As with most things in life, the only thing certain about social media is that as soon as you think you have it figured out, it will change. Social media heavy weights like Facebook and Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) are constantly changing and refining their algorithms – the ranking and prioritization processes they utilize to determine who sees what.
In the good old days of early social media adoption, things were simple. You followed a page or a friend and their content or posts would automatically show up in your news feed. But as the platforms grew and evolved, so too did this system. These days, there’s a lot more to it, and rightfully so. With people having thousands of friends and following thousands of brands it’s simply not realistic to be able to show someone everything from everyone. Even so, the secrecy behind how the algorithm works is frustrating to most – but perhaps no group more so than small businesses, who often utilize social media to increase their brand awareness with minimal to no budget.
The lack of transparency and understanding with regard to the algorithm lends itself to misinformation. Most recently, this was manifested in a viral Instagram post which purported that saves were now the most important metric for Instagram. Is it true? No. But is it true that high quality posts were more likely to be saved for future reference? Yes. Is it true that these same high quality posts were more likely to warrant additional engagement including likes and shares? Yes. With that in mind, is it easy to see how content creators could get the idea that those posts that were saved were given a bump in the algorithm? Absolutely.
Specifics aside, ultimately, the algorithm is all about engagement, and encouraging people to interact with your content. The more people interact, the better your post will perform. Rather than attempting to game the system and focusing on saves, it’s more important to continue to create meaningful content that resonates with your specific audience. That will organically spurn the type of engagement that gives your content a boost.
That being said, there are a few tips that can help your Instagram content gain more traction.
1. Use quality photos. If you’re using a photo make sure that it is in focus and well lit. A dark fuzzy photo will not stop people from scrolling. For more tips on DIY photography check out this blog post.
2. Whenever possible, use vertical images. Vertical photos take up more real estate on the phone screen which makes them stand out better.
3. Include more than one image. Have you ever noticed that when you refresh your Instagram feed the same post is at the top but with the second photo displayed? That’s not an accident. If you utilize the carousel or slideshow function (which allows for up to 10 images) Instagram will automatically re-show your post to people who perhaps didn’t scroll through all of your photos thus upping the opportunity for engagement.
4. Create shareable and saveable content. While your focus shouldn’t be simply on promoting saves, you don’t want to completely forsake that engagement metric. By mixing up your content (think occasional quotes or infographics) you encourage users to save quotes and stats that they like or share them with friends.
5. Don’t worry about your grid. While 2018 and 2019 were fueled by carefully curated grid aesthetics (what users see when they look at an Instagram profile), 2020 and 2021 have seen a return to a more organic aesthetic. The days of making sure that photos are the same shade of millennial pink or spreading images over multiple frames are dwindling – and for good reason. Most of your existing followers won’t even see your manicured grid and more and more users are valuing authenticity over perfection. Stick to content that’s true to your brand and your aesthetic will follow.
6. Post regularly. As they say, the more you give the more you get. Posting regularly keeps your content fresh and in peoples’ feeds which promotes engagement.
7. Interact! Don’t just throw up your content and call it a day. It’s called social media for a reason. When people comment respond or like their comments and make sure you comment and like other peoples’ posts.
At the end of the day, however, the fastest way to get your content noticed is to put a little money behind your posts. Sponsored posts are served to audiences outside of your followers which will result in greater account growth, visibility, and increased engagement. After all, you get what you pay for.