by Andrew Poulsen, Content Engineer, Sonnhalter
In past blog posts, we’ve discussed some of the ways companies can hit the ground running with Instagram and make it a useful cog in their marketing machine. Now that you’ve set up an account, accumulated some followers and fired off some posts, you may be wondering why your posts haven’t performed as well as you had hoped. The reason may be that your posts aren’t optimized for the best possible engagement. What do I mean by that? Well, as you may have noticed, your Instagram feed is no longer chronological. Instead, the feed is actually run by an ever-changing algorithm that is constantly trying to figure out and prioritize and show you posts that you are most likely to interact or engage with.
While Instagram hasn’t publicly divulged the specifics of its algorithm, those able to read between the lines understand that getting the most exposure on the platform comes down to engagement, not just “likes” and a regular posting routine. What this means is that the algorithm is specifically looking for posts that users spend time and interact with, or content that will illicit more shares, saves, comments and longer video views. So, how can you get better engagement and overall performance with your Instagram channel? Here are five suggestions!
Create content that users will “save” or “share.”
Instagram now has a “save” feature which allows users to archive photos and videos into a special folder that they can view later. Saving a post signals to the algorithm that a user found the post to be worthwhile, which helps boost the post’s visibility. Additionally, if a user “shares” a post via direct message, that also scores better for the algorithm than standard likes and comments. As a company, there are plenty of ways you can create savable or shareable content. Examples include infographics, how-to videos, tips, tricks and sharing fun content created by influencers.
Post when your followers are most likely to be online.
While posting daily (or at least 4-5 times a week) is crucial for growing your channel, posting at the wrong time can cost you meaningful exposure. Since Instagram’s algorithm favors posts that receive a lot of interaction in a short amount of time, it’s important to post when your followers are most active and have the best chance to see your content. While early first thing in the morning, lunchtime and right after 5 p.m. are generally viewed as acceptable times to post, Instagram now offers business accounts an Insights tab that allows you see the exact hours your followers are most engaged.
Improve the quality of your content.
This one might seem obvious, but if your content isn’t working, maybe it’s time to take a step back and see things from the user’s perspective and what they would like to see. Everyone on Instagram is fighting for attention, so what can you do to pull people in? Consider posts with real people, good lighting or some sort of action shot. If you’re making a video, try to get right to the point within the first couple seconds to grab people’s attention and try to make the length as short as possible to increase your views. Or, think of a thoughtful caption with helpful product or how-to info that your followers would want to read. These minor tweaks can help keep eyeballs on your content for longer periods of time, which will lead to a boost in the algorithm.
Another tactic that both pleases the algorithm and gives you more ways to interact with your audience is utilizing all of Instagram features for content creation. A few years ago, Instagram introduced Stories, a feature that allows users to share short clips and moments that disappeared after 24 hours, and IGTV, a feature for long-form videos that allows users to create content that more resembles vlogs and other web series. Last summer, Instagram introduced Reels to compete with Tik Tok and give users a space to easily share and swipe through 15-second and 30-second clips with all kinds of audio and visual effects. While not every company is the right fit for trying to replicate the kind of Instagram content that goes viral or participating in the latest meme or social media “challenge,” companies need to research these features and see if there is a natural segue to use them for fun product demos, instructional videos, Q&As and other types of engaging content your followers might engage. As previously stated, when it comes to engagement, the longer a user is looking at your content, the better. Plus, Instagram has been known to reward accounts that utilize more of its features.
Monitor what works and what doesn’t work.
Any social media manager will tell you that a successful Instagram account is one that is flexible, persistent and versatile. Don’t be afraid to experiment with a variety of different content types and see which ones your audience responds to best. Analyze the elements of your posts that seemed to start a conversation in the comments or received a lot of saves and shares and let that steer you in the right direction. While some of these metrics can be viewed in your Insights tab, companies interested in taking a deeper dive into these analytics should consider social media listening and monitoring services like Agorapulse, Sprout Social and many others.
While we can’t anticipate the next big change in Instagram’s algorithm or user experience, I believe making a strong commitment to making quality, engaging content on a regular basis will always be in a company’s best interest.
To read more about optimizing your company’s efforts on Instagram, read: