Social media is a very important tool that can be used in growing a brand’s visibility, generate leads, and drive sales. Of all the social media platforms available, Instagram is one of the go-to platforms for brands and marketers.
Before we go further, let’s see some important Instagram statistics every marketer should know:
- According to recent statistics, over 1 billion people make use of Instagram, and 500 million of them are using Instagram stories daily. Of these one billion people, 89% of them are located outside of the U.S.
- 200 million Instagram users would visit at least one business profile daily.
- 81 percent of people that use Instagram use it to research for products or services.
- 130 million people also make purchases directly from the platform.
- S. marketers spend up to 69% of their influencer budget on Instagram.
If you haven’t started using Instagram in your marketing efforts, you should start now.
If you have started already, the question you should be asking is how can you make full use of Instagram’s potential to increase your discoverability/reach?
A few years ago, growing your brand using Instagram was relatively easy. All you had to do was find the best posting times. Instagram displayed results chronologically, so if you could find when your target audience was online and posted on time, you would see huge engagement.
Instagram has since changed the algorithm that determined how results showed on the user’s feed. If you don’t follow the right strategies, you would notice a decline in your engagement and reach on the platform.
In this article, we would see how Instagram algorithms works and the 8 steps you can take to increase your discoverability on Instagram.
How Instagram algorithm works
Most marketers are confused with how the Instagram algorithm works since it was introduced in July 2016.
The main reason the algorithm was developed was to ensure that users only view relevant content on their feed, and reduce the amount of spam (usually from brands and marketers).
There are six key factors that determine the content that is seen on a user’s feed. They include:
Let’s look at a brief description of each of the factors
During the announcement of the algorithm, Instagram said that content would rank depending on the interest of the users.
In their words, “The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post”.
For example, if a user interacted with a particular genre of content regularly (e.g. images or videos of sport cars), Instagram would starting prioritizing content on cars in their feed.
Instagram algorithm wants users to see content that is recent and relevant in their feed. A post that was uploaded 2 hours ago would show at the top of the feed than one that was uploaded 2 days ago.
In an old blog post, Instagram shared that, “The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post.”
Even when an old post has a lot of engagement, the most recent posts would still show higher in the feed.
For example, if you logged out of Instagram by 1 am and logged back in by 6 am, you would see the most recent posts that have been uploaded from 1 am through 6 am first. If you have finished viewing all the relevant post within that time frame, you would then begin to see the old posts that you viewed before you logged out earlier.
Like other social media platforms, Instagram wants to make sure that you do not miss content from your friends and family. This means that content from your family and friends would rank higher on the feed.
How does Instagram determine who your friends and family are?
Instagram studies your past interactions, such as the contents you like, people you search for, your contacts in real life and people you direct message.
Instagram is all about improving user experience, so if you regularly search for an account, they would start to show posts from that account at the top of your feed.
The amount of time a user logs into Instagram also affects the algorithm.
When you use Instagram once a day, the algorithm would try to show you all the relevant content uploaded that day. But, if you are using Instagram multiple times during the day, the algorithm would show you relevant content that you haven’t seen yet.
The amount of accounts an Instagram user follows affects what shows up in their feed. If you follow a lot of accounts, the algorithm would have to sort through all the content uploaded and decide which of them is relevant for you to see. However, people who follow a few accounts are more likely to see all the content from the accounts they follow.
The amount of time a user spends on Instagram also affects the algorithm.
When a user spends just a few minutes at a time on Instagram, the algorithm would show the most relevant post first. While a user that spends a long time on the platform would be shown a lot more fresh content since they would be online for longer.
We’ve seen how Instagram algorithm affects the ranking of content, let’s now see the 8 strategies you can use in improving your discoverability.
1. Find out the right times to post
Even with the algorithmic influence on the kind of content that shows up on the feed, the timing of your posts is also important.
Uploading when your target audience is online would lead to increased engagement with your content, which in turn, causes the algorithm to show your content more in the feed because of its relevance.
You can make use of Instagram insights to determine what time your followers are most active. This analytic tool is available for Instagram business profiles.
To access insights, click on the profile tab and then the bar chart icon located in the upper right-hand corner. Click on the section that shows follower’s activity.
When you have figured out the times your users are most active, you can then schedule your posts around this time for maximum discoverability.
If you are using an individual Instagram profile, these are the best times to upload to Instagram depending on your industry.
This is a breakdown of the image:
- B2C Businesses: The best times to upload content for B2C businesses seems to be when at work (8 am), during lunch or break (1 pm), and while relaxing at home (9 pm).
- B2B Businesses: The timeline is similar to B2B businesses with most activity occurring during lunch (12 pm – 1 pm), and after work (5 pm – 6 pm, 8 pm – 9 pm).
- Software businesses: The optimal posting times are before lunch (11 am), and after lunch (1 pm, 5 pm). Most people who work with software would most likely stay away from screens during lunchtime since that is all they are looking at all day.
- Healthcare companies: The optimal time to reach people who work in healthcare is early in the morning (10 am) and mid hours of the day (2 pm).
- Media Companies: For people in media, the time of highest engagement is in the morning (9 am), during lunch break (12 pm), or just after work (3 pm).
- Higher Education: The optimal time to reach people at higher education is after work towards the evening ( 5 – 6 pm)
Other sources suggest the following optimal posting times:
- Hubspot: Any other time apart from 3 pm – 4 pm.
- Later: Say that you target people during their lunch breaks ( 11 am – 1 pm), and when relaxing at night ( 7 pm – 9 pm).
- The Drum: Suggests 9 am – 6 pm from Tuesday to Friday.
With all these data above, you can now streamline your posting to the times when you would have the highest engagement. Find the best time for your own demographic and stick to it.
2. Repost user-generated content
Reposting user-generated content is a very efficient strategy to help you connect with your audience and increase engagement.
Why is this important?
One of the factors that Instagram algorithm considers when ranking content in a user’s feed is relationship, so developing a relationship with your audience would cause the algorithm to push your content higher on their feed.
Another reason to use user-generated content is that it increases the trust people have for your brand. According to a study by Crowdtap, they found out that apart from organic reach, user-generated content is 50 percent more trusted than non-user generated content.
Note that before you use content from a user, you must first ask for their permission. This can be done easily by:
- Sending the original owner of the content a direct message asking for permission to repost.
- You can also comment on their photo to get the ball rolling.
- Write them an email asking them for permission.
To repost user content manually, these are the four steps to take.
Screenshot the photo
When you see a photo you want to repost, just take a screenshot.
On Instagram, select the camera button and upload your screenshot
After saving the screenshot, click on the camera roll button on Instagram and upload your screenshot.
Resize the image
Since it’s a screenshot, there might be parts you don’t want to show in the picture. You can manually crop these parts before uploading to Instagram or you can make use of Instagram’s resizing tool.
Add a caption
When adding your caption, do not forget to give credit to the original poster of the content.
3. Make use of Instagram stories
On the Instagram feed, stories take an important part of the screen. It is an important real estate that you should take advantage of.
Around 500 million people make use of Instagram stories daily, so taking advantage and posting great stories can help increase your discoverability.
You can also use stories to tap into the audience of other networks by tagging them in your stories. Use trending hashtags to ensure that people can find and connect with you easily.
4. Use Instagram live
Similar to stories, you should also make use of Instagram live.
An advantage of live videos is that it connects you to your audience, and cause them to remember your brand more often. When you are in front of your audience regularly, you would see more interaction from them even when they are not on Instagram.
When you are live on Instagram, your content goes to the front of the stories feed, and a “LIVE” logo is shown in the circle. Even when the audience doesn’t watch your live video, seeing the logo might encourage them to click on your profile.
5. Post high-quality images
To stand out from the millions of content posted to the platform daily, you need to upload only high-quality images. To capture the attention of the users, you need to upload colorful and engaging images. If you upload dull or low-quality images, you would receive little or no engagement.
And the less engagement your photos receive, the further below your content would be pushed down the feed.
With the rise of technology, you no longer need expensive cameras to take quality pictures. Invest in a smartphone that you can use in taking quality images.
If you are using a smartphone, here are some tips that you can use in creating high-quality photos:
- Get close up shots. With smartphones, you can focus on the images you want to take. Close up shots are really great for taking product photos.
- Never zoom your images because it loses quality and makes it look grainy. Instead of zooming, crop the image.
- Be careful of the filter you add, some of them makes the image dull and reduces the quality.
- If possible, avoid using flash. Use natural lighting instead.
- Try different angles so as to get the best version of the image.
You can also make use of image editing apps to make your image pop.
6. Follow what’s trending
You should regularly follow what is trending on the platform. If you see a topic that is trending and related to your industry, you should jump on the train.
For example, if there are hashtags that are trending, you should add relevant ones to your captions and stories when you post. When people search for those hashtags, they would easily find your content. Instagram users use hashtags to follow trends, so making use of them would make you discoverable by more people.
Tip: To increase your reach, you can try combining popular hashtags with an Instagram ad. This can help to put your content in front of a wider audience. Remember to locate your target audience first before starting an ad campaign so as to generate a high return on investment.
7. Work with influencers
Instagram influencers are very useful in getting your content in front of a wider audience. Influencers can help you to generate new leads, authenticate your products in front of their audience, and help raise awareness for your brand.
You don’t need to work with only big influencers and celebrities. You should also consider micro-influencers with a fewer number of followers. Their followers trust them more, so they have a higher engagement rate.
You should also analyze your Instagram competitors to know the kind of influencers they work with.
You can use a free tool like Klear to help you find the right influencer for your product.
Klear analyses Instagram profiles to help you choose the best influencers depending on the skill you are looking for, the type of industry, and the kind of influence you want them to have.
8. Be a genuine Instagram user
The algorithms on social media platforms are built to ensure real interactions and combat spam. To increase your chances of success on Instagram, you should be more of a user than a marketer.
The Instagram algorithm would favor you in the long run when you follow its rules and avoid hacking the system.
Some steps you can take to become more of a user than just a brand profile are:
- Answer questions that people leave on your post quickly
- Appreciating people that comment on your post. A simple is like is enough.
- You should not just post to the platform. Interact with other profiles, leave likes and comments, and build relationships with other accounts.
- Post high-quality content that is relevant to your audience.
Additional reading: Read on the best podcast hosting sites in 2020.
Remember that the Instagram algorithm is more concerned with the user experience than pleasing brands or marketers. Before thinking of how to generate leads and drive sales, you should first create content that is relevant to your audience. Use the tips above to help increase your Instagram discoverability.