With 800 million users worldwide, Instagram has been one of the most significant social media platforms in our lives today.
It is arguably even more important in Indonesia where it is the third most popular social media platform (after Facebook and YouTube). Here, Instagram is used not only for millennials to brag about their picture-perfect meal or vacations, but also as a search engine and commercial platform for both brands and consumers to engage with each other
Instagram’s popularity, however, has also meant that it’s become a crowded space and competition is fierce. Getting ahead of the pack, however, is not as difficult as it may seem if you can figure out the rules of the game and take advantage of this knowledge.
In Instagram, while having great content is a given, the rules of the game come down to its algorithms. An algorithm is a sequential way with specified actions of procedure to solve a problem within an ecosystem.
Why understanding its algorithms is essential is because Instagram used to have chronological feeds. What we would see when we log into our Instagram accounts is the latest posts from our friends.
The chronological feed is something that we used to know. But now you can choose!
But from June 2016 Instagram changed this so that what you see is not the latest posts but those of your friends that have a highest engagement values. What the algorithms do is to prioritize photo and video content that you’re likely to be interested in based on your usage history, your relationship with the person making the posts and the timeliness of the content of the post.
This new algorithm, however, shows that Instagram will show the post that you will care most. So, as a brand, you must post better images or videos that can attract likes, comments, saves, even DMs to make them visible to your followers feed.
Instagram listens to us though. Today, as people keep complaining about this new format of their feed, Instagram released a statement which explain that they can choose whether their feed will be based on most popular posts or based on newer posts. Instagram is testing a “New Posts” button that allow us to choose when we want to refresh, rather than showing it automatically.
The golden 10 percent
Imagine you have 1,000 followers and you post a picture of yourself in front of a bathroom mirror, in France, fully dressed. And then you wonder why you only have 80 likes. Where’s the other 920? It is because now, it’s estimated that only 10 percent of your followers can see your posts to see how fast and how often that small percentage of your audience engages. How many likes, comments, shares, saves, and DMs you got from a post.
Instagram claimed that the change is to improve user experience, to give better exposure to the moments we care about the most. So, it’s better for you to start thinking about what you will post to grab your golden 10 percent first!
Create good captions and hashtags
Do you still do a short poetic caption on your post? Or even no caption at all? It’s time to rethink the strategy and start to communicate your message in the caption. With the new algorithm, it is not surprising if the amount of time people spending on your Instagram’s post is also counted as an important factor to boost your post.
So, by creating a kick-ass first sentence of your caption, you will grab the audience attention and making them actually spend some time to read through it. You’re welcome!
Now, what about the hashtags? It is now better to only put 5 hashtags maximum. Why? Because too many hashtags will make you be considered as bots or fake accounts. Adding hashtags into your comment’s column will no longer be appeared on the result search. So, don’t waste your time and just focus on choosing the best five hashtags on your captions.
The danger of “pods”
Last year, you probably heard about “pods”, a group of people who agreed to comment and to like when the member of the pods announced that they are going to post something on Instagram. It’s a clever trick actually, especially when your business is still looking for engagement.
Instagram, however, sees this as an unnatural way to have high engagement. If you’re not careful, it can be one of the reasons you are shadow-banned. Shadow-ban, as simple as it sounds, is simply the state on Instagram where your account is not showing up in the search tab when people click on the hashtag you use.
Engage your engagement
If you think engagement is only happening because of the likes, comments, share, and DMs from your followers, then you must think again. Engagement doesn’t come in one way, it is two ways of communications. So, if someone comments something to your post, then you must reply.
It is now widely believed that you must reply the comments in your post under 60 minutes to avoid the decrease of your post’s visibility. Furthermore, it is better to reply under 30 minutes. So, you must engage, engage, and engage. Keep your eyes to your phone at least 60 minutes after you post something.
So, say goodbye to the old way of handling Instagram where you only posts pictures and respond when there’s inquiry or questions. The new algorithm weighs in how social you are in the platform, which means as a brand, you need to create an engaging platform with your audience.
Invest more time to respond to comments on your post. You can start small by loving the comments but do get in the conversation with your audience more often. This will create a genuine discussion and increase your engagement points.
You know those lazy comments in which they only reply, “Good Picture!”, “Love it”, “Nice!”? These comments are now considered the trademarks come from bots or fake accounts. Instagram is still fighting to reduce the number of people who use bots to “hack” the algorithm so they’ve developed technology to differentiate between bots’ engagement and real engagement.
In 2018, the algorithm has also been working to downgrade accounts that use traditional bot tactics to increase their engagement numbers. To avoid being labeled as the bots or fake accounts, then you must consider to be more understanding if you’re commenting on something. Give genuine and meaningful posts, don’t be lazy.
Mark your story by maximizing your Instagram Stories
Instagram Stories is the hottest yet simplest thing you can do as a brand. Like we said earlier, you need to start change your perspective from putting a lot of content to putting up high-quality ones. In doing so, you might want to use your time to be more active on Instagram story.
Don’t look down on Instagram Stories. Even though this feature only keeps your posts in 24 hours, Instagram Stories is an effective way to make your account on the game. Instagram Stories will make you stand out more, so what’s better than make your followers see you? It is also implied that the more that a user interacts with your Instagram Stories, the more likely your posts will show up in their feed.
To maximize its feature, then you must consider using Polling or Swipe Up. Unfortunately, Swipe Up only featured in Instagram accounts with more than 10k users. But that’s fine, you still have time. Recently, the most used content on Instagram Stories is ‘the template’ which allow people to fill in the blank columns and choose their preferences of something like favorite movies, travel destinations, make-up, and so on. This is effective and also interactive to boost your account awareness because people can take (screenshot) your content and share it in their own Stories.
In Stories, many influencers also keep asking their followers to DM if they have question. It’s simple and easiest way to boost engagement as we sometimes forget that DM is also counted as a tool to have high engagement. After all, it is the one feature that puts Indonesia as one of the highest producers of Instagram Stories – twice the amount of global average number. Use it to further connect with the audience by creating online to offline moment, ex: daily coupon for in-store purchase, free gifts with offline purchase, etc.
Best if you know your audience and focus on creating high-quality content!
If knowing your audience is important before, it is more crucial now. Get to know your audience better by using the analytics you have. Who are your audience? Where do they live? What time they are most active? Which posts they like the most? As you analyze these data, then you can create specialized contents that cater to resonate well with your audience.
By knowing your audience, the you will know what you do with your Instagram. You’ll know the right direction! As a brand, these new algorithms will affect the way you use the platform especially for the marketing purpose. No more quantity over quality mindset, the new algorithm pushes you to create a high-quality content worthy of your audience time.
Written by Bambang Ramdhan & Khalda Larasati and edited by Karina Prameswari, all are Maverick consultants who are passionate about digital and marketing communications.
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