Instagram is growing at an incredible rate with 700 million monthly users, and over 250 million people using stories every day! These numbers provide a compelling reason to be as active as possible on the platform.
And just like some of the other huge platforms that we focus on, like YouTube or Facebook, Instagram utilizes algorithms that sort and prioritize content – and where there’s an algorithm, there is a way to use it to your advantage. As we’ve dug deeper into Instagram, we are finding that there are several similarities to how it functions versus how YouTube functions. Although Instagram doesn’t have the weight of a search engine affecting what surfaces or not, it does place emphasis on five very similar factors.
Everything is about watch time
Instagram factors in the amount of time spent with a piece of content, whether it’s video, photo, story, etc. The longer the watch time, the stronger value it places on your content and your profile in general.
Tip: Try writing engaging or interesting captions that cause your audience to stay on your posts a little longer. If you can drive up the time spent once a user clicks the “more” button, you will gain even more favor with that user base. Boomerangs, videos, Q&A-themed and slideshow posts are all great ways to encourage people to spend more time with your content.
Much like YouTube, higher viewership and/or engagement often results in higher feed placement on the platform. That said, how quickly a post receives engagement is also really important.
Tip: Try sticking to a schedule, and release your content at a regular time. Also maintain consistency in the content type (color scheme, theme, etc.).
Although not readily visible, each account begins to have a defined genre placed against it. This could be through use of hashtags or text in captions. Incredibly niche content has low viewership while popular concepts may be over-saturated. The goal is to find the sweet spot.
Tip: Why do you post the content you post? Once you define that, look for accounts that also create with a similar message. See what hashtags they are using and how they engage their base with CTAs, and experiment to see what might work for you, too.
Instagram increases the placement of your posts on users’ feeds that regularly engage with or search for your content. This is the same with Facebook and YouTube. As soon as a user stops regularly engaging, the favor will drop over time to a potential point of no longer seeing them in the feed. Find ways to keep them coming back.
Tip: Try to maintain a consistent voice, message, or design for each post. Think, “If I am subscribing to HBO, don’t give me MTV.”
Consider the timeline
If you open up your Instagram app, it’s very unlikely that you will see a post on the feed from over a month ago, or even a week ago. User behavior constantly shifts and moves faster and faster each day, so you need to provide your fans with regular content that they will enjoy and want to return for. You have to remain active and continue to use the platform in order to stay relevant.
Tip: Daily posting is important! Backlog and arrange content that can be published for the main feed. Schedule a livestream every week. Use Instagram Stories daily in place of Snapchat or other similar applications.
Platform algorithms are an illusive and mysterious beast, and they are constantly changing. With that said, some of the creators that find the most success are the most experimental. Try something, see if it works. Try something else, see if that works. If it doesn’t, drop it and move on to the next.
We hope this helps, and if you find a particular strategy that helps, please share it with us!