The Instagram Algorithm: 5 Mistakes You’re Making
Long time no chat! SERIOUSLY! It's been so long since I've published a new post on the blog, and before we get into today's post, I want to let you in on why...
This past January, I hit the ground running with my rebrand to my new website, daniellegervino.com. Knowing it would take a few months to piece everything together, I decided to keep my old website live while we worked on the new one behind the scenes.
Come March, my developer and I were pretty close to wrapping, when I experienced a grade A HACK on my website. A plugin I was using for my (then) current theme had had issues with its coding, and allowed room to let hackers into the backend to insert 100+ pieces of malware throughout the website. Lifestyle blog turned Chinese medical sales website. Suuuuper.
So - that whole - "Yay! Almost ready to launch" became "Shit - now what?". Needless to say clearing the malware was my first priority which was a lot more costly and labor intensive than I had ever expected it to be, and everything else got put on hold.
This whole process took a solid month before my developer and I were finally able to reconvene and start from square one (unfortunately, in starting the build on my new website, we had created a copy of my previous site to make the redesign process a little easier - not knowing the previous site was already infected - yay).
So, here we are - mid-June and almost done - but not quite. I feel like I haven't chatted with you all in so long here on the blog, so I'm putting aside my OCD of things having to be perfectly ready, and publishing on a 3/4-of-the-way-done website. Bear with me!
Now to the good stuff...
ICYMI, the Blogging, Unscripted Podcast just released it's most highly-anticipated episode to-date...
You can listen to the full episode here, but I wanted to break down and elaborate on a few key points of the episode via a blog post, and chat about 5 mistakes you might be making when it comes to working with the Instagram algorithm.
But first, let's get one really important thing out of the way - the primary goal of the Instagram algorithm.
The primary goal of the algorithm is to maximize time users spend on the platform. The more time users spend on the app, the more ads that they’re likely to see and interact with, and the more money that Instagram rakes in.
Because of this objective of maximizing the time users spend on the platform, Instagram - obviously - favors accounts who keep their followers active and engaged.
Here's how you might be working against this...
YOU'RE FOCUSING MORE ON YOURSELF THAN YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR FOLLOWERS
The Instagram algorithm uses a variety of what’s called “ranking signals” to determine which users and posts Instagram thinks you want to see most, and this is all based on your in-app behavior. One of those top signals is, in fact, relationship; AKA - What accounts do you...Interact with most? Often leave comments on? Have notifications enabled for? DM back and forth with? Often search for on IG?
If we log onto Instagram and only worry about getting our post up and scrolling through the feed and liking other bloggers' content, we're not building that imperative relationship with our followers.
After you post, ask yourself, "How can I kickstart that relationship signal for my followers by encouraging them to interact with me?"
Get to know them through polls on stories and interactive post captions; DM them, encouraging more than just a single exchange; reply to their comments with the intention of keeping conversation going on your post. There are so many ways to make your followers feel like the relationship is mutual and that you want them there as a part of your community just as much as they want to be there on your page.
YOU'RE ONLY POSTING STATIC PHOTOS
Gone are the days where our followers remained engaged from static post after static post. OK - that was dramatic BUT, we're living in a time of fast-paced click bait and have to think outside the box in order to keep our followers coming back.
Post carousels and video content are essential.
Think about it - more content to view in a single post = more time spent on your page = the more likely you are to be favored by the algorithm for keeping your followers active.
TRY THIS FOR CAROUSEL PHOTOS: Posting your image and then a quick behind the scenes snippet, or an Instagram versus reality type photo. Ask yourself – how can I put forth content that someone is going to stop and invest in? (see an example of this type of post here!)
Did you know that video posts on Instagram receive about 38% more engagement than image posts and typically double the comments?
TRY THIS FOR VIDEO CONTENT: Video try-ons, get ready with me videos, and "a day in the life" are trending. Create an engaging video that can live on IGTV, and utilize the "IGTV preview" feature as a feed post. Your followers will not only stop to view the content on your feed, but will also spend the time to watch the full video on IGTV (see an example of this type of post here!).
DON'T FORGET ABOUT STORIES! Try to keep a constant and consistent stream of stories so that it will become habit for your followers to come check out what’s new. The more they watch, the more time they spend on the app, and the more Instagram will prioritize your content to those followers.
For those followers who don't tend to keep the volume on when watching (over 50% of mine!), highlight your talking points with text, or better yet, download the Clipomatic app, which captions your stories for you!
If you’re posting a story with a lot of text, post a “hold to read” gif sticker at the top. We don’t often realize that just because WE are well-versed in IG, many of our followers are not, and something as simple as a hold to read sticker can be what keeps them engaged when they otherwise wouldn’t have known any better and clicked on to the next story.
Harness the power of interactive features on stories – like POLLS! My engagement is 71% higher when I post a series of polls, presumably because the instant gratification of a quick poll that’s fun and interactive is a great way engage.
YOU'RE NOT UTILIZING CTA'S IN YOUR POST CAPTIONS
A CTA, or a call-to-action, is a marketing strategy that encourages your followers to take action/engage.
The most simple, run-of-the-mill CTA that you've most likely used before is a question (see an example in this post).
But CTA's are so much more in depth than just that! By inviting your followers to hang around and join in on the action, you're working with the algorithm in a major way by keeping them engaged.
CAPTION TIP #1 - ATTENTION GRABBER / Try stating an unpopular opinion or something that'll make your followers stop and say "wait, what?", and stick around to read more (see an example in this post).
CAPTION TIP #2 - LET PEOPLE PAST THE SURFACE / Try sharing some facts about you that your followers don't already know, or sharing a vulnerable or real moment/thought (see an example in this post).
CAPTION TIP #3 - ASK QUESTIONS OR MAKE COMPARISONS / People love to share their opinions...it's human nature! Try asking a question that you know your followers will feel comfortable answering or proposing a "this or that" scenario (see examples here, here & here).
CAPTION TIP #4 - TEACH PEOPLE SOMETHING THEY WANT TO KNOW / Who makes up the majority of your following? What would benefit them? Don't underestimate the power of sharing a great piece of knowledge through a caption. The more you give, the more people will keep coming back. @Kahleanicole does a wonderful job of catering to her audience through teaching (see an example in this post).
YOU'RE NOT POSTING CONSISTENTLY
This one's simple, but one that a lot of bloggers often let slide, thinking "Eh, I'll just take a break for a few days and my followers will be there when I get back".
In theory, yes, they'll still be following you. But will they be thinking to visit your page when you haven't been around? Better yet - will the algorithm be pushing your content to your followers if they're not interacting with you?
Sticking to a consistent routine will also allow your followers to get into that routine of when to expect new content. If you're not posting on your feed, try to stay active on stories. Always think back to that main goal of the algorithm - keep them on the app & keep them coming back!
YOUR CONTENT IS GOOD, BUT NOT GREAT - AND YOU'RE NOT DOING ANYTHING ABOUT IT
All of the strategy in the world won't make up for bad content. The only thing that might, is cheating the system. But if you're approaching your growth organically like most of us are, how do you ensure that you're content is more than just good?
You value your content.
The hard truth is that Instagram is filled with bad content, and you have to make sure that you're not falling into that category.
Content isn’t just CONTENT. We look at some of the top bloggers and they don’t all necessarily have this beautifully curated feed that we may think of when we think "great content". Content is your images but content is also the brand you’ve built for yourself, it’s the relationship you’ve built with your followers and it’s how well your followers feel like they know you. You have to have a little bit of everything to create the perfect recipe of a successful, growing brand and candidly speaking, a lot of content creators don’t.
So when I say VALUE your content I want you to take a hard look at the brand you’ve created for yourself on Instagram as a whole and ask yourself if it’s something you’re genuinely proud of. Your images – your sense of self – your relationship with your community – your relationship with your followers – your consistency. See what piece of the puzzle your missing and shift your focus to mending that and really creating this well-rounded brand for yourself.
So where does that leave you? I challenge you to take a hard look at your brand and reevaluate your strategy. For a more in-depth look at how the Instagram algorithm works, along with more best practices and a few common debunked myths, head on over to Blogging, Unscripted on Apple Podcasts and give episode 10 a listen!