Navigating the complexities of Instagram, one of the most popular platforms globally, demands a thoughtful and effective content marketing and distribution strategy. An effective strategy can transform a brand into a phenomenon, deeply connect consumers to its story, and generate significant growth in visibility and engagement. Instagram has become an essential marketing channel due to its ability to visually showcase a brand's identity and directly engage with a diverse audience.
The influence of Instagram's algorithms is crucial for the effectiveness of marketing and content distribution strategies on social media. Therefore, understanding how these algorithms work is vital to optimizing publication strategies on the platform.
How do Instagram's Algorithms Work?
According to data from Demand Sage, Instagram currently has over 2.35 billion monthly active users, meaning 47.84% of the world's 4.18 billion smartphone users access Instagram every month.
The platform started as a social network to share photos and videos among friends and family. However, over time, it evolved into one of the world's primary business and influence tools. Today, Instagram is more than a space to keep up with friends' posts. It serves as a portal for news, entertainment, education, and much more.
To provide a pleasant user experience, Instagram doesn't rely on a single algorithm tracking all interactions. According to Adam Mosseri, Instagram's CEO, the platform uses several algorithms, classifiers, and processes. Each segment or format of the app uses its own algorithm tailored to the way people interact with that specific type of content.
Instagram Feed Algorithm
The goal of the Feed is to provide a personalized experience to users, showing a mix of recent posts from people they've chosen to follow, recommendations based on their interests, and paid ads. To determine which accounts to suggest, Instagram analyzes the profiles recently followed by the user and the posts they've liked, commented on, or shared.
To suggest posts, the algorithm takes into account several interaction signals:
User activity: the algorithm considers the user's interactions, such as likes, comments, and saves on posts;
Post information: the popularity of the post and the interaction of other accounts with it are considered;
Post author information: the relevance of the author's profile and its similarity to other profiles the user interacts with indicate potential user interest;
Interaction history with a particular profile: the algorithm uses the user's interaction history to understand their preferences. If the user hasn't interacted with a displayed profile, this may result in a decrease in viewing frequency for that profile.
Based on these signals, Instagram predicts the likelihood of user interaction and prioritizes posts it considers most relevant. Other factors are also considered, like avoiding showing too much content from one person and promoting a safe community, according to Instagram's Guidelines.
Optimizing Your Content for Instagram
Recently, Instagram shared tips on how users can influence the content they see. Combining these insights with my experience and extensive testing, here are some tips to optimize your posts, attract more engagement, and achieve greater visibility.
Tips for Optimizing the Feed
Use a single CTA in your post
In carousel format posts, it's common for the Call-to-Action (CTA) to only be on the last card or not focus on a specific action. An effective strategy is to be more direct in the CTA, convincing the user to interact with your post, and asking them to perform just one action. If the post is informative but not too deep, ask for a like. If it's a meme or more relaxed content, ask for a share. If it's educational content, ask for a save. Whenever possible, place the action on the first cards to ensure more people perform it.
Ask your followers to add you to their Favorites list
Instagram has an option called "Favorite Accounts". This feature allows users to select the profiles they most follow and receive their content firsthand. If you are posting regularly and know your content is relevant, remind your followers to add your profile to their favorites list so they don't miss any of your posts.
Tips to Optimize Instagram Stories
Instagram Stories let you share everyday moments, available for only 24 hours to your profile's followers. This format shows only the posts from the accounts that the user has chosen to follow, along with some ads, making it an ideal tool to create a closer connection with your audience.
Instagram considers everyone you follow and, based on your previous interactions and your potential for interaction, it determines the ranking of the displayed Stories.
The platform's algorithms also look at the following signals:
Viewing history: the frequency with which the user views a particular profile's Stories can influence their position in the display order;
Engagement history: the frequency with which the user interacts with the posts, whether through likes, direct message responses, or sharing;
Proximity: the user's relationship with the author of the Story, taking into account the level of interaction, geographic proximity, or previously demonstrated interest.
How to get your content seen by followers
When your followers view your Stories, they are already familiar with your profile, indicating a level of engagement with your content. To strengthen the connection with your audience further, you can follow the following strategies:
Create a channel and invite your followers
Instagram's Channel is an excellent way to establish a closer connection with your profile's audience, acting as a space to share news, content, and more.
Although the Channel does not directly influence your Stories' content, it plays an important role by showing the algorithm the level of closeness you have with your followers. This can result in greater visibility of your Stories for this follower base.
Make interactive Stories
On Instagram, you have various interaction tools in Stories. Explore features like polls, reacts, and question boxes - and respond to all of them, preferably in video form. Remember that Instagram values when people stay on the platform longer, so you should avoid sending users out of the app.
Tips on how to appear on Instagram's Explore
Instagram's Explore feature is a useful tool that helps users discover new content, allowing them to view a variety of posts from accounts they do not yet follow. The Explore algorithm considers a series of signals to determine the posts' ranking, including the user's interactions with the post, activity in the Explore tab, the history of interactions with the authors of the posts, and information about the authors of the posts.
Posts are ranked based on their popularity, the potential interest of the user, and the user's interaction history with the Explore tab. The Instagram algorithm also considers if the user has interacted with the post's author before and if the author's profile is similar to other profiles that the user follows or often views in the Explore tab.
Instagram's algorithm uses the likelihood of the user interacting with a post (like, save, or share) to determine its relevance and position on Explore. Also, the platform provides additional controls, such as the Sensitive Content Control and the "Not Interested" option, which allow users to customize the types of content recommended to them.
If you want your content to appear in the Explore tab, here are some strategies you can follow:
Use keywords and hashtags in your captions: The Explore tab includes a search bar that users can use to discover new content and profiles. To increase your chances of appearing in these searches, it's essential to include relevant keywords and hashtags in your captions. However, make sure your hashtags align with your post's content to maintain your authenticity.
Explore different content formats: The Explore tab presents a variety of post formats, including videos, photos, carousels, and reels. By exploring these different formats, you can increase your chances of reaching and engaging a larger audience.
Post at your audience's peak times: Knowing your target audience's habits can help you determine the best times to post. There's no one-size-fits-all recipe, as it all depends on when your audience is most active on social media. Therefore, it's worth testing different times and monitoring when your posts receive the most interactions.
Remember, the aim of the Explore tab is to help users discover new content that might interest them. Therefore, to succeed in this channel, it's crucial to post quality content that's relevant and appealing to your target audience. Also, stay updated on the latest Instagram trends and features to make the most of the opportunities the platform offers.
Tips for Better Utilizing Instagram's Reels Algorithm
The Reels feature on Instagram is focused on discovery and entertainment, primarily featuring content from accounts the user does not follow. Just like in the Explore tab, the platform utilizes a process of organization based on user relevance and preferences to present short videos.
The user's activities on Reels are vital for Instagram to determine which content to prioritize. This includes tracking the user's recent activities, such as likes, saves, shares, and comments on Reels, and their interaction history with the video creator. Instagram also takes into account signals related to the video's content, like audio track or visual elements, as well as information about the video creator.
To have your content featured on Reels, Instagram suggests some strategies:
Promote interaction with content: Reels allow interaction with users in creative ways, such as responding to comments with new reels or making duets with other creators.
Create authentic content: Audiences value authentic and spontaneous content that doesn't seem too planned or forced. This authenticity helps humanize the brand and draw the audience closer.
Invite users to explore your profile: When sharing relevant content on Reels, it's crucial to invite users to visit your profile and explore other content, helping to convert users into loyal followers of the brand.
Bet on educational content: Tutorials, tips, and tricks are perfect for the Reels format. They capture the audience's attention and are useful.
Share behind-the-scenes moments: Showing the day-to-day of the company humanizes the brand, values the employees, earns public trust, and builds relationships.
Use captions: Many people watch Reels without sound, so adding captions can make the videos more accessible and user-friendly.
Create Reels with cliffhangers: Reels that end in suspense leave the audience eager to know what happens next. For this, develop a unique storyline, break the story into short episodes, and keep a consistent posting schedule.
Always remember, the key to success on Reels, as with any other platform that explores video content, is to create quality content that is relevant and engaging for your target audience. Moreover, it's essential to continually monitor the performance of your content and adjust your strategy as necessary to maximize your reach and engagement.
You may also like to read: How to Increase Social Media Engagement: 5 Strategies for Businesses and Influencers
Instagram's Explore and Reels features are excellent tools for reaching a new audience that does not follow your profile.
The relevance of the content and user interaction are crucial elements for post ranking on Explore and Reels.
It's important to use relevant keywords and hashtags, offer content in different formats, discover the best times to post and create authentic content.
Interacting with the audience, inviting users to explore your profile, and betting on educational content and behind-the-scenes moments are effective strategies for Reels.
Including captions can make videos more accessible, and creating Reels with cliffhangers can boost engagement and anticipation from users.
To make the most of Instagram and increase reach and engagement, it's crucial to understand how the platform works and use it to your advantage. Focus on creating relevant, quality content, use keywords and hashtags strategically, interact with your audience, and encourage them to interact with the content.
Try out different content formats and find out what works best for your audience. Show behind-the-scenes of your business, share educational content, and create videos with cliffhangers to keep the audience interested and eager for more.
Finally, remember that the key to success on Instagram, like any other social media platform, is authenticity. Be yourself, create content that reflects your brand's identity, and build a genuine relationship with your audience. This will not only increase your reach and engagement but also create a loyal and engaged community around your brand.