Over the years Instagram has evolved from a place where we share our personal photos with family and friends, to a place where we can start/build a business. For me, Instagram is a big part of what allows me to work with brands like Mercedes Benz, Adobe, Corona etc...Instagram has opened up a world of opportunities for me and has, essentially, changed my life. I wanted to share some of my top tips for keeping up with the Instagram algorithm so you can leverage the platform to take your feed (or your business) to the next level!
This is where having a niche really makes a difference. If you’re struggling to find your niche, don’t worry, I gotchuu...check out this blog post, it’ll help! Now that that’s sorted, stick to your niche and stay on brand! Consistency is key when it comes to building an audience. The people following your account, choose to follow for a reason...they’re interested in your niche! Take my feed for example, I’m all about travel photography, so that’s exactly what you’re going to see when you come to my page. It would throw my audience off to see an epic landscape one day and then a photo baby photo the next day.
Consistency reaches beyond just the subject matter of your photos, you also want to stay consistent with the colours you’re incorporating into your images. Maybe your brand is bright and saturated colours, or maybe your feed changes colours with the seasons, whatever it is, consider the colours of your images and how they will affect the overall look of your grid.
PROTIP: Use an app like Planoly to plan out your photos before you post them. This way you can see how the images work together on your grid. Psssst...Check out this blog post about how I use Planoly to keep my IG looking fresh!
The days of follow/unfollow are long gone. There once was a time on Instagram where people would follow mass amounts of accounts in hopes of those accounts following them back. Once they got that follow back, they’d unfollow and BOOM, new followers! That doesn’t work anymore...and it’s no way to build a genuine audience. Instead, start going through your followers and blocking any inactive accounts or bots that might be laying dormant. Yes, you are going to lose followers this way, but trust me, it’s worth it. The general rule of thumb is that Instagram will show your content to about 20% of your audience. If Instagram is showing your content to inactive users, they won’t be engaging with it, which tells Instagram that this content isn’t interesting.
PROTIP: Use an app like Cleaner to make this process a little easier. You can sort your followers by their activity levels and batch-block them all at once.
This is one I find a lot of people overlook. Remember how important it is to find your niche? Well this also extends to the accounts that you follow and interact with. I know a lot of us are interested in things outside of our niche but for the sake of growing a business on here, you’ll have to make a few sacrifices. You’ll want to go through the accounts that you follow and start unfollowing anything that’s outside of your niche. This way you’re engaging with similar accounts to yours and the Instagram algorithm will lump you all into one group. Maybe you’ll show up as a suggested account to follow on someone else’s page.
PROTIP: Don’t worry, you don’t have to give up your other interests entirely. This is when you can create a “fintsa” - which is supposed to mean “fake-instagram” but I like to refer to it as my personal account. This is where you can follow anyone and everyone you’re interested in and you won’t be impacted by the algorithm in any way.
I’d say it’s safe to assume that you’ve seen or used a hashtag at least once in your time on social media. Hashtags are a staple when it comes to getting your content seen by the right people. Instagram allows you to use a max of 30 hashtags in one post. Personally, I would suggest only using up to 25...less if you can. Some of my best performing photos had some of the least amount of tags. Similar to the accounts you interact with, you want to choose hashtags that are very specific to your niche. The bigger that hashtag, the less likely your image is to be seen. Look for hashtags specific to your niche and/or photo and only use hashtags with 500,000 submissions or less. Include smaller hashtags, around 10,000 all the way up to 500,000. This way you should be able to grow quickly through the smaller and medium tags and eventually make your way into the big ones. This will create a tipping point for your post to go viral!
PROTIP: Tag the accounts associated with your post and hashtags. Say you use the hashtag #ShotzDelight, you also want to tag the account @Shotzdelight so you have a higher chance of being featured on their page.
You can do this while you’re researching which hashtags you’re going to be using on your post. Deep dive into the hashtags and start engaging with posts that you like. This will lump you together with those posts/accounts.
PROTIP: When you’re commenting on posts that you like, go above and beyond the typical fire emoji, fist bump and actually start a conversation! You’re more likely to attract other genuine followers to your page as well.
Everyone is on their phones at different times of the day, so the time that you post makes a big difference on how your post performs. If you’re always posting at 2am, but the majority of your following is active at 2pm, you’re going to have poor engagement, which means your post is going to fall short. If you’re using Instagram for business, make sure that your account is a business account and not personal (you can change this in your settings). On business accounts, you can go into the analytics and Instagram will actually tell you when your followers are most active throughout the days of the week. I recommend posting 10-15 minutes before the optimal time of day. This way your post can gain some traction and then end up on your followers feed.
PROTIP: If you don’t have a business account, I would recommend posting at a consistent time everyday. If 1pm works for you, post at 1pm everyday. See? Consistency is everything!
No, I don’t mean “go put on your yoga pants”. What I mean is, go on Instagram 30 minutes before you actually post. Start scrolling and engaging with the account (within your niche) that you already follow. This way, when you post, they’ll be more likely to share the love back and boost your engagement. Social media is all about just that, being social. You want to be a part of that community on the platform. Not only will this help grow your account but you might even make some new friends!
Replying to comments seems like a no-brainer but there are quite a few people who overlook the importance of it. If you had a real, physical gallery and someone came up to you to compliment your work, it would be really awkward if you didn’t say anything back. Think of your comment section like that. Especially if someone took the time to write a genuine comment that wasn’t just a fire emoji, fist bump. Take the time to write a genuine reply and start/continue a conversation.
PROTIP: Engaging with your post within the first hour of posting is key. The algorithm is looking at how to post performs right off the bat. The better it does initially, the more people it will be pushed to over time.
The more engaged you are on the platform, the more likely you are to build real relationships that extend outside the 4 walls and screen of your phone. Through commenting and engaging, try to build a group of genuine friends who support what you’re doing and that you can support as well. Turn on post notifications and make sure you engage with their content right when it goes live and they will do the same for you. You can all support each other online and even go out and shoot together to build your portfolio. This way you can all grow together.
Be a part of the instagram community. Don’t just use it to build a brand and make money. Actually be a part of the platform. This is what is so special about Instagram (and social media), you can communicate with people and be a part of a community. So stay active, comment on accounts and check it regularly. Use it as a platform for you to share your work but also to enjoy others.