people to whom they are already closely connected. It tries to learn who your closest relationships are from your Instagram activity. Identifying those who tag someone or mention them in posts, who they talk to, and who reshares their posts allows Instagram to sort people’s connections into close relations and very loose connections.
Here’s a hint about Instagram’s key recipe to keep you and/or your agency front and center on the platform: People are more likely to see content/posts from their closer connections (connections they interact with more) than from people they follow but have little to no interaction with.
These three elements—interests, recency and relationships—are key factors that decide how an Instagram feed is set up. It’s also important to recognize the influence the following three personal behaviors have on your feed:
- Frequency. How often do you or your marketing assistant or marketing manager usually open Instagram? If you are like me and open Instagram only once a day, your feed will show the content best meeting the above criteria at the top of your feed. Yes, artificial intelligence has some control in what is placed in front of you.
- If you’re younger—or behave more like today’s youth—you visit Instagram many times a day. This may cause your feed to be more chronological and show the newest, most recently updated posts each time you open the app. Frequency matters to the content that is being placed in front of you to consume.
- Followers/Following. Who and how many people are you and your agency following on Instagram?
- If you follow only a handful of accounts, Instagram doesn’t have to use so many filters to decide which posts to pop into your feed. But if you follow many accounts, it will eventually have to use more criteria to limit what your feed shows you, because of the sheer number of posts that your followers publish. This will also depend on how active the people you follow are, so choose who you follow wisely.
- Usage Matters. If you or your agency spend only a couple of minutes on Instagram each day, the posts from the accounts you follow probably are enough to keep you entertained. However, being entertained doesn’t make your agency money. Your marketing people must interact with your agency’s audience by liking and commenting in order to drive interaction. Interaction can develop trust and that trust is what brings in a sale.
- If your agency isn’t following many accounts, and/or if the accounts you follow are inactive, Instagram may take measures to keep you entertained and broaden the range of posts they show you.
If you spend a lot of time actively browsing your feed and interacting with the posts, Instagram is more likely to sprinkle in some content from accounts you may like but are not yet following. Instagram is trying to keep you on their platform, so they will do what they need to do to entertain you.
I would highly recommend that your agency spend 45 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes in the afternoon liking and commenting on posts, because that is a key to your Instagram success.
Chris Paradiso is president of Paradiso Financial & Insurance Services, head-quartered in Stafford Springs, CT. His agency won PIA National’s Excellence in Social Media Award in 2013. He also heads up Paradiso Presents, LLC, which provides social media consulting, seminars and workshops to help agencies thrive in the online marketing world. Contact Chris via email at email@example.com.