You’re not alone. B2C brands are finding it increasingly difficult to grow their social media followings. And that’s mainly due to recent changes in the Instagram algorithm, following close behind the changes to the Facebook algorithm.
Yet, is it really that hard to grow on Instagram? If the changes to the Instagram algorithm are so negative, why do influencers still thrive on the platform? Why are influencers better at working within the confines of the Instagram algorithm than businesses are?
One reason is clear. Many Instagram users, particularly Millennials and Generation Z, have a natural distrust of anything corporate. They avoid ads and are less likely to follow business accounts if they sense anything “salesy” about them.
And Instagram knows this. The Instagram algorithm is designed to give Instagrammers what they want. And they want more posts from friends, family, and the people they trust. They want fewer posts that they perceive as self-serving or advertising by stealth.
Only a small percentage of businesses, such as Red Bull and boohoo.com, have built B2C brand reputations that have enabled them to be heavily engaged their consumers.
Yet many of the ways that influencers beat the new Instagram algorithm are simple. They don’t rely on rocket science to build their influencer reputation. They merely do the right things well. And that’s why so many businesses are leveraging influencers (particularly Chromo-Influencers®) to enhance their own brand’s reputation.
1. Influencers Frequently Create Instagram Stories
The easiest way to beat the new Instagram algorithm is to increase consumer engagement outside of the newsfeed. Your Instagram Stories feed is separate to your general Instagram feed, so Instagram Stories are not shunted out of view each time somebody you follow uploads a picture or video.
Social media influencers know that the secret to social success is to describe an engaging tale to their followers. They build up a story, image by image, or video by video piquing their followers’ curiosity.
Instagram Stories benefit from inbuilt engagement features. Influencers who regularly create stories utilise most of these engagement features. They keep on using those that resonate with their followers and abandon any that don’t work as well.
For instance, many utilise the new Instagram Music Sticker, which allows them to add suitable soundtracks to their Story, which helps build the emotional connection with their audience.
While Instagram Stories is different from the main Instagram feed, Instagram Stories still have to compete with other Stories. The higher the engagement on any particular Story, the greater the likelihood that Instagram will position it in a more visible part of the Instagram Stories section. As a result, the Stories that are posted, need to be engaging!
2. Talk to Your Followers on Live Video to Beat the Instagram Algorithm
Video content is undisputedly popular. That is why Facebook devoted so many resources to improving video in both its Facebook and Instagram apps. The Instagram algorithm seems to favour video over more static posts, too.
Livestream discovered that 80% of their survey respondents would rather watch live video from a brand than read a blog and 82% prefer live video from a brand to social posts.
Although these statistics don’t specifically relate to influencers (and predate Instagram Live), the results are clear. People are attracted to live video. Influencers know this. And because they spend so much time online, many have mastered the art of performing in a live video. They no longer worry about stage fright.
Instagram took a while to add live video to its offering, which gave it a chance to learn from the mistakes made by the competition.
As with Stories, you can use Instagram Live to bypass the Instagram algorithm. When an influencer goes live on the platform, they will appear on their followers’ Storie’s Bar with the word LIVE written in red or pink at the bottom of their profile picture. All people have to do to watch the video is to click on the avatar.
If Instagram notices that a broadcast is generating interest, it may choose to add the live video feed to the Explore tab, which widens the potential audience.
The real advantage of live video, though, is that it provides real opportunities for broadcasters to engage with their audience. They can ask for feedback and comments. Broadcasters can instantly answer any questions posed.
3. Influencers Place Questions in Their Captions and Engage
A key way to ensure that your regular Instagram posts beat the Instagram algorithm, and are visible to a high percentage of your followers, is to encourage high volumes of engagement. Instagram rewards accounts that consistently attain high levels of engagement when they post.
To a large extent, this means that influencers have to post high-quality images and well-produced videos consistently. But at the same time, these can’t look too polished, if that’s not what aligns with the influencer’s feed.
Exciting pictures and entertaining video clips alone do not lead to high engagement levels by themselves, however. Influencers know that they need to do more to turn their posts into two-way conversations. And the best place to do this is in the captions of their posts.
If your post is well-presented or informative and attracts initial interest, then the best way you can to encourage engagement is to include a thought-provoking question as the caption.
The question is a conversation starter. Once people begin to provide answers, you can continue the conversation, asking further explanatory questions.
The more conversation that Instagram sees on a post from its early viewers, the wider they will distribute the post. Instagram’s algorithm does not take long to discover whether a post is likely to engender active engagement or not.
Like much of life, success breeds success on Instagram. People who can provide evidence of successful, engaging posting are rewarded by having future posts delivered to more people, which in turn should keep and engagement cycle moving.
4. Use Hashtags Correctly or Risk Being Shadow-Banned
Any Instagram 101 guide will tell you to use hashtags with your posts. But you can’t just use hashtags randomly. Indeed you can reduce your engagement levels if you misuse hashtags, earning yourself a shadow-ban in particularly bad cases.
As with most things on Instagram, the most engaging influencers know how to use the platform correctly, more so than everyday people and businesses who post on a casual basis.
You would typically use more hashtags in an Instagram message than in a tweet, Facebook message or indeed any other social message. But if you use too many hashtags, your caption just looks like a sea of words, and people are less likely to engage with your post. You can use up to 30 hashtags in a post. But few successful influencers would rarely use that many.
TrackMaven carried out a study on hashtag usage on the various social networks. They found that nine hashtags were the optimal number for boosting engagement. Interestingly they also found that long hashtags of between 21 and 24 characters resulted in the highest engagement on Instagram.
It is notable that 70% of Instagram hashtags are branded.
It is vital that any hashtags used relate to the photo or video being shared. Hashtags are used for discovery. If somebody arrives at your post, as a result of a hashtag you have used, they will not be pleased if they can’t find what they are looking for.
If you use too many hashtags or hashtags that are irrelevant to your post, Instagram may shadow-ban you. This means that your post no longer turns up in searches for hashtags. This is why you don’t want to use the same hashtags every time.
5. Contests Increase Meaningful Engagement
One successful technique influencers use to beat the Instagram algorithm is to hold contests. People love giveaways, particularly if there is a chance of them winning a valuable prize. We tend to use competitions in client Instagram Takeovers as a means of increasing their follower count. And that’s because they’re effective.
Instagram contests can be used to build follower counts and awareness. However, the primary reason that an influencer holds a contest is to encourage more meaningful engagement from their followers.
An integral part to the success of a contest, however, is the prize. It has to be something that is relevant to the influencer’s target audience. There is little point in giving away something irrelevant that attracts the wrong type of people. The problem with generic prizes is that they grab the attention of freebie seekers, who provide little benefit to the Instagrammer. They may gain increased short-term engagement, but they gain nothing overall from such people.
Ideally, an influencer should give away a prize related to his/her niche. This is partially so when the influencer is working with a relevant brand.
Beat the Instagram Algorithm. Increase Meaningful Engagement.
At PMYB we frequently repeat the fact that high volumes of meaningful engagement are more critical to the success of an influencer campaign than follower numbers. This is one of the reasons that celebrity endorsement campaigns are often less effective than campaigns made by Chromo-Influencers® or micro-influencers.
The more active your audience, the higher their engagement, and the more successful you will be at beating the Instagram algorithm. Instagram wants their users to enjoy the time they spend on the platform. Because of this, it modifies the sequence of people’s feeds, using AI, to provide the most enjoyable experience.