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Part 2: How to outsmart the algorithm and get more reach
Read here the first part of the topic.
You have invested hours of work in creating an image and its editing. A captivating, emotional caption is supposed to reach everyone on Instagram. Your product should finally gain the recognition it deserves. More followers, more traffic and finally more conversions. A viral post? But then the bitter reality: Less likes than usual, barely any comments and, lo and behold: The number of followers has even fallen.
It’s getting harder and harder to be successful on Instagram today and gain reach. If you have the feeling that your number of followers has been stagnating for 1-2 years, you are not alone. The reason for this is mainly our beloved algorithm. If you’re scrunching yourself just through seeing this word, we totally get it. Nevertheless: If you want to communicate effectively with your audience on Instagram today, you should take a look at this magic word and adjust your Instagram strategy accordingly.
We’ll explain how the algorithm works and what tips you can use to achieve reach today and build an effective communication strategy.
The Instagram “Ugh”lgorithm
A quick flashback to the year 2016. Instagram decides to withdraw from the chronologically arranged feed. And there we go: The story of the endless algorithm struggle begins, making Instagram each year an even greater suffering for all creators and companies. Sometimes you almost get the impression that we are in the middle of a battlefield where everyone tries to force a follower to his side.
The posts definitely don’t get the same reach as they used to. The good news is that once you understand how the algorithm “ticks”, you can progressively counteract it and, using a good strategy, still achieve a good engagement.
The following is an overview of certain parameters that determine the arrangement in the feed today:
- Interest: Based on previously liked images, Instagram uses image recognition technologies to determine which posts will be displayed in your feed in the future. You should therefore know your target group exactly and understand what they like. This is the only way to reach other, similar users.
- Relationship: The algorithm favors accounts with which the respective user interacts more often, whether through likes, comments or private messages. This behavior suggests to the platform a close relationship in the form of family or friends.
- Recency: Newer content is now given priority in the feed again. With the help of analytics, you should therefore pay attention to the time of when your followers are online so that your community does not miss any new content.
- Frequency: Instagram analyzes how often you open the app per day.
- Following- number: How many users does your account follow? If you follow a large number of users, you will automatically see fewer posts because the algorithm filters out the “right” content for you. The same applies to your followers, of course.
- Usage: How long is your app open? Are you just scrolling through the feed? Or do you actively interact with other users for 45 minutes?
You should really look at these points in more detail to develop an effective “killer strategy”..
Tips and tricks for a higher instagram reach
Before we focus on specific tips, some basics should be the basic formula of your strategy:
Content is King
Exciting, high quality content is absolutely crucial! Content that takes the community on a visual journey and inspires it through visual storytelling. Moving content will also automatically provide more engagement.
Make sure that the content in the feed is aesthetically arranged and matches in color. Often, individual images can be very beautiful, but appear chaotically in the feed. Therefore, always plan your content at least 3 weeks in advance.
Only if you analyse your target group exactly and understand what their wishes and interests are, will you be able to create the right content with which the viewers want to interact.
Only those who post regularly and are active will be rewarded. Everyone has to find out for themselves what works best for the brand and target group. Posting too often can be perceived as a “spam”. Most people recommend to post about 1x per day. But post at least three times a week in order to obtain positive results.
True to the motto: “To give is to receive”. As we have seen before, the algorithm is primarily determined through the engagement with users. You should take at least 15-30 minutes a day to interact with the community. Visit new accounts, leave a comment or at least a “Like”. It will not only make somebody happy, but also pay off for you.
These points are today absolute basic features, which must not be missing in your instagram strategy. Once you have those under control should you devote yourself to further elements:
Admittedly, Instagram is not exactly an SEO friendly platform. But that’s why you should make 100% use of all available options. So far, only the username and account description are displayed in search engines. Therefore, define the purpose of your product or brand clearly so that other users can find the account easily. Another important feature that is often not used is the description of the “alt” text. You can add it to any image right before posting under “advanced settings”. Describe briefly what you see on the picture. The alt text is not the caption and is not displayed in the feed, but helps search engines to determine the relevance of graphic content for image search and organic search.
The right hashtags
Branded hashtags provide recognition value and motivate other users to create content for your brand as well. This not only increases interaction, but also helps building a community around your brand. Hashtags should also be used in stories: You can hide them behind stickers or adjust them to the background color so they don’t distract from the content.
However, the hashtags shouldn’t be too small, otherwise they will not be recognized by Instagram. Also avoid mass hashtags as for example “follow4follow”, “Instadaily” or “like4like”; these may generate some likes, but you won’t reach the relevant target group and just demonstrate your desperate hunt for higher engagement. These hashtags don’t really look aesthetic either.
Stories, Live Videos and Video Content
Users tend to interact better with videos than with ordinary pictures. Therefore try to create a variety in the feed with different media. We have already emphasized in several posts the importance of stories and live videos. Both offer spontaneous insights of the company and therefore appear more authentic than perfectly edited images. Using stories you can also draw attention to new published posts and thus achieve more reach.
Use paid ads
Using optimized ads, you can address new followers from your target group. As with all other posts, high quality content is a must in order to stand out from all other images and achieve conversions.
Instagram No- Gos
In the desperate struggle for reach, many companies are unfortunately resorting to other, sometimes illegal, methods, with the hope of reaching high ground. But this usually ends in exactly the opposite. You should absolutely do without the following points:
Probably the most important point, which we cannot emphasize often enough: Please do not buy followers! Fake followers only give you a “dead” community. These are either empty accounts or mass followers that increase your number of followers, but that’s it. No likes, no comments, no Interaction, and ultimately no reach. If no one interacts with your content, Instagram assumes that the content is not relevant. And so it will be harder and harder to achieve reach.
Unfortunately, many companies still apply the “Follow-Unfollow” method. Basically follow as many users as possible and as soon as they follow back, you unfollow them again. This method is quite worn out already and results in reluctance by most users.
Be careful with third-party apps
You should also keep your hands off bots; automated comments in particular can create a bad image of your brand if the comments do not match the image content. Similar to fake followers, most people are able to recognize these activities today.
Editing right after posting
Here the opinions vary a lot; some consider it a myth, others can confirm this assumption: Editing images directly after posting suggests a spam-like behavior to Instagram and therefore reduces its reach. Whether myth or reality, just make sure you don’t have any mistakes in the caption. Then there is no need for additional changes.
Instagram is a social network that aims to create a photo-based community. Even though it has become an influential advertising platform, direct promotion should not be in the foreground. Rather rely on moving content; your viewers will then automatically find interest in the brand and the products without feeling bombarded with advertising.
Takeaway: More reach on Instagram- still possible?
Even in times of our beloved algorithm, reach can be achieved and the account can grow. At least if you produce good content regularly, interact with the community, understand the algorithm and forgo certain “No Gos”. Instagram often raises unrealistic expectations: No pain- no gain! Time and effort should also be invested into your Instagram account. Regardless of the algorithm, one thing should be kept in mind: Instagram is no magic, no hanky-panky, but hard work and strategy. See you next time!