How to Make the Instagram Algorithm Work in your Favour

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Instagram finally lifted the veil of secrecy on the key factors determining their algorithms’ rankings (see more details here). While there is nothing that fundamentally changes the best practices and strategies I’ve previously outlined, it does help focus where your emphasis should be.

First and foremost, content remains king (see here for best practice). However, instead of focusing on the number of new followers you are adding each day, it is best to focus on the engagement you are having with your followers. Over the long term, this is the strategy that will help you add new followers faster and retain your existing followers.

As Instagram favours your ‘friends’ – taken in the broader sense of who regularly engages with your content – so you need to make sure you have as many such followers as possible.

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Be social, engage with your followers. Instagram is not a broadcast platform, you also need to engage with your followers, not just by liking or answering their comments, but also by posting comments on their feeds and liking their photos. Showing you genuinely care about those following you is a must.

Because of the algorithm’s sensitivity to timeliness you need to respond to your followers’ comments as quickly as possible (particularly in the first hour of posting as that will determine how well your post does overall). Use social listening to monitor Instagram for mentions of your brand and respond to appropriate posts with a like or comment.

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Be relevant and informative: If you want followers to interact with your posts, you need to give them a reason to comment.

To help the algorithms understand the nature of your posts, you also need to include relevant hashtags and location information, allowing you to benefit from your followers’ as well as Instagram users’ interest signals.

Know your followers: Analyse the success rate of your posts and understand what makes your audience react better to them. Was it the quality of the photo? The subject? Was the caption different? Determine the best time to post that makes sure you appear at the optimal time on their feeds (when they are the most active on Instagram) – this is even more important than before to maximize the effects of the timeliness signal.

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Write captions that encourage engagement: Captions need to be engaging to elicit a reply (and help with the interest and relationship signals). Try asking a question or write prompts that encourage users to share their thoughts, and start a conversation with them.

Engagement-building posts, like tag-a-friend or contests also encourage users to comment. Use these sparsely but on a regular basis.

Let followers know how to turn on notifications. Instagram has a feature that allows you to be notified every time one of your favourite accounts shares new content. Once in a while it’s worth reminding your follower that this feature exists.

Engage with similar accounts, don’t see them only as competition. Initially, prioritise posting comments on larger accounts to help ensure more visibility of your own account to their followers. Think about accounts that your target audience is likely to follow and join the conversations, but do so in a genuine way.