Instagram's Algorithm Update and How it Influences You

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January 23, 2020
Alex Koby Alex Koby

Have you noticed a drop in your Instagram engagement lately? You’re not alone.
All of us have been affected by new algorithm changes that have impacted engagement and changed the way businesses and users interface with their Instagram followers. Let’s run through the new algorithm update and outline a few tips to navigate Instagram. 

So what changed?

Instagram’s goal is to make its users spend as much time in the application as possible. This will increase ad impressions and allow Instagram to continue to earn more dollars per user. According to Instagram’s product lead Julian Gutman, there are three main components to the Instagram algorithm. 



The Instagram feed is designed to show the most recent posts first to its users. This is important because it highlights the need for posts to be released strategically when your audience is online. If you can time your posts to release when your audience is naturally browsing Instagram you will see more engagement, thus gaming the algorithm to release your content to a greater percentage of your audience.  One can accomplish this by setting reminders and manually posting at the correct time or by using third party scheduling software (like Hubspot) to release your content at optimized times. I recommend scheduling your posts in advance because it removes the pressure to stay on-top of content releases in your day-to-day routine.

Instagram Timeline Example



Instagram tracks how you and your audience engages with content on the platform (i.e. likes, comments, tags, and shares). Because of this, the algorithm will show only the content from users that you engage with most often. It will prioritize this content from these users curating your feed. This can be very challenging for businesses that are not using the application for entertainment because their content can be hidden from many of their followers. A sound strategy for businesses is to set a few hours aside every day to proactively engage with your audience’s content, which will increase the likelihood that your next post will be served to those who you engage with.  Interaction Instagram tracks the specific interests of its users as well. If users show a pattern of interest in specific topics, the algorithm will prioritize content that fits the interests of the user. This makes descriptions, hashtags, profile biography copy, and user tags very important when attempting to increase engagement on your content. Businesses should consider this when posting content to target specific users on the application. 


Now what?

Before I get into a few specific tactics to address the above changes, I want to rant a bit about how businesses should view Instagram engagement. Over and over I find myself in discussions with clients about the importance of likes and followers on Instagram. The common assumption is that these metrics are extremely important and a profile with 100,000 followers is much more valuable than a profile with 20,000 followers. This is a huge misconception, especially for businesses, because it puts an emphasis on vanity metrics instead of quality engagement. The key point here is that quality is always better than quantity. Focus instead of finding users who fit your buyer personas and work to build content and engagement opportunities tailored for this audience. If you have 2,000 engaged followers who fit your buyer persona profiles, this is vastly more valuable than having 20,000 followers who will never be a potential customer. Okay, rant over. 

Now let’s look at tactics to address the new changes we discussed earlier. 


Timeline strategy:

The easiest way to attack this challenge is to utilize the tools Instagram provides for business profiles. In the backend of your business profile, Instagram gives you the ability to see exactly what day of the week and time your audience is most engaged with your content. You should take this information and time your content to release when your audience is most likely to be online and see your post. As you consistently post at the correct times, you will see a natural boost in engagement and groom your audience to look for your content at a given time in the week. 
 Business Analytics in Instagram


Connection strategy:

As I stated earlier, a good place to start when it comes to increasing connections with your audience is to find time every day to actively like, comment, follow, DM, and share the content of your audience and others who would add value to your social strategy. A great way to boost this process is to find others to highlight on your profile. Showcasing your audience and celebrating their content on your page will pull new users to your posts and give a sense of community to your audience. Everyone likes to feel special and appreciated, so adding this kind of strategy will build a better connection to your followers and increase the likelihood that your followers will share your content with their network. 

How to Tag at Instagram


Interaction strategy:

To increase the way users interact with your content, it’s important to take the time necessary to research how content is positioned on Instagram. Before you post new content, spend an hour diving into how your competitors or influencers are utilizing hashtags, descriptions, and tags. Find the common patterns and then implement them into your content. Simply using buzz-worthy hashtags and a catchy description can make a big difference. Especially when considering we are looking for quality engagement that is relevant to the buyer personas you are trying to reach.


Final Thoughts

Instagram, like all technologies, is continuously changing and growing. To make the biggest impact on social media for your business, the most important tip I can give is to clearly outline why your business is using the platform in the first place. This will inform how your content is created, released, and measured for success. Focusing on vanity metrics will have you chasing your tail and most likely end in frustration. Figure out why you are utilizing social media and then build a targeted and engaged audience that fits your buyer persona profiles. If you have more questions or need some help with social media or any other digital marketing strategy, feel free to reach out to me and my dream team at Adhere Creative. Good luck and happy posting.

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