JUNE 05, 2018
At The Wilbert Group, our digital team is always on the cutting edge of the latest trends and technologies in social media. To create and execute the best digital programs for our clients, it’s important we understand social platforms inside and out.
Today we’re diving into the new Instagram algorithm. Most social platforms are algorithmic, and each presents its own code to crack, but we’re particularly interested in the ‘gram because it’s the fastest-growing platform, especially among millennials, and its shift from chronological to algorithmic has presented a challenge for social media strategists.
This week, in a rare move, Instagram let a few reporters in on the secrets of its algorithm. We’ve analyzed these interviews and taken away several important learnings. Here’s what you need to know:
If you’re an avid Instagram user, you’ve probably noticed that your feed seems to know what you’re most interested in. Just check your Explore tab – if you’re a foodie, it’s probably full of mouthwatering pics of burgers and ice cream. Love your dog? Your feed may be full of pugs, pitbulls and Pomeranians. So, as a brand, if you want your posts to appear in your audience’s feeds, you need to have a clear content strategy as well as a running list of content themes and corresponding hashtags. If you’re trying to reach people who are into food, fitness and fashion, tailor your content equally to these themes.
Around the end of 2017, many social media users and managers were frustrated because Instagram was showing users content that was six to eight days old. It wasn’t ideal for us strategists – no one wants to see a National Beer Day post a week later – and led to widespread calls for the return of a true chronological feed. Instagram isn’t going that route, but has promised that feed posts won’t be more than a few days old, and you’re likely to see content that resonates with you mere minutes after it’s posted. For brands, this is ideal for celebrating holidays, making major announcements and hosting contests and campaigns. Plus, we know sooner if content we post is performing well.
How does Instagram know what kind of posts you’re engaging with? There are multiple variables, but topical hashtags play a huge role. Users can now follow hashtags, too, so if you’re a brand looking to insert yourself in a trend or conversation, a good hashtag strategy is more important than ever. We’re talking 20-30 hashtags per post (included in a comment) as well as launching and owning your own hashtags to encourage engagement and user-generated content.
Instagram was quick to clarify that business and personal accounts are not favored over each other in the feed. It’s all about what the individual user is going to engage with. So, if you like a celebrity or brand’s posts as much as your own family, Instagram will show you that content with the same frequency. This just reinforces the fact that for Instagram content to be engaging, it needs to be authentic, earnest and familiar. Of course, you want your posts to evoke #goals or #FOMO from your fans, but content that is impersonal, stuffy or overly advertorial will turn people off. Instagram is largely still a “friends and family” platform where people seek authentic connections.
There have been rumblings that being too active on Instagram – using lots of hashtags, posting lots of stories, leaving too many comments – could get accounts shadowbanned. Fortunately, Instagram announced that this is not true, but stressed that posting more Stories and Live videos doesn’t necessarily help your case.
In our experience, however, Stories are vitally important for reaching your followers and driving traffic back to your profile. They’re also a great engagement tool and allow brands to post a wider variety of interesting, valuable content. Every brand should have Instagram Stories built into its social strategy.
Cosmopolitan summed up these findings well: “Essentially, posting content that's true to you, engaging with the accounts that you like, and using Instagram for its intended purpose, and you will keep appearing in timelines that want to see you.”
At Wilbert, we believe that stellar content tailored to your audience is the key to Instagram success, and this news reaffirmed our strategy.
The Wilbert Group
1718 Peachtree Street, Suite 1048
Atlanta, GA 30309
404 748 1250